There Is Joy

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June 2003, Wayne and Joy

On Christmas day I received word that my beloved Aunt Joy had just passed away. My first mournful thought was for the sadness it would bring to the holiday. However, as I  visualized the relief from pain and all discomfort of mortality, I pictured the pure joy of Christmas in heaven.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines joy as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” We often associate joy with Christmas for all of these reasons, but now the connection of Joy and Christmas will have more meaning to me.

Aunt Joy was a delight and always greeted me with a smile. I don’t ever recall her talking about herself, heartaches or disappointments so I didn’t ever think about them until several years ago. It was possibly the first Christmas morning without our children at home. I don’t know why, but I was particularly missing my grandparents who had both passed away. I’d never been to the cemetery at Christmas time, but decided I wanted to leave a flower on their grave. Just before I approached my grandparents grave, I noticed the sweetest little Christmas tree I have ever seen, decorated with homemade ornaments. I stopped to admire it and realized it sat at the head of my cousin’s grave. Karen Rose, daughter of Wayne and Joy Rose, born December 20, 1952 and died three days later. She was buried on Christmas Eve.

Karen Rose

2015, Photo credit: Sharon Rose Crockett

I can only imagine the death of any child would be heartbreaking and losing a baby at Christmas time must add to the distress. With tear-filled eyes for their sorrow, I also yearned to know my cousin. I studied the headstone for information. I quickly covered my mouth to quiet my gasp as I realized our traditional Rose family Christmas party was held every year on the day she passed away. I’d never before linked the two events together and couldn’t recall it ever being talked about. I wondered if anyone else besides Wayne and Joy had made the connection. I envisioned how hard it would be to have a highly anticipated annual Christmas party on their mournful day—yet I could never remember a year when Aunt Joy and Uncle Wayne seemed sad or gloomy. My memories were only of the excitement and joy of the day.

2015, Photo credit: Scott Rose

2015, Photo credit: Scott Rose – Thanks for sharing. I had no idea this many people participated.

 

As a child I knew Wayne and Joy had a tradition of taking their other children on or around Karen’s birthdate to the grave to decorate a small tree with homemade ornaments, but this was the first time I had actually seen it. I was tenderly impressed that after all these years my uncle and aunt, now in their late eighties, still carried on this tradition with their family. For sixty-three years, they’ve celebrated her birth with a Christmas tree and focused on their knowledge that they would someday reunite with Karen. What a brilliant gift it is to realize that long awaited reunion between a mother and daughter is happening right now.
Karen wasn’t the only child that left a void in Wayne and Joy’s hearts. In May, 2006 their son Randy was killed in a car accident at the age of fifty-two. Our Heavenly Father has given us a perfect present through Jesus Christ—who made it possible for families to be gather together, not just at Christmas time, but throughout all eternity.

Karen Rose(2)

2015, Photo credit: Scott Rose – What a great family and awesome sixty-three year tradition. I’m so fortunate to be an extension of this family. Thanks for sharing.

Aunt Joy adequately lived up to her name, bringing happiness to those around her. We will miss her and I appreciate her example of making a joyful life despite her heartaches and disappointments. There is joy when I think of the reunion she is having with loved ones who have previously left this earth to return to their heavenly home.

Death brings serious and abundant contemplation which floods the mind with memories. I remembered a poem I had heard several years ago which touched my heart. I searched for and found the poem I wanted to share with the intent to bring comfort to my family and others who may be mourning the loss of a loved one this season. It’s reassuring to know the spirit lives on and consider the joy of Christmas in heaven.

Christmas in Heaven, written by Wanda Bencke

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below,
With tiny lights like heaven’s stars reflecting in the snow.
The sight is so spectacular- please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,
But the sound of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.
I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring,
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart,
But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.
So be happy for me dear ones you know I hold you dear
And be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I can’t tell you of the splendor or the peace here in this place.
Can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior face to face?
I’ll ask Him to lift your spirit as I tell Him of your love,
Then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above.

Please love and keep each other as my Father said to do.
For I can’t count the blessings or the love He has for you.
So have a Merry Christmas and wipe away that tear.
Remember, I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

First kiss

June 1979, Uncle Wayne our marriage officiator.

Thank you Uncle Wayne for letting me share this story. You are extra special to Mark and I, because you legally joined us together as man and wife. I still remember the advice you gave us, which in part is why our marriage has been so strong. You and Aunt Joy are a great example to us. I’m thinking of you and each one of my Rose cousins—I love you dearly and look forward to giving each one of you a hug.

There is joy when I think of Aunt Joy’s first Christmas in heaven.

My Son

I can’t believe my baby is 33 years old today. It seemed like we waited forever for him, 3 1/2 years to be exact. Once he got here the time has flown by. One of my favorite children’s books is Love You Forever, written by Robert Munsch. “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” I relate perfectly to his words. I’m proud to be Christopher’s mom! Christmas has been double the pleasure since he was born! It was wonderful to be able to spend some time with him last week. Happy Birthday Chris Wilson​! My Son1

The Prince of Peace

This past week has been full of wonderful events. Our son, Christopher, who lives 650 miles away, was in town. We spent some time at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium seeing and learning about ocean life and other creatures we rarely get a chance to observe. Watching a movie there was a fun experience as our seats vibrated and we were sprayed with mist as animals swam towards us in the 4D theater, giving us a sea diving experience. The day truly was a festival of seas.

Chris VisitWe enjoyed Mexican food at a delicious restaurant together and another night we had my parents and siblings over for a buffet and visit with our kids. It was fitting for us to share this short time with those who helped us raise our children.

Spending time as a family is no longer taken for granted and feels like a luxury as it has been nearly a year since we’ve all been together. It also causes me to do a lot of reflecting. I remember the days when I’d wonder if my two children would ever grow up. The memory of many late hours rocking a sick baby or the endless diaper changing and laundry has ended. I’m finished wondering how to potty-train or get my kids to clean their rooms and do other household chores. Crazy arguments with teenagers have come to a conclusion, along with the constant question: Am I teaching my children how to be responsible and happy adults? I know I made plenty of mistakes, but the lack of trying to do what was best was not one of them. I’m astonished at how fast the children grew up and with admiration for both of them, I cherish every moment I now get with them.

The delightful week started last Sunday as I attended my daughter, Katie’s church to hear her speak. Her topic was finding peace through Jesus Christ. I’ve reflected all week on her brilliant and uplifting talk as I’m always striving to find peace in my own life. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, neighbor, friend and employee, I want to spread peace, but I can’t give something I don’t have.

Now that our children are grown I struggle to let go. I wish I could rock their cares away, as I did so many years ago. My arms long to hold them tight and I miss being the person they come to for fixing their hurts. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the adults they are and the good that they are doing, but I can’t help missing my little children.

There are many distractions and opinions that can cause us confusion and turmoil and it’s easy to forget about what is most important. As I’ve spent time this week considering my life with our children and the choices I’ve made, I’m so grateful for the peace that I’ve found through Jesus Christ. He is the Prince of Peace, not because He ruled in an already peaceful world, but because He created peace in a noisy, distressed and fearful world. He reminds me there are no earthly problems that are permanent—that brings me peace.

The week ended with Christopher going back to his home in Portland, Oregon. My sad spirit was lifted when we attended the magnificent musical, The Forgotten Carols. The story is about a nurse, Connie, whose empty life is changed by a patient, John. He understands the meaning of Christmas and brings it to life through his stories and songs of the innkeeper, Joseph, the shepherd boy and the three kings. Connie’s life is filled with heartache and turmoil, but she feels peace through the stories and songs of these often forgotten characters of the original Christmas story. As the program continued, I too felt the peace through the characters stories and each song.

Since it had been a week full of reflection for me, I realized whenever I made the Savior part of my crazy life He gave me the gift of peace. No matter the circumstances or concerns, He calmed the winds and waves of the raging sea inside of me, which enabled me to ride out the storm.

In John 14:27 we read, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Please enjoy my favorite song from The Forgotten Carols. It reminds me that sometimes I may loose my way, but just as the three Kings found the Lord, so can I and peace always follows.

I hope you have a peaceful Christmas.

An Unforgettable Christmas

Christmas can be a magical time, when wishes become a reality. This was definitely the case for our family in 1991. Mark literally slept in a coma through Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day. He missed out on additional celebrations such as my birthday and our twelve year wedding anniversary. Although he was awake for Independence and Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving, all those holidays were spent in the hospital. After eight months, our wish was for Mark to be home for Christmas.

The preparations started in October as we realized Mark was going to be wheelchair dependent. We knew some home modifications would be necessary. My oldest brother, Mick, designed an addition off the back of our home, complete with a ramp for the new back entrance. A large bedroom and bathroom was drawn up to accommodate Mark’s equipment and new needs for care. Fortunately for us, my dad and brothers who are experienced in construction were willing and capable to do the job. My dad, who is an excavating contractor said, “You can’t add a room without a basement.”

Top: Left - Don breaking ground. Right - Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings. Middle: Left- Dad. Right - Steve and Mick pouring the footings. Bottom: Left - Steve and Dad. Right - Mick, Steve and Dad pouring the cement floor.

Top:       Left – Don breaking ground.                    Right – Steve, Mick, Dad preparing for footings.
Middle: Left- Dad trying to escape.                        Right – Steve and Mick pouring the footings.
Bottom: Left – Steve and Dad w/cement floor.    Right – Mick, Steve and Dad w/cement floor.

Mark was far from better and still needed extensive therapy and care, so I worked on establishing a “day- patient” schedule where he’d be at Western Rehab all day for therapy and I’d be able to take him home to care for him every night. At the time he wasn’t able to feed himself or take care of any personal needs. Mark’s doctor, Joseph Vickroy, and the rehab team of speech, occupational and physical therapists, suggested that I spend several nights in an apartment-like room located in the center unit where Mark had been for six months. They felt it was important for me to understand the responsibility of caring for Mark before they released him.

I thought the request was trivial since I had spent every day with him and fed him most meals anyway; however, I understood their concern and agreed to do it. I spent several nights there and took complete responsibility for him. Our two children also spent a few nights there to understand what life would be like to have Dad at home.

Because my dad and brothers were building this addition after the hours of their normal work day, it was not completed in December as we’d hoped. Despite the unfinished construction, we wanted Mark home for Christmas. His care was physically difficult without the assessable bathroom, but well-worth all the effort to have him finally home. Since the new bedroom wasn’t finished and our regular bedroom wasn’t big enough for all the equipment now needed for Mark, our queen-sized bed had to be replaced with a single-sized hospital bed. At night, after I transferred him into bed, I would raise it as high as it could go and place an air mattress on the floor in the only space available — which meant my legs were tucked under the bed. Worried that Mark might forget I was there and use the controls to lower it, I would unplug the bed every night. This sleeping arrangement made for many jokes. I often said as I unplugged the bed, “You are now out of control.” With a smug look on his face, he teasingly exclaimed, “But, I’ve got the top.”

Our living quarters were especially cramped and difficult with the construction going on. The sounds of saws and hammers could be heard until late hours into the night, but with the excitement of having Mark home we hardly noticed. I am filled with gratitude for my dad and brothers who worked tirelessly to make our home fit our needs for our new circumstances.

Top: Left Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition Bottom: Left - Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down. Right - Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

Top:       Left and Right – Don knocking out the brick wall into the new addition.
Bottom: Left – Chris, Katie, Dad and Mick nailing the top floor down.                                                                    Right – Chris and Katie painting our the new room.

 

Chris Chipping, a friend and former employer of Mark’s, did the electrical wiring for our new addition while another friend, Walt Fisher, did the plumbing. It was a crazy, busy and noisy home with construction going on for five months until the addition was completed. However, the acts of service and love from family and friends made the Christmas of 1991 unforgettable. Our world was turned upside down that year and after eight months of living in a hospital — it truly was the merriest of Christmases to have Mark finally home.

Finished room in March. Christopher, Mark and Katie.

Finished room in March. Christopher, Mark and Katie.

Our trials were lightened and my caregiving responsibilities were made easier once the new bedroom and bathroom were completed. We were blessed by many skilled hands and a lot of hard work who were definitely making our Christmas wish come true.

It’s A Wonderful Life

It-s-A-Wonderful-Life

While we busy ourselves with decorating our homes, attend delightful Christmas programs and parties, shop for the perfect gift for our loved ones, send cards or newsletters, hopefully we don’t lose the joy of  the season. Some days our life is filled with wonder as to where to start with all there is to do. It can become overwhelming and discouraging. For other people it’s a very lonely time.

This month also means the year is coming to an end. My work load increases with year-end reports and preparations for the New Year. I’m constantly reflecting on the past eleven months and speculating how to improve circumstances and our situation for 2016. This year has definitely been one for the books in all aspects of my life, both personal and business.

As I reflect on this year which started out anticipating improved health for both Mark and I. My hernia was getting harder to ignore and since I’d had it for several years the doctor told me I was at risk of it strangulating, which would cut off the blood supply to my intestine and could be life-threatening. In May it was successfully repaired without complications. The best part of my recovery was our daughter, Katie, and her husband, Eldin, stayed with us for five weeks since I wasn’t allowed to lift Mark in and out of his wheelchair. Katie became our main caregiver and she did a marvelous job. We enjoyed having them here.

Mark’s painful hips could no longer bend at ninety degrees, causing him to sit in his wheelchair incorrectly, which caused back and neck problems. Twenty-two years ago he had both hip joints scraped clean and we thought it was time to get that done again. After an x-ray, the doctor informed us he wouldn’t be able to do that type of surgery again and instead the hips would need to be replaced. We got a second opinion and were told the same thing. More testing was done because Mark isn’t a good candidate for a total hip replacement. He has the early stages of osteoporosis and there was a worry of a break or easy dislocation. We were told his limited mobility would make it hard to heal. We debated back and forth whether he should have the surgery or not. Transferring Mark in and out of the wheelchair was getting harder due to his inability to bend forward at the hip.

It’s hard for us to comprehend that there may come a day when I’m not physically capable of taking care of Mark at home without lifts and other equipment to fill our house, but that reality was now staring at us. We were warned and understood the surgery and recovery would be hard, but we’ve done “difficult” many times so we were confident we could handle it. Mark had his left hip replaced in July. We lived in a rehab care facility through September. Since we’ve been home I’ve taken Mark nearly every day to outpatient therapy.

The surgery went well, but the recovery has been beyond what we could imagine. Mark has endured more discomfort and pain from therapy than I thought possible. He’s a man with true grit and has overcome a more advanced level of difficulty.

Despite the anxiety of surgeries this year, we have received many blessings. We were able to stay in a nice suite at the care center, which included a bedroom and bath with a roll in shower for Mark separate from a full kitchen and living room. I was able to take my computer there and continue to work from our temporary home. The furnished suite even had a beautiful view of our familiar mountains, which always brought me comfort during our new circumstances.

Mark has had excellent therapists who have become dear friends over the past several months. We are establishing a larger support group to help Mark continue the needed daily exercises even when the “official” therapy ends. These assistants are being trained by a certified therapist. I am so grateful for each person who is on Mark’s team. I appreciate the increased love and care we feel as we have built many new relationships this year through therapy and patients.

I’m so fortunate to have a flexible job, which allows me to work from home at all hours giving me the time I need to take Mark to needed doctor appointments, tests and therapy. I have two compassionate and understanding employers whom I love and appreciate.

It-s-A-Wonderful-Life prayerIt is truly a wonderful life. Not the one I’d envisioned, but I’m grateful for all the good that has come with it. As we celebrate Christmas and hopefully feel the love this season brings, may you take time to see the good you’ve brought into the lives you’ve touched. It’s not an easy thing to do and for George Bailey it took an angel to help him realize the impact his life had on others. My holiday wish is that you too can see the good in your wonder-filled life and realize just how wonderful it is. If it’s too hard to do, call on an angel to help. I’ve heard some are eager to earn their wings.

 

Serenity Prayer

SerenityPrayerI’ve had this picture hanging in my bedroom for years. I love it mainly because it reminds me how to deal with change. There is always change in my life and I’ll bet there is in your life too. Some needed, wanted and expected. Other times it’s just the opposite. Either way, it can be hard to adjust to. The birth of a baby or death of a loved one and all the opportunities and circumstances which come during life.

Prayer is a powerful tool. I’m grateful for a way to communicate with an all knowing God and I pray for some of His wisdom often.

Preparing for Change

Change is constantNothing is more predictable than change; it’s always happening. No one’s life is free from it and if there wasn’t change, life would become stagnant and boring.

After writing Appreciating Sixty Years, I was in awe of all the changes we’ve experienced in this amount of time. Most of the changes denote a great deal of progress and are fun to reflect on.  However, there are many changes which can make us sad and distraught. I was reminded of this as I posted The Blessing of Adversity, a church talk Mark gave 25 years ago, just four months before our car accident. In just a moment, our life quickly changed in the most unexpected ways.

How can we prepare for change? Some incidents catch us completely off guard and we have no time to prepare. I’ve listed some of my favorite tips from two different websites I researched realizing there will be situations which we cannot completely prepared for.

Reference: http://www.positive-changes-coach.com/how-to-deal-with-change.html

  1. Simply notice that you’re in the midst of change which is part of life. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it takes some practice to become aware of change instead of subconsciously denying it. Don’t try to run from it. If you have a journal, write about changes you notice.
  2. Face your feelings about the change, especially when the change is imposed and beyond your control. Get past “Why me?” “But I don’t want to!” and “It’s not fair!” Figure out what your fears or worries are. You don’t have to be a victim, even when you are not in control of the change. Write about your feelings.
  3. Adopt an attitude of anticipation. Welcome change as an opportunity. Find the benefit somewhere in the change. There is always a benefit and an opportunity. Write down the things you are grateful for. As you recognize the advantages you will notice a more powerful attitude of anticipation.
  4. Choose your thoughts and attitudes about each change. Negative thoughts block your creativity and problem-solving abilities. Positive thoughts build bridges to possibilities and opportunities.
  5. Learn to relax more. Deep breathing works for many people. Exercise also helps. Choose the way that works best for you. Relaxation allows you to deal well with change.
  6. Set smart goals so you can consciously guide the change. Smart goal setting helps you decide how to make the change happen and to recognize your successes. Write out your goals and your plans to meet them.

Reference: http://www.dancingwithhappiness.com/2012/strategies-for-dealing-with-change/

  1. Cut yourself slack. Recognize change is hard and making allowances for it helps. We are better able to make the transition by being gentle with ourselves.
  2. Keep the familiar. The familiar feels comforting and can re-center us when we feel thrown off. So keeping what is familiar in the midst of change—sticking to a familiar routine, doing familiar work, seeing familiar people, going to familiar places—helps tremendously.
  3. Get help. Some changes are especially hard. The important thing is to get through them in the healthiest way possible. Sometimes, that means getting help from others – family, friends, colleagues, and mental health professionals. There is nothing wrong with getting help. Suffering silently and indefinitely when other options are available is pointless.
  4. Find a new normal. The familiar feels good because it feels normal. Change feels hard because it doesn’t feel normal. As long as we keep trying to find the old normal in our changed situation, we will continue to struggle because the old normal no longer exists. But a new normal is possible. When we establish new patterns for ourselves, those new patters start to feel familiar and become our new normal and that new normal feels good too.

What tips can you share in how to deal with change?