Angelic Intervention

I don’t believe in beginnings and endings anymore. I prefer not to be bound by “linear” time because I believe that our lives are defined by moments. It’s why I feel it is critical to allow ourselves to focus on the “present.” I refuse to be bound by certainty because we live in a world where probabilities are often all we have to go on. This is why I believe in “angelic intervention.”

Thursday, March 23, 2017
The memory is still vivid. I walked out of the hospital with my phone in my hand. There was wind. Strong, gusts of cool wind, dark clouds rolling in. Rain. I could smell the rain that would be falling soon. The first thunderstorm of the year was en route. I called my childhood friend, Courtney. Courtney spent a lot of time at our house growing up and held a very special place in my mom’s heart. I knew I could call her in this moment. It had to be someone who knew exactly where I was coming from. Someone who knew what the journey had been like and what was happening at this moment. She had cared for her husband during his battle with cancer and lost him when we were only 30. Between the gusting wind, trying to communicate through the sobs, and the excruciating pain in my heart, I asked her if I was ever going to remember my healthy, smiley, laughing, “living” mom. She talked me through it and assured me that, with time, I would.

After our conversation, I went back to my mom’s hospital room with my dad, brother, and sister where we had been camping by her bedside for five days (she had been completely unresponsive for almost 48 hours). The thunder was rolling, lightening was flashing, rain falling. After an hour or two, as the gusts of wind died down, the thunder and lightening ceased, and the rain became a steady, light rain…my mom took her last breath. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my mom left this world at that moment. My mom LOVED rain and thunderstorms. There had been very little moisture in the area for quite some time, but the rain continued for the next few days after my mom died until the day of her funeral which happened to be a perfect spring day. We received many messages and comments from friends and family regarding how much my mom loved the rain and how ironic it all was. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?

As I’ve taken time to reflect on moments that I have documented in my life like the one I just described, I find it difficult not to believe many events in my life have been orchestrated by a higher power(s). I know some of you are reading this and thinking I’ve completely lost it, some of you may be rolling your eyes, but I know there are many of you who are reading this and completely connect with what I’m communicating. I believe our guardian angels send us signs to nudge or push us in certain directions, but we have to be open to it.

After my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I did a lot of research. The statistics of surviving five years is less than 10% and that’s after removing the tumor(s). I’m an optimistic person, but I’m also a realistic person. I had always planned to help my family if they needed it, but I didn’t imagine it would be necessary when my mom was only 62-years-old. I knew there was no way my mom would accept me up and leaving my job because she had cancer. I didn’t want my family to think I had given up hope because I hadn’t. I was hoping for the best outcome but preparing for the worst. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more for guidance about what I should do.

It wasn’t long before a google search regarding pancreatic cancer led me to a blog post created by a young woman named, Lindsay (about my age), who had decided to share her personal story of the loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer on her travel blog. At the end of the post, she wrote about how she wished she would have moved home from the East coast to spend more time with her mother. Her mother seemed to be a lot like mine. My mom encouraged my brother, sister, and I to live our lives according to our needs and wants even if it meant moving far away. We all knew that just because we weren’t close in physical proximity didn’t mean it would change how strong our emotional bonds were with each other. Anyway, I saved that blog post and would revisit it often. I often contemplated reaching out to Lindsay, but didn’t until recently.

Within weeks of discovering Lindsay’s blog post, I had a meeting with one of my seasonal radio clients. They weren’t clients I saw weekly or even monthly so I didn’t know them as well as I got to know a lot of my clients, but they were super nice people and I always enjoyed stopping in when the time of year came around to swing by to discuss their commercial schedule. When Jodi asked how things were, I mentioned my mom’s diagnosis and surgery. I would often mention my mom’s diagnosis hoping to discover someone who may have insight on specialists, medications, etc. She shared that she had lost her mom to cancer and expressed how very sorry she was. We got back to discussing business and then I was up and headed out the door to see the next client. As I was just about out the door, she stopped me abruptly. She said, “Lindsay, I don’t know you personally. I don’t know what your financial situation is or where your family lives, but if it’s possible for you, you should spend time with your mom.” There were a lot of people who would say things like, “Ooo…your mom has pancreatic cancer? I’m so sorry. That’s a tough one to beat!” Those comments were annoying. This was so different from the weird, annoying comments. Jodi’s approach was different. There was such deep sincerity in that moment. Those words stayed with me. Lindsay, a stranger whose post I discovered randomly on the internet, her words stayed with me. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?

In this same time frame, I came across reflective exercises I had been doing from a book called, “The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.” I learned about this book through a sales course I randomly decided to take the year before. I was at the peak of my career and I had my sights set on making management my next career goal. The premise of the class was to learn tools to identify what our personal “why’s” and “values” were and to continue to revisit what we had documented every couple months. Ever since I had started the reflection a year ago, my top “value” was family and my “why” (as to why it was important for me to be a successful career woman) was so I could save money (to travel) to spend time with my family and to be sure I could help myself, my husband, and my family in case there was ever an emergency. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?

Since my parents were going to think it was odd if I just left my job out of the blue, I needed a plan. During this time, my husband heard an interview with a therapist on the radio while commuting to work one morning. The woman talked about the new therapy program that was available in Sioux Falls. My husband suggested that I investigate to see if there was an online or hybrid option available since I had always considered continuing my education in psychology. I called right away to inquire. It seemed too good to be true. The program could be completed part-time and the classes were on Mondays. This meant I could go to classes on Monday and then leave Tuesdays to travel to SW Kansas or Denver to spend time with my mom and to be available for doctor appointments and then drive back to South Dakota on Sundays. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?

Another incident that occurred that has since strengthened my faith was the perfect storm of events that occurred that forced my husband and I to close our fitness facility. During ownership of our fitness center, a competitor entered the market that made it hard for our “small” business to compete. At the same time, our landlord had sold the shopping center and the new landlord was going to increase our monthly lease substantially. Our lease was up in six months and it wasn’t going to be lucrative to extend the lease. Two months after we closed the doors, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It would not have been possible to have had the time with her that I did if we had still owned the gym.

Special Deliveries
A couple weeks before my mom passed away during my mom’s final quality days, my sister had asked my mom to send us signs to let us know she is with us. I truly believe she does. Here are some of the moments that immediately come to mind:

My nephew, Callan, was about 18-months-old when his Gammy passed away. Cal and my mom kept in touch through regular visits and Facetime every day.  My sister regularly showed Callan pictures of our family and would ask him to point to different members of the family.  A couple days after Gammy passed away, Callan was playing with her phone and the screensaver appeared, which happened to be a picture of Callan and Gammy.  My sister asked Callan, “where’s Gammy,” expecting Cal to point to his Gammy in the picture on the phone as he usually did. Callan stopped and stared at her for a moment and then pointed up. They hadn’t talked to him about Gammy going to heaven because he was too little. The next time she asked him where Gammy was (expecting him to point up to Heaven), he pointed to his heart! Yes, angelic intervention. I truly believe it.

Last week I was visiting my nephew in California. We were playing in his room and I was taking a Snap Chat of him and I and he pointed his cute, chubby little finger at my phone and said, “There’s Gammy!” Caught off-guard, I said, “What?” He was still pointing and said again, “There’s Gammy!” I said, “Where?” He was smiling and pointed at my phone and said, “Right there…by Cal!” He may have thought I looked like his Gammy (which I do), but he hasn’t mentioned my mom in months and we all referred to her as “Gammy” but he wasn’t able to say the word, “Gammy” before she passed away.

Just the other day, my sister was getting Callan ready for bed and out of the blue, Callan said to her, “Gammy’s here.”  She was shocked because the day he mentioned my mom to me was the first time in a long time. She asked him, “where?”  Cal said, “outside the door.”  Then he said, “Gammy’s the best chaser!  Gammy’s the best hide-n-seeker!” He’s always running laps around their house and he recently has taken a liking to hide-and-seek:)

My sister experienced incredible grief immediately after she returned to her home on the West coast. She wanted to find some books about coping with grief. She was sitting at her computer thinking about whether or not to order a book called, “To Heaven and Back.” At that exact moment, her friend called her to tell her that she had ordered her a book called, “To Heaven and Back.”

Last fall I was struggling with incredible bouts of grief. One day, while mowing the lawn, a butterfly was following me around the yard. It then landed on me and stayed there for several minutes while I drove the riding lawn mower. Is it pure coincidence that a butterfly just decided it was going to hang out with me for several minutes while gliding along on the mower? Maybe…but, maybe not! It brought me a much needed sense of peace regardless.

Thanking My Earthly Angels
I share these stories not to try to convince anyone to be a believer. I share them because I know there are others out there who will find comfort in them just as I found comfort in others’ experiences. Writing is also one of my therapeutic outlets. After a post, many people respond through email, messenger or the comments section and new, lasting connections are made.

I don’t know why I waited so long to reach out to Lindsay (the young woman with the blog post about losing her mom to pancreatic cancer). I read her blog so many times. I wrote to her earlier this week through Messenger and thanked her for sharing her story because it influenced one of the most important decisions of my life. I received a response from her this morning. Her response was incredibly heartfelt and sincere.

A couple weeks after I returned to South Dakota after my mom’s funeral, I wrote a letter and personally delivered it to my former client, Jodi. She was confused to see me when I walked through the door but was super sweet, as usual. I handed her the envelope and told her that I needed to thank her in person for the special gift she gave me that she wasn’t aware of. For some reason, I thought I would be able to keep it together and not cry. I reminded her of the advice she gave me the last time I saw her (over a year before) and how because of her courage that day, I have no regrets. We hugged and shed tears. I consider her one of my Earthly angels and she will forever hold a special place in my heart.

There Are Some Things That Can’t Be Explained
When I found out my mom was terminal, I stopped researching treatments and doctors and started reading everything I could about death. My goal was to help my mom reduce as much fear, loneliness, pain and discomfort as possible. I wanted to help her preserve as much dignity as possible. One of the more informational books I read was called, “Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying.” It’s a book written by hospice nurses who shared their experiences with patients at the end-of-life.

There are a lot of incredible instances that occur at the end of life that can’t be explained. I witnessed a few with my mom. A couple weeks before my mom died, I walked into her room where she was watching tv. I peaked in and asked her if she needed anything. She was very matter-of-fact and said, “I don’t know who all these people are walking around the room.” I had read plenty of material and heard stories from others who spoke about these moments they had also witnessed. It did catch me off guard at first and I said, “What did you say, mom?” Very matter-of-fact and calm, she said, “I don’t know who all these people are walking around.” Then it was conversation as usual.

It would be difficult for me not to believe in “angelic intervention” even if I tried. I’m glad I do though, because without faith, what is there?

Love you, miss you, MOM. Thanks for the signs:)

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Grief: From the Inside Out

This post is about my personal experience with grief since the death of my mom. I, like everyone else who has suffered loss, am trying to find the best way to navigate through it. This post isn’t a post for sympathy or pity. What I hope comes out of this post is awareness and understanding. My hope is that sharing my experience will help others mourning a loss feel less alone and to help those who haven’t been through it try to see it through the eyes of someone who is. I hope to do for others what many have done for me through their willingness to share details of their personal journeys.

Grief
The word, “grief” is easy to define. Grief, as a process, is not. Grief was summed up best in one of my textbooks,

Each person’s grief is like all other people’s grief; each person’s grief is like some other person’s grief; and each person’s grief is like no other person’s grief.”

My mom died seven months ago, but I just recently started experiencing incredible bouts of sorrow. One night last week I started sobbing uncontrollably. I looked at my husband through a flood of tears and said, “I don’t know what’s happening?” I’ve taken it upon myself to give myself my own made up diagnosis. I call it “chronic heartache” because I truly believe this is what I’m experiencing.

I was surprised at how well I was doing the first six months after my mom’s death. I chalked it up to experiencing anticipatory grief. Anticipatory grief often occurs when you are aware of a looming death and accepting it’s inevitable. This grief is not only about accepting the future death, but accepting losses already occurring as an illness progresses. It often stirs up intense emotions as you witness someone experience the loss of their independence, loss of cognition, loss of hope, loss of future dreams, loss of stability and security, loss of their identity and your own, and countless other losses. Up until last week, I thought I had already experienced the most intense part of my grief journey.

Grieving is not a one-size-fits-all process. There are so many factors to take into consideration (e.g., how we learn to cope, the type of loss, how the loss occurred, etc.) I remember when I shared my mom’s diagnosis with a group of colleagues in December 2015, a gentleman who had just lost his father to a sudden heart attack came up to me and said, “At least you’re going to get to spend time with your mom.” He only knew what he knew. He knew sudden losses are traumatic. Unfortunately, a little over a year later, I learned slow losses can be as well.

I was with my mom and dad when her oncologist told her she had less than nine months to live. She died less than three months later. I can’t begin to describe the depth of despair in learning that one of the people you love the most in the world is going to die soon. Worse than that, I can’t begin to articulate the excruciating pain and helplessness one feels when you witness someone being informed that they are going to die soon. And she was trying to comfort me and my dad?

I couldn’t focus on questions that I should have been asking the doctor because I was trying to process what I had just been told. How could I ask questions when I could barely breathe? How could I focus on asking questions when I was forcing myself not to scream? I was trying so hard to keep it together.

Last week I told my husband that I didn’t know what was happening to me. I do know what is happening. I’m mourning the loss of the person I have loved the longest in my life. I’m mourning the loss of one of the few people who loved me unconditionally. No matter how many books or how much we may know about grief and trauma, it doesn’t make us immune to either and there isn’t a timeline for grief.

Since last week, I’ve had a moment of clarity. One of my unhealthy coping strategies is minimizing my personal painful experiences. I know there are many of you reading this who do this as well. I tell myself and others things like,

“At least I had 36 great years with my mom.”
“At least I had closure with my mom.”
“I was blessed to have a great relationship with my mom.”

A positive outlook is healthy, but not when we use it to mask our grief. Minimizing the pain associated with grief is only doing us harm. Yes, maybe our situation/experience isn’t “as bad as it could be,” but our pain – our heartache – is real. It’s important to allow ourselves to feel it…to hurt, to cry, to scream…to talk about it. Watching someone who is severely ill can be traumatic. Watching someone die can be traumatic. A former hospice nurse (who was one of my favorite instructors) told a student who confessed that death freaks her out that death is beautiful. I believe it can be. I know it isn’t always. The fact that she didn’t take this opportunity to educate this group of people (where many would be working in end-of-life care) really bothered me. It’s misleading to those who will be the professionals guiding families through the death of a loved one.

There have been incredible advances for pain and discomfort at the end of life, but the reality is there are still situations where discomfort and pain are difficult to control. I wish my mom’s hospice team would have acknowledged that we weren’t going to be able to keep her comfortable with what they had available. I would call the on-call nurse or talk to the nurse who came by and they would say, “are you rubbing the anti-nausea cream on her?” “Did you give her morphine? You can increase it until she’s comfortable.” We had a bottle of morphine, with a dropper to squeeze drops under her tongue. The thought of the taste made her vomit. Everything did. She hadn’t eaten in weeks, nothing substantial in months. She was receiving small amounts of fluid orally and intravenous fluids had to be stopped at this point (because there comes a time at end of life that administering fluids causes more harm than good), she was incredibly weak and immobile but was somehow still vomiting. To top it off, she had developed a horrible bed sore. My mom should have been on a morphine pump. Some hospice services can’t offer a morphine pump in the patient’s home. They kept reassuring us we could keep her comfortable. We moved her out of hospice and back into the hospital for her final days.

My mom’s cancer spread to her abdominal lining (peritoneal metastasis). The peritoneum is a membrane made up of two layers. One layer lines the cavity and the other layer lines the organs. The peritoneum helps support the organs in the abdominal cavity and also allows nerves, blood vessels, and lymph vessels to pass through to the organs. Tumors started forming and wrapping around all of her organs in her abdomen and at the time of her last CT, there was a reoccurrence of tumors on her pancreas. When cancer spreads to the liver or portal vein (the vein that carries blood to the liver), malignant ascites develops and fluid builds up in the abdomen.

On the days we weren’t taking my mom in for fluids, we had to take my mom in weekly for a procedure called paracentesis to remove the fluid from her abdomen to help relieve the pressure which was causing shortness of breath, intense pain from her skin stretching, pain from the pressure the fluid was putting on her organs and on tumors. Paracentesis is a double-edged sword. It relieves the pressure but when they remove the fluid (they never pulled less than 5 liters from my mom’s abdomen – an equivalent to almost 1.5 gallons) there is a depletion in electrolytes, protein, etc.

To complicate things even more, she had the Whipple surgery the year before (which was necessary at the time to remove the original tumor and extend her life), but her digestive system was reconstructed and now functioned differently than most people. They offered chemo to try to decrease the severity of symptoms and to try to prevent a bowel obstruction. So…no, rubbing anti-nausea cream on her wrists wasn’t going to do the trick. I found my own medical journal articles and was able to figure that out. During my research, I found an article that recommended inserting an NG tube to pull the contents from my mom’s stomach so she could stop vomiting and experience temporary relief. We had to admit her to the hospital to do it, and it did work, but it was just a temporary solution so my mom could have some final quality days with family and friends.

I believe there is a little bit of post-traumatic stress accompanying my grief. I witnessed my mom experience great discomfort as well as some intense pain and heartache. When we’re living it, there’s no time to think about what is happening. My mom was my priority and I would deal with me later. I refused to break down in front of my mom. She was actively dying and feeling extreme guilt because she believed she was a burden on everyone. I compare the experience to someone torturing your loved one while forcing you to watch. It is the most helpless feeling in the world.

When my mom witnessed severe discomfort and pain, it wasn’t like you would imagine. She wasn’t moaning, wailing, or even grimacing much. She would get very quiet. She would get this look and I could tell she was uncomfortable, but it wasn’t apparent just how uncomfortable she was. I remember one of the many times in the last 8 weeks that we were in the ER and the nurse asked what my mom’s pain level was and she said it was a 10. 10?!!! She hadn’t made a peep. I believed her pain was that bad, I just felt awful that it got that bad. I told the nurse that I could never gauge when it was a 10 because my mom didn’t show signs that I would expect a person at max pain would show. The nurse said, “It’s her generation.” I kind of smiled and she said, “It really is a part of it.”

Finding My Way
I shared with a friend that losing my mom has been like losing an eye. It is similar in the way that when you lose something/someone that has been part of your “normal” your entire life, learning how to maneuver without it/them, is a process. I also see the world differently now.

I’m trying to figure out who I am now. I’m different in so many ways. I was able to make it to many of my mom’s appointments throughout her illness and I lived with my parents for four months to help care for my mom at the end of her life. Even though it was hard to watch my mom’s health deteriorate, I am incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to care for her and to have that time with her. I learned more about myself, others, and life than I’ve learned in school or any job I’ve ever had.

I do find it strange that it’s possible to feel extreme heartache and joy simultaneously. Maybe some of you can relate to to this. Deep down there’s sadness present but I still get giddy when my husband walks through the door after work. I feel pure joy when my nephew and I talk to each other in “dinosaur,” but my heart aches terribly that I can’t laugh about it with his gammy. I believe this is what our family friend, Neal, meant when he said the loss starts off as a scream in your head that is always there as your doing routine, everyday things. He said after years have gone by, the noise is still present all the time, but it eventually becomes a whisper. I think that is an analogy that I can and will continue to relate to.

Some days go smoother than others. I find myself completely depleted at the end of most days. I believe it’s because everything takes more effort and energy and much of the time it’s not conscious. I find myself avoiding social situations for fear that grief will sneak up on me. Sometimes it just hits me like a freight train. The first social gathering at friends that my husband and I were invited to since my mom’s passing stirred up intense anxiety in me. There was going to be friends of friends attending. I was so anxious about the possibility of losing control of my emotions and crying and making everyone uncomfortable. I was afraid I would embarrass my husband and myself. This still happens and unless you’ve been through it it’s really hard to understand. I don’t want to lie to people if I feel anxiety coming on, but I also feel like if I speak the truth about my heartache that I’ll be judged because I’ve convinced myself that most people probably believe I should “be over it by now.”

We recently had to do some creative writing about our upbringing and how we became the person we are today in one of my classes. It was a very emotional assignment. We had to present it to the class. That day happened to be the 6-month mark of losing my mom. My voice started shaking and the tears came. It was the “ugly cry.” I think it’s the only cry I have! I couldn’t finish it and waited until after the last person presented to give it another go. I was embarrassed at first but then had an epiphany. From now on, I have decided to look at this differently. I’m not responsible for how others feel about my grieving process. How people feel about my grief, how people feel about your grief is their business or their problem (however you want to look at it), not yours, not mine.

After all that, I’m not sure how to end this so I guess I will end it like I have often done in the past…

Every single human being has one thing in common. There’s not a single one of us who is promised tomorrow. Be GRATEFUL for each day. Be HOPEFUL for many more. BELIEVE there’s a reason and have FAITH that God will help you through it. – LC

In Honor, In Memory, In Love

My mom passed away less than three months ago. There’s been one Mother’s Day and one wedding anniversary without my mom. Today is her birthday and I don’t miss her any more today than I do any other day. I miss her terribly EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It feels as if it has been years since I heard one of her perky telephone greetings, since we laughed together about my silly nephew (her “Angel Faces”), or text a picture of a cute outfit we saw. It often feels like it really was all just a dream…the call about the mass they found on the CT when she thought she had an ulcer, the Whipple surgery, her last breath.

A little over four months ago my mom was receiving an infusion that we hoped would control the horrendous symptoms and possibly extend her life. She was holding my hand and said so calmly and reassuring, “It’ll be okay, sweetheart. It’s just going to be different.” As hard as it was (and still is) to believe, she was right. Just as she had been so many times before.

It is okay. I’m okay. And, yes, it’s very different. It hurts, I cry, but I am okay because she is with me. I know it. I feel it and so do many others who have shared their experiences with me, but that’s a different post for a different day.

Today, on what would have been my mom’s 63rd birthday, the best way I can honor her is through:

  • Gratitude for the love, protection, and support she provided our family.
  • Gratitude for all of the sacrifices she made that didn’t go unnoticed.
  • Appreciation for the countless invaluable lessons she taught us.
  • Appreciation for the strong, very special relationships she cultivated with so many people throughout her life that have contributed (and continue to contribute) to our family’s healing and well-being.
  • Gratitude for her example of strong faith and spirituality.
  • Laughter…because she loved it and it was something we shared almost every single day😊.

    Happy Birthday, Mom. LUMU!

Chick Flick Greats

I’m a chick flick junkie! When I was on the radio, I created a contest called LC’s Chick Flix. I would research chick flicks (it was a tough job, but someone had to do it), play a short audio clip from the movie and listeners would call in to win prizes. A friend mentioned this contest to me the other day and it sparked the idea for today’s post. I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person, but I do LOVE love and CHICK FLIX, so I wanted to share some of my favorites. My list could have been much longer but I had to stop somewhere! What are your all-time faves?

1. The Notebook

2. Hope Floats

3. Waitress

4. Riding In Cars With Boys

5. The Fault In Our Stars

6. Me Before You

7. Magic Mike

8. Steel Magnolias

9. The Vow

10. 13 Going On 30

11. The Intern

AND, this one isn’t a Chick Flick, it’s just an all around awesome movie for anytime, any day with a super bad ass chick as the lead…

WONDER WOMAN

I Called An Audible

If you’re not familiar with what an audible is, it’s a football term. An audible is when the offense is ready to run a play but decides at the last second to change it. A quarterback often calls an audible when he doesn’t like how the offensive play that was called matches up with the defensive formation. I recently called a career audible and decided that the road to therapy via social work wasn’t the best fit for me. I have decided to become a nurse and recently started my journey at St. Luke’s College to obtain my BSN and hopefully continue on to become a nurse practitioner one day.

Those who know me well know that I have called a lot of “audibles” in my life and I am happy to say I don’t have regrets. If you’ve always wanted to “call an audible” but not sure where to start, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned that may be of benefit to you…

Be Selective About Who You Share With
I have come to a point in my life where I don’t discuss life-changing decisions with very many people. Looking back there have been many moments in my life when my heart was pulling me in a direction, but I didn’t make the leap because I let too many others’ opinions play a part in my decision(s). Think about this…how many people do you know who give their opinion because that’s just what they do? Think about people who have offered their opinion, but it wasn’t exactly because they truly felt “compelled” to do so.

Think about a time that you wanted to make a life-changing decision but your negative thoughts were reinforced by the person who loves misery and wants everyone else to linger in it with them. Think about the person that masks their jealousy in passive-aggressive or pessimistic comments. Make a mental note of who those people are and be cautious about the information you share with them.

Surround Yourself With A “Support” System
Here are a few valuable lessons I’ve learned in my 37 years…

– Gifts and compliments don’t always equal kindness and authenticity.
– Titles don’t always equate to more experience or knowledge.
– Materials and expensive items often don’t equal wealth.

I truly believe we are products of our environments. In your closest circles (e.g., social, employment), are you surrounded by people who feel they always have to outdo each other? Who always have something to prove? Do you find yourself playing that game? Do you like playing “Keeping Up With The Jones’?” or do you feel exhausted, inadequate, and unfulfilled? If it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to consider finding an actual “support” system.

I haven’t always been the best judge of character, but I’m a good one now and I do it by using this formula:

Characterize people by their actions and you’ll never be fooled by their words, title(s), or materials.

Identify Your Values
When you know what it most important to you, making decisions becomes easier. In 2015, I attended a course that helped outline what the most important things were in my life. We were required to read The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose and actively reflect on what was most important in our lives, prioritize what we had on our list, make an action plan, and reevaluate the list regularly.

In my Health Care Ethics class, we had to write a paper regarding our values and how they align with what we are doing now and how they will align with our future careers. In one of the reference materials, the author states:

“When our actions are not in line with our values, the natural emotional consequence is stress.”

I can speak to this. I have been in environments and situations where my actions weren’t in line with my values, but when I changed my environment and actions to align with my values, I felt fulfilled, at peace, and dodged regret.

Sacrifice
If you’re not willing to make some sacrifices it will only make the road to change more challenging. When it comes to a dramatic career change, you’ll more than likely need a new skill set. Often times this includes a pay cut due to inexperience and/or the cost of education/training. If you’re going back to school, will you be able to work full-time? Part-time? Will you be able to work at all? Are you willing to sacrifice self-indulgences to put money aside for your desired changes? Will you be okay with passing up social/family activities if the change you desire requires a lot of your time?

My End Game
I live my life according to my values. I march…no…I dance to the beat of my own drum. Life is constantly evolving, and with that evolution has come clarity to what I want to focus my time, talent, energy and money to during different chapters. I am now in my third week in the nursing program and it’s intense, but I love it! I look forward to studying, reading, writing, lecture. This wasn’t where I was last semester so I decided to listen to my emotions and call an “audible.”

I know there isn’t going to be much time for extracurricular activities, but I know what my end goal is. My end goal is to be the nurse at shift change that you and your family are relieved to see. My goal is to be the nurse that lets you breathe easier because you’re confident in my ability to care for you and/or your loved one. My goal is to give you even just a little peace of mind, because Lord knows that most of the time when you find yourself in a medical situation, peace of mind is hard to come by.

Now, go on! Get out there and be the “quarterback” of your own life😊

Nursing - 1st Semester Textbooks
My books for this semester. I sweat a bit every time I see this stack!

Not All Moms Are Created Equal: My Mother’s Eulogy

I remember asking my mom as a child what she wanted to be when she grew up. She always answered without hesitation, “The one thing I always knew I wanted to be was a mom.”

My mom LOVED Mommin’! She was great at it and she was always there to help out other moms when they needed it whether it be picking their children up from school, sharing advice or giving a new mom a much needed break to cry, re-group or just have time for themselves.

I had the honor of writing and delivering my mom’s eulogy on Monday. I could have written an entire book of memories and lessons. I keep thinking of memories (like the one above) that I wished I would have included but I will continue to document them for my brother, sister and I, but mostly for her grandson, because I want him to know what an amazing woman his Gammy was!

Good morning. My family would like to thank all of you for coming here today to share our grief, help each other heal, but most importantly, to celebrate the life of one incredible human being…my mom. For those who don’t know me, I’m Lindsay, Mary Ann’s middle child…although my mom had me thinking for many years that my name was “Sweetheart.”

I would have thought that writing my mom’s eulogy would be the hardest thing I’d ever do, but it wasn’t. To be honest, it was actually a therapeutic escape from the nightmare my family has been living the past fourteen months. A few weeks ago I really disappointed myself. I was talking with my cousin, Val, and I told her I felt like I was forgetting what life was like before my mom’s diagnosis. As soon as I said it, I was overcome with sadness and fear. That would be the last thing my mom would want after all the incredible years and memories we shared. So, after my mom fell asleep in the hospital that night, I decided then to start to writing about the greatest memories I had with my mom and that’s how this eulogy began.

My mom put her entire being into raising my brother, sister and I. You didn’t even have to know her very well to know she LOVED being a mom. As I typed, my childhood memories brought me back to how much I loved my mom tucking us into bed every night, how she loved reading to us, memories of hearing her cheer us on from the bleachers, how she loved our friends and always had a place at the dinner table for them, how much she loved surprising us with little gifts “just because.”

A lot of the memories I wrote about consisted of lessons I learned from my mom. My mom’s advice was always to take the “high” road…which as we all know, is rarely ever the “easy” road. But on top of taking the high road, she always took it a step further and challenged us even more… she would make us pray for those people in our lives who were difficult or unkind.  Do you ever do this? It’s not easy. Do you pray for your best friend and then follow it up with a prayer for the kid who made fun of you at school or a co-worker who threw you under the bus? Do you pray for a family member and then follow it up with the person who intentionally damaged your property, stole from you or stabbed you in the back? I do this. I do this to this day because of my mom and some days it is still SO HARD!!! But it helps. It often helps me forgive. It helps me feel better because it allows me to let things roll off my back and move on!

I know that many of you here today remember my mom’s animated story-telling. I have heard that so much from so many of you. She loved to tell stories. One of my favorite memories is when I was the co-host of a radio morning show on a classic rock station. My morning show partner was a goof ball (so naturally my mom loved him) and he always wanted to call my mom on put her on the air and ask her questions about me hoping to get some good dirt and embarrass me. Being live on the radio didn’t make her nervous at all. She LOVED it! She was so entertaining with her story-telling, she earned her own segment that aired each week. She shared all sorts of stories…funny stories about her and my dad’s marriage, priceless stories about some of her parenting fails, and comical stories about small town living. She truly became the star of the show. Listeners of the show still comment about that segment and that was over four years ago.

My mom had the best sense of humor. My mom never took life too seriously and I adored her ability to be able to laugh at herself. In my 36 years, I’ve learned there are a lot of people who can’t do that. That is something I got from her and appreciate these qualities because it creates a lot more opportunity for laughter. My mom loved to laugh and she had a great laugh. She also liked to make others laugh. My cousins commented last night that she was still making them laugh just a couple weeks ago even when she was too weak to laugh herself.

She had my brother and I rolling with laughter a couple weeks ago and I love sharing this story. My mom never complained but she would get frustrated and overwhelmed because there was always a new challenge…diabetes, low white blood cell counts, shingles, bed sores, new pains… which often meant new medications which meant new side effects which sometimes meant another medication or an additional tip to try to decrease the adverse effects. She liked to talk about medications and doctor appointments as little as possible. One morning, after meeting with the hospice nurse to go over the new plan of attack to try to keep my mom comfortable, I sat down in a chair at the foot of the bed facing my mom and started explaining the new plan. I explained we were going to increase the dose of two different medications, we were going to keep the dosage the same on another medication but increase the frequency and apply the cream form instead of her taking a pill, then we were going to try a medicated bandage to help with the bed sore and so on. I finally finished rambling and asked, “you have any questions, Momma? She said, ”Lindsay…do you know where the remote control is?”

There was only one thing my mom loved more than being a mom…and that was being a Gammy! THE memory I have about my mom that takes my breath away and will forever melt my heart to think about was the moment she witnessed the birth of her grandchild. She and I were blessed to be part of my sister and her husband’s support team to help bring “Gammy’s Little Angel Faces” into the world. I will never forget the gasp of amazement, the sparkle in her eyes, the radiant smile on her face, the high-pitched tone in her voice as she exclaimed, “Sweetheart! He’s sooooo cute!!!” as she tried to fight back tears. She was beaming with pride!

My mom often beamed with pride and she often did so because of this parish. So many have shared memories with me about my mom and so many will always remember my mom as a faithful servant to God. She was and loved every minute of it. She loved serving St. Raphael Catholic Church. It was something she was very passionate about. She loved teaching so many of you here, your children, your grandchildren in CCD, RCIA and marriage preparation, but she also did so much teaching outside of these walls as a spiritual mentor.

My cousin, Stephanie, shared a great story with me. She said, ”For Aunt Liria’s funeral, I was so, so sick. Britt and I were getting ready to sing for it and every time I opened my mouth, I squawked. It was bad. Your mom wasn’t on the list to sing with us but when I asked her to help, she didn’t hesitate and jumped right in. We practiced before and I just sounded terrible but she assured me it would be ok. A little bit before the funeral I could hardly talk my throat hurt so bad. She reached into her purse and pulled out a little vial of holy water and told me to take a sip. Other people might have flasks of liquor but not Aunt Mary… she had Holy Water! Do you know, we got up there and we sang (and she helped us) and it was as if I was never sick! I could hit the high notes, I didn’t hurt, it was gone…. I was even able to sing at the cemetery with no problems. Shortly after, we were at the dinner and I lost my voice. She was God’s Earthly angel.” I love that story. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the Catholic faith and I do have to tell you I am incredibly comforted by the fact that many of my mom’s closest friends in life were priests.

I hate that my mom is gone and I miss her terribly and will continue to miss her so much, but my heart is so full and I’m incredibly grateful because God gave her to my brother, sister and I. At 36-years-old I know that not all moms were created equal. Growing up I thought all moms were the same. I just assumed that all moms put their children first. I thought all moms prepared meals for their children, read to them and kissed them as they tucked them in at night. I thought all moms played Barbies, dress-up, school and house with them. I thought all moms were compassionate and held their children when they were hurt, sick and sad.

I often feel sad because there are people who never experience the unconditional love my siblings and I did from our mom. Some mothers have it backwards and have children with the expectation that their children should love them unconditionally. Our mom chose to guide us, not program us. She believed self-determination is built on the value of autonomy and it is one of the things I appreciate most about my mom because letting your children spread their wings and fly has to be one of the hardest aspects of being a mom. Granted, my brother, sister and I may have all ended up quite quirky, but I’m so proud of the people my brother, sister and I have become and it’s because our mom inspired us to be proud of and embrace our authentic selves.

The last fourteen months were hard and the past few months were incredibly hard. There were many moments many of you were apologizing to my mom, dad, brother, sister and I because we were consoling you about the fact that our mom would be leaving us soon. Don’t apologize for shedding tears for my mom when you’re around us. I truly believe the depth of our grief is equal to the depth of our love and we have shed so many of our own tears. We are happy so many loved her so much and that you were blessed to be loved by her. Besides, the gift of comforting others is a gift we received from our mom. My mom always told us there’s a universal language and that language is compassion. Teaching us that language is one of the ways she will live on in so many of us. I am so blessed because I am rich. I am rich in all the ways that truly matter in this life because of my mother. She passed on the greatest lessons.

My mom told us that she imagined Heaven was paradise. I know my mom is in Heaven right now with some of her most favorite people. I know she’s in paradise barefoot, swinging in a hammock, singing along with the Angel choir.

“Love you, Miss You” like crazy, Momma.

Tonight, I Surrender

Tonight…I surrender.

I surrender to the tears I’ve been holding back and hoped would never start to fall for fear they will never stop.

Tonight I succumb to the exhaustion, fear, shock, sadness, relief, confusion, anger and PAIN.

An excruciating pain so deep in my heart, I have to remind myself over and over again to take

One.

More.

Breath.

Tonight…I grieve the loss of my first love.

Rest in peace, Mom. I will always “Love you, Miss you.”