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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Echoes of Farewell

On the eve of a brand new day that heralds a sweet new beginning, we lay to rest the year past.  A year so full of hope that our loss seems all the more wrenching.

We have watched as the seasons have grown long into winter this past year and the leaves have burnished with the beauty of age.  Mom's days moved in amazing synchronity with nature's journey, a dizzying dance slowing to uneven steps and final breaths even as spring's greening withered on the trees and blew away in the cold grey of winter's bite.

The barren branches swaying outside the window mimic the places in our hearts where her life echoes a vibrant joy.  As we close this year, I realize it is truly a farewell to mom.  She will not be here to greet the New Year with us, nor any of the years to come.  The grandchildren yet to be born will never know her smile, or soft touch, nor will the ones to marry hear her words of love and congratulations.  The ache sometimes is overwhelming.

But there is Hope, for Winter's rest leads to the gracious unfurling of new life.  These dark days will not last forever, of this I am sure.   As we remember her memorial service we honor her life and a journey well-traveled.   Beauty awaits just around the bend.

It is my prayer as we move forward from this place, that the darkness and pain will be winnowed as the chaff from the grain, leaving only the joy and love of her memory to comfort us.  The New Year will bring joy and laughter and love...

Out of our Darkness,
        Come Thou Blessed Light....
              Illuminate the Path Laid out Before us,
                    Leading us to a Place of Warmth and Peace and Hope...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Flash Mob

Now this is the kind of Flash Mob I'd love to see!

Because of that Holy, Holy Night . . .  CHRISTmas lives every day of the year.

           Enjoy the worship in song.  Grace and Joy to each, Jane 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Perfect Storm

Mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer on November 16, 2010.  From the onset we knew she was terminal.  Well, that was the doctor's prognosis.  We believed there was always the Miracle option.  The statistics are grim, but even so, close to 5% of pancreatic cancer patients survive 5 years.  We agreed that would be our Miracle.  Survival.  Living.  Loving.  As long as God deemed fit.

Mom lived 12 months and 3 weeks from the time of her diagnosis. 

Sometime during her fight, she became rather concerned, almost morbidly so, with how this cancer would actually end her life.  I had to remind myself, often, that she's a nurse and with her medical background it was only natural that she would be fixated with the course of the disease.  I am finding out however, that many people who are given a terminal diagnosis wonder the same thing.  Just how exactly is my life going to end?  Will it be painful?  Will I be weak with nausea and vomiting?  Will I know my loved ones right up to the end?  Where will the cancer spread?  How mobile will I be?  Will I be ready for death? What will it be like? Will I know I'm dying?

Morbid questions.  Agreed.  But honest, nonetheless.  Mom even asked her doctor about 3 months ago what he thought about her impending death.  Just how would she die?  Left him speechless for a minute or two, then he quietly looked her in the eye and said, I can answer that.  I held my breath, expecting some horrific description.  A long pause, and then he said, I don't really know... depends on so many variables.

Mom was let down for a day or two.  I think she really wanted to know what to prepare for.  I mean, real specifics.  And there is probably no doctor worth his salt that could predict what mom's last few days would be like.

In our opinion, mom's death was a result of The Perfect Storm.  Not one, not two, but so many events that funneled down together into too few days, laying seige on her precious body.  An assault so detrimental there was no chance of recovery.

Yes, the death certificate says her cause of death was Pancreatic Cancer. 

And I guess that's the truth.   But that's too simple.  What happened to mom's body, the real cause of her death was a culmination of medical crises that simply overwhelmed her weakening reserves.

That Perfect Storm began with the pancreatic cancer.  In treating it, mom fought hard, with radiation and chemotherapy.  The side effects from treatment were brutal on her body.  The chemotherapy continued to knock her blood counts down each cycle.  This last time, the white blood cell count and platelets bottomed out like never before.  With her white blood count so low, her immune system was drastically weakened and she picked up a nasty pneumonia bacteria that infiltrated both lungs in a matter of hours.  And with her platelets so low, that seemingly innocent slip against the coffee table the Saturday after Thanksgiving, caused a horrendous bruise on her hip that turned into a virulent strain of cellulitis within a few days.  The two infections caused a massive strain on mom's body.  Despite 3 potent antibiotics and numerous blood transfusions, her body just couldn't recover.  Her blood glucose began dropping, giving way to heart arrythmias and finally kidney failure.

The Storm lasted 7 days.

Mom now has the answers that her doctors couldn't give her.  I wish she could part the veil just once, and tell us what she experienced as she faced this last walk on her journey.  And then smile once more for us.  My heart is greedy.

I can share what we know.

Was there pain?  Oh yes, there was.  It is one of the hardest memories to endure.  The nurses and doctors increased the morphine almost hourly to keep her comfortable, and I know they succeeded almost completely.  As the doses increased she slept more and more.  It was blissful oblivion, and one of us kept vigil the entire week to make sure she never woke up alone.

Was there nausea? vomiting?  To our everlasting relief, there was none.  As a matter of fact, in the early days of that week, mom's appetite actually returned and she savored desserts with delight.  The last morsel of food that she ate was a brownie delivered by a sweet friend.   So very grateful for these small blessings.

 How mobile was she?  Not very.  The pneumonia made her so weak, and the bruising/cellulitis on her hip was so painful, that moving around wasn't high on her agenda.  As she weakened and the morphine increased, she became bed-bound for the last 4 days.  But she was comfortable there, with a beautiful window view of the sky and front gardens.  The only thing better, would have been to be able to take her home...

Did she know her loved ones up to the end?  An emphatic YES.  Even with the morphine induced slumber, when she woke, she recognized us and spoke specifically, calling us by name.  As death neared, her ability to speak faded, but not the acknowledgement.  She would squeeze our hands and nod her head.  When my brother arrived from Houston, just 18 hours before her death, she smiled in greeting and said, "Oh, you're here."  She sank back into sleep and woke several hours later to smile at him again and say, "I love you."   Yes, she knew us all, right up until the end.  I can't begin to express the myriad of emotions we all experienced.  But the power of her love for each of us kept us connected with her in a way that I will always, always hold close.

Did she know death was near?  I believe she did.  And she was at peace.  We were all a mess, but around her, there was a reverence and acceptance that was unfathomable.  A readiness to lay down this tired body and walk on into the next journey with complete assurance.  We are still all a mess, but the memories we hold of those last days are filled with a calm and a purpose. 

That would be my memory of her passing.  A peacefulness that can't be contained.  It spills over onto our hurting hearts constantly.  I think that would be her message to those following behind.  No matter where the journey has brought you from, the true Miracle is in this passage to where you are going...

That is our miracle.  We can now Hope with Confidence that our paths will cross and join again one day as our journey brings us all to the place of such Peace we can only imagine....

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

.... A child shall lead them . . .

Blessed baby Autumn... bringing joy to hearts heavy with grief today.

Love you punkin'!

"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace."
            ~ Isaiah 9:6

May the peace of this very Christmas lighten your hearts today.  My love, Jane

Friday, December 23, 2011

Buckeye Traditions

Every year at Christmas, we have a candy tradition.  Well, mom and I have a candy tradition.  The rest of the family "tolerates" our chocolate obsession and tries to sneak in apple pies and fruitcake.  But the homemade candy making is as much a part of our Christmas traditions as the sun rise!  And the candy must always contain in some measure a dollop or two or more of chocolate..

The Buckeyes are one of our favorites:

They are more yummy than the best Reese's peanut butter cup and are one of the first to disappear off the candy plate!  They are easy, easy to make, but very time-consuming.  We only make them at Christmas, and always make them together.

This year I didn't think I could do it.  So hard, emotionally, to tackle all these "firsts" so soon.  But, as you will see, when you add in a goofy husband, a beautiful and funny daughter, the first batch of Buckeyes without mom was a sweet success.  She is smiling tonight...

Here's the recipe for some extra-special love and laughter around the Buckeye bowl:

You will need:

2 lbs. powdered sugar (yep- two whole boxes)
1 lb butter (use the real stuff, it's Christmas)
18.5 oz jar of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)

Dump all in a BIG bowl and knead together, chill for about an hour, then shape into balls.  Place peanut butter balls on cookie sheets lined with wax paper and chill until ready to dip in chocolate mixture.

Melt 1 whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 1/2 bar of parafin.

Stick toothpick in peanut butter ball and dip in chocolate mixture.  Then dip chocolate end of ball in bowl of ice water (don't completely submerge).  This will firm up chocolate quickly.  Then set ball on paper towel to absorb any water.

Keep buckeyes in covered container in refrigerator.  Add to your favorite dessert platters and surprise your family and friends.  Watch them disappear!

Our evening went well with my very able and willing helpers:

Until they got "high" on chocolate fumes and started misbehaving:

They suckered me in, and soon I was caught red-handed enjoying the evening more than I ever thought possible:

Oh, it feels good to laugh and enjoy the traditions of this season.  I know that mom would want us to continue living our best life.  And that best life will always include our favorite Buckeye Tradition. 

This one's for you Mom...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stress Buster Pics

Sometimes our friends just know exactly what we need.  Today I opened my email and found these pictures from a dear friend.  I believe that this email has made the rounds before, although I couldn't find an author to give well-deserved credit to...  My apologies if you've already seen it, but perhaps you will join me for a smile or two.  How can you go wrong with these adorable animals wrapped up in perfect quotes?  Thank you, Ruth for the light-hearted distraction.  Love you...

To our lovable, four-footed friends, thanks for the perfect pick-me-up....

May your day be filled with moments of unexpected joy and spontaneous smiles.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Moments in Bethlehem

We are finding that even in the midst of our grieving, life goes on.  Especially during the Christmas season.  There has been somewhat of a disconnect these past weeks.  When we surface, however briefly, from the details surrounding the funeral and its aftermath, we are bombarded by "joyous good tidings," ringing bells, and jolly Santas.  Very disconcerting to say the least! 

And yet, this has always been a season our family dove into with delight.  This year, mom had her tree up and the house decorated weeks before Thanksgiving.  I believe she knew her time was dwindling.  Whether she decorated for us, fearing we'd be too grieved to celebrate, or whether she decorated for the pure joy of basking in the beauty we will never know.  Perhaps it was a bit of both.  As a family, we've determined to carry on with "sacred" traditions.  Dad wants everyone at the house Christmas day, and we will feast, and laugh and cry together because, well, because we will.

But this Christmas feels different.

Tonight Katie and I went to the Living Nativity performance at church.  There was much anticipation as the crowd milled around, aromas of hay mingling with the earthy perfume of sheep and camel.  As the choir began to sing, a hush fell, and for the next 40 minutes we were transported back to hills of Bethlehem.

The aching familiarity of the Christmas story eased the cords of sorrow in my heart.  A simple, church pageant.  Children waved to parents from the stage, giggling when memorized lines were forgotten, donkeys brayed during solos and shepherds tripped over their robes, but the message was a thread of love reaching back 2,000 years.  The story never changes.  The message is love.

For God so loved the world
that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in Him shall not perish,
but have eternal life.
                    ~John 3:16

A baby born to save the world.  A baby born to die...

A Savior who is no stranger to grief.  Why had I never realized that at Christmas before?  It is not a story reserved for Easter alone.  As God looked down on that Holy Night in Bethlehem, He saw the plan for redemption shadowing a simple manger.

This baby, His Son, was born to die. 

Love so amazing, I can never comprehend.  Only bow my heart in praise.

Moments in Bethlehem

Mom would have been delighted with the performance! Braying donkeys, smelly sheep and all!  My heart is lighter than it has been in days.  And Katie took advantage, adding one more thing to her Christmas wish list:

Her name is Blue and she's a miniature Brahma.  Katie fell in love and wants one.  Hello?!  Just how happy do I look?!  Don't you bat your pretty little eyes at me!  Either one of you!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finding our Footing

one small step at a time...

The grief swamps then ebbs, often and erratically for each of us.  But, mom's joy and laughter lingers in all the memories that spill from our lips.  There will be much to share in the weeks to come.  Her last week was not without sublime moments, and I am in awe of the power of life we each hold on to.  The providential working of God's tender mercies still renders me speechless.  As He gives words, I will share...

I am also completely undone by the many who have offered up their thoughts and prayers, of hope, of encouragement, of solidarity.  Thank you each one.  Never doubt that your words were read and always came at just the right moment, blessing our hearts, providing a sure place for that next step.

If there is one thing we have learned on this journey, it is that we are not alone.  Nor are we the only ones who have experienced such grievous loss.  So many have been down this road with pancreatic cancer.  For us it is now very, very personal.  We will walk the path of grief because we must, but it will never be without the light of mom's love.

Just yesterday, we received a beautiful card from the Hospice nurses who cared for mom during her last hours.  Their personal notes touched our hearts, and I want to share the poem they included.  It has no author, so I am not sure if it is written by their own hand or simply an anonymous author, but it's message met our need:

Experience has taught me that to share is to heal.
Grief and pain are the price we humans pay for the love and total commitment we have for another person.
The more we love, the greater the pain.  But, would we have it any other way?
Memories are a gift from God to those left behind.
They bring comfort, joy and laughter. 
They enable one to live on forever in the hearts of those they loved.

Mom is indeed living on in the hearts of those she loved.  We are all the more blessed because of it.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Laughter and Tears

Surrounded by family and friends.  The week has gone by in a blur.  Family has arrived from as far away as Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Laughter mingles with the tears as the memories flow freely.  How blessed to be loved and held close at times like these.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crazy Perfect Blessing

What perfect timing a Sovereign God has.  Crazy Perfect!  Today He swung the pendulum from grief to joy in the span of 2 hours.

At 1pm this afternoon we arrived at the funeral home to begin the hard, hard task of planning mom's memorial service.  With much of the pre-arranging done ahead of time, the work wasn't hard, just emotional.  We had moments of tears, bought stock in kleenex, and agonized over mom's obituary.  Who knew it would be so hard?  The obituary was the one thing mom wouldn't pre-plan.  She said it wasn't right to memorialize yourself.  Very true, but my, oh, my, it would have been easier!   And like she knew we would need some help, she left an envelope in her "petty cash" drawer (she knew we'd be grabbing money for pizza deliveries!).  The envelope was marked "Interesting Obituaries."  It contained about 8 or 9 obituaries that she had cut from the newspaper over the past year.  Just like mom to help us out, even in death!

What follows are the thoughts and feelings from her family.  We loved her so, and hope somehow she will be honored by our memorial to her:

 Susan Jane Meier Polly
Susan Jane, 71, stepped out into eternity on Sunday, December 4, 2011.

She was born July 21, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois. She married David on March 14, 1960, and together they raised three children. Throughout their 51 years of marriage, one of Susan's favorite activities was traveling with her husband, always taking the time to visit and discover new places together. Nursing became one of Susan's passions, and for 30 years she excelled, gaining the respect of her peers and favor of her patients before retiring in 2006.

She was a beloved wife, loving mother, cherished sister, dear friend, and devoted "Bada" to her grandchildren. She will be missed beyond words by all who were blessed to know her.

She battled her illness with dignity and grace. Should friends desire, in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network at or The Caring Bridge Network at

Survivors: Many, many family and friends 

The family would like to express their heartfelt thanks to Susan's wonderful doctors, nurses and staff. Special thanks for the outstanding care given by Dr. Randall Davis and his caring staff at Texas Oncology.

Even though we are not ready to let her go, Susan's joyful spirit will remain in our hearts forever. She will be dearly missed.

Service: Pending

At approximately 3pm, 2 hours into our funeral planning, we received the joyful news that a new life had graced this world and joined our family!

Welcome Casey Marcus Reed!!!!!


Lifts our hearts to see the tiny fingers and toes, the sweet button nose!  Congratulations to my cousin, Adam and his wife.  Dad was so pleased.  He said that it only seemed right that when one life was taken from our circle that another should be added.

How refreshing that burst of joy felt, right down to our very souls.  God is good, and He reminds us constantly!

Walking in Grace, Lifted by Love, Jane

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A New Journey Has Begun

This morning, early, before the sun even arose, still hidden behind sodden clouds, Mom slipped from the ties holding her to this earth, and began a trip of such splendor I can only imagine.

For Mom, a New Journey has Begun.

For those of us, here, standing at a place where the Journey without her yawns before us bleakly, the pain is visceral.  There is a desparate yearning for one more word, one more touch, one more glance from her sweet face... for us, the Journey of Grief has just Begun...

But how to hold on to the pain when we watched her relax in peace as the grip of cancer finally eased its vicious claws from her body?  I can't.  Tears fall as fast as the rain outside our windows, but I can't wish her back. There is only such blessed relief, deep and true as the heart tugs us to the promises that await.
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'" ~ John 11:25

Mom has only just begun to live. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Moments that Matter Most

"The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way." ~Jack Kornfield

Today was the day mom transitioned from fighting the fight to embracing the life she has lived. She was transferred into hospice care late this morning and has been surrounded by family and friends almost continually. Under the gentle guidance of Season's Hospice, mom is laying her weariness down and reaping the rewards of love multiplied many times over.

The prayers you have whispered bind us tightly to the One who knows our suffering. For His gain will be our searing loss. Soon.

Throats ache and words tremble as we share our love with her. I am so very aware of the privilege we have been given. There will be no regrets. These are the moments that will silver into joy in days to come.

Breathing through the grief...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Crossing that Bridge

How many times in the last year have we said We'll cross that bridge when we get to it? I think we may finally be crossing it.
And it's turning out to be a little like a scary, rope bridge swaying precariously over a bottomless gorge.

We had our first consult with Season's Hospice this morning. Pam was sweet, gracious, kind and compassionate. We immediately felt at ease and some of the fear was replaced with a growing confidence that this is what mom has wanted. What she's planned for. Doesn't make it easy or less heart-breaking... Tears fell freely and often throughout the day.

Mom has drifted in and out of awareness for most of the day. She still recognizes each of us, but conversation is becoming more and more difficult. Her platelets continue to fall, and the doctor wanted to try one more unit of platelets to stabilize her.

Tomorrow morning we'll meet with her doctors and the hospice staff, and we will begin the journey to honor her wishes for a peaceful transition filled with all the love, grace, comfort and dignity we can manage.

Maybe that rope bridge is swinging over Paradise after all, and we've just been too afraid to open our eyes and soak in the beauty of all that awaits mom.

We will trust and see that He is good. Always.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Time Suspended

Good morning. Finally got a connection here at the hospital. And just realized it's December. Time feels suspended here in Room 609...

Mom is sleeping right now. For that I am thankful. Pain is minimal and nausea non-existent. Those are the Big Praises for today. In all other areas we are slipping. Blood work remains in critical range, and overnight her glucose (blood sugar) tanked. Kidney function is dropping as well.

I am without words to express my heart. Can only be grateful that God hears our deepest groanings.

Hanging onto Grace with all our might, Jane