Popular Posts

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Entry 209: 2011 Mom Died

Shortly after dad died we moved mom into Samaritan Village in Hughson.  She was to start out her life there in a little apartment.  We were told as her disease got worse she would progress to different parts of Samaritan Village according to the care she needed.  She stayed there only a couple of years when they notified us we would have to find another place for her.  I was shocked and very disappointed.  During the next few years we had to move mom several times to places that could accommodate her failing health. 
I visited mom nearly every day every place she went.  When we moved her to Brandel Manor, just two blocks away, I visited her two and three times a day.  As she got weaker our visits got shorter and shorter.  Mom passed away in the few minutes she was alone between a visit with me and a visit with Robin.  Robin is the one who discovered her dead. 

Yes…I Remember Mama

Where did her patience come from? She always had such an inexhaustible supply. Our home, so often full of giggling girls, never seemed to wear her out or tire her spirits. There was always room for an extra friend for the afternoon or the weekend or even on our family vacations. Mom always had time to stop in her busy day and share some wonderful secret with me or gently correct me in some error that I’d made.
Yes I remember Mama!

Where did her unchanging beauty come from? Surely not only from the bottles on her dresser, for even though she was by far the prettiest mother sitting in our church on any Sunday morning, never was she more beautiful than when she would come running to my bedside in the middle of the night when I had called out to her for help or comfort. She was always so soft and she always smelled so good.
Yes I remember Mama!

Where did she get her magic? I remember how she always made me feel special and pretty on days when I felt neither. I remember how her arms around me could make just about any problems seem smaller and most disappear completely. I remember how she cared so tenderly and constantly for my baby brother when he arrived and how she seemed to delight in him. She made being a mother seem to be the most natural and wonderful thing in the whole world. It must have been all those years of watching her happiness and contentment that made me want to grow up to be just like her.
Yes I remember Mama!

Where did her time and strength come from? I know I fall short in the patience department when I think of mom. I wonder if she might have some wonderful secret recipe for making extra time and patience. Somehow my shirts are never ironed so crisply, my hair is always more disheveled and the weeds in my garden are always thicker. My windows don’t have the sparkle of hers, neither do my floors, even her chocolate chip cookies taste better than mine. It’s not that I don’t take pride in what I do, it’s just that my mother had a special talent, she was a wonder.
Yes I remember Mama!

Where did she get her wisdom? I remember how she overlooked countless mistakes and encouraged me even in my smallest successes. I never felt she was ashamed of me or embarrassed because of me. I remember how proud I’ve always been of her and how we have always loved each other. She accepted my husband as she accepted me…without hesitation. She loved and cared for each of my babies as they have come one by one into our family, and she taught me even more about a mothers love by the way she loved her grandchildren. She seemed like such a “natural” at being a grandmother. Through all my years she supported me, laughed with me, cried with me, and loved me. Someday I hope to be just like her.
Yes I remember Mama! 1985 For Mothers Day - Joyce

Friday, April 3, 2015

Book Entry 207: 2002 My Dad Died

     My dad died on April 10th.  He had chosen to have surgery to repair a problem with his heart.  It was an elective surgery.  He chose to have the surgery hoping he would live longer to take care of mom who was starting to have problems with Parkinson’s disease.
     Dad was suppose to be in intensive care for two days then on the main ward for four or five more days, then come home.  He remained in intensive care for almost two weeks.  During the surgery his diaphragm had been damaged making it impossible for him to draw a breath on his own.  He made some improvement and was finally put on the main ward.  The very next day he was moved from the hospital to a nearby rehab facility.  We were all relieved.  We just knew they wouldn’t have moved him from intensive care, and even from the hospital, if he wasn’t getting better.  I let the kids all know the good news.  Robin went to Modesto to see that grandpa was all settled in.  While she was there she rubbed his feet.  He still had the tracheotomy in his throat but he managed in no uncertain way to let her know how thoroughly he was enjoying his time with her. 
     I got a call from the rehab saying dad had been having trouble breathing and he had been sent back to the hospital.  When I asked if we should go to him the answer was it would probably be a good idea.  The person on the phone had not sounded like there was a need for urgency.  I asked Heidi if she’d like to go.  I picked Heidi up, then mom, and we headed for Modesto.  I called Robin.  We had a good visit on our drive but wondered if dad would need to remain in the hospital for a few more days.
When we went in the main portion of the hospital we were told he was in the Emergency section of the hospital and we needed to go there.  It was a short walk around to the other side of the building.  When we entered the Emergency area I told the receptionist who we were there to see.  She got an uneasy look on her face and asked us to follow her to a room.  We expected to find dad in the room but it was a tiny room with just a couple chairs in it.  We were told to sit and someone would be with us in a minute.  All three of us began to suspect the news on dad was going to be a little more serious.
     A woman doctor came in.  She verified who we were there to visit.  When we told her it was Rodney Starn she took a deep breathe and blurted, “Oh I’m sorry, but Rodney has indeed died.”  We were all in shock!  We had been told he was having trouble breathing not that he had quit altogether.   In a very matter-of-fact tone she then opened the door and pointed down the hall.  His body is in the first room to the right.  You can stay as long as you need to.”  Then she scurried off in the other direction.
Mom started repeating “Holy Moses, Holy Moses,” over and over.  Slowly we entered the room followed by a very quiet little nurse.  Dad was lying on a bed covered by a sheet.  His hand was uncovered and laying by his side.  Mom grabbed his hand and held tight as the nurse pulled the sheet from his face. 
     Immediately mom began to talk to him.  “Rod, you lied to me, you said you’d never leave me.  Now you’ve gone and left me, what am I suppose to do?  I can’t take care of myself, who will take care of me?  How could you lie to me like this?  Holy Moses, Holy Moses.”  Her eyes left his face and gradually turned downward.  She would not sit, she remained standing beside him. 
     I called Larry and Phillip and David.  I called Pastor Don.  After a few minutes mom wanted me to call EL and Margie Howard, lifelong friends since grade school.  It seemed imperative they know dad had died.  Next she wanted me to call Brian and Barbara Miner, who were neighbors.  Heidi and I both concentrated on comforting mom.  Finally, when her legs grew tired, she sat.  Mom started listing people she and dad had known all their lives and asked me to call them.  By now it was after 11:00.  I finally convinced mom calling everyone who ever knew him in the middle of the night wasn’t necessary.
     Larry and Phil arrived.  Adam and Robin arrived.  Greetings, hugs, and tears started over each time someone new entered the room.  We started telling mom it was time to go home.  She argued saying the nurse had said we could stay as long as we needed to and dad’s friends hadn’t arrived yet.  I told mom his friends weren’t coming.  They would see her the next day or soon after that.  She seemed puzzled, like she thought everyone dad had ever known was going to hurry down to the hospital and look at him.  I thought that was curious.
     We finally convinced her it was time to leave.  Phil took her home and stayed the night with her.  The rest of us headed home.  I remember turning the TV on in our room and staring at it for the rest of the night.  A lifetime of little memories flashed through my mind as I laid there.  Wonderful memories, silly memories, and little flashes of memories kept me from sleep.  I remembered how Robin had loved for grandpa to rub her feet and now, as it turns out, she was the last of us to see him alive and what was she doing?  She had been rubbing his feet!
     I thought it had been incredibly mean for the rehab to give us such an inaccurate message concerning dad.  “Mr. Starn was having a little trouble breathing you might want to come see him,” hardly seemed appropriate to me. 
     The morning after he died I was so weak with grief I was actually unable to life arms above head.  I remember I was going to put on a slip over blouse and couldn’t raise it above my head.  I had to wear a button up shirt.  I felt as though even my body was in mourning.
     April 10th is our Cari’s birthday.  He died on her 27th birthday.  Our Joyce and Jayne were born on the 27th of August.  This could be coincidence but I always thought it was God sending me a message that Cari, Joyce, Jayne, and dad were all just fine and all together.  That may seem ridiculous to some but if he had died a day earlier or a day later it wouldn’t have worked.  I truly believe God knew I needed that bit of encouragement and comfort!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Entry 206: 2000 Jolene

Some of my happiest memories are of visits I had with my friend, Jolene.  I met Jolene in a quilting class in Turlock in 1995.  We grew to be good friends quickly.  In the late 90’s I opened a little quilt shop out behind our almond packing plant.  I didn’t get a lot of walk in customers but I had a long-arm quilting machine and quilted non-stop eight to ten hours a day.  Jolene came out and helped me with the shop.  I loved to quilt and she loved to teach classes and do the binding on the quilts.
I believe it was in August of 2000 Jolene started having backaches.  At first she medicated herself to find relief but they kept getting worse.  Eventually she went to her doctor who immediately sent her to a specialist.  Her first visit to the specialist was tests and more tests.  She seemed to like her new doctor and the new doctor seemed to give Jolene just a little bit more news at every visit.  I’m sure now if he’d told what he knew at the beginning it would have been overwhelming for Jolene…for all of us. 
The first visit after all the blood work the doctor told Jolene she had liver cancer.  The second visit to the doctor was during one of our quilters luncheons.  She called me from the phone outside the doctor’s office to tell me her latest news.  “Joyce, the doctor said I will not die an old woman.  He said my liver caner is secondary and not primary.  That means it is from somewhere else in my body.  Tests show it is probably from my ovaries, it in my lungs and in my brain.  Tell all the girls I love them.  We start treatments next week.”  She sounded so frail and so very far away.  I hung up the phone, turned, and told our circle of friends the news.
I asked all of our quilting friends to make a block with their name on it for a quilt to give Jolene.  In a period of five days every single one had been given to me.  I put them together making a quilt about 60” by 80.”  It was a quilt of heart blocks.  When I loaded it onto my machine to quilt instead of a pattern I used all of our names for the quilting.  One of our friends finished it off with binding and we all went to Jolene’s house that weekend to give it to her.  It was purples, and yellows, and oranges, and pinks.  It was reds, and turquoise, and blues, and greens.  It was a busy, colorful, wonderful quilt.  When Jolene opened it she immediately spread it over herself hugging it around her shoulders.  Her face beamed.  She said she could feel the love and she’d never give it up.
I think it was her next visit her doctor told Jolene she could expect to live about six months.  She could have treatments but they would not prolong her life they would simply make it more bearable.
During one of our afternoons together I asked Jolene if we could exchange pictures.  To my surprise she said she hadn’t had a picture taken of herself since her picture for the High School Yearbook.  I called Mike and asked him if he’d help me with a surprise for Jolene.  He was to bring her to my house and leave her for a couple of hours and she wasn’t to know why.  She just thought he had to do something and wanted her to be with someone.
I booked an appointment at a local photo studio for the very next week.  When Jolene arrived at my house we told her what we were going to do.  Amy fixed Jolene’s hair, Heidi brought her a colorful blouse and helped her change her cloths, Robin did her nails, and I supplied stuffed animals and silly hats.  We all made a point to put on makeup in front of Jolene and then put a ton of it on her to cover her pale skin.  We looked ready to go to church…..then I brought out the silly hats.  We laughed at one another trying them on to find the perfect one for our outfits.  When we looked just right we each grabbed a stuffed animal to hold in our pictures and we headed to the studio.
I must say of all the things I’ve done for people that day was one of the best.  We had a blast taking the pictures.  First we took pictures of the whole group of us, then pictures of just Jolene.  After a few minutes Jolene asked if she could take off the hat and have one picture taken for Mike.  When the hat came off we did some rearranging of her thinning hair and stood back to look.  She was beautiful!   While she posed for that last picture I was really biting my lip.  It was then I realized this picture was her parting gift to him. 
The little gal taking the pictures had tears in her eyes.  I had told her what we were doing and that Jolene would not be healthy enough to stay long so she got right to work posing us.  Jolene kept grabbing her oxygen mask and taking a few breaths to regain strength.  It was easy to see she was having fun.  We must have played for half an hour before Jolene admitted she was too tired to continue.  What a good time we had.  What a good memory we made.
For the next three months Jolene and Mike made trips to the hospital for her treatment.  Jolene got sick for days after each visit to the hospital.  We finally found popsicles and shaved ice with juice were the kindest things on her stomach.  She never really did feel better and the chemicals started to have an effect on her memory and mental attitude.  They decided to stop the treatments.  A few days later, when she was feeling better I went for one of my many visits.  Mike met me outside and asked if I could stay for a couple of hours.  I usually did anyway so it was fine with me. 
Mike’s eyes filled with tears and he blurted out that he had appointments at the Mortuary and the Cemetery and would I please not tell Jolene.  Of course I agreed.  Telling her where Mike went would be the very last thing I’d want to talk about. 
When I went into the house Jolene looked as if she felt a bit better.  She explained the treatments were not working and only made her feel worse.  She was lying on the bed Mike had brought into the living room for her.  She took my hand and ran it back and forth over her tummy.  Even through the nightgown I could feel what felt like a dozen or more golf balls under her skin.  “That’s some of the tumors,” she said.  “They’re everywhere now.”
During the next few weeks Jolene progressively got weaker and worse.  She became less and less alert.  She didn’t interact so much.  I learned to have a one sided conversation involving two people.  That is an art in itself.  In those six months I’m happy to say I got to know her so much better than I had previously.  We shared our deepest thoughts and dreams.  I think God gave us a special connection that made us love and accept one another as true sisters.  We shared a lifetime in six months.
 Jolene was full of questions about Heaven and dying and what comes next.  She said she was a Christian but wanted to have some reinforcement in her belief.  I have a wonderful little book called, “Heaven Has a Floor,” written by a fine Christian woman.  The book is written for children but it hit the spot with me and Jolene.  It has beautiful pictures and as those six months went by the pictures of that book were a great comfort to Jolene. 
At that time there was also a series of books being written called “Left Behind.”  We listened to the Left Behind tapes together.  They brought up many questions for Jolene.  Somehow God generously gave me answers to her questions as I needed them.  I think the series was twelve books with one being released every six months.  When we caught up to what had been published one day Jolene looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Joyce, I won’t be here for the last books, I won’t get to see how this all ends.”  We held one another as we sat on the edge of her bed.  We both cried and cried. 
It was as if God thumped me on the head and I blurted out, “This whole series is to get us thinking about what happens to those left behind on earth after Jesus comes to take us believers away.  You wouldn’t have been here anyway Jolene, neither will I.  We’ll we watching from the Heaven side when this all happens.”  We cried and hugged and cried some more.  That day was one of the last coherent conversations we were to have.  It was my way of comforting her and her way of saying goodbye to me.  I continued visiting with her for another month.  Heidi and Robin would take turns going with me.  Jolene didn’t make sense much some of the time, but once in a while we’d get a good sentence or a look of understanding in her eye.
On my last visit to Jolene’s home, I sat with Mike and softly talked by Jolene’s bed.  Mike has a hard time with religion but he was happy Jolene had found peace.  He asked some good questions but his attention continually turned back to Jolene.  We sat, both trying to be supportive in front of the other.  Jolene was laying on her back, wearing one of Mike’s T-shirts for a nightgown, oxygen tubing gently moving back and forth with each breath she took.  She gently raised her hands over her stomach area and began a familiar motion.  Jolene was holding a quilt with her left hand and stitching with her right hand.  It was comical because there was no quilt.  It was sad because she thought there was.  Her eyes were closed as she worked.  She would stitch for a few seconds, then gently feel across the imaginary stitches making sure they were perfectly spaced.
Jolene seemed content.  Mike seemed almost ready for what was coming.  Jolene had the quilt we had all made for her draped across her legs with her favorite cat snuggled atop her feet.  Mike said he promised Jolene he’d bury her with that quilt.  He confided to me she had taken it to every single doctor appointment and treatment.  He said she had not been anywhere without it since the day we gave it to her. 
Mike called me the next morning around 6 to tell me Jolene had died in the night.  It was just a few days before her fortieth birthday.  It was five months and three weeks since she had first heard her diagnosis.  Mike asked me to write something for her funeral.  I did.  It was a great privilege.  Robin read it at the funeral for me. 
That was a tough funeral.  Heidi and Robin went with me to the service.  We were sure we could put on a good front.  But, when we entered the hallway to the sanctuary there was Mike’s picture of Jolene.  All the laughter and fun of that day filled my mind.  Needless to say it was hard to keep walking.  I bit my tongue.  When we entered the sanctuary we sat in the row of quilters near the rear.  With hugs and kisses and whispers we encouraged one another. 
The music stopped.  One gentleman came from the back carrying Jolene’s picture and the quilt we’d made for her.  He draped the quilt across the coffin and balanced the picture on top the quilt.  Well, that did it.  The quilter’s row lost our composure.  Tears rolled freely down everyone’s cheeks and the handkerchiefs started emerging from the purses.  It didn’t matter at that point.  We were all in the same boat.  There was not a dry eye in view and it just didn’t matter.  There is a time to mourn.  That was the time. 
The service was beautiful and Robin did an excellent job.  As I shook hands with Mike on my way out he asked if I thought Jolene would be mad if he kept that quilt we’d made for her.  I told him I didn’t think it mattered to her anymore and she’d probably like him to have it. 
A few days later I received a tear stained letter from Mike thanking me for taking the time to spend with Jolene these last hard months.  He said I’d never know how much I’d helped Jolene.  He said I’d never know how much I’d helped him.  It is a full circle…this thing called gratitude.  They will never know how much it meant to me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Entry 205: 1996 Falling Machinery


        The kids and I were in the house.  I was in the kitchen when the phone rang.  Larry was calling me from his shop just outside.  He said very quietly, “Can you come, hurry, I’m hurt.”  My heart leaped into my throat.  I remember running towards the back door of the house.  I stopped at the bottom of the stairway and called for Adam. 
          Of course I got the familiar, “Why, what’s up?” which slowed my stride, I yelled back to him what his dad had said on the phone.  He raced down the stairs so fast he nearly knocked me down and together we ran through the hallway toward the back door.  Adam threw open the door and pushed in front of me, rather than let me go first which he usually does, hurrying to his dad.  I was just behind him when we ran through the shop door.  We had to cross the first room to get to the bigger room in back to find Larry. 
There he was lying on the floor, blood dripping from between his fingers as he held his hand on the back of his head.  He had been working on a cylinder boring bar crane which fell on him as he was pulling on it and wham…he was knocked out.  He’d called us right away when he woke up.  There was a gash in the back of his head the size of a half-dollar and probably did need stitches.  As usual, he refused a trip to the doctor, but healed nicely.  As I recall he had one lulu of a headache for the rest of the day.
Adam and I were relieved.  Of course, it soon became a good story for Adam to tell on dad and how he’d look sprawled out on the cement floor.