Losing My Dad

Six years ago, I wrote a blog about losing my mom and the impact that has had on me.  Two months ago, I lost my dad.  His care was harder because when my mom died, my dad was there taking care of her.  We were his support and we helped to care for mom but the responsibility wasn’t all on us: my brothers, our families and me.  For the last six years, dad lived with us during the winters and lived at our lake home during the spring, summer and fall.   Each year he would come to our home a little earlier and stay a little later.  This past year, I told him that I didn’t think he should move back to the lake.  He needed more help and we needed to get him to the doctor.  He said he deserved the right to try so against my better judgement, we let him try.

While he was with us, he watched football and westerns on TV.  Every noon, he watched a local show with a Polka band playing music and couples dancing.  He cried remembering my mom and how they danced with their friends on Friday and Saturday nights so many years ago.  They had a friend who led a Polka band in Wisconsin; Jerry Goetch and his Orchestra.  There were many of those examples of ways that my dad would spend time remembering my mom.  He quit eating fish declaring that he didn’t like it (my mom is the one who didn’t like fish).  He watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade (he never watched the parade with mom when she was alive).  He tried  (successfully) to tease me like he would tease my mom, just to see how fast he could get me annoyed or angry and then he would laugh.

Grieving my dad’s passing has included grieving for my mom again too.  For the last twelve – fifteen years, I called them every day.  Before mom died, I talked to both of them.  After mom died, I talked to dad.   The calls rarely lasted more than 5-10 minutes but they were a connection; a safety call.  If they answered the phone, they knew that I was ok and I knew that they were ok.  Oh how I miss those phone calls.  Fortunately, I have my children to connect with and you are helping fill the void that I feel.

For the last couple of years, my dad couldn’t really give me his fatherly advice anymore.  For most of my life when I needed advice, I turned to either mom or dad or both of them.  In the recent years, his focus turned inward as he struggled with every movement.  Dressing himself, thinking through any problem that came his way, eating, operating the phone or the microwave.  In the end, he couldn’t problem solve anymore.  If he was wet, he couldn’t think what to do next to change his clothes and feel dry again.  He didn’t want to move or walk or shower, or do any of the things he needed to do to take care of himself.  On his doctor’s advice, we moved him to a care facility eight months before he died.  It was so very hard to move him there.  I wanted him to be able to stay home.  We did try having a neighbor stop by to see him.  That worked well for  a couple of weeks but then the decline was too rapid.  It took three more weeks to get him into a facility.

Dad has had many medical issues over the last 30 years:  back surgery, stroke, heart bypass surgery, rhumetoid artheritis, diabetes, two knee replacements,  congestive heart failure, and a bout with menengitis that really impacted his mobility.  He has been very tenacious through it all.  I remember when mobility issues were thretening limit his independence about 5 years ago.  He had physical therapy to help.  He went from not being able to standup from a sitting position more than once or twice to being able to do 30 stand up and sit down exercises every day.  Those exercises kept him going for 5 more years.  Now it was really time for transition.

He entered the facility  as a short term rehab patient getting assessed for level of care needed and getting physical therapy to determine if he could get stronger enough for assisted living.  His insurance covered the short term care although every 3-5 days, they would cancel coverage, I would appeal the decision and then they continued to cover.  During this time, he saw a urologist, had a mesh put into his leg to prevent blood clots from getting to his lungs, had lots of physical, occupational and speech therapy, and determined that he had bladder cancer.  He was assessed to be in need of 24 hour care.  His cognitive abilities; the ability to problem solve was impaired so that he couldn’t safely live alone.  If he lived with others, he still would require 24 hours of care.  The assessment determines if this individual can evacuate in case of fire, can this individual use a microwave to heat food, can this individual care for his/her own basic needs by themselves.  If the answer is no, then they really can’t live alone anymore.

A month after moving into the facility, my dad had a heart episode.  His heart was giving out.  Since he didn’t have a DNR (do not resuscitate order), they rushed him to the hospital.  When asked about the DNR, he said he wanted them to try once.  He underwent several tests on his heart and his neuro system and it was determined that his heart was at end of life and we changed his order to DNR.  They didn’t expect him to live through that day.  We called everyone to visit him, brought in a priest for anointing of the sick and sat by his bedside.  He looked like death and we believed the hospital staff.  However, our dad wasn’t ready yet.  The next day, he was determined to sit up, have breakfast and get back to the care facility to get strong again.  He went back to the care center in long term care as a Hospice patient.

With this new information, insurance ended their coverage and we used dad’s remaining resources to pay for his long term care.  He wasn’t happy there.  He wanted to move back in with me and your dad.  It was so hard not to just take that path.  I knew that I wasn’t up for 24 hour care and I had my work and my family to think of too.   Last winter was difficult and my dad wanted no part of having strangers come into his home or my home to take care of him.

The facility was beautiful.  He tried to join in.  He ate meals with three other guys who lived there.  He joined in Bingo and Friday afternoon happy hours.  He watched football on TV.  It isn’t a coincidence that he lived to see the season end.  They had a good level of care and yet, he still had to wait as much as 1/2 hour to use the bathroom.  He didn’t like that.  Someone accidentally bumped his foot really hard and injured the toes.  He was really angry about that especially when the injury went unreported.  Instead, they called it ingrown toenails.  It wasn’t until we took him to the podiatrist weeks later that we heard that the injury was caused by bumping or knocking the foot really hard.  It can happen even in the best facilities.  Unfortunately it went unreported.  Sometimes, people don’t report accidents because they fear losing their jobs.  Someone stole his wallet from where it was hidden in his drawer.  Once he couldn’t trust the people who cared for him, he wanted to move.  He insisted.

He spent four of the last five months on Medicaid care supplementing what he could pay for his care.  He had to move into a semi private room and although his roommate was a very nice person, with no privacy there was no longer any dignity in his care.  He said to me that the $2000 per month that he paid for his care,   should have been enough to have a private room.  It wasn’t though, the cost of the room was $9,500 per month!  On Medicaid, he had to take a semi-private room when it became available.

We applied to be transferred to Hospice House supplemented by a grant.  Dad continued to pay the $2000 per month for his care and received a grant for the balance.  He was approved almost immediately and we moved him to the hospice house for the last five weeks of his life.  Medicaid doesn’t support Hospice care by the way.  We were visiting every 1-2 weeks and I continued to call every day.  He wanted to live in Wausau near my brothers or I would have visited every day.

Family support was awesome.  I don’t remember a single cross word or disagreement as my brothers and I worked together to make decisions on our dad’s behalf.  Our spouses, children, and grandchildren were wonderful in their support.  During the summer months when my dad could still travel, we took him for day trips to the lake at least six different times.  The logistics of helping him to travel were hard but he was determined.  He loved seeing the lake and seeing his friends at Saturday afternoon mass at St Francis.

In October, we had a 90th birthday party for dad at the small tavern that is near my brother’s house.  They let us have the tavern for the afternoon.  We brought in food and they provided a bar tender so we could have a real party.  I sent out invitations to all the family and to everyone in his address book.  Over 70 people came.  He couldn’t converse much but he was happy to see everyone and was happy to be there.  He still had a good appetite too.  I was so glad to see every person especially his sister, Carol.  She is about 15 months younger than him and still doing very well.  It was a real blessing to have that afternoon together.

He was stable from June after the heart diagnosis until about two weeks before he died.  We all visited as much as we could.  The hospice house was beautiful and peaceful.  The staff ministered to all of us as we shared in dad’s last days.  On the day before he died, I decided to drive over to Wausau before going on a retreat that I had planned with your dad and our friends.  I just knew I wouldn’t be able to relax otherwise.  On that Friday when I arrived, Steve and Connie were there.  After they left, my dad slept.  He woke for brief moments like when Jennifer wanted to talk with him.  I held the phone up to his ear to listen.  He heard her talk to him and he struggled to get one word out: Bye.  That afternoon, I took time to pray at his side, say a rosary and a divine mercy chaplet for him.  When I left, I said goodbye.  I told him I would be back on Sunday but he didn’t need to stay if he was ready for the place that Jesus had prepared for him.

I drove to my retreat late that afternoon listening to podcasts for work.  I felt peaceful.  Of course you know the rest of the story.  He died that night at 3:45 am in his sleep.  He died peacefully.  They called me right away and I called my three brothers.  He was gone now in his 91st year.  There are no words for that moment.

When does sharing news become gossip?

When we are all together with friends or family, it is loving and joyful to share news about those friends and loved ones who aren’t able to be there. We share news of blessings and suffering that our loved ones are experiencing and we rejoice and suffer together. One rule a friend shared regarding the difference between sharing and gossiping is that you should never say anything spoken to you clearly in confidence and you should never share anything you wouldn’t say if you were telling the story with that same person present. Keep your criticism and your editorial comments to yourself as they may be very hurtful. Don’t share comments meant to justify yourself or tear down the other person’s reputation. To that I say while tempting, it is bad form.

What if someone asks you directly about someone you are known to have a disagreement with? Please decline to comment. State that you have strong feelings between you and hurt feelings that are not yet resolved. Ask for prayer support for the opportunity to have the difficult conversation that will be needed to lead to reconciliation. Remember that peace begins with each one of us. Choose not to gossip but love and forgive instead. Pray for each other. Listen with love. Treasure these precious moments of time with family and friends. Spread joy, not gossip.

Oh God, help us to be instruments of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon through Jesus Christ or Lord, Amen. Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us. Our Lady queen of peace, pray for us. St Frances, pray for us.

Love,

Mymom

Come together in love and friendship

Our nation and the world need to come together in love, friendship. forgiveness, hope, peace, and a sincere attitude of cooperation and collaboration in the interest of the common good.  Dear God, we pray that you drive the devil out of our conversations and help us all to listen before we speak.  God bless each of our leaders in all areas of government and business, regardless of political party or level, with the wisdom to seek your will in all their words and decision making.  God bless each of us and help us to listen to your call and to love one another.   Peace be with you.

Marriage: Be together even when you are apart

In my relationship with your dad, we see each other in the morning as we both wake and get ready for our days. We always say a goodbye with a kiss, a hug, and a prayer for the day. We greet each other with a kiss and a hug. We hold hands. We pray for each other.

Some days are so very busy. There is so little time to be part of each other’s lives when there is so much to be done. So you need to be part of each other. When we married, God brought us together. Two individuals making a marriage with God at the center. When we are together, we are complete. When we are apart, we take each other with us as we go through the day supported in our love for each other. Not together in time and space, but never apart either.

We have been married for almost 36 years. I am always conscious of my husband in my life whether we are together or apart. I go through my day independently, fully supported in God’s love and in the love of my husband.

We are away from each other 10-16 hours a day depending on our work, social, or service commitments. When we are home together in the morning, your dad makes me breakfast and we sit together for a couple moments and enjoy breakfast. In the evening we have dinner together most days although that isn’t always possible. For many years when our children were small, we would stop what we were doing after the busyness of the day, after the kids were in bed, and share time together. This is a time for rest and nurturing each other.

There are many seasons to marriage: a time to be young and dating, a time to be newlyweds, a time to raise small children, a time to counsel teenagers, a time to put those kids through college a time to help aging parents, and a time to be those aging people. Throughout these times there is always each other.

Schedule time for important conversations. I learned to keep a list of what we needed to talk about so that I could let my anger go and know that we would talk when we were both ready. I learned to listen too.

Be confident in your loved one’s love for you. When we doubt each other, our communication suffers and erodes the quality of our time together. Trust each other. Share each other with the world around you and then come back together in the intimate moments, in the sorrowful moments, in the joyful moments and in the ordinary moments.

Oh God, help us to see you in our relationship. Help our commitment, help our communication, strengthen our marriage, be at the very core of us. You are our God. Thank you for our marriage. Thank you for our time together. Help us to do your Holy will each day even when we have to be apart through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

Love,

MyMom

Be glad to see each other

Our lives are busy. We work a job or run a business, we serve in our church and communities, we schedule time with family and friends, we spend time in prayer, we read, we exercise. Our days are so full. We often put ourselves and our spouses too low on our todo list. How can we reshape our days to put ourselves and each other higher on our lists?

We can start by greeting each other joyfully. When we see our loved one, we great him or her with great joy. I remember watching my parents greet each other after a long day at work. My dad would inevitably be late coming home. He had a demanding job that always had one more thing to attend to before he could leave for the day. My mom would try to be patient but would be overcome with frustration. She wanted him to be home on time for dinner and spend time with the family.

When Dad finally arrived home, he would sheepishly walk in and mom would let him have her best tongue lashing for being late. Here they were, longing to see each other yet unable to greet each other lovingly. It became a very bad habit for them.

If life’s demands give you only a short time with each other, make that time joyful. Every glance, each word, each touch should be in joy and love. Trust each other and Communicate your love for each other with a welcome and happy greeting. If you only have 5 minutes together today, make those 5 minutes count. This is true for each person in our lives. Make your moments together count.

Oh God, help us to see you in each other and in the moments of our day. Give us patience and joy. We thank you for the gift of each other and ask you to bless our time together with gratefulness and Love through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Love,

MyMom

Cursillo

I belong to a wonderful community called Cursillo. I attended a Cursillo retreat in 2010. There I found balance in my faith. I had been all about action and I learned at the retreat that I need a balance of piety (prayer), study (Word of God), and action (service). This fuels me, guides me and directs my action so that my life is grounded in Christ.

The weekend retreat is lovely and even better is the 4th day… after the retreat… becoming part of the Cursillo community group reunions. There are weekly small groups. Monthly larger group reunions and other events throughout the year. We talk with each other about our piety, study, and action and encourage each other as we live out the Gospel message in our environments.

The weekend retreat was a beautiful experience. Annually, I work a weekend so that others may experience this encounter with Christ and join in the ongoing community of Cursillo. Through working in various roles, I continue to grow in my love for Jesus and others.

Dear God, I pray for the privilege of making a friend, being a friend and bringing a friend to Christ through Cursillo. I thank you for this experience and these people who love me and help me on my Christian journey. Please help me to live out my Christian faith with grace and love and service as I continue to learn and grow in you through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

Love,

Mymom

Grieving a Sinful World

I am shocked at how commonplace mass shootings have become in the United States. Instead of a couple of times in 100 years, we now know that something will happen and it will happen soon and it will be very, very bad. We don’t even talk about it anymore. Did you hear about … isn’t even in our everyday conversation.

We have to keep talking about terrorist acts, mental illness, isolation, greed, and all the terrible things happening. The devil wants to separate and divide all of us. Republican or Democrat…. do I want to listen to you or not is what goes through our minds. Stop the hatred. Stop the blindness. Stop the separation. Stop the anger. We must love one another. Love is what we need and God is Love.

Pray without ceasing. Love each other. Pray for your enemies. See Jesus in each other. When you start to feel separated, pray “Get behind me Satan.” Recognize that the evil one is behind your feelings of isolation and run back to God. Pray. Love. Treat each other kindly.

Listen. Pay attention to each other. Put down your phone once in a while. Forgive, love, be a friend, and know that I am praying for you. Be a positive, loving, listener and voice your opinion only after carefully praying for direction.

Oh God have mercy on us for we have sinned, we don’t know where to turn, help us to turn to you first and then to each other. Forgive us Father. Love us. Help us. Bless my children and grandchildren and relatives and friends. Bless the people of Florida and people throughout the world as we cry for peace and pray for those who are mentally ill or isolated, Through Jesus Christ our Lord who is Love for the world. Amen.

Love, MyMom

Mindfulness

The new name for presence. Be present in the moment. Be mindful of your surroundings and the people around you. See the way the snow lays on the branch on the tree outside your window. Notice how your dog or cat sit near you and just want to be in the same room with you. Breathe. Breathe deeply. When you breathe in, close your eyes. Enjoy the moment.

Thanking God, praising God, knowing that God is here with you in this moment. Take a mindful 10 minutes each day. This is called meditation. Meditate, breathe, Be still. If you can’t manage ten minutes, start with one minute. Listen to God. Let your mindful phrase be, Jesus, I trust in you. Thank him and then be quiet in this moment. Listen.

Oh God, let me always seek you throughout my day, living mindfully of all the blessings around me. Let me seek you when my day is troubled. Let me run to you when the news is bad. Let me cling to you. Lord, I turn to you through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Love, MyMom

Go to Mass

I go to mass often; daily when I can, wherever I am. If I’m traveling, I use the masstimes.org site to key in the location and find a church with a mass when I can worship. This is more than a good habit for me. I truly desire mass deeply in my heart and I seek this time to come together to worship the King of the Universe and receive Him in the Eucharist. I seek to be close to God. I don’t understand the distance many feel from God.

Perhaps it is because they just feel separated by time and poor habits. They make excuses or skip mass because the person or people they are with resist going to mass. Invite them and if they say no, pray for them, smile and go to mass. You won’t be going alone, there will be others like you attending mass together.

I say return to mass! Go to reconciliation. Run back to God and His Holy Church. “Return to me with your whole heart” Joel 2:12

I pray that you will seek mass every week and as often as you can. Cherish the mass. Be thankful for our priests and praise our God. Oh God bring us to you through your most Holy Mass. We pray for our priests who bring us the mass. Please protect and encourage our priests and bring us many more priests and deacons. In Jesus name. Amen. Mary most Holy mother, pray for us.

Missing MyMom

My mother told me many times that she missed her parents every day.   I was a teenager at the time and I thought that was so odd.  I mean, of course I loved my grandmother.  I knew her.  I was 14 years old when she died.  She seemed terribly old to me and I thought my mom should be more use to not having her parents.   My grandfather had died when I was just five years old and I only have one brief memory of him and it isn’t a positive memory.  Hmmm, I wondered where this longing came from.  Logically, they had been gone a long time and yet my mother missed them very much.  She remembered how her mother had taught each of her daughters to guard themselves and to dress modestly and to work hard.   There was a mistrust that was passed along from Grandmother to mother to daughter regarding dangers in the world.  I carried that fear for many years and conquered it after taking an Impact training class (high contact self defense where you learn to kick heads and get away).  I learned hard work and that everyone loves the person who takes care of the dishes after dinner.  I always help to clean up.

My grandfather taught my mother about gardening.  I understand that he always had beautiful gardens.  He also had a big temper and when I slammed the door to his kitchen one too many times, I received a slap on the head that left my ears ringing.  I remember running to his garden and walking there for solace. My grandmother came out to console me and talk about not slamming doors.  She said that I should appreciate my grandpa for the beautiful garden and that he loves me enough to teach me not to slam doors.  I never really learned not to slam doors but I do think of him every time I do.  And I remember all the lovely days I would spend near my mom as she gardened.  I know that love of gardening came from her dad.

I really miss my mom today.  I can tell you so many stories about the person she was.  You only saw her in her older days when she was tired and sick with such limited mobility.  I remember her vigor and how she taught me so many things: to cook, to sew, to knit, to try.  She taught me about God and his Holy Mother Mary and passed along her steadfast faith.  I know that I will see her again one day.

I am grateful that I still have my dad with us.  He has always worked hard and been a very action oriented man; a leader who always has a plan.  I know that these days of diminished capacity are difficult for him.  I hope that I am helping him in these years and enjoying his company as much as I should.  What a blessing my parents have always been to me.

I miss my mother in law too.  She and my mother died in 2012.  Sometimes their passing seems so raw and fresh to me.  My grief and longing overwhelm me.  Many times I think of them.  Such good, loving women that God so graciously put into my life.  Not perfect but good people.  I know they both forgave my failings, took pride in my success, and loved me with all their hearts.

We are fortunate to still have my father in law too.  He is still strong willed and able.  He golfs multiple times a week although he needs a cart now.  He should ask for help more often.  We are so glad when we spend time with him.  After he recently visited, we had the golf channel on our TV for a couple of weeks.  We would turn it on and watch a little golf, think of dad and then turn to our current Netflix series.

It may be a bit self serving of me to say this but cherish your time with your mom and dad.  Cherish the time with your grandfathers.  Truely, “Honor your father and your mother”.   I know that we will see our moms in heaven again.  I know that our time with our dads is fleeting.

Oh God, help us to be the sons and daughters that you desire us to be.  Help us to Honor our fathers and mothers.  Help us to forgive them their failings, to love them, to listen to them and to honor the place you have given them in our lives.  Through Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Love you,

Mymom