225 Days and More Reflecting

These past few weeks saw a flurry of activity with Mother’s Day, my birthday and our anniversary. Throw in the usual activities with children and visits from friends and it gets pretty full.

Overall, Travis has remained about the same. I am seeing only gradual changes, in mental confusion, remembering, little less stability with balance, gradually quieter. He still has had no pain or any seizures, still pretty remarkable for brain tumor patients. When you ask him how he feels, he will respond, “Pretty good.” His only symptom seems to be fatigue and tiredness. He asks me quite a bit, “Why am I so tired?” His appetite is still good. He does not ever remark about heaven or dying. He just enjoys whatever moment he is in. Quite a few of you have asked if there have been an indications as to how long he might have left. There really is not. Only God knows the actual day and time, we could have weeks or months. It is so hard to tell until there actually starts to be a rapid decline and yet Travis may not have a decline at all and just slip peacefully away. A book that I was reading recently remarked that people will often die exactly the way they have lived. Travis always lived quietly and without much fanfare. It would not surprise me at all if he goes to heaven in the same exact way.

I can say that that for myself and the children, we are closer to the place of being able to say “goodbye” then we were when we started. I have watched God wrap up loose ends, work in our hearts and bring us all to places of discovery and realizations that have made that a little easier everyday. Through much anguish and grief, I have finally been able to tell God, “not my will but yours.” That has been a big turning point for me not only in this process of facing death but between God and I as well. I do not know if we will every really be “ready” to say goodbye, I do not know that anyone ever really is. But we are in a place where a sense of peace and comfort is beginning to overtake the internal turmoil that has marked most of these past seven months.

There are still days, hours and moments where something insignificant happens, a look or a kiss or something small and waves of grief seem to wash over me. Grief over everything we have lost, everything we are in the process of losing and everything that will be lost in the future. It happens with the children sometimes too. I have come to really hate the word “last” and yet it seems that I struggle to find another way to live right now. We are living quite a few “lasts” right now. Those moments seem to be the hardest.

On Mother’s Day, my thoughts were different this year. As a mother you seem to be focused and diligent on not only teaching your children the basic things of life but developing their character and their gifts, talents and abilities. Teaching them how to develop a relationship with God and others. I have done most of this, as I am sure many of you have, completely unsure of myself¬†and my parenting decisions. Yet on this Mother’s Day I was struck by the fact that I never realized that one of the jobs of mothering my children would be to help them or show them how to face death and dying. I feel the same unsureness even in this area because I am not even sure that how I am facing death is right. God has gone out of His way on numerous occasions to confirm to me again and again that I am leading my children in the right path, no matter how unsure I may feel. He has used direct words, recollection of memories and even people to speak this to me.

My birthday was a little harder than Mother’s Day. I turned 40 this year. A few years ago, approaching 40 did not seem to bother me. I did not feel 40 in any sense of the word. My heart was happy and free. I was at peace with my life and in my relationships. I know of no other way to say this except that emotions take a toll on you physically speaking. I feel every year of that 40 now. When I think of the next 40 years, that I will live them without Travis by my side, that is hard. I never thought that I would be saying “goodbye” to a life partner, friend, and the love of my life at this age.

Our anniversary was the hardest of all. We were married 16 years this month. Up until Travis’ diagnosis, we both felt that we still had the best years of marriage to live yet. I so glad at this point that Travis and I decided about 10 years to stop “settling” in our marriage. We both knew that God had more for our marriage then where we were living and we wanted that marriage. It was hard work and God had to work on us both in huge ways that were always uncomfortable and at times excruciating. Our marriage in the past 10 years was unbelievable. Not perfect but amazing. We know each other’s hearts inside and out. We loved being with each other and could not stand it when we had to be apart for any length of time. Do I wish we had more of those years to come? Yes. But I would not trade those years for anything. Even if 10 years ago God had told us that all we had was 10 years left with each other, that is how we would have spent them. Cherishing, honoring and loving each other’s hearts above all else except God.

God has not only gone out of His way to confirm things to me but He has also brought me to some amazing realizations. One of those has been that God chose and ordained me to be Travis’ wife knowing that this time would come. He chose and ordained me to be the mother of these four children knowing that this time would come. It was not random. He knew the woman that He would have molded me into by this time and the depth of marriage and love He would have orchestrated. When most of us say our wedding vows, we mean them but we also tend to focus on the “love, honor, cherish…forsaking all others” and we glance over the “…death do us part.” I know that we focused on that when we said them. In this time and place, I realize that in just a short time, I will finish fulfilling my wedding vows with “till death do us part.” To know that it is my glory and calling to be able to walk Travis right up to the gates of heaven is as much a part of my vows as it was to love, honor and cherish him.

212 Days, Making Memories and Reflecting

I’m sorry that it has been a while since I posted. If anything significant had happened, I would have posted immediately. Just posting on the Care Pages is an emotional investment for me and sometimes I just don’t have enough to make the deposit! I am sure that you understand.

The past couple of weeks have been a flurry of activity. We were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset cruise through Sailing Florida Charters. (See photo gallery) We had a great captain and it was a beautiful evening. It was the first time on a sailboat for both Travis and I but we instantly fell in love with it. A few days later, the Faith Girlz (with help from their mothers, of course) from Grow Life planted an amazing garden of peace and serenity in our front yard for Travis and I. (See photo gallery) We also had a trip to the Build-A-Bear store so the girls could build a bear with Travis and place a recordable message (from Travis) inside the bear. Even though the message was simple, I knew that it was important to them. One of the girls stated it this way, “Now, anytime I want to, I can push a button and hear my dad.” I know that will be priceless in the future. In the midst of that was wedding dress shopping. One of the ideas that I felt like God had given me was for the girls to have a picture of themselves in a wedding dress with their dad. They tried on quite a few gowns, in the end they both settled on the gown that they had tried on first. It was an emotional day but we also had fun in the midst of the sadness. (See photo gallery) Of course, then came photo shoot day, I called a few people to ask for specific prayer for Travis’ energy that day and God showed up. The girls were beautiful and Travis enjoyed getting to take pictures with his beautiful girls. The boys have been been working on Travis’ old pickup and have gotten it running again. Their goal is to fix it up and then this is what they want to drive because it was their dad’s truck. (See photo gallery) It is funny the things that are important at the end of the life. The things that you feel represent someone to you.

As far as Travis goes, things are still declining slowly. I can best describe it this way. We have always had up and down days, in the beginning we had more up than down. Then we hit a point where we were even. Now we have swung the other direction where we have more down than up days. There have been several days where Travis did not or could not (strength-wise) get out of bed for the better part of the day. On those days, I open the curtains and blinds in our room. Travis can see the garden from the one window. Then I spend most of the day hanging out in there with him. A health aide from Hospice now comes in three times a week to help me with¬†Travis. He has not used the walker in about 2 weeks only the wheelchair to transfer around the house. When he can get out of bed, he spends his time in the recliner in the family room. God continues to show up in many ways. He gives Travis a great level of energy on the days that we have something special planned. He still “feels” good. Sometimes so good that he does not understand why he can’t do things. Usually when he attempts to try to get up or something else and he realizes that his body is not working the way it should that is when he realizes that he must still be “sick”. That is how he talks about it. Travis also has not had any pain medication in over 4 weeks, according to Hospice, that is completely unheard of with brain tumor patients.

Cognitively speaking, his processing has dropped off a little. I can only offer him two choices. If I offer him too many choices, he cannot process them all. He tends to wear out easier and get more agitated in high stimulus environments where there is a lot of background noise. He is still mostly unaware of the depth of the situation. At least four or five different times over the past few weeks, Travis has remarked, “I’m not going anywhere.” He understands what Hospice is and we have repeatedly talked about the circumstances of his tumor. He just does not seem to connect all the dots so to speak. I believe that Travis had his first encounter with an angel this past week. I have been reading a couple of books on what dying people experience physically, emotionally and mentally as their time approaches. I am not reading these out of some morbid reason but in order to understand how best to help Travis move from this world to heaven, how best to help my children deal with his transition and how I can best connect to Travis during this time. Most people who are in the process of dying encounter angels or loved ones that have gone on before them. Some of these encounters happen months, weeks, days or even moments before they take their final earthly breath. I am glad I had read these books before this incident because it helped me help Travis process what might be happening. Travis was not sure who the person was. When I asked him if it might be an angel, he said maybe. He did tell me that he thought the person was guarding or protecting but that he was also waiting. He never seemed to make the realization that the angel might be for him at some point. I have came to place where I am not really worried or concerned about whether Travis knows he is dying or at what point he realizes that fact. What does it really matter? God will lead and guide Travis and let him know what he needs to know when he needs to know. If Travis does not know that has died until he sees Jesus’ face, then I am okay with that. I am happy that Travis’ is happy and content with me and the children and spending time together. Nothing else matters to me right now.