Thursday, January 31, 2013

The joys of terminal...

When we hear the word "terminal" our mind drifts to usually one of two places either the airport or we think of someone we know or love who has been terminal.  Recently, "terminal" has dug in and become very personal.

December 29th, the day before my birthday was when "terminal" struck our life.  The doctor didn't say it but I know enough that when I hear the words mass and metastacized in the same sentence I just know.  Emotions begin to swirl-horror, fear, denial, questioning, defeat, then finally joy.  I know right, joy.  Well, I'm a "terminally" optimistic individual and I have this odd quirk that I seek out joy-I try to find the crazy blessing in every situation because I believe somewhere, someway there must be one!

In the last 33 days, we have lived in a whoosh of phone calls, instant messages, day trips, overnight trips, doctor visits, internet searches and deep conversations where parts are inaudible because we were speaking with our hearts.  As I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, I decided to embrace the crazy blessings that are coming from this "terminal" situation.  I decided that I needed to share with you a few things I have experienced.

1.  Terminal can give you the opportunity to heal.  Even though the outcome is death, the healing that comes is on a spiritual and emotional level.   In the words of Quantum Leap "to right what once went wrong."  My relationship with this particular "terminal" has been a bit rocky.  Terminal hasn't been perfect yet neither have I.  We come from two different worlds with differing opinions and even some differing beliefs.  Our binding chord however is our love for and devotion to one common individual.  Even though it's been difficult, I have grown to care for, respect and love...even before "terminal."  I'm thankful that I have been given time-no matter how short-to heal.  Perhaps those of us who are left can also heal and enjoy a second chance at a relationship.

2.  Terminal can give you the opportunity to savor the end and actually say goodbye.  Everyone says when you have a bandaid you should rip it off quickly so the pain is quick instead of slowly peeling it back millimeter by millimeter whining and complaining the whole way.  Even though terminal may only be weeks or months, it isn't a quick removal kind of bandaid nor should it be agonizing.  Instead I believe that "terminal" is removing the bandaid slowly using a soothing salve that lessens the sting. Terminal is time to process, accept and begin to heal before...and even though it is difficult to utter the word terminal to family and friends it is so necessary so we can be surrounded and lifted by those who love us.  It also gives them the opportunity to lessen their bandaid moment with a little of that soothing salve.

3.  Terminal gives us the opportunity to provide the ultimate gift to the one we love--the gift of experiencing our love during a very scarey time.  We are able to lift them up, to assure them that we will be okay, that we will remember them and carry their legacy to future generations.

So today, whether you are crazy blessed with no "terminal" in your life or crazy blessed to know  "terminal" remember we are all is waiting but for how long?  Seize it today!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Memory is Elusive-Capture It!

Somedays, I feel a little nostalgic.  A smell, sound or glimpse of a color will transport me back to a time long ago.  We all have those types of memories-the most vivid for me is the smell of Mexican food cooking-not spicy but the earthy, corn smell-takes me back to the driveway of Nell Scruggs in Weatherford, Oklahoma.  Nell was the grandma of my next door neighbors, Tonya and Julie; we loved to walk or ride our bikes through Camelot Addition to Grandma Scruggs' house and play in her basement.  (When you get a mental picture of Nell, I want you to picture a sweet Georgia peach of a grandma with an accent that melted in your ears like warm butter when she spoke.)  Every spring, she had crabapple trees that lined her driveway and to me the beauty of those blossoms can be vividly seen in my minds eye every time I catch just the right whiff of Mexican food.  Instantly I am 8 years old and the world is fresh, clean and safe! (Julie-if there was only one tree, please don't correct me!  In my childhood memory her drive was long and there were at least four trees.)

But what about when those memories begin to fade?  Have you had it happen yet?  You hear a melody playing in your head and know it should be transporting you to a significant memory but there is nothing there.  You come up blank.  With every passing year, I seem to have more and more blank pages and there is nothing I can do about it.  Sometimes it's like I'm Sam from "Quantum Leap" and my memory seems to be a big hunk of swiss cheese.  It scares me.  There are too many things I don't want to forget.

When I was a little girl, I remember getting those five year diaries; anxiously awaiting January 1st and vowing that this would be the year I would write a line each and every day.  Needless to say, I forgot every time.  Sometimes I would get a half dozen entries in one diary...over the course of five years!  My intentions would golden but my follow through, not so much.

My Grandma, Erma Ruth (McDowell) Cassel, lived to the ripe age of 103 years, 2 months and a 7 days.  She came from a different time, one where people valued their thoughts and took the time to record them-every day!  About ten years before she passed away, she gave me the most precious gift I have ever received-boxes of journals that my Grandpa Elbert Cassel had kept.  I took the time and went through the first five years, I typed in highlights, printed them, bound them and gave them to her.  You could see the sparkle in her eye that I believe in my heart was the same sparkle that newlywed Erma had when she first married Elbert.  Can you imagine someone typing up and handing you a booklet that contained snippets that your husband had written during the first five years of your marriage?  What wonderful memories to have the opportunity to relive through the eyes of the one you dearly loved!

So today, I'm eyeing those journals again.  I haven't picked them up in several years but I'm drawn to look into the box again.  There is one that looks a bit different so I pick it up and open the cover and this is what I see:

E.E. McDowell-born in the 1870's, father of Erma Ruth!  He was my Great Grandfather!!!  Wow!  I excitedly turned the page and saw that it was a five year diary, beginning January 1, 1950.  Now old Eugene Edgar did better than I did, he managed to write every day for one full year.  Being a woman I did the thing every girl would do-I turned to the important dates in my life--my birthday, my kids birthdays, my anniversary and quickly read to see what words of wisdom might leap from the pages to enlighten me. 

The first thing I noticed as I read through my selected dates was how positive he was each and every day.  Even though he was very lonesome (I don't know dates but I'm thinking this must be shortly after my Great Grandma had passed away because on January 1, he wrote at the top of the page, "Darling, I'll never forget you, I love you so; must be I am just finding how much you were to me, dear."  Many of the days, he makes reference to being lonesome and doing the best he could to pass the time.  The other thing I noticed is every day, no matter how lonesome or how "dark the world conditions" he thanked God for what he had.

Today, I want to share with you the date I was born-December 30th.

"Not much left of the old year am glad for the new, am trustful that all shall be well for all who look to the Infinate God, He doeth all things well.  Father lead in the perfect way, with confidence, Amen."

As I read, my mind drifted back to Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradberry and one of Anna's last plays at NWACC.  It was eerie because the play spoke of books being done away with and how news had been condensed to just a few words, no real news.  It kind of scared me because all I could think about was todays society and our quick Facebook status updates, that the news blurbs we read on the internet must be real (not) and our 140 characters on Twitter.  I was all gloom and doom for a bit I was convinced that our society was doomed.  But today, as I read through my Great Grandpa's diary and saw his daily status updates, I realized that in his way he was preserving a moment in time, a moment that would one day reach me and perhaps one day reach my children and my children's children.

So all you crazy blessed readers, take a moment and review your Facebook and your Twitter with fresh eyes.  Are these little bits your legacy?  Will your children, grand children, great-grand children be proud of the person you are today or will they be ashamed?  Will they be crazy blessed to be a part of your legacy or hope the digital trail will disentigrate?  I challenge each of you to begin to save some of those status updates and/or tweets, write them in a diary or journal so someday there will be something they can hold in their hands and imagine the person you were.