The Day After

clouds

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

It’s hard to believe that yesterday at this time, sleet, rain and snow flurries were taking turns smacking against the windows. It was gray, cold and dreary – a typical November day in our area of the world. Twenty-four hours later, the sun is streaming through the windows of a pretty late-fall day, and as I had let the dog back in the house, I could hear the comforting bells chiming at the church a block away.

Continue reading “The Day After”

Straight from heaven – a message from Dad

fall sunrise

Given the current climate of our country, and our world, anxiety seems pretty high these days. I know I am not alone. For me, I can toss in mid-life adjustments, family circumstances and an insanely busy schedule to the big bowl of life, and mixing it all together, I can attest that I am feeling a bit on-edge and hyper; simply put – anxious.

Add another ingredient of life into the mixing bowl – my dad passed away a little over two years ago. I still miss him. He was my “go-to” guy when I felt anxious. He didn’t always try to fix things; most of the time he just listened.

The father-daughter bond we shared was very strong, and even though I can’t physically see or hear him, I think of him daily, and I believe he communicates in his own special way.

For instance, a few hours before my dad passed away, we experienced an early evening, mid-summer storm. Strong winds, thunder, lightening – the works. A vibrant and a most beautiful rainbow appeared shortly after the storm… and a rainbow occurred monthly at the same time – the 23rd day of each month – for several months after his death. Anyone who has lost someone so dear marks the monthly anniversary until it becomes a yearly observation. (Oh, this was amazing, too – a rainbow appeared on the first Father’s Day we celebrated without him.)

I will be going about my day, thinking of Dad, and then, one of his favorite songs will be on the radio, or one of his favorite hymns will be listed in the church bulletin. During times of incredible stress, I have seen Dad in my dreams. He says nothing, but has the most peaceful smile and always gives me a hug.

It is all too vivid and the timing is way too perfect to be called a coincidence.

When fall rolls around, I think of him constantly. Anyone who knew my dad also knew he had an immaculate yard, and during the fall, he declared a full-on attack of leaves. Yes, this is the man who would stop mid-conversation to go outside and grab a leaf off the front lawn. And yes, this is the same man who “slid” off the roof and broke his leaf blower because, yes, he was on the roof, ridding it of leaves, so that they wouldn’t land in the yard.

During Dad’s eulogy, our pastor shared these stories to all who came to celebrate his life. There was so much laughter. Seriously, who gets on the roof and, essentially, rakes it? One year, my siblings and our spouses wanted to bring bags of leaves and dump them all over the yard as a prank, so that when Dad grabbed his morning paper, he would be greeted with 3-4 inches of leaves covering every blade of grass. We didn’t, because, well, we knew that could have caused a major health event. We didn’t want to bear that burden the rest of our lives!

When we interred Dad’s ashes in a memorial garden at church, there was a hush of quiet as our immediate family gathered. It was a pretty fall day, and the earlier rain had subsided in the nick of time. Pastor was reading some Scripture, and said a prayer, and then there was a quiet murmur, which turned to some mild snickering… because in the spot where Dad’s remains would eternally rest, in that just-opened space in the memorial wall, what does our pastor find? A leaf. He wondered if we should remove it, or leave it there to drive dad crazy for all eternity.

See what I mean? I swear he sends us messages from beyond.

Well, I have really needed my dad these past few weeks. What I wouldn’t have given to just talk to him, which I still do. I guess what I really wanted was to hear his voice.

This past Sunday, after worship, my youngest daughter and I took a stroll through another garden at church. It was a nice walk, and we had just heard our pastor’s sermon about angels. The garden, still sporting some roses in the early fall, was peaceful and pretty, with a calming fountain and lots of stones with Scripture verses along the path. Halfway through our walk, one stone stood out to me because, of all things, there was a leaf laying on it. One, lone leaf, which, of course, caught my eye. Any time I see a random leaf, I can’t help to think of dear old dad.

Oh my gosh…I had to grab my phone and snap a photo, because I honestly could not believe my eyes! Straight from heaven – a message from dad!

do not be anxious

Right under the leaf, the Scripture verse read: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Philippians 4:6.

Teary-eyed, and a little shaken, I looked up, and whispered, “Thanks, Dad.”

© Lynne Cobb – 2013>

Let me know if you have received a message from heaven!

 

Birthday parties and funerals

“Presents don’t really mean much to me. I don’t want to sound mawkish, but – it was the realization that I have a great many people in my life who really love me, and who I really love.” – Gabriel Byrne

Somehow, I have made it through “The Year of Firsts.”

It was July 24, 2011, in the very early hours of the morning, that Dad was called to be with the Lord. At 1:40 a.m., he ceased to breathe on this side of Heaven, and continued his pain-free journey with those he loved who had gone on before him.

He may have broken a record for the shortest stay in Hospice, as he was wheeled into the room around 4:30 p.m. on July 23, and didn’t even make it a full 10 hours. I remember it vividly. And these past few weeks, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but to remember every single detail. Every single detail.

The Alzheimer’s ravaged his memory, but one thing that will always stand out during his last stage of life was his love of children. He was fascinated watching them, and enjoyed visits with his grandchildren and his great-granddaughters. His entire face lit up when he was around them. I think, too, that the kids had no fear of him. I believe some adults who knew Dad feared him because of his disease – not knowing what to say, how to react or if they’d somehow catch his dreaded, memory-sucking affliction.

So as we neared the one-year mark, this was how my brain functioned; like an over-worked diary that spit out timeline info on a continuous basis:

“July 10, the ambulance took him from the nursing home to the hospital; July 11, a ventilator was inserted; July 22, the ventilator was removed and the sedation was turned off…” and on and on and on my thoughts went.

Thinking I was going crazy (hey, no comments from the peanut gallery out there!), I shared my concern with a friend who lost both her parents recently. She asked how I was doing, and I was a bit emotional saying, “It’s one year today. He died at 1:40 a.m. last year, and I woke up at 1:55 a.m. this morning. My first thought was, ‘It is finished,’ and I cried.” With a hug she comforted me, and admitted that she went through this process as part of her grief experience as well. I felt better. Like I hadn’t totally lost it.

So I embraced those times and dates. Difficult as they may be, those memories are part of my history, and they make me who I am today.

I allowed my brain to continue:

“July 25, we met with the funeral director and pastor, planning the visitation and funeral. July 25 and 26, we collected photos and memories to celebrate his life on July 28.”

July 28 – a year ago today, at this very time – we gathered with several hundred people and celebrated Dad’s life.

But July 28 has another major significance for me. It is my granddaughter’s birthday. We will gather today, on her fourth birthday, to celebrate her life.

Could it be God‘s hand at work, as we gather today, to yet again celebrate life?

I believe so.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

The anger phase? Yeah, felt it

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” – Queen Elizabeth II

The florist did exactly as instructed: Use flowers with patriotic colors, make them look “masculine,” and for Heaven’s sake, please don’t arrange them to look like they are en route to a funeral home.

I love my florist. She gets me. She knows I abhor funeral-looking flowers and she always accommodates my requests.

So after church on Sunday, why, oh why, did I want to take that floral arrangement and chuck it across the pews and watch it smash into the brick wall?

I ordered the flowers for Father’s Day in memory of my dad. They looked beautiful on the altar. But as I retrieved the arrangement to bring home, a wave of anger enveloped me. I felt like the flowers were a consolation prize. And I didn’t want them.

I wanted my dad.

I wanted to go visit him, to hug him, to hear his laugh, to see his sentimental smile and watch him nod his head as he read his Father’s Day card. I wanted to eat strawberry shortcake and have too much coffee with him. I didn’t want those damn flowers because they represented his death. They reminded me that I couldn’t see him in person, that at best, I could visit where his ashes are interred.

It was hard, and I did my best to get through the day without another meltdown. I propped his picture up so he was sitting with me as I muddled through chores.

The erratic weather mirrored my emotions: glimpses of sunshine; glimpses of smiles. A stray shower; a tear or two here and there. By the end of the day, the sun was setting, and the tears flowed freely, and it actually felt good.

Ironically, out of a gray sky, the sun blazed fiercely as a torrential rain storm hit in the area. Wiping my eyes, I looked out the window, then headed to the garage.

And son of a gun, if there wasn’t a rainbow stretched out across the sky…

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

On being gentle and kind

“Life is fragile…handle with prayer.” – Harold B. Lee

I believe I was about 13 years-old when my mother made an embroidery sampler using the above quote. It hung in a frame and I must’ve looked at that piece a million times throughout the course of my life.

Without dating myself (yes, it’s been a few decades since Mom made that!), I really understood the meaning of that quote yesterday morning.

Yesterday, I made the discovery that I am indeed “fragile.”

After dropping the kids off at school, I had a driver pull out in front of me, only to stop and block traffic to turn left. If she had waited just a few seconds, she would’ve had a clear path. Luckily, I was in no rush, but the rudeness just brought me to tears. Honestly, I thought I was crazy being so emotional over this driving incident – which, unfortunately, happens all the time these days.

But my feelings were very real. And it has taken me an entire day to figure out why this bothered me so much. Seriously, I spent a lot of time praying I wasn’t crazy and for the Lord to give me patience with others.

Why? Because I felt like this driver didn’t care about me.

Obviously, she didn’t care about anyone other than herself and her own time-table. But somehow, I felt like she did this on purpose to me. Didn’t she know what I was going through in life? Didn’t she know that my dad died less than a year ago and that I was having a hard time dealing with his death this week? Didn’t she know that we buried a dear friend last week? Didn’t show know that if I hadn’t paid attention to her lack of patience, that we’d have been in an accident?

I felt singled out by this driver, simply because of this: rudeness is running rampant.

The “I don’t give a rip about the next guy attitude” has really gotten on my nerves lately. How can people be so callous and rude? It’s not ocassional anymore – it’s everwhere! It is on the roads, where people are completely inconsiderate of others. It’s in parking lots, where people  leave shopping carts to roll into other people’s cars.  It’s on our front lawns, where folks walking dogs leave their pet’s mess for someone else to clean. It’s in short, snarky comments and the rolling of eyes. Rudeness has become an absolute epidemic.

Of course I don’t expect a total stranger to know me or my emotions on any given day.  But I do expect that people would behave and treat others with some level of respect.

Is it because I watched my dad struggle the last few years of his life that I put myself in other’s shoes?  If I walk through a fog of emotion, are others doing the same? There is no way to know if the people I encounter today have received a big dose of bad news – a death, a diagnosis that is terminal, a foreclosure notice, a job loss. Maybe a smile or a courteous word is all they need to keep moving in that moment.

If I am fragile, than I will just assume someone else is, too.

It is the least that I can do.

Have you been a victim of rude people? Tell me below in the comments section.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A quick note to say thanks…

 

Gratitude is the music of the heart, when its chords are swept by the breeze of kindness.  ~Author Unknown

Just taking a quick moment to thank you all so very much for your support. As many of you know, I am relatively new to blogging. The fact that people are reading and responding to my posts is not only humbling but truly rewarding. The past few days I have received so many wonderful comments. Your “likes,” comments, personal notes and constructive suggestions are keeping me motivated.

There have been many changes in my life in the past few years, some good and some not-so-good. Transitioning from print media to other career ventures is just one of the changes and challenges! Personal changes, such as my dad’s struggle (and then his death) from Alzheimer’s; friends dealing with health challenges – both their own and that of their parents’ or children – and then losing friends way too soon have made for the more challenging times.

But the good has totally outweighed the bad. Had not these challenges been laid before me, my faith in God wouldn’t be where it is today. I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now – writing. I wouldn’t have met new friends. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reunite with old friends, create stronger bonds within my own family or leaned on my dear friends for strength.

I would not have gained an attitude of gratitude.

Again, I say from my heart – thank you.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Playing in the sandbox

“I think when I was two years old in the sandbox. I think I formulated my basic philosophy there, and I haven’t really had to alter it very much ever since.” – Boyd Rice

My oldest son has been out of the house for almost five years, leaving home for basic training. Not too long after that, he got married, bought a house, and eventually faced a deployment. He also got to experience other “grown-up” realities, like budgeting, running a household, mourning the death of his wife’s grandmother – whom he just adored, and then mourning the loss of his own grandfather.

A boy when he left, he has grown into a fine young man. Of course, my heart bursts with pride for him, and for where life has taken him.

I love that he calls home to bounce ideas off of us; to ask questions and lay his concerns about life before us. Just recently I remembered something he said to me about a year ago at a particularly rough time.

“I wish I could just come home and go play in the sandbox.”

The sandbox his dad made was his and his siblings’ favorite spot to play. There were Hot Wheel cities, bridges made of sand and sticks, hand-carved paths for flowing rivers – which were then filled with several buckets of water. The kids and their friends would play outside in the sandbox for hours on end.

We have a shared memory, as I fondly remember the sandbox my dad had made for my siblings and me. The stuff we built and the fun we had. We, too, played for hours at a time.

A sandbox is a refuge for kids. Close your eyes and imagine the soothing feel of the sand as it is running through your fingers; or the sensation of squeezing the sand between your toes; or the therapeutic process that takes your mind off your troubles while you are busy building a sand castle.

“I wish I could just go play in the sandbox” has become our saying when life gets tough. I’ve repeated this wish to him during many conversations we’ve had regarding life, stress and when his grandfather was suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Just the other day, we were notified of a friend’s death. It was the same day that we heard that a dear neighbor is struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. And it was just a day after hearing of the very public struggles of a well-respected family in our area. There was other bad news that day, but those three illustrations surely make my point.

“I wish I could just go play in my sandbox,” I said to myself. And so I did. Closing my eyes for just a few minutes, I was in the backyard of my childhood home, playing in the sandbox. My dad was working in the yard, the sun was shining, and the warm sand felt wonderful on my bare feet.

And, for a just moment, all was right in the world.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

Note: this post was featured on Midlife Boulevard on Jan. 24, 2014.

 

Wrapped in a prayer

“Pray, and let God worry.”  — Martin Luther

I absolutely love to knit, and though I’m still a beginner, it is something I really enjoy.

I honestly don’t remember where I initially learned. Memory says my great-aunt taught me, but my mom says it was her. All I can tell you is that as a youngster with a set of knitting needles in hand, I was really uncoordinated and rather confused with the process. So I crocheted instead.

As the years progressed, I became quite proficient at crocheting, but I always yearned to knit. Then I was busy raising four kids so the crafts, needles, yarn and such were stuffed in boxes and forgotten about.

It was so enthralling to watch someone just knitting away – witnessing something beautiful being made in brilliant color and a soft, comforting texture. So, about five years ago, I bought a how-to book and re-taught myself.

A simple kitchen dishcloth was my first successful project, and I have a drawer full of them to prove it! From knitting dishcloths I learned to make a baby blanket – which was simple because it was basically the same pattern with more stitches. And from that blanket I started making Prayer Shawls.

When I’d accompany my mom to my dad’s doctor appointments, I usually brought my knitting. It helped soothe me, because anyone dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient knows that with each doctor appointment or test, the family will most likely hear that the is patient getting worse, not better. And so one of the first prayer shawls I made, I gave to my mom.

The beauty of a prayer shawl is that you can choose to make it for someone in particular (which I have) or make one and donate it to total stranger (which I have done, too). I made a soft-pink shawl for a neighbor with breast cancer, a few shawls for relatives, and a few for several for people that I never met.

Beginning each shawl, I’d thank God for the ability to use my hands for His work, and then to ask Him bless the person who would receive the shawl. I’d pray for the recipient to feel God’s comfort, seek His grace, and that when they needed a big hug from God, they’d put the shawl around them and feel His touch.

Last July, my mom and I were getting my dad admitted to a nursing home. I can’t even begin to articulate the sense of loss we felt. I tried so hard to keep my composure, but once I got home, I completely broke down.

I went to visit Dad the next day, and there was a brown throw on the chair at the foot of his bed. I picked it up and handed it to a nurse’s aide, explaining it didn’t belong to my dad.

With a gentle smile, she said it was in fact his.

“Someone makes and donates prayer shawls to our new residents,” she explained.

With tears in my eyes, I covered my dad with this shawl that was made with the love and prayers of a total stranger. Maybe the knitter went through placing a loved one in a nursing home and knew extra prayers were in order. It was in that moment I realized just how comforting a prayer shawl is to the recipient.

I just wish I could personally thank the person who was so generous with their time and talents. I’m guessing the best way to say thanks is to pay it forward.

Have you made or received a Prayer Shawl? Feel free to share your story.

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

A-A-Achoo!

Yep – that was me sneezing when I caught the inch of dust that had settled on my blog spot! I haven’t written anything on this page in almost a year. Wow. A year. Well, I’d like to say that nothing happened in that time, but, well, that isn’t at all true. I had started the blog to give myself and others a place to come to for support with aging parents – particularly, parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s. I also thought blogging would be a good way for me to expand my journalistic horizons. Good reasons to start writing. Sadly, I didn’t keep up with the blog for a few reasons – the biggest reason was that my dad was hospitalized for a month, and then passed away.

As I start to get back to life, I am doing some cleaning – both around the house and around the soul. I’ve noticed I left a lot of things that I just left hanging – this blog, knitting projects, not calling and setting lunch dates with friends, not scheduling dental appointments, etc. I am sure this lag of is all part of the grieving process. Oh sure, important things were handled, like paying bills and grocery shopping and attending school events. But in other areas, well, let’s say that the dust settled.

As a new spring season begins with energy anew, it seems somewhat fitting to begin to pop back into life from a long winter’s nap. Look for more frequent posts, and as always, feel free to leave me a n

© 2012 – Lynne Cobb

ote – especially if you can relate to this post.