Texts

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The other night I got the urge to scroll through some texts from mom. I miss texting/talking/laughing with her. So I read our last conversations. Some made me smile. Some made me cry. Some made me ache for the past. The one above, I remember like it was yesterday. This was when I noticed the downfall. This text reminds me of our relationship. This was us. We were buddies that shared secrets together and that helped each calm down during vent sessions! And yes I do remember the secret I wanted to tell her :). I remember everything I wanted to tell her.
I came across a song a couple of days ago that hit me hard. It just screamed everything I have been feeling.
Jealous of the Angels by Jenn Bostic

I didn’t know today would be our last
Or that I’d have to say goodbye to you so fast
I’m so numb, I can’t feel anymore
Prayin’ you’d just walk back through that door
And tell me that I was only dreamin’
You’re not really gone as long as I believe

There will be another angel
Around the throne tonight
Your love lives on inside of me,
And I will hold on tight
It’s not my place to question,
Only God knows why
I’m just jealous of the angels
Around the throne tonight

You always made my troubles feel so small
And you were always there to catch me when I’d fall
In a world where heroes come and go
Well God just took the only one I know
So I’ll hold you as close as I can
Longing for the day, when I see your face again
But until then

God must need another angel
Around the throne tonight
Your love lives on inside of me
And I will hold on tight
It’s not my place to question
Only God knows why
I’m just jealous of the angels
Around the throne tonight

Singin’ hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
I’m just jealous of the angels
Around the throne
Tonight

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March 1

March 1, 2012, mom underwent surgery to figure out what exactly was going on in her head. She was actually misdiagnosed with a stroke at first. It didn’t have the normal characteristics of a tumor. Some suggested it may be MS. So she went in at 7am and we waited. And the longer we waited, the more we knew that it probably wasn’t going to be the news we wanted. The phone finally rang and it was actually mom (they let dad talk to her a couple times during the craniotomy ). I remember it quite clearly. Dad’s voice breaking while he said “we will figure it out. We will do it together”. He hung up and told us it was a tumor. My face fell into my hands and I sobbed and sobbed.
March 1, 2013. Happy Tumor Removal Day is what we called it. One year since her original tumor was removed. We went out to celebrate. It was a day of hope. She was doing so well. A day of celebration. It had also been 7 months of clean scans. It was just mom and her kiddos and grand babies.
March 1, 2014. It has been 6 months and 9 days since my mother, best friend, my confidant left this world. 6 months of watching my dad every Sunday rub his wedding ring during church songs. 6 months of praying every night to have a dream of mom. 6 months of thinking “what would mom do. What would mom say.” Yes she is in a better place. Yes she isn’t in pain. Yes she has full use of her arms and legs. Some days those thoughts make me feel good. Some days I just so desperately want her back. In any form. I’m amazed sometimes at the amount of days I can go where I am “ok”. Days that I can smile and laugh and it’s for real. Days where I don’t cry at all. And then all of a sudden I will have a string of days where everything reminds me of her and everything makes me weepy. I know a day will come where I will see or hear something that reminds me of her and I can smile instead of cry. Until then, tissues remain close 🙂
The picture below was taken on the day of the Tumor Removal Celebration.

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In Stone

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And there it is in stone. With death, there comes all these “things” you have to do. You call the funeral home to pick up your loved one. You go to buy and plan all you need done. You have the funeral. And then you pick the headstone. Everything about this headstone is mom. I know she is proud. The granite is the same color granite that is in the Texas Capitol. She was a Texan to the core. The American Sign Language sign for I Love you is something that she has done since I was a child. I remember getting out of the car and she would wave to me with that sign. And as a I became a driver, I would see that in my rear view mirror. The phrase “forever and ever and whatever” is something she and my dad have been saying to each other since they were in high school. It just made sense that it would be here. Even the flowers that dad chose to put in there are just very much her. The yellow rose of Texas. After we all met to look at the stone, we drove to Galveston, one of her favorite places, and had lunch at one of her favorite seafood restaurants. Dad said that having the stone laid is a bit of closure. There is no more waiting for something else in regards to this tragedy.

The holidays were hard. We smiled and laughed, but she lingered in my mind the entire day until I couldn’t resist it anymore. I sat down by my favorite gift and I cried. She loved Christmas. She loved shopping and she loved playing Santa. She loved all of us being together and having fun.

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As the new year started, all I had on my mind was that 2013 started out so well. We ate the “lucky” food of many different cultures. We made sure to follow the rules of each culture as we ate the food. Her first few scans were clean. Other members of the family received good news. 2013 looked like it was going to be SO much better than 2012. Mom and dad even made signs that said “2012 cancer” and burned them.

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I find myself so incredibly lonely sometimes. I can be around people and feel it and I can be alone and feel it. It is felt most when I am sitting at home and all I want to do is talk to her. Just useless chit chat was my favorite. I would love and appreciate her advice. Would love to vent and have her calm me down. I want to be in the car with her running errands or going to a movie or going shopping. I just simply want to be with her. My motherly instinct tells me that Isabella is feeling the same. She has been talking about mammie and asking questions again. We have had some pretty intense talks about heaven for a four year old and it has been fueled by her.
Yes, it has been rough, but as I have heard dad say, we have had more laughs and smiles than crying. And that is a step. My brother Joseph put it well in a New Years Eve post: life is a journey through hills and mountains! It’s those who climb back up the hills that truly stay happy and succeed in life. Never give up.
So we can’t crawl in the grave with mom. We will stay up top and climb that mountain together, as a family. Just the way she would want.

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12-18-13: the sleepless nights

I usually try to fall asleep on the couch with the background noise of the tv. The silence is too loud for me on some days. I usually succeed. I fall asleep and then wake up groggy, stagger to bed, and fall right back to sleep. But some days it doesn’t work.
Some days I wake up, stagger to bed, and I’m all of a sudden wide awake. In the silence. And I get that overwhelming, intense pain of grief in my chest. The one that pulls and tears at all emotions. I lie in bed with those familiar feelings of shock and disbelief and they completely take over. My head will start spinning with a million thoughts and a million memories. I close my eyes to escape and try to “check out”, but when I do that, I have those haunting images. Her crying. Her struggling to sit up. Struggling to talk. Her blank stares. Her frustration. I see her struggling to breathe. I see her looking up and following something with her eyes as she tries to smile (a good and sad memory). I’m taken back to the several “death watches” that we were on.
I open my eyes and reach for the good memories. The fun we had. The talks we had. The laughs. I try anything so that I won’t be afraid to close my eyes. I pray to God to give me peace. To give me comfort. To help me understand His will. And I end with a plea. I beg and beg to have long and vivid and happy dream about mom. Because all I want is to see her walking and happy and smiling and talking away.

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

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“Lasts” Emotions

Everyone will let you know about how hard all the “firsts” will be when you lose someone. First birthday, first holidays, first family vacation, etc. Lately I have been thinking of the last things we did together. Matthew asked me a couple weeks ago if I could remember the last conversation we had. A real conversation. I thought for awhile and started crying. I can’t remember. That’s one of those things the tumor took from her. Matthew reminded me that at least I didn’t have a bad conversation that will be forever burned in my brain. True. It was always so heartbreaking when she couldn’t talk because if you knew mom, you knew she loved to talk!
I do remember one of our last FaceTime conversations. She was having trouble at this time, but getting on certain meds still helped her. It had been a while since we really talked. It was exciting and I remember the two of us smiling the entire time because we finally had a real conversation. I was sitting on the kitchen floor with my iPad and she was in Austin. She was still stuttering, but we got to talk and we both loved it.
I remember the last text message I got from her. I still have it. And I knew it was from her because it was a little confusing! But it was her and not a helper that wrote “I love you!”
I remember the last time we went to the movies. This was when she really started getting weak and I knew something just wasn’t quite right. We loaded her up in the wheel chair, plopped the kids on her lap, and rolled into the theater while she and Isabella wore Isabella’s sunglasses. She insisted that Mammie wear HER glasses. We saw Escape from Planet Earth. When we went back to the car, she had melted milk duds stuck to her pants. We had a good laugh about that! I went to the movies this week and when I got home, I noticed I had melted milk duds on my pants. It brought back that fond memory.
I remember the last place we went Christmas shopping last year. We went to Pier One to get Rebecca (John’s girlfriend) a gift. She insisted on buying me a funky, glittery Christmas tree that I kept eyeing and the kids some jingle bells. There is quite a funny story that goes with that afternoon that she would not be happy with me sharing!
I remember our last laugh together. In the tower of MD Anderson.
And recently I just updated my photo albums and put in the last picture of my mom that will ever be in my albums. And it broke my heart.
It’s hard to get rid of the last things she bought the kids. I cling to the stuffed animals they love so much just as much as they do that are from mom.
These “lasts” are just a few of my thoughts that I think about daily. They are forever with me and will always give me fond memories of her and our time together.

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3 months clinging to the Old Rugged Cross

Last week at church, I looked at the program and saw that we would be singing The Old Rugged cross. This was one of mom’s favorite church songs. It made her cry EVERYTIME we sang it. It got to the point that if we saw it on the program, we would do an inward groan because we hated to see her cry. I think there were some occasions that she went ahead and left the auditorium when they were ready to sing that song! I never understood why it made her cry so much. I certainly do now. It finally got me. As I sat there in church last week, I felt what I could only assume was the same feelings she would get when that song came on. I was just about to lose hold of my emotions when dad leaned over and said “your mother would be bawling at this point.” It made me laugh at the memory and the moment of emotion passed. Mom would always laugh at herself when it came to her losing her own emotions during that song.

Now when I hear that song, I think of her clinging to the cross. A friend of hers gave her a wooden cross when she was diagnosed. She held it quite often. Joseph (my second brother) told us that early on he walked into her room one afternoon and she was asleep on the bed gripping that cross. Almost clinging to it. Clinging to His healing power. Clinging to her faith. Clinging to hope. During her last few weeks, dad brought that cross from home so that she could hold something in her hand to keep it from curling up. It was perfect. It was what she would have wanted if she could have requested something. So she clung to that cross, with her Bible underneath as well. And we ALL found ourselves clinging to Him. These past three months, I have found myself reaching for Him more than ever. I have questioned my faith. I have questioned Him. I have questioned His will. And he answers me in His own way and I am reassured. So I will cling to the cross just as mom did, for “that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
has a wondrous attraction for me”

Mom took her last breath clinging to that old rugged cross and she certainly exchanged it for her crown.    

“So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
and exchange it some day for a crown.”

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“Firsts” Emotions

I feel I have so much on my mind that I can’t even get out what I am trying to say. There have been some overwhelming emotions lately. It doesn’t seem to be just me either. Isabella has talked about Mammie a lot this week. She talks to her or sings to her often, but this week has been different. She has come up to me and out of nowhere says “mommy, I miss mammie. I miss mammie a lot.” She wants her mammie so much, as do we all. I am so grateful for the relationship they had. Tonight, I noticed her just staring into space. How I wish I could get into her little head. I asked her what she was thinking about and she says “shhhh, I am thinking about Mammie right now.” After brushing teeth, she says to me “I miss mammie. I want to talk to mammie. When is she coming back?” It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Maybe she is old enough to be experiencing those “firsts” emotions.

We took our family pictures today. I missed her directions and the million pictures she wanted to take! I miss that laughter. I miss her telling us to stop the fake smiling. I miss seeing her next to my dad. I miss seeing her hugging her grandchildren. And as my dad took a picture with the kids, I felt that familiar stab. It was a tough thing to do today, but I know she would be so proud of us for taking the pictures.

This week was also the Nutcracker Market. Mom, Aunt Sherry, and I have been going together every year for so long. We so looked forward to it. This was a “for sure” girls night thing. I cried the whole way there. I got in the car with Aunt Sherry and it was very quiet and we cried some more. I didn’t think I would go this year, but Aunt Sherry encouraged me to “carry on the legacy” as she put it. So I shopped for mom. I made sure to stop at our favorite booths. I had the angel on my shoulder not telling me to be wise and not spend, but instead to buy, buy, buy!

As I experience these “firsts” without mom, it makes me appreciate her even more than I did before. I didn’t think that was possible. I have always looked up to her and tried so hard to be like her. I know that’s impossible. She was one of a kind. But I’ll never stop trying.

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The strange feelings

There have been many days that the grief will strike at the strangest times. It can be in the middle of a conversation, whether it is about mom or not. It can be in a quiet moment. It can be in a loud moment. I will be sitting or driving or listening. It’s when Isabella holds a picture up to the sky and says “this is for you Mammie!” And when it strikes, it’s nauseating.
Lately, the whole shock of mom dying has cycled back around and I find myself saying several times a day: “that didn’t happen, it couldn’t have happened. This must be a terrible dream, there’s no way mom is not at home watching tv while she shops online. This did NOT happen.”
I’ll tell myself to snap out of it, but thinking about mom not being here anymore just feels confusing and not valid. I’m not really worried about myself. I know this is all part of the grieving process. But it’s still weird how shocked and surprised I still am when I think about mom not being here.
I’ve been blessed by having dreams of mom. I know people that have lost their parent years ago and they still have not had a dream about them. I have lost count of my dreams. There have been dreams of her giving me a message. There have been funny dreams that remind me of a memory. And there have been straight up strange dreams! But I am so grateful and thankful to see her face and hear her voice.

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Love Never Ends

I’ve read 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:4-8 many times and honestly, I thought the greater gifts were the ones that everyone saw and gave praise to.
I’d like to share how the LORD used Aunt Cindy’s life and example to bring me a fresh revelation of His Word.

Interpretation of passage:
In 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, was teaching the Corinthians, in the most basic and childlike way, the true function of the whole Body of Christ, using an example that would be easy to understand: A Human Body. He knew that they [the Corinthians] would understand what it meant if the foot decided to stop working because it wasn’t adorned with rings like the hand – it would lose balance and fall over. Moreover, he made a point to mention that the “lower” and “more basic” the functions of the body, the more they should be looked upon with honor and care, for they are the basis by which the human body functions and thrives. If the head gives no concern to what is put in the mouth and goes into the stomach, the stomach will become sick. If done over time, eventually, the head too, will become sick. Therefore, Paul encourages the Corinthians to be passionate for the whole body by seeking to pursue those gifts that are greater: the lower to help the upper. Without administration, encouragement, giving, etc., the upper, or the head, which is the visible, will eventually fall apart and die off. But then he takes it one step further. LOVE. Love is the driving force behind any human being’s greatest passion. “Love is as strong as death, it’s jealousy is like the grave. Its flashes are like fire – the VERY flame of God!” (SS 8:6-7). The Holy Spirit exhorts the Corinthians, through Paul, to love with total abandon. With unadulterated love, the members of the Body will seek to fill in whatever place is needed at whatever time (i.e. “ready to serve at a moment’s notice).

My Personal Application
On Monday, as I began to read and really dig into this passage, I was drug through the refining gravel to begin scratching off many parasitic sins and blinders that I have been plagued with all my life. With each WORD, conviction and Godly sorrow began to consume me, and I just sat stunned. Each day, I wanted to avoid this passage. Each day, I came to it dragging my feet. How could I add up? Have I ever even loved at all? Have I ever even loved the whole Body of Christ that I was called to? I knew the answer to the latter was a definite no. Several years ago, “eagerly desiring the greater gifts” meant something completely different. Since my spiritual gifts are encouragement and giving, I sometimes complained to God that I didn’t have any of the “greater” gifts. With that, I also became increasingly unhappy within the four walls of a church. I am happy to say that my view of the four walls of the church and what are “greater” gifts do not mean the same thing to me as they once did. However, I still had to get past this aching in my stomach over this “Love Passage”. Barely awake this morning, the LORD began to clean off the rubble of His refining gravel. With my Aunt Cindy as His example, He revealed the healthy functioning of the Body of Christ. Whether it was not eating right or just not caring for her body (though she was really healthy), a tumor developed in her head. She lost function of her right arm. Removing the tumor caused the loss of function of her right side. Each month her MRI was clear, even though there were these “shadows”. But the doctors assured us that they were not tumors (I liked to say “rumors” for this example). On Mother’s Day this year she could no longer speak. On July 31st she could no longer swallow, so she was admitted to MD Anderson on August 1st, her 59th birthday. On August 3rd we were given the news that we had suspected all along: those “shadows” were tumors growing in her lower brain. She was terminal. Slowly, her body shut down, and she passed into glory on August 20th. For twenty days, her husband, four children and spouses, two grandkids, her two siblings (my dad), and myself, stayed in a tiny room at MD Anderson, watching, praying, hoping, trusting, and loving. When the “Complete” had come to take her home, all the gifts that she had used to build up her husband, her children, her whole family, and the Body of Christ had ceased. But one thing remained: LOVE. Because of her “living life with love’s deadliest passion”, she was truly loved by so many. She was honored by so many, cherished by so many, and mourned for by so many. And I knew that looking forward, I wanted to live with love like that! So as Daddy wiped off the last bit of gravel, he showed me 1 Cor. 13:4-8 the way I needed to see it – as HIS LOVE. His love for me is all those things and more, and the more I accept it from Him, the more I will become like Him and love like Him: with Love’s deadliest passion.”

There’s a Silver Lining in Everything,
Mindy

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How Am I Doing?

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This was the last picture I took with my mom. She would be REAL mad that I let people see it! She was swollen from the meds. Had bed head. And she hated her crooked smile. But I cherish it. It was the last day I heard her laugh. One of the last smiles we shared. I made her laugh because the first picture we took, she was making an odd face because we caught her in the middle of a cough. I remember saying, “mom, can you please not look like its completely awful to take a picture with me!” On this day, she finally got to leave the room and we took her for a walk to the tower of MD Anderson. This is a room where you can look over the city of Houston. I know she enjoyed getting out. She smiled and laughed a lot.

I get asked a lot as to how I am doing. It’s really hard to put into words. One word comes to mind: Suffocated. Some may think this is a strange word. Mindy put a good definition to it. It feels like the weight of the world is bearing down on me like a bad dream and I just want to wake up. I feel it the most when I go to my parents house alone without the kids or dad to distract me. I find myself rushing to do what I need to do and get out of there. It shouldn’t be that quiet. It shouldn’t be that clean. I should hear the TV going. I should hear her laughter. I should hear her talking on the phone. The smell and seeing her stuff everywhere triggers emotions. I try not to look around my childhood home, which is sad in itself. I have amazing memories there, but I now have haunting memories. If I have to go into my room, the air is sucked out of me as I see flashes of her in there as well as my grandparents.

Lately anytime I am alone, the silence is so loud. I see her. I hear her. If I’m in the car, I should be talking to her or she should be next to me. When I’m alone, I think of what we would be doing if she was here. I pause and think, this can’t be real. I think some may feel we had a strange relationship. People say their mother is their best friend, but in my case she absolutely was. We did SO much together. I helped her and she helped me. It wasn’t that she couldn’t “cut the cord” or I couldn’t grow up. We just really enjoyed each others company.

This time last year, I took her to the mall so that she could buy me and Brandon our morning birthday clothes. She wheeled herself around the store so I wouldn’t see what she was getting. I turned my head as the clothes were rung up and when everything was safely stored away in bags, she handed me her card to pay.

When I’m in the car or shower lately, I have flashbacks of how much fun we had. How much we did together. And then flashes of her last weeks. October has been a really tough month and I know the next two months will probably be worse. I actually had one person tell me that their mother has cancer as well and it sucks knowing the inevitable, but life goes on. I know life goes on. I felt like telling the person that, but I worried it wouldn’t come out as nice 🙂 Life does go on and one day I’ll learn to live life without her. One day, I MAY go a day without having her face flash in front of me.

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