Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

A Fresh Start

So, I am super excited to announce that my need to express has overcome my need to withhold.  Of course I’m talking about all of these lovely thoughts that are overcrowding this brain of mine.  With that being said, I’m praying really hard about what direction I should take.  All prayers are appreciated as I start this new chapter (pun intended) in my life.  What has been a very inconsistent hobby of mine (for all sorts of reasons) has become something that I can no longer contain.

With that being said, I hope you will come back and check out what’s coming up very soon.

Stay positive and be blessed!



Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

Starting your New Year with a blank page…

I came across this really cool quote by Brad Paisley on Facebook yesterday.  It was designed especially for today, New Years Day 2015.  It said, “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.”  How perfect is that?  Well, it’s really cool if it you love to write, like I do, of course.  But even if you don’t particularly care for writing you still have a blank book to fill full of endless possibilities from your very own journey that you will start today.  There are some things we can probably all take away from this.

First, remember it’s a BLANK page.  Blank, as in NOTHING.  That means that YOU have to start it yourself people.  Don’t expect somebody else to come along and start completing your pages for you.  They have their own book to write hopefully.  One thing I’m going to try to make myself do is really think before I start working on a new page every day.  What’s most important?  What can wait?  What is something nice I can do for at least one person today?  You get the point.  I bet by the end  of the day your page is full and you will feel great about the things you’ve accomplished.

Second, even though you have to start the pages yourself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with inviting someone else to help color your pages with you!  Imagine what your days (and your pages) would be like without any colorful rainbows and smiles and hearts?  These are the things we love that truly keep us going.  Imagine that gorgeous sunset you share with your child or the really stunning bouquet of flowers your best friend colored in “just because you matter”.   Days without people we love don’t have lots of color.

Third, realize that there will be some days when there is a lot of black or gray on the page.  It just can’t be helped.  Everybody has those days when nothing seems to go right and no matter how hard you shake that red pen it just will not work, so you are forced to write your daily page with just a plain black pen or gray pencil.  But don’t despair.  The Bible is written in black and white and just look at all the amazing and wonderful things those pages can do.  Pull your Bible out.  Read those pages instead.  I bet you’ll even start to see that there is some red in there, too.  And those are some of the greatest red words you’ll ever read.  In fact, I bet if you were to pull out that red pen and give it another little shake so that you can copy down the words written in red in your Bible, you will find that it will work just fine.

Finally, don’t leave out any of your pages.  This is really important.  There are only 365 pages in the book for a reason.  Make them count and use them wisely.  See, the thing about these books is that they can be as private or as public as you want them to be.  Use discretion with that.  But for the public parts, let your light shine.  Let others see that your book is a true work of art, a thing of beauty to be admired and an example for others to go by. Sooner than we realize, our “books” become full and we accumulate quite a lot of them if the Good Lord allows and they are our lasting legacy.  What section do you want your books filed under?  Personally, I’m going to shoot for the bestseller list!



Definitely up there in the top: My Mom, Doris Ann Mabe Lathan

So I’ve been waiting a while to write this blog!  Of course this wonderful woman is right there among my favorite all time blessings.  After all, she carried me in her belly for all those long months and then endured that painful agony we women call labor and childbirth.  Although I’m sure my birth was a breeze compared to what was in store for my Mama AFTER she had me!  She probably looked at her first child, all 4lbs 7 ozs of me (yes you read that correctly and no I was not premature) and thought “How precious, she’s going to be a little angel).  All I have to say to that is “NOT”!!!

I believe that I tested my Mama from the beginning.  Although I don’t remember her saying that I was a difficult baby, I don’t really remember exactly when I did start becoming, well, challenging.  The word “teenager” always seems to pop up though.  I had two younger brothers.  Tony was exactly one year and one day younger than me.  And just in case you care, he weighed 7 lbs and 4 ozs.  Incidentally, I think I was born at like 7:20am and he was born at 7:20pm or something like that.  Just some random facts.  No real significance except to point out that my Mama is really, really good.  Then about five years after I was born along came my other brother Clay.  Now Clay was exactly the right age to bug me to death.  So of course I was a grumpy girl.  Tony and I were close enough in age to fight and Clay and I were far enough apart for him to be a little pest.

I tell you all of this to set the stage so to speak so that I can better explain some of my Mama’s best traits.  There is no way that I can tell you all of them.  There are just too many.  But I will do my best to highlight the ones I love the most (if I can) in this not so short blog.  But it’s for my Mama and they deserve our best!

First of all, my Mama is very funny.  She knows to laugh more than fuss and to let the little things go.  This used to make me really, really mad.  Mostly because she laughed at me (and still does) because I’m rather clumsy and I tend to fall.  A lot.  My brothers used to do things on purpose to make this happen.  One time they put water in the kitchen floor (where they knew I would come running) and then stuck a fake spider on my wall.  Sure enough, it scared me to death and I took off down the hall and right when I hit the kitchen I slid on the water and went airborne and landed on my back.  I remember my head ricocheting off the floor and seeing stars and looking up to see tears rolling down my Mama’s face.  Was she shedding tears because she thought I might be paralyzed or <gasp> dead?  No, she was laughing so hard she couldn’t even talk!!  To this day, I blame my crazy as I call it on that “brother induced” head injury!

Next, my Mama was patient.  She had to be.  Now that I have three boys of my own who fight and wrestle quite a bit I know exactly where she was coming from.  I used to wonder why she would just sit there and shake her head.  Now I know.  Tony and I fought.  Over everything.  He took too long in the shower getting ready for dates.  One time he had his “nice jeans to go on a date” in the clothes dryer while he took his shower.  I know he stayed in that shower on purpose so that I couldn’t get ready for my date.  Mama just sat there shaking her head.  So I got mad.  And I decided I needed to take action.  I took the dry jeans out of the shower, marched into our bathroom, and threw those nice dry jeans over the shower rod right into that shower with him!  Then I ran into my bedroom and pushed my dresser in front of my door.  Because I knew if he caught me I was dead!  And yes, Mama just shook her head!  I joke and say I had a “car phone” before they were invented because when I went out with my friends Tony would go into my bedroom and use my hot pink telephone (my room was the only extension in the house).  Now people I truly valued my privacy.  So to solve the problem of the head shaking I just unplugged my phone and took it with me!  People were always asking me why I carried my telephone around in my car!  But when my kids start fighting and everybody looks at me and says “aren’t you going to do something”? do you know what I do?  YEP!  I shake my head!

Also, my Mama was a single parent and a working mother.  Now this was important and this is truly serious.  I grew up watching my Mama provide for us, go without herself, struggle to do everything by herself and do it without being bitter or angry at her circumstances.  And it was hard but I don’t remember going without anything I ever needed and very rarely did I go without anything I ever wanted.  I was spoiled.  Not with material things though.  We were spoiled with love.  I know without a doubt that my Mama loves her children.  She would, and she still will, do anything in her power to take care of us.  She knows when to step in but she knows when to step back as well.  And if its possible, she loves her grandchildren even more.  And it doesn’t matter if they are born into our family or if they are brought into our family through love and marriage.  And she loves her son and daughter-in-law the same way.  She’s fierce when it comes to us.  She has always said “you do not mess with my family”.  And you don’t.  Because the Mama Bear comes out and she takes care of us.  Oh, she also feeds us like you wouldn’t believe.  Along with anybody else who happens to be around.  Just in case you were wondering about that 😉

Last, but certainly not least, my Mama is extremely wise.  She tells me it’s from years of going through tough times and learning the hard way but sometimes I think that she was born that way.  She can say stuff to me sometimes when we are talking that just stops me in my tracks and shuts me up.  And that’s hard to do people.  Very hard.  She is always telling me that “perception is reality”.  And the older I get, the more I see that in people.  She has helped me deal with so many situations with my kids and with other people.  And again she knows when I need her to give me advice and she knows when I just need her to listen.  She is my friend but she is my Mama first.  She loves the Lord and she imparts that wisdom to us as well.  She knows the value of hard work and has worked her entire life.  At one time she had three jobs.  She is not afraid to work.  She insists on good manners and if you walk into a room and don’t at least say hello to someone you better watch out.  She doesn’t just do a head shake then.  The wrath of Doris will be upon you!  “There is no excuse for bad manners”!  Right, Mama?  And there is no excuse for being unkind.  To anyone.  That is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my Mama and I will always, always remember that.  Several years ago, I started sending my Mama flowers on MY birthday.  Not hers, but mine.  My Mama gave me life.  She brought me into this world but she took care of me and brought me to where I am today.  No amount of money or gifts or flowers could ever be enough to thank her for what she’s done for me.  But, today, Mama, on YOUR birthday, I hope that these words will tell you just a little bit of how very special, cherished and treasured you are to me and to your entire family!  I love you with all of my heart and I look forward to hearing your laughter and your crazy sayings for many, many more years to come!!

Your FIRST and FAVORITE child, (Ha! Ha! Tony and Clay)


Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

One of my greatest treasures, my Grandma, Polly Usrey Mabe

This time of year is always rough.  My Grandma, one of the most beautiful women (inside and out) that I’ve ever known, went to be with Jesus 11 years ago today.  Time does help make things easier, but sometimes I’m still struck with a force equivalent to a hurricane if I see a picture or hear something she used to say.  Or sometimes just because I want to talk to her so very bad and get her opinion on something or just hear her sing again. 

I was the first grandchild so when I was born Grandma left work to stay home and take care of me.  But not only did she take care of her grandchildren, she became “Granny Polly” to so many more kids that were blessed to come into her home and stay with her.  It didn’t matter if it was family or not.  They became family to us.  One important lesson I learned from this was to treat everyone the same.  Nobody is better or worse than anybody else.  We are all just supposed to love on people and help them up if they are down or celebrate if they are up.  Even though she did earn some money taking care of kids, I do believe she spent most of it on our Friday grocery trip because she bought more stuff for us kids than anybody else.  She made sure she had a huge breakfast and a huge lunch.  Every day.  And more than anything, we were loved.

Another thing my Grandma did pretty much every day of my life until she got sick was sing.  She sang while she worked and cooked, she sang special songs for the little ones, she sang in the choir.  What she sang the most though were hymns from church.  In fact, she sang them so much that when we sing hymns at church now I can pretty much remember them all just from hearing her sing them.  After she got sick with cancer, she didn’t sing as much.  But that is what my sons came to expect whenever we went to Granny Polly’s house.  Dalton, my youngest, was close to his first birthday while she was sick.  She would lay on the couch to be near us, but he would walk up to her at the couch and start dancing.  That was his cue for her to sing.  And she did.  Whether she felt like it or not, she sang to him so he could dance. 

My Grandma was also pretty funny.  There are times growing up that we would be talking and she would say words that I have never in my life heard.  I didn’t even know what they meant.  But they were always funny.  She had this way of giving you direct advice and telling it “like it was”.  She knew when to be gentle and she knew when to lighten the mood.  Our family laughs.  We always have.  Even toward the end we could find things to joke around about and even laugh at some of the hardest things we were facing.  But it was the best medicine for us.  Because she told us not to sit around looking so “sad faced and depressed”.  She knew where she was going, she knew she had a mansion waiting and she told us frequently that “God doesn’t make any mistakes.  He knows what He’s doing”.  Her only regret, she said, was not being able to see the “babies” (her great grandchildren) grow up. 

My Grandma loved.  She loved her family and would do absolutely anything for us.  Yes, she spoiled us, but not in material ways (though sometimes that happened lol).  She spoiled us with love, care, and dedication to us all.  I have to say that our immediate family has always been so close and no matter what happens between us, all it takes is a phone call and an “I need you” and we are there. But she loved others, too.   She taught me that when a family has troubles, you help.  She taught me that taking food to people who were sick or had just lost a loved one was something everyone should do.  And she lived that.  And she always said that if the time comes people will do the same for you.   And when she was near the end, I cannot even remember how many people came to see us and brought tons of food and other things to help us out.  We were so busy taking care of Grandma and all that food was a blessing when we were exhausted.  I had already been trying to live this lesson out myself but what I saw then was truly amazing. 

There are so many other things I could say about my Grandma.  I could fill page after page of the awesome qualities this Godly woman possessed.  I could  tell you that she had a temper at times, she could fix things around the house better than most men, and she was very opinionated lol.  And I loved all of this about her.  And I suspect I have a lot of that in me, too.

Grandma had a final surgery near the end and when the surgeon came out to talk to us after a very short time in the OR, I knew that it was not good news.  And it wasn’t.  Essentially the cancer had grew throughout her entire abdomen and all he could do was make a bypass around some of the cancerous masses to try and give her more time.  Only about 3 months more time.  We were devastated.  It was like living in a horror movie.  You know that there is going to be a bad ending but you are still never really ready for it.  When we found this out, I did everything I could with my job to make sure I got to her house more and more.  When she was finally ready to call in Hospice, I packed suitcases and my 3 boys and I planned to go and stay with her until the end.  You see, when she found out the doctor said “3 months”, I promised her two things.  First, I told her that I would not leave her and second, I told her that I would not let her hurt during this time.  And I did that the best I could.  She held out until the very end to get a morphine drip.  My husband would come on weekends and stay with us.  He would take our boys to his parents house at night and I would stay with Grandma.  One night, they went in to tell her bye like they always did and she had Keith put each of the boys on the bed with her.  She told them how much she loved them and she got upset.  She kissed on them and loved on them even though I know it was so painful to even move.  But he managed to sound like Granny Polly to them and not let on that she was going soon.  When I heard her tell Keith to take care of me and the boys, my heart broke.  Because I knew then that she wouldn’t be saying these things again.   The night of July 4th, our family decided to do a cookout and fireworks outside her window because this was something Grandma would’ve loved.  But she didn’t watch them. Her face was turned to the window but she was already leaving.   I stayed with her the entire time, talking to her like usual and telling her all about the fireworks.  I read the Bible to her as she slipped into that semi comatose state that happens right before the end.  She held all day the next day, July 5th, 2003.  Our immediate family was all there, coming in and out.  I still could only leave the room for just a few minutes at a time.  She got agitated and seemed uncomfortable so I called the Hospice nurse to come but she was not able to come right away.  I told her I promised my Grandma she would not be in pain while I was there, that I was a nurse, and she could tell me about much morphine to give her because we weren’t waiting.  So that’s what we did.  Hospice was awesome, walked me through it all, and Grandma calmed down.  Her breathing changed and we told everybody that they might want to come in her room.  She passed away that night surrounded by the family that she loved so much.  Just as I was with my Pop, I was on my Grandma’s side holding on to her when she took her last breath.  As much as I hated to see her go, I knew that I was forever blessed to have had this precious woman with me throughout my entire life. 

My most precious memory though happened the day before she slipped away, the last day she could truly still talk to us.  I was in her room and it was just the two of us.  I was upset and she told me not to cry.  She knew where she was going and I would be with her again.  I said, “Grandma, I just want you to know that when you do go, there is a piece of my heart that you will be taking with you, because that’s where you are:  so deep in my heart”.  She said “Oh darling, you have always had a piece of my heart since the day you were born, and it won’t ever change, no matter where I am”. 

Grandma, I miss you and I thank you for being the wonderful person that you were.  I hope that you can see my boys and how they’ve grown.  I hope that you know that I tell them stories all the time about you and how much you loved us.  And one day, I’m going to see you again, and we will pick up right where we left off:  heart to heart.

Still loving you even more,


Chronic illness, encouragment, faith, family, hope, life

A Blessing to Us All: our Troops Past and Present

I know I’m posting this late but it was late when we got home from watching fireworks.  Again, there are people who will disagree with this but I feel strongly about it.  Last night there were so many people watching fireworks, many sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets on the grass, especially where we were.  There was, of course, music playing during the fireworks.  But it started out with the Pledge of Allegiance and included the National Anthem and God Bless the USA (Lee Greenwood).  Maybe it’s me, but as I looked around at all of these people, I expected people to stand.  Not just out of respect and allegiance to our country, but out of respect to our troops.  Past and present.  All. Of. Them.  And the families supporting them back home. I realize that many people still felt the emotion and appreciation, too.  Maybe they just didn’t think about it.  (But I’m a constant thinker and questioner so this is something I would think about).   People, these brave men and women put their lives on the lines every single day.  And it’s for us!  To be able to watch fireworks, while the explosions and lights they probably see come from, not fireworks, but bombs, guns, IED’s, etc.  Scary sights and sounds.  Not beautiful red, white and blue fireworks that we are watching.  Yes, I enjoy them, but I see them as a tribute and a “thank you” to these brave men and women.  Imagine our country without them.  Would we even have a July 4th to celebrate.  I realize that there is a lot I don’t understand or know about the military life.  But I do know this:  these brave, strong men and women would DIE for us to protect our freedom, country and our rights.  Whether or not you disagree with war, fighting, protecting our country, etc, the fact is that these troops and their families do because what they do is a choice for them.  So out of respect to our country and our troops and their families, I feel standing up if you are able, removing hats, placing your hand over your heart:  these are small things  that might mean the world to a Soldier watching or their wife or their children who are missing them and worrying about them every minute.  Not trying to start a debate.  Just expressing my feelings and my gratitude.  And a special thank you to my own family members who have served or are serving for us now:   Charlie Mabe, Tom Doris Mabe Lathan,  Lindsay Teal Knopp Larry A Smith, Jamey McNeill and Heather McNeill, Nick Cordier and Kate Cordier,  Megan Prieto and Nick Prieto and my own sons, Chase Rudolph Rhinehardt and Dalton Rhinehardt who are Young Marines.   Okay, I’m done now.  God Bless You all!



Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

To Chase, on your 16th Birthday

To my precious son on your 16th birthday,

I know it’s cliché but weren’t you just born?  You can’t be sixteen years old!  The years have truly flown by so very, very fast.  I’m sure not fast enough for you because you want to be sixteen and get your license and enjoy more freedom.  Believe it or not, I remember feeling the same way.  I didn’t think the big “milestones” would ever come.  But they did.  And now it seems like yours are coming at warp speed and all I want to do is slow them down!  So on this very special birthday, your 16th, I just wanted to let you know a few things.

First of all, thanks for making me a Mom!  We were over the moon when we found out we were going to have a baby!  You were loved from the day we found out and that love only grows more and more every day.  Everybody was at the hospital when you were born!  You were and are such a loved person.  You know that we lost Pop, my Grandpa, just 3 weeks before you were born.  His death was so unbelievably hard, but knowing that in a few short weeks we would have a brand new baby in the family gave us all so much joy!  And we felt his presence in the delivery room and even at home after you were born.  We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl but I’ll never forget your Daddy crying and saying “I have a son, I have a son”! 

Thank you for teaching me that I was capable of more love than I ever thought possible!  The second I looked into your big, beautiful eyes my heart melted and I have never been the same.  Whether you know it or not, you can still look at me with those big, beautiful eyes and melt my heart even more.   When Granny Polly met you she saw the look on my face and she said, “You didn’t even think you could love another person so much so fast did you”?  She was exactly right!  It’s a love like no other and I would not take ANYTHING for it.  Ever.

Please don’t ever stop asking questions.  From the minute you could talk, you started asking questions.  You still do and that is an amazing quality.  It’s how you learn and whether you think you do or not, you love to learn and know things.  You are so smart.  I don’t think you realize just how much sometimes.  I love watching you learn and figure things out.  I love it when you teach me new things! 

You have a gift of looking at things with a blend of practicality and empathy that is rare in most adults, much less 16 year olds.  You have used this gift with so many of your friends and with your family.  I love sitting down and talking to you because you always put a fresh perspective on things for me.  You help me see the things I should be doing and you point them out.  Use this gift often.  The world needs more of it.

Don’t stop caring for others and taking care of people.  You have always wanted to help do things and take care of stuff.  Even when your Daddy traveled you told me that you “were the man of the house” while he was gone.  And you were!  Even as a toddler you could anticipate what I needed with your brothers before I usually knew.  I hope you know how much I appreciate that.  Don’t stop doing that either.  Always be there for your brothers and vice versa.  One day, you WILL love each other again more than any of your friends and you won’t always fight or argue.  When Garrett was born the first thing you did was crawl up in the bed with us and kiss him so softly on his head and you watched everybody there like a hawk, making sure they were taking care of your “baby brother”.  Then along came Dalton, and I remember you leading Garrett into the room to meet him.  You had on matching “Big Brother” t-shirts that you made, and once again, you kissed him so softly on his little head and then you told Garrett to do the same thing.  Then you both started singing “Jesus Loves Me” to him.  I was so amazed!  It was almost like you and Garrett had organized this whole thing beforehand but you were only 4 and 2 so I don’t think so, lol!  It was just love, pure and simple, Buddy, and when you let it lead you beautiful things can happen! 

Always keep dancing in the rain!  I know that you know what I mean right now, but you and I also danced in the rain a long, long time ago.  Do this with the one you love.  Do this with your kids one day.  Do it by yourself.  You are never to old to dance in the rain! 

Always keep serving the Lord!  You have a heart for Him and His people.  You make good choices, Son, and I’m proud of you!  Keep relying on Him and you will won’t go wrong.  He has huge plans for you and I absolutely cannot wait to see what they are.  No matter what, you will be amazing.  Just trust in Him and allow Him to guide you.   The road will not be perfect, as you have already found out, but if you remain faithful, so will He. 

Never, ever, ever forget that I will be here for you.  Always and Forever!  You are embedded in my heart so deeply and nothing or no one can change that.  Not even YOU!  We really are alike and we do have our disagreements, especially about who is right, but that’s okay.  Moms are the constant thing in your life and they don’t care what you do or don’t do.  They just love you unconditionally. 

Remember this day.  You will have many more milestone birthdays but don’t rush them.  Enjoy each as it comes and count your blessings every single day.  Don’t dwell on the bad stuff or live in the past.  Leave it there and move on.  Live so that you have no regrets.  Think before you speak.  Make sure when you find “the one” that you treat her with manners, respect and love her like Jesus loves the Church.  Believe it or not, at one time I was your “first love” and you wanted to marry me, lol!  I know the girl you pick will be just as awesome as you!  Love fully! 

I could say so many things about you and your sixteen years so far and how much they have touched my life but I hope you get my point from what I have written.  You always kid me about crying when you’ve done certain things, like going to Kindergarten and graduating fifth grade and everything in between.  You don’t even remember all the tears I shed when you learned to walk, talk, etc.  And yes, I’m crying while writing this and I probably won’t stop all day.  YOU, my sweet boy, are a blessing to me like no other.  Can you tell how very proud I am of you and all that you are and that I get to be your Mom?  I believe in you!  I always have and I always will.  And I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK, ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

So blessed to be yours,


Chronic illness, faith, family, hope, encouragment, life

blessings from MY journey…my Pop, Charlie J Mabe

I hope to start a new blog soon.  Guess what the title is?  Yep, “blessings from MY journey…”  Maybe not the most creative title in the world (and I sure hope it didn’t come to mind because I’m plagiarizing it!).  But there is really no other way to describe it.  It’s my journey and oh, how I’ve been (and I’m still being) blessed beyond measure!   It will probably be similar to the my original blog but I hope to focus more on my own special blessings and the trials (if any) I go through to get to the good part.  It’s the parts of my life where I’ve experienced all kinds of emotions:  fear, pain, heartache, grief, but also unimaginable joy, happiness and love.  Yes, I’ve lived with chronic illness for a while now but I feel I should focus on my blessings.  I do get blessed by pretty much everything in my life in some way.  Whether I really see it at the time or not, I can be pretty confident that there is a blessing in everything we endure in our lives.  We just have to look.  Sometimes that takes a while (especially for me lately).  But when you do find that “sweet spot” , you fall into the arms of Jesus and He shows you how He was working the whole time.  Sometimes I have to fall into His arms right from the start, but that’s okay too.  He never lets go and He will guide me where He wants me and show me what to do.  If I let Him. 

So that brings me to my very first BIG stop on my journey that totally blessed me.   First, I have to explain something.  My family laughs.   ALL THE TIME.  We don’t laugh at people, unless it’s each other.  We have fun.  No matter what the situation.  And laughter really is the best medicine.   And what I’ve learned from that is this:  if we can’t laugh at ourselves in fun in ALL circumstances, we will miss ALL the joy and blessings along the way.  And my Grandparents would not have wanted that, not even when they had one foot in Heaven and one foot on Earth.  This period of time I’m talking about is, of course, when my Pop passed away.   And it’s pretty significant because of the date.  Today is June 4, 2014. On June 4, 1998, 16 years ago, my Pop, Charlie Mabe, took his last breath.  That was such a HUGE thing for me.  He was my first grandparent to pass away.  Not only was I extremely close to him, but I had lived next door to my grandparents my entire life, and I lived with them for a while before I got married so that I could help care for him after his stroke.  Our family didn’t want him to go to a nursing home and he didn’t want that.  I was also in nursing school  and planning a wedding and let me tell you something.  They treated me like a queen!  They spoiled me rotten while I was there so I must say that moving in with them ended up being a huge blessing to me in itself.  (You see, I’ve found that if you really look hard for the good stuff you will no doubt find way more than just one blessing).   But really, we all got spoiled with love.  It was never about “things” although they did that, too.  One of the things my Pop and I talked about in his last days was my first baby, because I was about 8 months pregnant.  We had chosen not to find out the gender but the day of my family baby shower, my Pop felt the baby kick and he said “that’s a strong boy right there Amy Lou,  and you need to get him a dog so he won’t be lonely” lol!  (Now, my name is not Amy LOU, it is Amy Rebecca but I think that he called us what he thought sounded “right” lol!.)  Then he said that he had told my Grandma to go out and buy all kinds of stuff that this baby would need, so that Keith and I would be “set”.  And she did.  And yes, he was right.  My first son, Chase Edward, was born 3 weeks after Pop went home to Jesus. 

The day before he passed away, I was at the house with them, and my two aunts were there.  He was in a hospital bed and it was so hot that day.  He was restless but still alert and attentive.  As usual, we were laughing and cutting up and rather loud.  He got irritated with us and told us that he thought we were taking care of him, not having a party!  So my Aunt Karen jumped up and was going to help him with his bed.  It was the older type of hospital bed with a crank at the end to raise and lower it.  I don’t know what happened, but that crank got stuck when she tried to move the bed up or down, and it resulted with my Pop half sitting and half lying in the bed; and the bed was bouncing up and down like one of those baby jumpers.  His head was bouncing and he was yelling “Whoa, hold up, hold up!”  My aunt became a nervous wreck and my Grandma, Aunt Penny and I were pretty much laying on the floor crying with laughter!  He actually did get upset about that and told us we wouldn’t like it if we were about dead and got “throwed” around like that either.  We all laughed about it later, but like I said, we laugh.  That same day,  as I was leaving Grandma and Pop’s house, he called out to me.  I went back and it was just us.  He told me how much he loved me and to “be careful driving by myself” and to make sure I was “taking care of me and the baby”.  It was not anything unusual for him to say because I lived in Charlotte by then.   But then after I kissed his cheek and told him bye and I loved him and would be back the next day, he didn’t tell me okay like he usually did.  He just turned and lay facing the wall.  It was so sad but what I didn’t know at the time was that he would slip into a coma that night and those were to be our last words.  I got the call early the next morning from my Aunt Karen that he was in a coma and to come back “home”.  Oh, what a stressful drive.  My aunt had been so upset that I honestly figured we might not make it back in time.  I was scared to ask and scared to know.  I just wanted to be there.  When we pulled in to their house, it was packed with cars.  I thought “Oh no!  I didn’t make it in time”.  My aunt ran out the door and I just bent over double, wracked with sobs.  She said, “What is it”?  I thought “is she in shock or something?  She called me to come home and she’s asking me what’s wrong?”  As it turns out, my Pop was still there but he was still in a coma and unresponsive. We all sat there that long, long day and took turns in and out of his room.  We told old stories.  So many people came by and brought food.  It was, as I later found out, a pretty typical thing to happen.  We were on God’s time then more than ever.  It was such a hard place to be.  Caught between wanting him to go be with Jesus and whole again, but also fearful of being without him and what would come after.  After hours of this, I noticed a very slight change in his breathing.  So did my mom.  Our eyes caught right at the same time and we rushed to his bed, one of us on either side.  We were holding his hands, talking to him, and I happened to have my hands over his wrist and could feel his pulse.  Time practically stood still as I realized what I felt.  Instead of the steady beat of his heart, I felt a few strong beats that gradually got further and further apart.  I couldn’t believe how strong those beats were though.  It was almost as if he was holding out until we were by his side.  I told someone to go and get my Grandma because it was time.  But by the time she walked through the house, I had felt his last heartbeat and literally watched his face change.  It was as if, when his soul left his earthly body, you could actually see the change come over him immediately. His face changed from being the emotionless face of someone who had suffered a bad stroke, to a face at perfect peace.  I knew then that I had been so totally and fully blessed by God to be sharing this moment.  This moment with my Mama and with my Pop.  And I felt it such an honor that God would choose me to be there holding Pop’s hand as he was ushered into Heaven.  From our arms to the arms of Jesus.  How sweet and yet so sorrowful at the same time.  The baby was kicking double time in my belly, more than ever before,  as if he knew what was happening.   See, even the worst possible things that you can imagine can result in a blessing so sweet and cherished that you would not change it for the world, even if you could.  It wasn’t that hard to see the Hand of God all over that time in my life, though it took me a little while to fully see what a miraculous encounter I had with the Lord that day.  It was hard to get past my own sorrow and that of my family, but I did.  Because three weeks later, God took me on one of the absolute best journeys so far in my life.  He let me experience the exact opposite side of His glory when I gave birth to my very own son.

Pop’s homegoing was like a presence in the room on June 29, 1998.  All of my family was there and it was a precious thing to have such a joyous event in light of the sadness.  I so wanted to be able to take my first child to Pop and let him see that yes, he was right.  A strong baby boy!  (the first of 3 I might add)!  But I know he was with us.  And if I didn’t know then I sure found out a few days after we got Chase home.  The hormones, lack of sleep and all that adrenaline had finally given way to self pity and exhaustion.  I was crying and looking at my perfect little miracle from God and wishing so hard that Pop could be there.  I ran up to the nursery to grab some diapers and all of a sudden all I could smell was Polo cologne.  It was overpowering.  I literally had to brace myself against the door to avoid falling.  The tears started falling and I started yelling at my husband, “Pop’s here, pop’s here”.  I was sure of this thing just as sure as I was of my own name.  The reason I was so sure?  My Pop liked to dress “just right” before he got sick.  And he LOVED cologne.  He always smelled good.   And that cologne?  Polo.  If you know this brand, it was the kind in the dark green bottle with a gold lid.   It was his favorite I think.  But it was the one I always have and always will associate with him.  The odd thing here:  we didn’t have any Polo cologne anywhere in our house.  Now, I know I was all postpartum and a little close to the edge, but I also know that I smelled that just as strongly as Chase’s dirty diapers.  It was probably the one thing that I would instantly associate with Pop.  The sadness turned to joy and I still LOVE telling Chase about that day and he loves asking.  Birth and death, both absolute facts of life and both gifts from our most Holy Father.   I also like to think that Pop stopped by and dropped a kiss on Chase’s head on his way to Heaven, and secretly whispered to him that he was going to be a strong boy and that he was going to get a dog 🙂 

I love you Pop!  I still miss you like it was yesterday but I rejoice in the time when you will STAND with me and Mama on either side of you once again, and WALK us up to the heavenly throne of Jesus!