Life Changes Us; Or Does It?

I sometimes find it funny how some things in life never truly do change. The bond we have with some people, even after years and years of being part, remains intact. A high school friend that was one of those special folks you had a connection with and knew you could trust with your innermost secrets, is still someone you can, in adulthood, confide in freely. And, in the same vein, that girl you went to high school with who was so busy trying to convince others of her importance, later in life, is still trying. You can sense it, not so much in what they say and do, but in what they don’t do and don’t say. Somehow it is baffling that life has not changed them.

Some of the negative persona's, the bad seeds in our life, will usually remain so. Perhaps that is why Dr. Phil is fond of saying “Kick a loser in your life to the curb.” He knows history does repeat itself. Unhealthy personalities that take advantage of your goodness and want only for themselves are users for their own gain. These people are not worthy of our graces. These people do not change. Do not put your time and energy into what my cousin’s girlfriend Levaughn calls “People that are two faced.” She is right, they do make you feel as if they need a smack of the backhand, but even that will not change the nature of who they are users of others. Good people, likewise, are true of heart and remain so.

Having come from a divorced family, as there are so many broken homes these days that it is becoming common place, I see all around me signs of broken marriages. Marriages that in spite of being together, they are broken. People going through the rigors of life and in one sense, growing and changing but the bonding between husband and wife, the commitment seems to either be there or, in general, not. Those of us with someone who is committed to us from the start are indeed the lucky ones. That is something that never quite seems to change. Those marriages, those couples find the work they put towards the courtship, towards planning a wedding and a future; they use to forge through issues and continually keep the marriage alive and well. Even with the setbacks, they always come back to each other with the same goal in mind.

Changes in our life seem to never really effect the healthy bonds that we have with the people in our lives that make us better people. This is definitely true with the bond with the siblings that love us unconditionally. My sisters can pick up the phone and call me and we are right back to ten or twenty years ago, sharing all our thoughts and dreams with abandonment knowing the intimacy we share is special and priceless. That will never change, not with age. When I battled cancer and my sister told me she could not imagine life without talking to me, I assured her God would not, could not allow me to be in heaven without our gabbing sessions because those were heaven sent moments to me. Heaven is a place that is euphoria and those talks are simply that; food for my soul and I think for hers also. No matter how our life changes, this bond remains the same.

We change but our faith in God is always there, inside our soul. We wander away from the closeness of this relationship throughout our life as we convince ourselves subconsciously we are fearless, invincible, and need no help. There are even times when we are angry for all we are not, what we do not have, for the things we have lost and the lot we have been handed in life. But in our hour of need, in the wee hours of the morning, when our heart is breaking, when our souls our hurting, we visually or physically reflect on the past, as if we are children saying our faithful prayers to God. We ask in our adult voices for the same thing we asked for as children, for His angels to descend on us and bring us what we need to get through our modern day crisis knowing we need His help, his intervention. We may grow old, we may grow weary, and we may deny God from time to time, but those of us with true faith in Him will always carry Him inside no matter how much we change and will always find ourselves stepping back into prayer along the way.

I have met many people facing cancer. I have met folks with Stage 1 and folks with Stage 4. I have talked with people on their death bed. I find that who they are, when they are entering heaven, is undoubtedly who they came into the world being, someone wide eyed, full of innocence in a sense about the wonderment of heaven and being in the presence of God much as they were as when they were an infant coming into this temporary place. The sense of peace they feel as they approach dying is much like the sense of calm they felt in their mother’s arms as they know they are going back to their Father, the one that truly did create them. All the years we spend on earth, all the roads traveled and yet, here at the end, we land on the very same stepping stone of emotion. It is as if all the years fade into oblivion. Yes, life has been a journey, a passing and yet, at the end, we are still in our infancy entering a new wondrous place…………………..as it was in the Beginning.


Forgiveness for a Mother

The past few weeks have been a blur for me in many ways. The days have seemed to fly by full of new drama and trauma playing out with each and every phone call. The plot seems to constantly
change as my emotions go through a roller coaster ride that is full of more lows than highs. I manage to take one day at a time and realize again, nothing lasts forever. Not even after spending a life time without someone and finally, at age 50 finding them.

My mom and I reconnected almost two years ago. We had not seen each other in over 35 years. I had the chance to hear some I love you’s from a mother I never really knew. I am grateful because two weeks ago, she had a stroke. Life has changed permanently, for her and consequently for me. Now my days have been filled with phone calls with doctors, nurses and family relatives. There are always more questions than answers too.

By the time my sister and I got up to see her in Michigan, she had fallen in to a deep sleep and could not be roused. We were told she might never wake up and they were going to put in a feeding tube through her nose. The doctor suggested we go in first and have a few quiet moments to visit with her prior to the insertion. We went in, my older sister and I, before calling our brothers and other family members with an update. As we chatted over her head, we noticed her begin to twitch and squirm in her sleep. My sister left the room to go down the hall way. Not sure what to do, I laid my face up against her cheek and whispered “I love you Mom.” She began to cough and opened up her eyes. I leaned over in shock and asked her what she wanted. She stared at me and said “Water.” I ran into the hallway screaming for the nurses, I knew it was a miracle, she was not supposed to wake up! My sister and I’s hearts were elated.

Just as quickly, it was replaced with a melancholy feeling. We realized that this was part of our mom before us but also a shadow of who she was. She, Margie, was only half there, half of the time. The other half of the time, she was delusional. Her mind saw things the rest of us did not see, she recalled things that were not real, she created lies that she believed and had the attention span of a small child. I looked at her and wondered where my mother went. She was volatile, self centered, had the worst listening skills imaginable and no one in the room had the floor but her. Her attention span was that of a small child. Reasoning with her was not possible, if you needed to negotiate because she seemed to lack anything that required higher level brain processing. She would try to pop up and out of chairs with a left leg that was completely numb from her stroke with no feeling or ability to sustain her weight.

As we visited with her for several days, we found long visits exhausting. My sister and I took turns breaking down in to tears where there were no words we could say to comfort each other. There were times we would enter the room and she would not recognize us immediately. There were days when she demanded to go home or for us to call an ambulance and take her to the hospital. Thus, we would have to remind her she was already there. If her doctor did not come to her room, she wanted to be taken to the emergency room immediately and be seen there. Her demands were constant and unreasonable. We saw the look on the nurses’ faces that were assigned our mother and detected no one had her on their assignment two days in a row. We were sure that was by design. Whoever was assigned our mom on their shift, we felt a little sorry for because we knew she was a handful. She pretended she was in pain to get pain medicine, she said she was sick when she wanted attention, she tried to stand on her feet so much on aided that frequently she was put on waist restraints. It was the like the worst child in the kindergarten class. Wow, this was not the mom I had seen the last two years! It is like the stroke took away my mother and all that was left is some of the worst traits and exaggerated them.

We tried to explain to our mom she had a stroke, her brain was playing tricks on her. To see that childlike look in her eyes when she asked “You mean it is not real?” was heart wrenching but needed. Many times, it didn’t matter what we said, she was not coming out of the make believe land she was in. She remained delusional. Her left side is numb and so she cannot walk unassisted either. She can only eat thickened liquids due to some aspirations. Her life is not what it was and will never be.

This is not what we expected for a woman so full of energy. She has led a life full of bad choices; there is no doubt about it. But I still hoped her life would end well. Never in a million years did I envision her being in a nursing home at half mast. She doesn’t even know that is where she is going because no one wants to deal with the fit she will throw. All she knows is she is going to rehab. It feels as if we are lying to her by keeping her in the dark but we have no other options. She is not capable any longer of dealing with reality. The amount of tears and heart ache I feel inside is really nothing that can be expressed in words. I am grateful for the endearments she has expressed the last few years we reconnected. And I try to hold fast to those on the down days when the sorrow fills my heart. I missed out on a mother most of my life, my biological mother, found her and now I sit here and lost her again.

I recall sitting bedside and seeing my mom staring at my sister and me during one of her lucid moments. She then began to cry. As we watched her, she said, as she has stated so many times before to us, “I am so sorry that I let you down as a mother and was not there for you to a part of your lives.” I wonder why, even though we have told her countless times before, she does not realize we forgave her a long time ago. Perhaps it is because, even when she is in her sane state, she still has not been able to forgive herself. Forgiveness begins in the soul and comes from the love of God and of His will.

My mom believes in God. My mom, even in this state, must succumb to His will, that of forgiveness, forgiveness of her own sins. Until she does that, she will always feel tormented inside. That is a painful thing to see, as a daughter. Her time is going to be limited. Her moments of sanity are as well. I pray God teaches my mother to learn to live His word in those lucid moments before she passes. If not, may she find that eternal peace she has been so desperately looking for on earth one day. If not on earth, my you find in heaven Mom. All of us are forgiven our sins. All we have to do is ask.

As I turned to say good bye,
All I could do is cry.
One of my biggest fears
Is that the next time I visit, you won’t be here.
Please stay a few more years,
I don’t mind shedding a few more tears,
I want to cradle you like you once cradled me,
I want you to know that I love the life you gave to me.
Mom, I will always love you.


Strides for Life

This week has been a blur for me, in many ways. My mother had a stroke at the beginning of the week. I live out of state from her, actually a few states over to be more precise. Consequently, I have spent a great deal of time on the telephone talking to doctors and nurses to keep abreast of her situation. Then when you throw in the relative calls on her side of the family, there adds a deeper dimension to the week, a more emotional component.

Many of you who have followed my blog know that my mother and I only reconnected a few years ago. Therefore, most members of her family have only came into my life recently, as in the last few months, some in the last few years. Funny though, some I feel I have known for a lifetime, in a good way. This past week was a reminder of how blessed I am to know and be a part of this family. I am amazed at the out pouring of these wonderful people towards my mother, who has made her share of mistakes in life and towards me, someone new to the family picture. It is a humbling experience to know that this extended family, just introduced to me recently, could already feel so connected to me quickly.

Within twenty four hours after the first stroke, my mother suffered a second one that appears to be, if not more devastating than the first, than equally so. The stroke was in the right side of her brain so the left side of her body is affected. I researched the short and long term effects of that side of the brain, after strokes, to better understand her condition. I discovered all the changes my mother is experiencing and will experience, if God continues to give her more time. And yes, I have prayed humbly that the plan for my mom allows for more days. The memories, thus far, have been few. I would like to make a few more good memories with my mother, God willing.

I was proud of myself that most of the week, I kept pretty stoic. On Friday, I let my feelings surface as the reality of losing the opportunity to ever walk somewhere with my mother hit me. To date, she cannot walk unaided. The wonderment of what her future might look like and if she could be happy with it concerns me. My mom lives life to the fullest. That has been part of her problem, part of her weakness. Yet, at times, part of the wonderment of knowing and being around my mother.

Today, I was scheduled to volunteer for an event downtown for the annual Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk. This event is very heartfelt to me. I first learned of it when I was diagnosed with cancer in Sept. 2007. My mastectomy was scheduled for early in Oct. so I knew walking was out of the question that year. But after I saw the news coverage, post event, I vowed to have a team the following year.

Exactly one year later, while still in chemo treatment, I pushed up my sleeves and formed a team called Make Some Noise with a group of my strong supporters. This was comprised of the folks that were there for me during my long battle to get well and stay on the ‘other side’ of the dreaded disease. I walked that walk with my head held high. I felt tears sting my eyes as I walked across the bridge into the downtown area by LP Field and saw 10,000 people all walking for the same cause, a cure for breast cancer.

Now today, after a week of fielding phone calls and praying my mother would live, I found myself back at the very same place I was at in 2008, just 3 years ago. This time, I am sitting close to two very dear friends that have volunteered with me. One is a breast cancer survivor herself and married to a cancer survivor. The other friend has a mother who just recovered from breast cancer. Both are extremely dear to me and I think understand my pain and turmoil about my mother. I sit and register folks for this walk and watch others do the same. Scores of folks come and go, families, young and old just to take a stand for cancer, just to let it be known they care about life.

I think about my mother a lot during the time I am sitting there. I reflected on my own journey, on how each donor dollar that was given to this event, prior to me being diagnosed, helped fund the drugs that were discovered that cured me. I again feel humbled and blessed. This feels good, unlike many of the emotions I have felt this past week. I watch someone full of life having fun with others there, possibly looking for a new soul mate. Yes, he is full of life and seems void of any sense of the pain and mixed emotions I feel. I am somewhat envious of the new promise he finds in anther's eyes and wonder if the following year they will be here together. But I see others wearing shirts to commemorate their mothers, their wives, their friends that have passed away from breast cancer and I am touched by their dedication. I then feel the warmth of happiness inside my soul that I have found meaning in my life also. It took me getting cancer and surviving it, but after that battle, I found the person that gave me my life, I found my mom.

I walk away from today, from the Making Strides against Breast Cancer, a survivor but a great deal more than that. I walk away a proud daughter of a woman in Michigan fighting to survive a stroke. I walk away as a girl who found her mom. I am also a grandmother who found compassion in her heart to forgive her true mother for not being all the things we have come to expect from a maternal mother in our lives. Yes, I walk away from the event feeling whole and better than before I got there, just like I did in 2008. Funny how this one event, since 2007, has impacted my life so much.

To commemorate this day, I arranged to have my mother, who is finally sitting up, alert, in bed talk to her husband. He, Wade, is a long past stroke victim and fighting Stage 4 cancer himself with a trachea and feeding tube in him from a traumatic surgery months ago. I call my mother's nurse in Michigan and tell her my plan. I then speak to my mother, who is beside herself with worry, heart ache, head pain and missing her husband. I ask Mom if she would like a little surprise. I tell her to hang up the phone and wait a minute and then pick it back up when it rings. I tell her to promise me to pick it up and someone who wants to talk to her will be on the phone. She understands and says she will but it is clear she thinks it is me that is calling back. I let her think that.

I then call Wade and practically yell at him to get a pen quickly. He is hard of hearing and moves slowly. Apparently he has trouble finding one and is telling me so, as I am saying hurriedly, please Wade, go faster! He is probably looking at the receiver thinking I am as demanding as my mother can be! Apparently he locates one and starts writing the numbers down, each one, as I shout each one out to be certain he hears it. We go through this routine several times before he gets it right. In fact, I am not at all sure he has it correct. With his titanium tongue, his speech is extremely difficult to comprehend but it sounded pretty close to the number anyways. He yells back, at one point, asking who's number am I writing? Whoops, I forgot to tell him! I tell him it is his wife, my mom, who is missing him horribly. I know Wade, he loves my mom and is sick with worry. She also was his primary care taker. He starts to choke up and I tell him there is no time for that, “She is waiting for you Wade, you have to call in just a couple minutes.” And I hang up.

I waited about fifteen minutes and called him back to ensure he got through to her. As soon as he picked up the phone, I could tell he was smiling. I could feel it coming off the receiver. I immediately said to him, “You talked to Mom right?” He was laughing when he replied that oh yes he had. He told me she cried. When he said this, he cried. My day ended with a little glimpse of heaven.


Excuse Me

A friend emailed me recently an article on work place bullying. This began a brief correspondence on social etiquette, on how it is sorely lacking in society these days.
It seems to be a lost art form. Could it be people are just too lazy to be courteous or just too insensitive to others feelings?

I am not sure there are any easy answers. For years, psychologists were convinced that the lack of compassion that was created in society was due to playing excessive video games. With the onset of extreme violence in these popular new video games on the market, this seemed the main culprit for explaining the increased incidence of insensitivity in society to others feelings and general meanness. This was becoming prevalent in schools and in our workplaces.

Not to be left in the dark and missing out on the popularity of this movement towards ‘the dark side’, movie producers revved up the violence in movies kicking it up a notch to help get ticket sales up. It worked well and with the onset of higher tickets sales, the new explanation for violence in the streets and the general impoliteness that seemed to be hitting our nation was, of course, explained away as being due, in part, to the movie industry. The answer to address this growing concern was perhaps if we rated movies with censorship we could perhaps dissuade folks from being violent and make them care more about being nice. Did anyone really think that would work?

The sad fact is that these behaviors are learned and practiced from the earliest of ages and long before we even venture out to the movies or play a video game. My grandchildren are barely 4 years old and two of them already say “please” or they do not get what they want. If “thank you” is not audibly heard, there is hell to pay, so to speak. Their parents want their manners intact now, and feel the responsibility intensely to teach and reinforce them.

The changes in society in how we interact with each other, as our society has become so desensitized towards violence, is affecting our interpersonal communication daily. The way we meet and greet strangers on the street, interact with the store clerk waiting on us and yes, the way we talk to a service representative trying to address an issue for us. This should be paramount to who we are, our character, how we communicate with strangers. How we communicate says who we are, the type of person we are, and reflects our belief system.

As adults, we are role models for the younger generation also. We are responsible, all of us, for our day to day interactions. Do we give others,
even in anger, the benefit of the doubt or are we ready to pull out a laundry list of words we should not say in church, much less to a stranger or co worker, in the heat of a moment?

Polite implies good social conduct. It is something that parents are supposed to be teaching early on in the home. This lesson is continued in early childhood to elementary school outside of the home. This mentality should carry over into adulthood easily and naturally. Somewhere something is amiss. And it really needs to be fixed. The result is classic bullying without any sense of consciousness about what is wrong with the behavior and any feeling of accountability. Too many times people just do not feel their comments warrant an apology or a need for behavioral modification.

If someone feels their conduct is acceptable and does not need to change, convincing them otherwise is challenging. Many times they feel their attitude and reactions to others have served them well in the past so they see no reason to make an adjustment. It is always ‘the other person’s problem’, not theirs. And then the cycle continues, a few people being continually rude and inconsiderate making others around them uncomfortable, annoyed and feeling, at times, bullied due to their insensitivity.

Adding to the mix is the social media resources available to us today,face book, twitter and my space. These medias were meant to help people stay connected in a busy world with never enough time. Yet, something that was meant to take technology and move things forward and served to move them back in some ways. People are finding new ways to hurt and harass each other. Cyber bullying. Wow, a new way to be impolite to others. You can now be an even bigger coward by remaining faceless and spreading nasty rude comments about people through tests and anonymous posts on these medias to upset someone. This not only serves no redeeming value to society, it was not the intended purpose whatsoever for the media that was developed.

When I was a kid, getting a mean note from a girlfriend was emotional but at least the rift was confined to me and her. Today, that little spat can be read by literally millions of folks all over the globe if the opposing side is impolite and has no social consciousness. Often times, one never knows until one is in conflict with someone what their true character truly consists of and then it can be too late. This badgering harassment through media will continue to be addressed by lawmakers and continue to cost tax payers money until it can be stopped or monitored in some fashion. Without threats of accountability, some people will stop at nothing to hurt others. It is like a cave man mentality that arises even now in our present day century with microwave ovens! What a shame this alone costs tax payers and Americans thousands of dollars in mental health issues and work performance issues.

One evening, while flipping through Cable channels, I come across some reality program called Charm School. Apparently regular people that had been thrown off other reality dating shows were now given the opportunity to be on this show. The ones that were chosen were picked due to their lack of social graces. They were being taught how to be courtesy, or as the title implies, charming. Given the lack of etiquette many of them had, that was going to take more than one television show with Sharon Osborne to fix their issues. The show I saw that night, the women were loud speaking foul language, obnoxious, and rude. I was amazed they had made it on a television show with such a lack of manners so attributed it to possible mediocre acting on their the part for the show as if they were just rude, aka uncharming.

A few weeks later, while out with some friends, I noticed some of the people seated around us. It is one thing to be loud and having a good time, but it is entirely something else to be rude and obnoxious to your waiter or to others seated within your party or other diners nearby. I began to see that some of what I saw on that Charmed School show on television really does occur in clubs these days. I must have missed it because I am usually too busy having fun with my friends to notice. Plus I feel blessed I have friends that have good manners! I guess if they don’t, they are not on my list of people I prefer to hang out with and I am not on theirs either!

I subscribe to that simple rule I learned in children’s bible class and then again in school, the Golden Rule. “Treat others like you would like to be treated.” What a simple rule, so easy to follow too. If society, as a whole, practiced it more readily, how many children would not be bullied and therefore saved from being ridiculed daily? How many less teens would take their lives? How many folks would not feel disheartened on the job by peers being rude? I agree with my friend, all it takes is just being a little more polite to make a huge difference. You should try it sometime. See for yourself.

Oh and spread the good news. Being polite really does pay dividends, not just for you, but for us all!

When society wins, we all do, immeasurably.