Monday, June 29, 2015

Mary Booth

Reverend Thomas Dorsey was in the middle of a sermon when a man came on stage and gave him a telegram, telling him that his wife had died in childbirth. After several months of grief, he penned the words to one of my favorite hymns:

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
I'm tired, I'm weak, I'm lone
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near
When my light is almost gone
Hear my cry, hear my call
Hold my hand lest I fall
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home
When the darkness appears and the night draws near
And the day is past and gone
At the river I stand
Guide my feet, hold my hand
Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.
This morning, my husband came out and flagged me down (I was on the riding lawn mower). A friend had called, asking us to urgently post a prayer request on Facebook for a church member. We briefly debated whether or not to head to the hospital, but knew at this point in time we'd be in the way, and it would make more sense to wait and go this afternoon. I cried, we prayed, I cried some more, and then headed back outside to cut grass.  And this hymn started running through my mind. I changed my prayer from "be with the doctors" to "stop her pain; answer her prayers", and Bobby came back out again with my cell phone. I had missed a call, telling me she never came back from the code blue.
I am heart-broken and rejoicing at the same time. She suffered SO much. She prayed that God would take her home before she reached this last and worst stage of dialysis, even contemplated stopping ,dialysis all together.  And right as she reached the brink and peacefully surrendered to what God had ahead for her, He took her home. None of us took her that chocolate milkshake she was joking about yesterday (with the port failure and no dialysis for several days she couldn't have many liquids until after the procedure, and with her diabetes she didn't need the sugar), but one of the last things she said when we left the hospital last night was "I'll get me one on the way home."
Her life was not an easy one, yet she rejoiced in what Christ had done both in and through her. I doubt anyone who casually met her would know some of the heart-wrenching and horrific things she had faced in both her teen and adult years. We didn't agree on a lot of things, but I loved to see her laugh. I'll never forget her teaching someone how to use a rotary cutter at my house, and then taking the fabric scraps and THROWING them over her shoulder and ONTO MY FLOOR!!! I asked her what on earth she thought she was doing, and she laughed and said "Haven't you ever seen that quilting show with Eleanor Burns? I've always wanted to throw the fabric scraps away like that, as if I had an assistant who would come sweep behind me." And then she laughed and laughed and laughed. And did it again. She introduced me to quilt shops, and at the age of 69 last year had her own garden for the first time and was sillier than a child about it. Even with full-blown kidney failure and dialysis three days a week, she spent one day a week "helping" at a friend's house, doing their laundry. It gave her a small job, but mostly it gave her a sense of family. She said Betty Anne was the daughter she never had, and loved her son as her own.She loved the fact I had dogs that I couldn't handle and delighted in giving advice (the book I'm reading now by her favorite "Dog Whisperer" is actually hers). She liked to give my husband a very hard time. He teased her about never being on time to church and coming in "on two wheels" or would ask her how high would she jump the curb in her car to get in the door. She called him a puppy dog for waiting outside to see if she made it to church, and would give her a hard time if he made it inside before she did. She had a habit of slamming on her brakes or getting distracted while driving. She didn't want to ride with me because she said I drove too fast. Didn't like to ride with our friend Charlotte because she didn't use turn signals all the time. She was set in her ways, and I often forgot how old she was.
This last year she became and advocate in the community for the dialysis center, helping new patients get their questions answered, sharing advice to those struggling with the diet (it always aggravated her that she tried to balance her two contradicting diets and others with only one to follow totally ignored it), and tried to be a mediator between patients and nurses. If you've ever been in long term care, you know that nurses eventually view you as part of the job and not as a person. She struggled with that, and also greatly struggled with the techs who were not always nice. I wanted her to report them. No one should have to suffer that way, but she'd refuse, saying she was at their mercy. Bobby backed her up, saying when your life is in someone's hands, you don't make them mad. It angered me, but I could also see both the wisdom and the fear in the response. She loved this new dialysis center where she was currently going. They shocked her the first week by refusing to let her leave because her blood pressure was too high. It was 175/80. We both laughed a little, but were also glad. I can't count the number of times I picked her up from the other place and it was 190 or 200 over something. One day in particular I almost turned around and headed to the hospital. She was pale and clammy and kept changing subjects mid-sentence....not Mary like at all.  But she insisted she needed to pick a med, and by the time we got to the pharmacy she was more herself. She laughed and said "That's life with dialysis."  She said that again to me last night before we left the hospital, that most people really didn't get how life-threatening and terrible dialysis could be. I didn't really tell her good-bye last night, because I was going to see her again after her procedure today. But God had other plans, and before the doctors started the part of the procedure she did not want the most, called her home. For my sake, I am sad. For hers, I'm rejoicing. No more pain, no more dialysis cramps and sleepless nights and erratic blood pressure readings and trying to remember which pills to take 30 minutes before you eat and limiting yourself to a quart of liquids a day.  She loved her coffee, and would make her 2 cups last all day. And now? She's eating heaven's food (manna and fruit, we know for sure) and does not have to worry about whether or not it fits her lists. She persevered through all the doubts and questions, through all the pain and heartaches, through the loneliness, and is now complete in every sense of the word. I miss her, but I'm glad God "led her home". 

Friday, June 26, 2015

a new find

Last week during the Quilt of Valor sew-in (where quilters meet once a month in Raleigh to make quilt tops for the organization), one of the girls set out her ruler and rotary cutter for everyone to use.

I have a rotary cutter. For those of you not familiar with them, it's like a pizza cutter, but with scissor sharp blades (older quilters seeing them for the first time call them scissors on wheels). It's and ideal way for cutting fabric. Once you've used one, you have no desire to go back to cutting fabric for patterns with scissors.

But this girl, she had one of the newer rotary cutters.  It looked like this:
See the curved handle?  That fits in your hands so much better.  The lever underneath, when pushed upwards, extends the blade. So when you're not gripping it, there's no blade sticking out. (Meaning if you bump it and it falls off the cutting table, it won't cut whatever it hits.) It still has the traditional Olfa red safety button to lock it in safety mode, but the thing that amazed me the most was how lightweight it was. I used it twice, cutting out a lot of blocks, and had no shoulder or neck muscle tightness at all when I was done.

The third time I go to use the blade, I was talking to another girl at the cutting table, and thinking "I SO want to get one of these. This, in my mind, would be like a good pair of scissors...a little pricey, but once purchased is forever yours."  And then, a feel a pain.  While running my mouth, I missed the edge of the ruler and placed the blade ON the ruler, which meant there was no guide while I was cutting and cut the only thing on top of the finger. I was very, very fortunate. Once slight curve to either side and it would have been so much worse. As it was, I caught the back/fatty part of my finger (the pad, as some people call it), and rolled up over the edge and perfectly into the cuticle part beside my fingernail. Had it rolled a smidgen more to one side, I would have sliced my nail. Had it curved slightly more to the other side, we'd be seeing bone. I have a friend who sliced her finger almost to the bone (as in, they had to reattach the hanging skin and tissue) with a rotary cutter. That was the first thing that ran through my mind when I felt pain.

It's now been a week today, and the cut area still feels a little tender, but is 95% healed. YEAH!!!

When I was telling Bobby what happened after I got home, and how I had been thinking how I wouldn't mind having one of these, he immediately started shaking his head no.  But I'm thinking he'll eventually come around. After all, every girl needs a power tool or two.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

a hard week

My mind has drifted south to Charleston, SC a lot this last week.  And while I've prayed for the families of all the victims and the survivors, I have to confess my mind and prayers keep going back to three little girls.

Church -  the building holds so many memories for me, specifically Dad's office. That's where I hung out while sermon notes were typed, helped with printing and folding the church bulletin, rested during services while I was sick (Preachers and their wives don't always have the luxury of staying home with sick kids), made phone calls during extra-long choir practices or meetings, read books, was bored to tears, as a teenager sat and pondered what it would be like to make an appointment and chat with Dad, but never, ever, ever did it cross my mind that it would be a place where I would hover and hide with Mom while hearing my Dad and fellow church family members die. And that room will be an even harder room for that child and parent to face in months to come when it must be cleaned out to make room for the next pastor.

I think about the young girl who was in the Bible study with her Grandma and Dad, whose Grandma had the presence of mind to cover her and play dead - the horror and nightmare of such a scenario.

I cannot comprehend how anyone could shoot innocent people, especially an 87 year old woman.

I know how much a church hurts when a faithful member dies. Imagine losing 9 at one time - of your diehard faithfuls, as my Dad used to call the Wednesday night crowd.

There's a church family who is hurting beyond belief right now, and they will for a very long time.
There are devastated families whose lives will NEVER be the same.
There are three little girls who had fathers who loved them, men who were faithful to God, men who will no longer be there to guide them through the turbulent teen years and conflicting college days. Three little girls whose lives are forever altered, and not in a good way.

And as social media and national media has moved on to politics, my heart grieves even more.

May the balm of Gilead be so ever real to those families as they say their formal goodbyes this week.