Monday, November 12, 2018

Unintentional Poetry

Zoë's Bedtime Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father
My grandma was sick
And now she is dead
We are so sad
In the name of Jesus Christ

A Week of Google Searches (from Andrew's phone)

spanish fork hospital
payson hospital not ihc insurance
payson hospital address
sepsis symptoms
sepsis mortality
sepsis prognosis
how to fold wheelchair
kidney failure signs
liver failure signs
ammonia in blood
sepsis causes
sepsis contagious
quality of life after sepsis
reduce ammonia in blood
when was dialysis invented
how does dialyzer work
ammonia too long brain damage
medical exemptions run red light or speeding
heart rate when dying
agonal breathing
scientific name for death rattle
how to write an obituary

A week  of Google Searches (from Nancy's computer)

what the living do
causes of pneumonia
blood sugar 162
cold sepsis
septic shock
sepsis death rate
dare to be up and doing
sepsis mortality rate
sepsis deaths
how long to recover from sepsis
fhe preparing for death
sepsis patient wake up
sepsis unconscious four days
preparing children for death
prepare children for live-in grandparent to die
crust club
potassium effect on heart
breathing just before death
breathing pattern before death
agonal breathing
what is a wake
losing a parent as a young adult
never suppress a generous thought
how to write an obituary

Miriam's Worry (and the answer)

I can't remember
The last thing
She said to me.

Whatever it was,
It meant
I love you.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

My cup runneth over

Today was the primary children's sacrament meeting presentation so we packed a fistful of Kleenex and headed to church. Auntie Emily was still here so she came with us and my mom and Auntie Josie showed up as well, so our bench didn't feel any less squishy than it would ordinarily be. But, oh, every last thing seemed to bring me to the brink of tears.

I started sniffling when they announced Karen's passing over the pulpit but I didn't really start crying until the middle of the opening hymn (yes, I lasted all the way until the opening hymn) and my mom started bawling right beside me.

We sang Teach Me to Walk in the Light and who knew it was such a tear jerker!?

Come, little child, and together we'll learn
Of his commandments, that we may return
Home to his presence, to live in his sight—
Always, always to walk in the light.

Both my mom and I were crying by the time we reached the third line.

I guess that's what the Plan of Salvation—the Plan of Happiness—is all about: preparing to return home to live with Heavenly Father. I wish saying goodbye wasn't so difficult to do, but it just is—even though we know there is "help and happiness ahead," and even though we've been flooded with tender mercies. It's still just hard.

But we can do hard things.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I had one job

My job on Thursday was to be home for hospice deliveries.

First came her pain-management medication.

Then came her box of hygiene supplies.

Finally the bed and oxygen arrived.

I had to sign for it all and learn how to use it all and the very idea of having to do any of it filled me with trepidation. I've seen hospice equipment before and I know children care for their ailing parents all the time. I just felt woefully unprepared to be caring for an ailing parent.

Karen was just up and talking to me last week, I thought. I should not be preparing her death bed today. 

But life is funny that way.

Reid had asked if I would make up the bed for her, with a mattress pad and some sheets and blankets. They don't have any twin sheets any more. In fact, we have all their old twin sheets. So I said that wouldn't be a problem.

But then I went upstairs to retrieve sheets and realized that all the ones I had on hand were plastered with characters from Blue's Clues or The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fitted sheets we'd gotten from Reid and Karen had worn out long ago (and now that I was staring into a drawer dancing with cartoon characters I distinctly remembered tossing the plain pink sheets and the flowered sheets because they'd split right down the middle and I all I had left of those sets were the flat sheets). I had some plainer sheets on a couple of the kids' beds, but I'd have to peel them off and wash them in order to have them ready and I just didn't think I could deal with that.

Besides, I didn't think the kids would really want their favourite set of sheets to be the sheets that Grandma died on (this is assuming they had a favourite set of sheets at all, but sometimes they're choosy about which sheets end up on their beds so...that sounds like favoritism to me).

So I texted my friend Kara to ask if she had anything a little more dignified than Blue's Clues sheets on hand. She said that she did and she would bring some over when she dropped off a freezer meal for us later that afternoon. Soon Kara was at my door with a frozen lasagna, frozen rolls, a bag of salad, and some cinnamon rolls. Oh, and a set of sheets.

I thanked her, Tetris-ed her meal into our freezer, and then pulled out the sheets.


Beautiful things

The past couple of days have been quite the bouquet of emotions. Our front door has been a revolving door with people coming and going all day long, staying only for a brief hug or to drop off a meal, or staying to chat for hours and clean our microwave. It's been exhausting (especially so for Reid) to tell the story over and over again but at the same time it's been healing (she said sagely after two days of grieving (I'm sure more grief is coming)).

We probably had a hundred people stop by yesterday (and that's no exaggeration).

My favourite vignettes from the past couple of days are:

Thursday night and Grandma's passing

When Reid and Emily arrived home from the hospital last night they were somewhat somber.

Shortly before they were about to leave the nurse informed them that Karen's potassium levels were causing her heart to beat arrhythmically again (they had managed to get her potassium levels under control when she was first admitted), which was a sign that she was preparing to pass on. Reid asked if he should stay, but the nurse told him to go home to get some rest. She would call if things seemed to be getting close to the end.

Josie asked my mom if they could stop by to see her before going home and before we knew it, Miriam (who at 9:30 was just coming downstairs to brush her teeth, the little bedtime evader), Josie, my mom and I were heading to the hospital.

When the nurse came to see what business we had at the ICU so late at night, I explained that Reid had sent us to say goodbye to Karen. "Oh, by all means," she said and then bent down to reassure Miriam, who was staring with panic at the sign that said 'no visitors under the age of 12.' "We make exceptions for children under these circumstances."

These circumstances.

I hadn't seen Karen since Saturday night when she was awake and talking (somewhat) and still looked like herself more or less. When I saw her last night the change was jarring. She didn't look like herself at all, but we bravely filed into the room anyway to say goodbye.

"Hi Karen," I...blurted.

I don't know that blurted is the right word. It was a blurt and a choke and a sob all rolled into one.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Telling the children

When Reid told me that Karen had fallen in the wee hours of the morning on November 1st, I had a distinct impression in my mind: "This is how we lose her."

That thought caught in my heart and I worried and worried until finally Karen emerged from her bedroom, calling out to Zoë and Alexander to come see her, just has she had done every morning for the past year.

"Where's my baby? Alexander!" she'll call and he'll take off like a rocket from wherever he is, trying to get to her as fast as he can. Zoë is no different and as soon as she hears Grandma calling will quickly drop whatever she's doing to greet her.

"Oh!" I said in surprise when I saw her face. "That's actually not quite as bad as I was expecting, though I'm sure the bruises will darken over time."

Inside I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

What had those words meant? That one day we'd lose Grandma after a fall.

But not this day. This day she was fine. She was up and at 'em. She was cuddling her grandbabies.

Her pain, however, intensified throughout the day and she finally decided she had better get checked out. I offered to drive her to the InstaCare, but she said she'd have Reid take her and it's a good thing, too, because they were sent from the InstaCare to the ER, which is where they found the pneumonia.

A small case of pneumonia. Nothing to worry about...until she couldn't wake up and this whole nightmare started.

Those words have been running through my mind all week.

This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her. This is how we lose her.

I denied those words; how silly they seemed. I think I even used a Christmas word on them and accused them of being stupid. She fell. I get it. But she's not going to die. Don't be ridiculous!

I bargained with those words. Fine, she would die of sepsis at some point but not this time because this time she was going to be alright. This time she was going to come back to us. Later on, years down the road, a similar event would happen and then she would go. Just not today. Please not now. Don't take her away yet.

But as the hours and days dragged on, I accepted those words. Oh. I see.

This. Is. How. We. Lose. Her.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Alone together

I have many heavy things to write about so first I will write about some lighter matters. Actually, it will probably be a mix of heavy and light because I tried to jump right to the funny bits but I couldn't do it. I'm so, so deeply sad. I was grasping at words for this sadness—it's bereavement, isn't it? That's the only word that encompasses these feelings.

I am so ridiculous that I made Andrew keep a light on when we went to bed last night because I just needed the light on whenever I opened my eyes. But also I can't sleep with the lights on so I wore a sleeping mask so that it would be dark enough to sleep, but so that all I had to do to be in the light again was to lift the mask.

I'm not a complicated person at all. Why do you ask?

Tears seem unstoppable in the dark.

I'm so very lonely, you see. The house is so quiet, so very empty. I'm not used to being the only adult around. I'm used to chatting with Karen during the day. I'm used to setting Alexander down to accomplish a task (laundry, cooking, dishes, whatever) and having him crawl off to find Grandma because—lucky boy that he is—he knew that if Momma wouldn't hold him that Grandma would. It was very helpful for me and those two were as thick as thieves, Alexander and Grandma.

The house has felt like it's swallowing me so I've been grateful for people who've stopped by to make me less alone. Sister Fenn came by yesterday just to chat with me, and then I took the kids to visit Aunt Linda, and then we went to a baby shower just so we didn't have to be home alone.

Today Uncle Jacob, Aunt Shayla, and Carter came over so that they didn't have to feel alone alone and the kids and I didn't have to feel alone alone. They came so we could feel alone together.

Jacob helped me clean the bathrooms and floors and get ready for the open house we have planned for Grandma. Miraculously, Alexander let Jacob hold him. Shayla has been a low-ranking member of the short list of people Alexander permits to hold him. Jacob has been a high-ranking member of the long list of people Alexander screams about whenever they enter the room.

But not today.

Today Jacob just went over and picked Alexander up and Alexander let him do it.

Jacob and Shayla even took Alexander downstairs to play (Alexander was napping when they arrived and Carter was not-so-patiently waiting to play with Baby Xander) without me.

It was amazing!

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

It seems like yesterday...

In the entry way to our house stand four spooky gingerbread houses.

Grandma constructed the houses, carefully carving each piece from a graham cracker and pasting them together with royal frosting. Then she patiently helped the kids decorate their houses.

I have no pictures of this because it was the Tuesday before Halloween and I had taken Miriam to BYU for her organ lesson (and then went to gamelan). I had left Zoë, Benjamin, and Rachel behind with Grandma—just for a little while—even though she wasn't feeling great because that was literally the only time we had left to decorate gingerbread houses before Halloween. Andrew left campus around the same time that Miriam and I arrived, so she wasn't alone with them for very long. Just long enough to finish decorating their houses by the time Andrew got home.

Since Miriam had missed out on decorating her house, she rushed home from school last Wednesday and asked permission to do her house. Grandma helped her set all the candy out again and warmed up some frosting for her to use and then left her to it.


I don't want this sadness

I have watched Death creep inch... 
Until, finally, 
It makes its move,
Bringing grief, 
But also relief.

I have seen Death rob
Cradles, wombs, wedding beds.
Striking randomly, 
It leaves in its wake
Anguish, sorrow,
Pain-filled tomorrows.

I have known Death from afar,
As a fact of life, as clinical.
It has taken—family, 
Friends, strangers—
Slowly and sudden, 
This angel unbidden.

I hear Death knocking
At my door—not for me—
For one I love.

I don't want this sadness.

It's time to learn, Death says.

Come in.

My mom is doing NaBloPoMo this month, which has been great because she's already shared so many wonderfully interesting stories. Today she said that it was amazing to her how writing daily has spurred ideas in her mind. 

I haven't committed to NaBloPoMo publicly (until now), but I did so privately. Unfortunately, I'm having the opposite experience. Though I have a lot to write about my words are seizing up inside of me, instead of flowing out in a verbose river of prose, they're leaking out in poetry, quite unsure of themselves (and whether they'll be able to stay the flood of emotions behind them).

I am not a poet, but words are good for my soul (so I'll keep trying to write something every day).

For an update on Karen, see here.

(Is that link a TLDR link? Let me sum up: her status as not changed. She is critically ill but in stable condition.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Halloween 2018

Wednesday was a rather busy day and with orchestra in the morning I didn't have time to snap a picture of Rachel before school. I also didn't get around to snapping a picture of Zoë before her preschool Halloween party because she was in such a sour mood that we were running late by the time I'd convinced her to put on her costume and head out the door.

But I did manage to take pictures of the other three! 

Here's Benjamin dressed up as Neville Longbottom—notice the earmuffs and the mandrake:

Monday, November 05, 2018

Alexander's first words!

Alexander, still not walking, has at least finally started talking. He mostly communicates by grunting and pointing. He will occasionally say "momma" (or variations on that theme). But other than that—nothing. 

When he had his check up not too long ago, the doctor asked what words, if any, he was using consistently (other than "mama" and "dada," which should be a given (but which really aren't for Alexander)). I was like, "Yeah, none, so..." 

But on Sunday when we were leaving to go to church, with half our brood because half of us were too sick to go, Alexander both waved goodbye and said bye-bye.

I wouldn't define it as "clear as a bell." Rather it was a garbled, "Bluh-bluh," but we'll take it!

And then this morning he was playing on a toy cell phone and he put it up to his ear and said, "Eh-o?" which I can only assume was his attempt at, "Hello?"

Good news: Benjamin found his lunchbox

Want to see what a bagel topped with cream cheese looks like after several weeks of neglect?

I'm curious about where this lunchbox was hiding because I know it was not in the lost and found when we first looked. And Benjamin swears it wasn't in any of the lunchbox buckets (each class has a big bin to carry lunchboxes around in). It just...turned up one day looking like this.

We're glad to have it back, anyway.

Usually I (try to) make him finish his leftover lunch as part of his after school snack. In this case I did not.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Dare to be up and doing

There is a line that runs through my mind occasionally, but I don't know where it comes from, at least not precisely. Part of me wants to attribute it to my Grandpa C because I know that he recited poetry often (according to his personal history he was a Tennyson man), though I don't recall him ever reciting poetry to me (of course, I only knew him after his stroke, so...). It is a line from a poem, but it is also a line of scripture, so perhaps that's why it pops into my mind occasionally, though in my mind it is wrong.

"Dare to be up and doing" is the line.

It doesn't quite come from Longfellow's A Psalm of Life (1838), which states, "Let us, then, be up and doing," nor is it quite from Alma 60:24 (translated in 1829), which states, "begin to be up and doing."

Perhaps it's just my mind smashing a bunch of well-known and oft-quoted lines together?

I don't know where it came from, but I like it.

A guest post from Reid (to appease the masses)

I totally stole this from his blog, which can be found here.


When I got back to my computer screen Sunday morning, the website for the Mountain View Hospital in Payson, Utah's was still displaying. It was right where I left in, at the bottom of the Contact Us page showing the phone number of the hospital.

I called that number less than 24 hours ago and just now got back to my computer.

I called on behalf of Karen, my wife. But to understand why we need to go back in time a few days.

Sunday, October 28

Karen had been burdened with an infrequent cough and mild muscle aches. It is the beginning of flu season had she had recently received her flu shot, so she thought it was just a persistent cold that would go away on its own.

So she declared that she was sick.

We all pitched in to minimize what she needed to do for the next couple of days. Nancy, our daughter-in-law, did all she could to remind the five grandchildren to “leave grandma alone so she can rest.”

While such instructions worked well with Rachel and Miriam, who are older, Benjamin, Zoe, and Alexander didn't quite understand the concept of “leave grandma alone.” So Karen did not have the most peaceful of recovery time, but how can resist a visit from a grandchild?

Wednesday, October 31

There was no demonstrable improvement in her health Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday evening we had tickets to see a live show of Lore, a podcast of spooky, semi-historical stories at BYU. She was concerned she was not going to be able to make it to the show. She really wanted to go. So she pumped up on non-drowsy medicines and had a purse-full of cough drops.  We went to the show. She was fine during the performance but I could tell the event had drained her strength so I was glad to get her home as soon as possible

For the past few months, she has struggled going to sleep. Her biggest fear was to lay in bed and not be able to sleep. Part of her sleeping problem stemmed from the constant pain she suffered in both her feet from diabetes. A while back, she was prescribed a painkiller for her feet that has the uncanny ability to put her to sleep in a matter of minutes.

This has created a series of comical sleeping experience. On many occasions, I have found her sleeping on her keyboard in her office. When she was up late making birthday cakes for three of the grandchildren, she fell asleep at the kitchen table. So, on several occasions, I would roam the house looking for where she had fallen asleep.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, she took a cough medicine to help settle her lungs before she went to bed. This cough medicine included a powerful sleeping agent. Now she was taking two sleeping agents at the same time. This significantly decreased the time it took for her to fall asleep and greatly improved her quality of sleep.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Do you or I or anyone know?

I still need to write about Halloween (let's be honest—I still need to write about a lot of things! I still have a list of things to write about from summer break!) but Halloween festivities seem rather trivial in light of recent events.

Though I can't find any evidence of it, I seem to recall my mom's cousin Mary repeating the adage "Life is fragile!" on Facebook (several times). Usually I just smile a little as I look at the hearts and flowers surrounding her reminder. It's true. Death, it seems, is almost as common as birth.

Somehow, even though my brain knows this, I sometimes feel like I'm still in that super-human phase of life—that phase where I'm untouchable. Like, sure, pain and death exist for other people but not for me.

My friend's brother passed away the day before Halloween from an accidental heroin overdose. She had just moved her little family, nine days before, to China. So as you can imagine, she's feeling all sorts of ripped apart right now. My heart broke for her as she described her sorrow.

Life, as they say, is fragile.

When death is for others it feels so matter-of-fact.

When death is knocking at your door it gets personal. It feels like blinking in and out of consciousness. It feels like chaos and like peace. It feels like forever and all at once.

And that is only for the living.

My grieving friend, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, who writes beautiful serious poetry shared a beautiful poem about grieving called What the Living Do by Marie Howe. Rachel has been alluding to this poem as she shares going through the actions of, for example, getting her children dressed in their Halloween costumes while drowning in agony.

As a somewhat sassy poet of an entirely different genre, my thoughts turned to the traditional English/American folk song Oats and Beans and Barley Grow. It goes like this:

Oats and beans and barley grow
Oats and beans and barley grow
Do you or I or anyone know
How oats and beans and barley grow?

But my mind wasn't on oats and beans and the only words screaming in my mind were: "Do you or I or anyone know?!?!?!!!"

Friday, November 02, 2018

Stories upon stories upon stories...

How does someone come up with so many beautiful words?

I just finished Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson and it was simply beautiful. I started reading it while I was lying on the floor beside the crib while Alexander was taking forever to fall asleep and I had to grab a paper from Miriam's floor ('twas easy because her room is a bit of a mess) to use as a bookmark for a passage that stuck out to me because of something my mom said to me this week (she said that I need to write, not that she was nagging me to write, just that she was telling a truth about me):

"My uncle says that when you tell stories, it's like letting out all the scared inside of you.... It's like you help stuff make sense" p. 41.

But then I couldn't stop marking passages. It's a book that explains so eloquently that we're all a little bit broken and which illustrates the ideas (if not a little too obviously) that we can be someone's safe harbour. There were so many words I wanted to remember forever.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Retweeted by a past-PM

The day before Halloween, Andrew texted me to say, "I just had a former Canadian PM retweet me."

"I hope it's not Kim Campbell," I thought to myself. 

But it was Kim Campbell, which is fine, I suppose. She simply wasn't very well-liked as Prime Minister (in fact she very often ranks dead last). But, like, whatever. It's still cool. 

She falls on the conservative end of the spectrum but scrolling through her twitter feed to find this retweet (the Right Honourable Kim Campbell retweets a lot of stuff which almost makes the fact that she retweeted Andrew less amazing, but not really) revealed that I agree with her on quite a bit, which, I told Andrew, just goes to show how liberal conservative Canadians are!