Lessons of Life

Ever feel like you have been in school too long when it comes to learning life’s lessons?
When I was journeying through cancer I told a few friends that I wanted to be on Summer Break  …and that is what I feel like again at this juncture in my life.

It has been a tough eight months, starting with my husband’s aunt’s massive stroke leading to her death a few days later.  Then my mother’s health deteriorated very quickly and she passed away the first week of October. (You can read about the life lessons I learned during this incredibly difficult time on October 21st’s post.)

Two days following her death we were given the fabulous news that we were going to be grandparents for the first time this June.  It was such a poignant reminder of the circle of life.

After mother’s funeral I spent the next couple of months getting my elderly father moved into assisted living and worked on his assets to ensure he has enough money to live off of for as long as God allows him to live.

We began a new year with great expectations…especially for our grandchild’s upcoming birth.  But, we were soon back in school learning another life lesson.  This time it was the sudden downturn in our sweet dog Sasha’s health.  Even though she was having struggles, the medical professionals couldn’t find a reason – and then there it was; a tumor on her adrenal gland.  She came through surgery after a few days of touch and go.  Over the next several weeks she improved and we had our playful 8 year old girl back.  After a walk through our local park two weeks ago where Sasha frollicked and played, showing her proud strut, she took a strange turn – wandering glassy eyed into corners, hanging her head, seemingly unable to hear us and respond to us.  The next two days were brutal watching her decline.  Her doctor’s diagnosis was that she was probably in adrenal crisis.  If that were the case it was quite “fixable”.

We were so hopeful as we begged God to let her make it just another twenty-four hours to get the blood test results proving adrenal crisis – and all would be well.  God had a different plan.  She was NOT in adrenal crisis.  She had something else very wrong with her.  Something neurological.  Her odd wandering and placing herself in corners is called “head pressing” and it is always a sign of a problem in the brain or the brain stem.  We sat in the examining room stunned, knowing what had to be done, but so fighting it.

We let our sweet little one slip away while holding her close.  It only took a few second and then she was gone, But the words “…and then she was gone” seemed to make no sense.  How could this be?  She should have had more years to share the “special sauce” God covered her in when He made her.  We felt cheated and felt she was cheated also.  We had so much more love to spoil her with.

So, why is it that our pets hold such a special place in our hearts?  The death of my mother was very painful, but this was – and is – a different kind of pain.  The day we let her go as I cried, I pondered this question .  I was comparing the love that we have for our children with the love we have for our pets.  I knew it wasn’t the same, but the reason escaped me for a few moments.

Then it came to me and it was such an eye-opener that I felt I needed to share this “life lesson” with you.  Animals are part of God’s creation that do not have a sin-nature.  Yes, all creatures and creation were affected when Adam and Eve chose to exercise their free will in the Garden of Eden. However, creatures were not created as beings having free will.  They live their lives by instincts.  That is why, they can…and do…love us unconditionally!  They are not capable of breaking our hearts and rending our spirits like our children may because of choices they make in life.  With our pets we get a glimpse of what God created us to be: sinless.  What an incredible realization!

I have not yet closed the chapter on this life lesson.  The pain is still too new.  However, I have learned – once more – that God desires us to grow and learn from each of life’s lessons.  My life has, yet again, been enriched in the midst of my pain…and for that I am thankful.

A New Prospective

I know it has been several weeks since I last posted…and I have a good reason for that.  My elderly mother’s health began aggressively declining about 5 weeks ago and she slipped into eternity with her savior, Jesus, late in the evening of Oct 8th.  My life the weeks prior to and since have been crowded with more things than I can possibly recount…and that is not the purpose of this post.  I just wanted to give you some insight into where I have been, am and am going so that you can understand – and possibly identify – with me.

My husband and I have been very fortunate that, until two weeks ago, neither of us had lost a parent.  In fact, due to the longevity of not only our parents, but also our grandparents, we have joked over the years that we are stuck with each other forever.

Now that I have experienced both the end of my mother’s days, her succumbing to death and the days since her death…I have a new prospective.  I saw her agitation at unresolved issues during her last few days and the contrasting peace and rest that brought all of us in her presence, peace and rest.  As a believer in Jesus, I am ready to join heaven’s ranks, and have often be so blessed at funerals that I can hardly stay in my seat because I want to see my savior’s face.  “Take me, take me too…” I have thought.

But, in my naivety I have not contemplated the fact that although I know the outcome of my dying…I have never travelled the path that is called “death”.  It is unknown and it is unfamiliar…and it can be daunting even to the strongest of saints.  I believe it is partly not knowing how much more will have to be endured prior to God’s call home and the rest is simply our inability as humans to know what death itself is.  How is it that a person is alive one moment and dead the next?  We can’t see the heart stop beating and we can’t hear as the last breath is breathed.  Mother was simply there one moment and in the presence of Jesus the next…but, for us left behind it was quite unexplainable. As I approached mother’s still, lifeless body I knew in my heart of hearts that her soul and spirit had flown to Jesus and her body had finally come to a complete rest.  But there was no true understanding of what had taken place in our world governed by our five senses.

stairway-to-heavenThe best way I can explain Mother’s departure from this earth into the heavenly realms is with a verbal description of this picture.    She walked each step …up…up, over the last several days until she was in her savior’s arms – safe and secure forever.  Sometimes those steps came in quick succession and we saw her earthly body grow tired more quickly.  Other times the steps seemed to stall…for a little too long, from our prospective, as we looked on her suffering.  At times she seemed to look over the edge and pull back in fear “seeing” the hard times and relationships in her life as a precipice that might make her fall off the steps.  But then a few more steps and her face would ease into a smile or a calm and unafraid demeanor.   During the entire journey from earth to heaven that spanned mother’s last days she often seemed suspended somewhere between earth and heaven; sometimes whispering single words that made us know she was seeing a new dimension.  Words that made us smile and sometimes cry and nearly always startle just a bit – for this is place none of us have been ourselves.  Her last full day she seemed to be travelling further away from our reality.  She was, as it were, getting so far up the steps that she was no longer focusing on things here on earth like we are forced to do.  Of course, each step was completely ordered and orchestrated by God until He finally said “Come on home, I have been waiting for you” and she stepped from this world to “an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands.” II Corinthians 5:1