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What does taking care of others look like to you? What good are you putting out in the world, specifically? What do you pray for? Who do you pray for and with?
Momma received a pancreatic and liver diagnosis in mid-March this year. Since then, we have received an ambush of flowers, treats, calls, visits, cards, letters, photos, gifts, balloons, and treasures from “everybody” as Momma says it.
When I say, “Who did you get cards from today Momma?” She says, “Everybody.” When I say, “Do you know who all is praying for you Momma?” She says, “Yes, everybody.” Momma has looked forward to getting the mail for as long as I can recall. Daily, with one or two exceptions for nearly six months, she has received cards (approximately 500, no kidding!) and gifts of all varieties (books, angels, scratch off lotto tickets, singing fish, personalized puzzle, CDs, DVDs, tomatoes, corn, homemade pies, bread, and all kinds of delicious dinners) from friends and family near and far. We have been delightfully gifted a floral delivery every week and multiple deliveries several weeks, including eight spectacular deliveries last week in two days. These gorgeous, over the top floral designs made her and my day, as they were filled with life, color, and joy. I teased Momma that we were going to need to have some shelves built in the living room for the flowers, as we were “out of space.” Routinely she says, “I wish we had someone to share these flowers with.” I was able to joyfully share them with nursing home friends and some under the weather neighbors.
Her hospital bed is in the living room picture window, and NO we don’t have drapes or blinds. This double window has a spectacular view of the fields and valley with the sunrise on one side and the sunset on the other. This is where she sat on her couch—so it is her spot. She has not slept in her bed for months—her preference. She has a full view of three hummingbird feeders and now many hummingbird friends. In the past few days a finch feeder was added to the bird sanctuary.
We routinely see deer in the field out front, most often two, and today, four of them. It looked like a momma and babies from a distance.
Momma’s hair has grown long (for her) and beautiful and no longer needs to be pinned to stay off her face. It is the first time in years she doesn’t have cowlicks or “horns” as she calls them.
She has not eaten for over six weeks due to no appetite and nothing sounding good. She also doesn’t want to take chances with getting nauseated. As usual, she has outdone the normal standards and everything the hospice doctor and nurses have ever seen with patients living this long without food. She drinks water but less and less of it. She has been a big water drinker for years and LOVES her water. We have bottled water, water purifier water, purified refrigerator water and just recently none of it tastes right. It seems the body signals itself to turn things off. Nature.
Momma, Virginia Mae Shockley Creek, has been at peace with imminent death since the beginning. She has lived through this illness, much the same as she lived in wellness. Factual, clear, what is—can’t change what can’t be changed. Some of her frequent sayings include:
And, yes, she cries some and you can bet your booties I do, whenever I feel like it. Honestly, most of my tears are buckets of mostly gratitude. This time with her, caregiving her has been filled with grace and miracle after miracle. It’s easy to see how it is for me also.
She experienced a burst of energy in mid-June after most of her meds were discontinued by choice. She was able to go out in the car with me for the first time in months. Her priority was to get to the doctor and pharmacy to see her “boyfriends,” not for care, but to deliver a bouquet to them. The next priority was the farmer’s market. It was a few great days. She also got to go fishing briefly nearby the house. She caught three, and one of the biggest fish of her life—a 24 inch, 6 pound, large mouth bass from a neighbor’s pond. Yes, the fish was released by her choice to “let it grow and let another somebody catch it.” She was able to go one more time the second week of July when her beloved grandson Wesley was home. She caught a 21 inch large mouth bass on the first cast that day.
Momma and Wesley
The only other time she was out of the house since that trip was to blow bubbles with Diane and Hadilyn (her great granddaughter). Priceless and precious.
Although she has not left the house, she is very connected to the yard, flowers, plants, shrubs, trees, bird feeders, and condition of things. It’s her yard after all.
The tumor in her liver is apparently growing and is now protruding on her right side. I monitor it and other things and keep notes about the changes. When the nurse was here last week, she asked about it and she confirmed it was likely the cancer growing. Momma whispered so I wouldn’t hear it, thinking she could protect me from the bad news. When I mentioned it, she began to cry and told me she wished the nurse hadn’t told me because she doesn’t want me to worry. She is still mothering me. When she got too weak to stand on the floor to transfer to the bedside commode or the walker for me to wheel her into bathroom, I suggested a catheter. Understandably, she was not excited about it but quickly agreed to proceed. When the nurse arrived to place the catheter, she told the nurse it was for me—so I could rest more and not have to get up so often to assist her. “It will make it easier on Martha,” she said. She was right and it clearly supported her.
Most mornings, I am greeted with her big blue eyes, a wave and a full recount of her many vivid dreams. Some of her dreams include her running around the yard and fields, walking all over the house, and several where she was eating her favorite foods—bacon and eggs, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, all without nausea. My favorite of the dreams she shared was, “I was with God and the devil was there. The devil was trying to get me, and told me he’s waiting for me. God stepped in and told the devil to get on outta here, SHE’S MINE.” She had some mighty big tears and a bigger than big smile. This will be my new definition of faith.
I will write a longer article about her soon and share the photo and video tribute of her life. She’s already watched it a few times with laughter and tears. Another gift was her assistance in writing her own obituary. When I asked if she was interested, explaining that I was willing to do it on my own but was interested in it being to her liking, she gave a quick and clear yes. I was willing to be surprised and wasn’t. My family has talked about our funerals for about 15 years. I went to the funeral home, picked up all the forms for funeral planning and insisted that everyone answer my questions to complete them. I have updated the documents every few years since and especially when Dad and my brother Randy died.
I have been in mostly silent service with my momma. Our talks are purposeful, sweet, and practical. There is nothing “needed” between us that I’m aware of and thank goodness, I am not seeking from her. Grace indeed. Our house has been a revolving door of guests, family and friends. She asked me this week to stop all visitors. Honest action and it is my privilege to continue to guard and regard her quality of life.
I’ve included a slideshow of photos that depict connections these last five months, including some shots of Momma, visiting friends, flowers, gifts, Spidey poses, and the view from the Creek manor. Our mailwoman tells me repeatedly, she has never seen such a thing as all the cards we receive. She said, “I don’t even know that many people.” When I told momma what she said, momma replied, “Neither do I”. Our mailbox has also been FULL and then some of cards, acknowledgements, photos, and a whole lotta love going out to “everybody” as well. Connecting in all the ways we humanly, emotionally, physically, and spiritually can.
I pray that as you journey through the images, that you also take a trip through your own heart and mind and connect to Momma, me, and the dearest, most eternal aspect of yourSELF.
Click on the image above to start the slideshow.
I’ve cancelled most of the workshops and travel for six months, including most of September. Stay tuned for where “life puts me” as I follow the simple directions. I invite you to join anytime and anywhere you are called.
I sincerely thank you for your over the top way of connecting, caring, loving, praying, providing, fooding, gifting, mailing, carding, Facebooking, messenging, calling, laughing, crying, remembering, supporting, and blessing my momma, me, and our family through your generous way of being. My appreciation is unspeakable.
I love you,
“It’s raining like pouring piss out of a boot.”
Join Martha at any of these open events: www.marthacreek.com#calendar