In Remembrance

Memorial Day1Cemeteries look beautiful this time of year with decorated graves including flowers, wreaths, balloons and flags adding color and variety to the area. I appreciate having a holiday dedicated to the remembrance of those who have passed and have changed our lives for the better. In honor of Memorial Day, I like to post an article by someone who recently lost a loved one. This year Peggy Martin shared her Tender Mercies amid the challenge of losing her husband of forty-nine years. Her ability to recognize the blessings during this hard time is inspiring. Remembering the purpose of this holiday is to show respect and reverence for those who lost their lives in the U.S. military, I’ve found three thoughts worth sharing.

One of my favorite quotes by Carl Jung, “That which is most personal is most universal.”

This weekend as we honored those who have passed, I thought about the how and why we lost our loved one, is most personal. However, the grief felt with that loss is most universal.

I’ve included five of my favorite quotes concerning grief.

And one of my favorite songs

What’s your favorite quote or thought concerning Memorial Day, veterans, death and grief?

Relating Articles:

Twelve Things I’ve Learned About Grief

Blessings From Grief

Twenty Things to Know About Grief

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Tender Mercies Amid the Challenges

Written by Peggy Peterson Martin

Peggy Dave 2014My husband, David Paul Martin, age 74, passed away the morning of November 5, 2016 at a Hospice Facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.

It all started with blood clots in early 2016… first one in his right leg, then one in his neck, then two in his left leg. Dave’s Oncologist couldn’t figure out why a 74 year-old man would suddenly start getting blood clots. She scheduled him for a colonoscopy, because he had colon cancer in 2003, and an endoscopy which they were supposed to do the same day. However, the doctor didn’t receive the orders for the endoscopy in time, so he only did the colonoscopy, which was clear.

Then on September 25, 2016, Dave had a stroke and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was expected to make a full recovery and released, but he developed pain in his side and back which kept getting worse. He was also unable to swallow solid food. Less than a month after his stroke, he was frustrated by the pain and liquid diet. Unable to get satisfactory answers from his Primary Care Physician, he asked to be taken to the ER. He was admitted and spent eight days in the hospital where an endoscopy was finally performed, which showed a large tumor at the base of his esophagus. It turned out to be stage 4 esophageal cancer and had metastasized to his liver. We found out it was the cancer that caused the blood clots and stroke! Dave was allowed to go home to consider his treatment options.

Martin's last family picture

2016, “Our last family picture,” Dave is in a white shirt and tie while the rest of us are in our grubbies because he wanted to have an obituary picture taken. We used something else, however. The blanket is covering his pajama bottoms!

Feeling a sense of urgency, all seven kids arrived within three days, including our son, David, who had recently moved to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. This was a beautiful weekend together. Despite his almost constant pain, we shared many tender moments, laughs, tears, and memories. It was also a difficult weekend because Dave decided to forgo chemotherapy which would only have limited effectiveness at best. Hospice was called a couple of days later. Dave was getting weaker, but his wish was to spend his remaining days at home. Unfortunately, hospice couldn’t give him the medication he needed to manage his pain at home, so they transported him to their care facility in Las Vegas. He never regained consciousness once they medicated him. He passed away only ten days after his diagnosis. Though this was a very difficult time, we recognized several tender mercies from the Lord.

Martin's KidsA year earlier, our daughter, Missy, and her family surprised us and drove all the way from their home in Charleston, Illinois, to show up at our son, Steve’s house in Herriman, Utah, for Thanksgiving dinner. All our other children were there, and it was the first time in over twenty years that we’d all been together for Thanksgiving. Dave was particularly touched and told Missy, “I’ll never forget this special surprise.”

Martin GrandkidsIn June of 2016, despite pain from two blood clots in his leg, Dave and I made a trip to Salt Lake City to see our kids and 23 grandchildren, including Missy and her family who were there on vacation. Jeff and his family from Henderson, Nevada, also just happened to be there for his wife’s family reunion. Our son, Rob, invited us to do some temple work with him. When we agreed, he decided to open the invitation to his siblings as well. Maybe it was Rob’s offer to buy everyone lunch, but all seven of our children and all but two of their spouses joined us in the Mount Timpanogos Temple that day. Having our whole family together was such a special experience, and everyone felt the significance and joy of being together there. It just happened to be our 49th Wedding Anniversary! This is a memory I especially cherish since we didn’t make it to our 50th which would have been next month.

Dave & Peggy 1967As soon as Dave came home from the hospital after the devastating diagnosis, our son, Rob, took off work and stayed at our home for over two weeks, not leaving until after the funeral. I couldn’t have done it without him. He was a rock of strength and faith. He helped Dave with many of his physical needs which would have been difficult for me. While Dave was on his deathbed, we had a sewer flood through our house causing significant damage, both to the main floor and the basement. Rob discovered it and was there to help me bail water, trying to keep it from going into the bedroom where Dave was sleeping. Though we didn’t succeed, Dave never fully realized the extent of what had happened. Rob and some of our other children were invaluable in handling the mess and dealing with the plumber, restoration company, and insurance matters.

A tender mercy Dave had in his final days is that he was visited on two occasions by his deceased parents and brother, Leonard, who was killed while serving a mission for our church in Pennsylvania. This brought him great comfort and made him feel he would be with them again when he died.

Dave never became a burden. It was a pleasure to care for him. Several of our kids stayed in our home during Dave’s last few days. They took turns caring for him at night and spending time with him during the day. He was uncomfortable most of the time and in obvious pain, so it was heart wrenching to feel so helpless, but we were willing to do anything to give him even a moment of relief. His rapid decline and death were both devastating and merciful…devastating because it happened so fast and we felt cheated, hardly knowing how to prepare for or deal with our loss…merciful because he wasn’t made to suffer any longer.

We all feel gratitude for the few days we had with our dear husband and father before his passing. His love of family, great example, words of wisdom, and the blessing of serving him will stay with us long after the grief has passed.

***************

Dave and Peggy were one of the first ones to welcome us to our new neighborhood in Draper, Utah in the year 1996. Our friendship grew as Peggy and I participated regularly in a line dancing class for exercise. We also enjoyed serving together in a women’s organization for our church. In 2002, they moved to a new home in Boulder City, Nevada. Fortunately, the miles between us did not break the friendship bond. I treasure the memory of a few surprise visits when they came to Utah to see their kids. They always left with an open invitation for us to come to Nevada and stay with them. Dave encouraged us by commenting their home was wheelchair accessible. I regret we never made the trip. 

On this Memorial Weekend, I thank Peggy for recognizing and sharing her tender mercies during such a difficult time. I cherish our friendship and appreciate that when we’re together, it doesn’t seem like years have passed. We easily pick up right where we left off! 

 

 

 

The Starved Relationship

Matt-Head-ShotLast Thursday, Dr. Matt Townsend, a relationship expert, spoke to a group of survivors and caregivers at the Intermountain Medical Center. He presented life-changing skills with humor, teaching me how to improve my relationships in an entertaining way. I enjoyed his presentation so much that I’ve been listening to his many short videos on a variety of topics dealing with relationships while I work. If you like to listen to fun, uplifting, concise talks, you should check out his website.

A synopsis of what I learned from Matt is that life keeps changing and some experiences change the way we think and feel. Although our experiences may differ, we share feelings of: loss, sadness, insecurity, embarrassment, inadequacy, anxiety and/or depression at some time in our lives.

He quoted Carl Jung, a famous psychiatrist, “That which is most personal is most universal.”

Matt professionally counsels people for a wide range of challenges. Some have financial, fidelity, abuse and a variety of addictions. He calls these problems the smoke rather than the cause of the fire. He states we all have seven basic needs and we feel starved when those needs aren’t meet. When we feel starved, we don’t want to feed the other and the bond is broken, which ignites the fire.

We all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace in a relationship we must feel:

  • Safe – including physical, financial, mental, emotional, social and spiritual safety
  • Trust – consisting of honesty and competence
  • Appreciation- hearing or seeing words of approval (remember it takes four positives to ease one negative comment)
  • Respect – showing through words and deeds
  • Validate – hearing what is said to understand without having to agree
  • Encourage – getting into the heart of your loved one and doing what you can to help them reach their goals
  • Dedication – committing to your relationship and making them feel more important than any place or thing.

Matt said trauma or health issues are the number one way to expand in these areas. We don’t grow unless we are pushed. We learn through our challenges.

Townsend Starved StuffWhen these basic needs are not met, we feel starved which makes it hard to fill your loved one’s needs. We all feel love and express love differently. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, describes how some of us feel love by: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. We tend to give love to another in the manner that speaks love to us. However, it is better expressed in the language your loved one speaks. Matt says his wife’s love language is acts of service. He vacuums or does another household chore and she’s appreciative. His love language is physical touch. They’ve tried holding hands while he vacuums, but that’s just too awkward.

To learn more about The 5 Love Languages and to discover your own love language, visit: http://www.5lovelanguages.com

GandhiWe all want loyalty, happiness and honesty in a relationship. To feel joy and peace, we must feed the relationship. “You must be the change you wish to see.”- Gandi

Matt is the founder and president of Townsend Relationship Center, a relationship skills-building organization.

To hear Dr. Matt Townsend’s presentation of The Starved Relationship see:

 

 

 

Dad, I Love You

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Dad holding me. Rosanne & Mick on the porch.

Dad, I love you and do you know why?

Because of that special gleam in your eye,

Which tells me something significant and true:

That I’m an important part of you.

 

 

 

Mom & Dad

Mom and Dad 2014

 

I love you because I know there’s no other,

That you love more than the one I call mother.

I love you because you are always there,

Extending a hand to show that you care.

 

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My first filly, Ginger, a dream come true

 

 

I love you for all the things that you teach

Like nothing I want should be out of reach.

You’ve taught me to work and to save my money

For things that I want to make my life sunny.

 

Scan0086

Dad riding Chili the mother of Ginger. I love the hard hat he always wore.

 

I love you because you are honest and strong;

You’re courageous and steady when things go wrong.

I love you because in your steps I can trod,

Because I know you’re clearly a man of God.

IMG_0210

2014, One of Dad’s many talents, leading music.

 

Dad, I love you and do you know why?

Because as a man you are never shy.

You’re friendly to everyone you meet,

And as a friend, you just can’t be beat.

 

 

 

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2008, Mark and Dad

I love you because your in-laws you truly love,

Making them fit in the family like a glove.

And with your grandkids you always have fun

With work or rain, but mainly snow and sun.

 

 

Dad & I Snowmobiling

1980, Dad and I

 

I love you for these and so many other reasons;

Thank you for all the joy—no matter the season.

For dancing, camping, horses and snowmobiles too,

Boats, 4 wheelers and swimming, just to name a few.

 

Dad, 2015

2013, Dad on his backhoe

 

 

I love you for being the perfect dad for me.

I value your opinion and your wisdom I see.

You listen while I hash out my crazy ideas,

Then you help me achieve them, I cannot tell fibs.

 

Dad and Mark

1980, Dad & Mark boating

I’m the luckiest gal ever, I know,

Because I have a dad that loves me so.

And I married a man a lot like my dad,

They’re the best of friends for which I’m so glad.

 

Dad, Mark & I

2009, Me with Mark and Dad

 

I love you both and do you know why?

Because as fathers you’re quite the guys.

And because on earth you’re what fathers should be,

I’m blessed to be yours through eternity.

 

 

Joy of DadHappy Father’s Day!

Links to my favorite story’s about Fathers:

My Home Delivery

A Blessed Life

My Two Favorite Men

Dad Creating Beauty After Tragedy, Part I & Part II by Katie Wilson Ferguson

Offering Love and Comfort

Broken HeartMy brother gave me an article out of the Reader’s Digest, September 2015 issue, titled The Art of Offering Love and Comfort, written by David Brooks from the New York Times.  I appreciated the suggestions and thought today would be a great day to share them in light of the tragic accident that happened in our neighborhood last week.

The Art of Offering Love and Comfort references the Woodiwiss family whose daughter at age twenty-seven died in 2008 from injuries resulting from a horseback riding fall. In 2013, another daughter, Catherine, at age twenty-six was hit by a car while biking to work. She has endured and will continue to endure a series of operations. Her recovery has been slow. Her mother, Mary, talks about the grief that a parent feels when he or she has lost a child and sees another badly injured, “a pain felt in bones and fiber.”

Through the Woodiwisses experiences, they share a few lessons about how those on the outside zone of trauma might better communicate with those on the inside. The right responses are not limited to what is discussed in the article, but rather a collection of their wisdom, which I found useful. My favorite points as written in the dos and don’ts list is as follows:

“Do be there. Some people think that those who experience trauma need space. Assume the opposite. Most people need presence. The Woodiwisses say they were in awe after each tragedy by the number of people, many of whom had been mere acquaintances, but showed up and offered love. They were also disoriented by close friends who simply were not there, who were afraid or too busy.

Don’t compare. Each trauma should be respected in its uniqueness. Catherine writes, ‘From the inside, comparisons sting as clueless, careless or just plain false.’

Do bring soup. Nonverbal expressions of love are as healing as those articulated. When you see a need and act on it, whether it’s a meal, a needed item or helping with a household chore such as dishes or laundry, it is appreciated. The Woodiwisses recall a friend who noticed they didn’t have a bath mat and went to Target and bought one. It was a thoughtful gesture which they will never forget.Don’t say, ‘You’ll get over it.’ Catherine writes, ‘There is no such thing as getting over it. A major disruption leaves a new normal in its wake. There is no back to the old me.’

Do be a builder. The Woodiwisses distinguish between firefighters and builders. Firefighters drop everything and arrive at the moment of crisis. Builders are there for years and years, walking alongside as the victims live out in the world. Very few people are capable of performing both roles.

Don’t say, ‘It’s all for the best.’ Don’t try to make sense of what has happened. Don’t over-interpret and try to make sense of the inexplicable. Some people have a tendency, especially in an achievement-oriented culture, to want to solve problems and repair brokenness.

What seems to be needed is the art of presence: to perform tasks without trying to control or alter the situation.  Allow nature to take its course. Grant the sufferers the dignity of their own process. Sit simply through moments of pain and uncomfortable darkness. Be practical, mundane, simple and direct.”

I’ve touched on the key points of the article which resonated with me. What insights do you have from your own experiences? How have you been helped or how did you help someone through a time of grief and/or affliction? Your thoughts in the comment box are appreciated. Together we can add to this list and help one another improve in offering love and comfort to those who are suffering.

Our Ultimate Goal

By sharing our stories, tips and/or thoughts  we get a look into each other’s hearts which helps us appreciate the unique challenges each one of us face. It also helps us realize we’re not alone and points out what we have in common.

I’m grateful for all the past and present guest authors on Uniting Caregivers who have helped me reach my ultimate goal of increasing love, patience, tolerance, care and understanding. If you’d like to  be a future guest author, that would be wonderful! I believe you have something we can benefit from. If you have a thought, tip or story you’re willing to share, I’d be happy to help you publish it. If it seems overwhelming and you don’t feel like you can do it, please know I’ll be there every step of the way. Let me know if you’re interested by leaving a comment in the box at the bottom of this page or by sending an email to Barbara@UnitingCaregivers.com.

Tolerance1

Thank you, Cally Johnson, Pamela Clark, Judy Coon, Silvia Caswell, Jamie Sorensen, Glenn Oliver, Cindy Oliver, Dianne Breitling, Julie Brown, Barbara Larsen, Deidre Pickering, Katie Ferguson, Ann McDougall, Eric Reynolds, Tim Gray, Laura Norfelt, Greg Norfelt, Rosanne Day, Chuck Ferguson, Neils Knudsen, Mark Wilson and our current guest author, Christine Scott. To revisit any one of their stories, type their name in the search bar on the home page and it will take you to that individual’s article or list of articles in some cases. I appreciate each of you sharing your unique challenges and wonderful tips which help us reach our goal of better understanding one another.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Valentine2According to Wikipedia and the Catholic Encyclopedia there were at least three early Christian saints by the name of Valentine. It is said that the first St. Valentine, a Roman bishop who lived in the third century, held secret marriage ceremonies for soldiers in opposition to the Roman emperor. Claudius II believed married men were more emotionally attached to their families and didn’t make good soldiers. He prohibited marriage to assure quality soldiers and ordered the execution of St. Valentine on February 14th after he healed one of the soldier’s daughters from blindness and is said to have signed a card to her, “Your Valentine”. His devotion to God and commitment to supporting love and marriage is a remarkable example.

In England, by the eighteenth-century, February 14th evolved into an occasion which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets, and sending greeting cards known as “valentines”.

For Mark and I, the traditional Valentine’s Day symbol has become three heart-shaped balloons with the sentiment “I love you” written on each one of them. They proclaim our feelings plus remind me of the overpowering relief and joy I felt with Mark’s first words to me after our car accident.

Excerpts from my article written March 9, 2015, “Love Ya Back”

Bath bed

Bath bed

Part of my new routine included helping the nurse’s aide bathe Mark. I wasn’t expected to do this, but I wanted to. It was important to me that he knew I was always close by and involved in every aspect of his care. It took two people to slide him from the hospital bed onto the bath bed, which was on wheels. Mark’s naked body was covered in warm blankets. He was secured to the bed with two safety belts, one around his chest and another around his legs, for the ride to the “bath” room. The bed was hoisted into a large bathtub with jets. After nine weeks of sponge baths on his hospital bed, he seemed to enjoy being immersed into the water.

One night in July, after his bath, I cut his hair and shaved his cheeks. We were alone in the bath room. All clean and well-groomed with no place to go except into bed, I stepped back to take one more admiring look at him and said, “I sure do love you!”

Ever so softly, I heard, “Love ya back.” These were his first words in ten weeks and I wasn’t sure I heard them right.

Tears filled my eyes as I moved closer and cupped his cheeks in my hands, “Did you just say love ya back?”

He looked at me and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” Each time was slightly louder. I knew he wanted me to be sure of what he was saying and he said it with all his strength.

Exhausted, he closed his eyes. Did I imagine this? No, it was real. I felt his jaw move with my hands and he said it three times, looking straight at me. Without another person in the room, there was no witness. Ecstatic, I wanted to shout to the world that Mark had spoken and recognized me, but I feared they’d doubt me. I didn’t want anyone to squash the joy I was feeling, so I chose not to share this grand news—at least not yet. After helping the aide get Mark back into bed and getting the kids from the playroom, I left the hospital elated, keeping this blessed moment to myself for fear no one would believe me.

Excerpts from my article written March 16, 2015, The Roller Coaster

Enthusiastically, I walked down the hallway of Western Rehab. I was anxious to see Mark and wondered what new words he might say to me today. After hearing him say, “Love ya back” and “I love you,” three times the night before, I was hopeful he’d be even more alert this morning. The hallway seemed longer and brighter and I couldn’t get to his room fast enough. I was tempted to run down the hallway as our children often tried to do, but since I wouldn’t allow them, I decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do it either.

To my dismay, I walked into Mark’s room and the nurse told me he had a fever and his heart rate was fast. He had an infection and the doctor was investigating the source. They pulled the catheter from his bladder and replaced it with a condom catheter in hopes the infection would clear up. Mark was totally unresponsive that day. Even when the kids came to visit that night, there wasn’t the usual blinking of his eyes to their yes and no questions.

We thought the intravenous antibiotic must be working because the following day when my mom brought the kids to the hospital for a visit, he was answering some of their questions with the routine blinks of his eyes. When they kissed him good-bye, he surprised each one with a soft, tranquil, “I love you.” Overjoyed by words which are so often taken for granted, the kids skipped out of the room wearing ear to ear grins, each holding Grandma’s hand, while Mark slipped back into his deep sleep.

I love you

2016 Valentine’s Day at Rocky Mtn. Care

Those three words spoken three times to me and to both of our children two days later were the fuel which got us through Mark’s next fight with phenomena. “I love you” is always wonderful to hear, but we often forget the power behind it.

Three heart-shaped balloons professing “I love you” mean more to me than flowers, chocolate or jewelry. I would appreciate any one of them, but the memory and the recognition that came with the “I love you” said three times with all of Mark’s weakened strength reminds me of the electrifying power it gave me nearly twenty-five years ago. Today is a great day where we are simply and quietly celebrating our commitment to love and marriage.

How do you acknowledge your love on Valentine’s Day?

I look forward to Christine Scott sharing the second part of Laura’s Story on Tuesday.