Lessons from Nana…Have the conversation

8.5 x 11 miscellaneous VERTICAL - Page 188

I was looking forward all week to seeing Nana. When she saw me, she burst into tears, happy tears. She hugged me tight and would not let go. We stood in the middle of a busy dining room full of residents and staff, and Nana gripped me as though she hadn’t seen me in a long time. She didn’t remember it had only been four days.

I led her to a quiet table in the corner. As we sat, her cold, fragile hand held mine. It was just the two of us and my heart was so happy.

It’s been a struggle to keep her caloric intake up, and it was clear the more I distracted her with conversation the more she ate. So I kept talking and she kept eating. She spoke a few times about the pain from her cancer. Then she followed up with, “But it’s okay, I’m a tough old broad.”

Gulping down my awkwardness I asked, “What helps you stay a tough old broad, even under these circumstances? I really want to know.”

She smiled, got a little teary, and replied as she squeezed my hand, “Family and God. After all, he’s in charge.”

The sun slowly set over her shoulder. Every now and then my gaze wandered from her to the fiery colors of fuchsia and orange bursting from behind the clouds, fading to hues of purples and blues, eventually extinguishing to black.

One-by-one, residents finished their meals and left the dining room. The staff cleaned up around us but allowed us to linger.

Searching for a lighthearted topic, I asked her if she’s still enjoying her favorite television shows. “No. I don’t watch TV,” Nana scoffed. “Nothing matters anymore,” she continued. “Family matters. God matters. But nothing else.” She stared off into the distance, and continued, “It’s like I don’t care about anything anymore. But I don’t mean that to sound bad. It’s just what used to be important isn’t anymore. What I used to spend my time and energy on, it all really doesn’t matter.”

I quietly sat at the table and drank in her facial and body expressions, trying to sear them into memory for the day our conversations end. Nana was allowing me priceless insight into the perspective of someone with an aging body and ailing mind. I applaud her honest candor.

Listening with full attention, I saw a woman who is letting go.

Finding words for her sentences is like searching for seashells on a shore cluttered with incomprehension and nonsensical thoughts. Yet, with enough time and patience, her feelings, thoughts and opinions eventually reveal themselves through the sands of confusion.

These days, the TV sits silent in her apartment. Mail is tucked away. Her phone stays unplugged and she often doesn’t know where it is or even that she has one. The daily word searches delivered by the staff that she has so enjoyed over the past year lie untouched. Even ordering food from the daily menu is a struggle as a task that she couldn’t care about in the least.

There is a stark correlation to her recent decline. Rewind to last September. As best we could, we delivered the news to Nana that doctors gave her about six months to live. That is a post for another day. Her response to the news was, “I want to live as normal as possible for as long as possible.” This meant no more treatment of any kind. We respect her decision and asked, “So how do you want to spend your time? What is on your bucket list? Whatever we can give you, we want to. Want to go to the beach again? Go to New York one more time? You name it and we’ll try our best to make it happen.”

She sat with a quizzical stare. Between Alzheimer’s, angiosarcoma and aging, her mind is losing its footing. I, on the other hand, had fabulous aspirations of us going on amazing adventures. I could already see the selfies snapping in my mind’s eye. I saw us stepping barefoot into the coastal tide with water and sand tickling our toes. I envisioned a trip to the mountains where we open the sunroof and let the wind toss our hair as we spend the afternoon at apple orchards, which reminds her so much of home, and picking apples at the local fruit stands. I fancied the ideas of expensive restaurants, pondered playing with puppies in animal shelters, and even going to Disney World if that would delight her heart. Yet, the profound simplicity of her answer surprised me.

“I just want to see my kids one more time.”

Nana is a mother of four grown children with their own families; only one family lives locally. Her family is spread across three states from Texas to New York and over the following months they came to see her. Everyone tried to make it as fun as possible despite the bittersweet taste of the trips’ purpose – to say goodbye to Nana.

How does one say goodbye? Are there truly enough words that justify putting a period at the end of a relationship separated by death?

For my husband, her son, he wrestles with this every time he sees her. “It’s so hard knowing that every time I’m with her, I leave knowing it could be the last time.”

Saying goodbye over and over and over wears on a soul. Our rides home together are often spent with reflective contemplation inwardly while processing together outwardly.

And for our family out of town, they came with the somber realization that they were going to have one last hug, one last kiss, one last eye-to-eye, “I love you.” The finality of a final goodbye is unbearable.

But enter our tough old broad. Nana knows where she is going and she knows who is waiting for her. She’s told us for years that as much as she loves her kids and grandkids, she’s got a lot more people waiting for her in heaven than she does on earth. It’s a little twingey to hear, but I understand her point.

When her youngest son drove her home one last time on his trip to say goodbye last month, Nana looked at him and said, “So I guess the next I see you will be in heaven.” “Yes, I guess it will, Mom.”

I have not stopped thinking about their conversation. How raw. How real. How rare.

Most people cannot even talk about death, much less the direct impact it has on loved ones even while the person is still living. Yet here are mother and son, openly talking about this last face-to-face time they’ll see each other on this celestial orb of water and clay. What a gift of closure for them both. It was a lifetime of relationshipping wrapped up in two sentences and a mutual I love you. How remarkable!

Nana is certainly a tough old broad. She’s sat through endless doctors’ appointments talking about surgeries, recoveries, physical therapy, home therapy, and even hospice. Now she is speaking about the last chapter of her life and the only things that remain important – God and family.

Her daughter and grandson came to say goodbye. Again, how can a lifetime together be summed up in one word, seven letters – goodbye. But this is a blessing that many don’t get to experience. Those who lose loved ones quickly or unexpectedly would give anything in the world to have one last conversation; one more “I love you;” an “I’m sorry;” an “I forgive you.”

My mom died I when was 16 years old. My family, out of love for me, wanted to protect me from the pain of her dying. However, by not including me in conversations about Mom’s grim prognosis, they weren’t protecting me, rather they were preventing me from grieving her illness and death.

If I had known that doctors had not given her hope of surviving her last night, I never ever would have gone out with friends that night. I wouldn’t have had a friend spend the night for goodness sakes! I never ever would have left her side. But I didn’t know, and the guilt of leaving her in her last hours is something that a 16 year old then, a 49 year old now, has carried ever since.

To have had that night to apologize for my hormonal, bratty teenage years and the aloof dissing as an insecure middle-schooler would’ve been a blessing beyond measure for us both. To reminisce about the good and let go of the bad would have brought immeasurable healing and peace. Just to be with her in her last hours…after all, she once told me in the throws of brutal chemo and radiation, “I’m only going through all of this for you girls. <my sister and me> Ya’ll are the reason I’m living.” My place was by her bedside that last night. I owed her that much, but I didn’t know.

On the contrary, I sat with my biological father as he laid dying in the hospital. I first met him when I was 12 years old. We didn’t reconcile until I was 33 year old. We were given eight great years until he died of cancer. Our relationship was unique and unlikely, but with God as our witness we gave our relationship to him and he blessed it. When I got the call to come to Atlanta to say goodbye, my husband and I were in the middle of a home remodel. I tossed the keys to the contractor and our family of five piled into the minivan and we hit the road. I wasn’t going to miss (again) my last chance to say goodbye to my only living parent.

Sitting at his bedside, I asked if everyone clustered in the crowded, tiny hospital room wouldn’t mind leaving. My husband, children and my dad’s wife left the room and it was just my dad and me. Lung cancer held his words and breath hostage. I had never seen him weak and watching him lie there with oxygen tubes and IVs was overwhelming. I knew I had one chance to say it. Three words I could never bring myself to say in our eight short years, nor in my entire life. I knew I needed to say them as much as he needed to hear them.

I needed to say them in hopes to overwrite one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever said to another human being. Years before, he stood in my home (to which he traveled hours to see my family and me) and I said to him straight to his face, “You can be a grandfather to my children, but not a father to me.” A hurt little girl deep inside still longed to feel like a daughter. I had been in counseling off and on for years, but still had so much unresolved anger, hurt and resentment which is too complicated to pen here. The thing is, I meant those words at the time– but I didn’t mean to say them to him.

Fast-forward several years, more counseling, and much heart change, maturity and personal growth later, I was a different person. I desperately wanted to take those words back knowing how much they hurt him. I did my best to show it to him that I didn’t mean those words anymore and that I did want him in my life, not just in my children’s lives. We made great memories together until cancer came calling. The photo album would have a hard stop in its timeline. But I wondered if I said three words, that they would perhaps elude time and distance, sickness and health. So much had not been said in our lifetime, could three words possibly bear the weight of it all? Could three words erase the negative and amplify the positive conversations and shared moments between us for three decades? Are three words that powerful?

Kicking aside the scattered stones of pride and human emotion that were leftover from a very thick and high wall that guarded my heart, I left myself wide open and vulnerable in a moment in an Atlanta hospital room. My palms were soaked with sweat, the back of my neck stung with prickly anxious heat, and my pounding heart welled up in my throat. Taking a deep breath, and deciding not to overthink it any longer, I gently took his hand, looked him in the eye and softly said, “I’m sorry I can’t fix this. I’m sorry I can’t make you better.” He looked at me, unable to move, but I felt the hug of his heart.

Then I said in one breath, and without blinking, “I love you.”

A wave of relief and freedom washed over me. It was my first, and last, I love you, to my dad. He died not 24 hours later.

Some may find my openness and lack of filter about such personal and painful topics audacious, off-putting, uncomfortable, and even offensive. I totally get it and don’t blame them at all. But I’ve lived both scenarios – saying goodbye and not saying goodbye. Not saying goodbye is far harder to live with than momentarily swallowing pride, overcoming awkwardness, leaning into the opportunity, and saying what needs to be said.

Likewise, Nana and I have had lots of positive conversations about dying over these last months. Having Christ as Savior changes the entire perspective on living and dying. We talk about the certainty of Jesus’ promise in John 14:2-3, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” There is so much for Christians to look forward to!

Christina Rossetti wrote the poem, “Let Me Go,” with its words, “…For this is a journey we all must take, and each must go alone. It’s all part of the master plan, a step on the road to home…” Although its words are comforting, they are conventional.

Nana and I are going about her journey in an unconventional way. And in many ways, I feel like we’ve grown closer in the past year than in the 33 years we’ve known each other; largely due to our continuing conversations.

I want to walk Nana as close to heaven as I can get to minimize her aloneness in the journey as the poem wrote. My hope is to hand her to heaven when the Lord calls her home so there is not one moment spent unaccompanied between her last breath on earth and her first glimpse of eternity.

So we’ve escorted the elephants out of the room and talk about “it.” It being whatever the day brings – an emotion, a decision, a thought, a memory. She knows she can tell me anything. She also knows this is the time to say it.

This is Nana’s epilogue. Her moment to reflect and respond to the 80 years she has lived. When I think of all she has seen, lived through and overcome I’m amazed at her perseverance, strength and how she has kept her sense of humor through it all.

From stuffing newspapers in her shoes as a child to replace insoles long worn out; how as a 12-year-old girl home alone, she bravely brandished a shotgun to scare off two drunk men who came looking for trouble; she walked the college stage to receive her degree very married and very pregnant, even holding up the ceremonial line for her extra restroom trip (oh the joys of pregnancy!); she marveled at snowfalls as high as their roof; she enjoyed summer camping on Maine beaches and ice fishing on the lake; she hosted countless birthday parties and lived through too many world wars; from spirited poker nights to scary bomb shelters; dogs running amuck all over the house; a house always needing repairs; all-you-can-eat Friday fish fries at the local HoJo and 4th of July fireworks at Lake George; Martha’s ice cream and Dirty John’s hot dogs; Studebakers and station wagons; dancing into the night and nights spent sitting up with sick babies; giving up smoking and giving her life to Christ; cooking with Julia Child’s and crying with Billy Graham on tv; raising four active children and sending them off into the world as adults; all of her countless prayers and answers to prayers; owning her own store and working as an elementary school teacher, Nana never sat down unless it was to knit or read an Agatha Christie mystery. She walked her husband home to heaven and spent years serving the church, and now the church is serving her through its widow ministry, and it is our family’s turn to walk her to heaven. As Nana rounds the corner of life, in her home stretch she reflects on the big, releases the small, and reminiscences about the millions of life’s moments and lessons in the middle.

These stories deserve to be told and retold. So we spark her memory with a story-starter and then sit back and let her talk. This is her epilogue, worthy of hearing, recording, remembering.

I know she is letting go because she tells me even without admitting it. Because with every conversation, she talks to me regarding “us” in past tense. “I’m so glad I got the chance to love you like a daughter.” “I’m so glad God brought you into our family.” “I’m so glad I got to know you.”

I swallow hard but freeze my smile, so she won’t notice. In some ways it feels like I’m talking to a ghost. In other ways it feels like I’m talking to someone who has never been so alive as a lifetime lived on this earth, bound by time and space, waits patiently to escape this world and enter eternity. Where in heaven, the stories of old once again are retold, this time with all the actors alive, well and immortal. A gathering of life and love that will never end.

We, the family who will be left behind for now, will gather her stories and hold them close to our hearts. We will retell them to our children and grandchildren in countless conversations so they know their roots; an intangible legacy of life and love binding us together now and in the eternal.

None of this is possible without one thing – a conversation. Have the conversation. Say what needs to be said, in love. Bring peace where possible. Embrace closure. Give grace to all…including yourself. Escort the elephants out. Invite the Holy Spirit in. Laugh together. Cry together. Hold hands. Hug. Reminisce. Dream. Talk about life goals and final wishes. Sit in silence, but be together. Bless and pray for each other. Mend wounds. Heal hurts. Share joys and sorrows, victories and disappointments. Admit wrongdoings. Say I’m sorry and accept apologies. Agree to disagree when needed. Celebrate successes. Focus on what we have in common. Love one another. Savor the moments we have together now as tomorrow is not promised for any of us.

It all starts with a conversation.

Lessons from Nana…Accept help

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Thanksgiving 2019

Why women believe we must bear the weight of the world on our shoulders I’ll never understand; and I’m guilty as charged. We carry the world’s burdens in our hearts, careful not to drop a single one, feeling immensely responsible for their outcome whether we truly are or not.

There’s a visual image seared into my mind that haunts and follows me when I am alone. I’m walking on a road, swimming in the ocean, or climbing a mountain and I have the person or problem literally strapped to my back. The more people and problems, the more piled on and on and on until I’m falling on bloody knees, drowning under the waves, or hanging on the side of the cliff with nails dug deep into the dirt wall that presses against my sweaty face.

Even still, I won’t stop. I just keep going…and going…and going reluctant to ask for help. I smile anyway. “I’m fine,” anyway. “It’s all good,” anyway. It’s not good and I’m not fine. So I retreat, slipping into the shadows of life to avoid the fronting, fake smiles I wear like a pro. I go deep into my hiding place until I’ve slept, regained train of thought, cried, journaled, or whatever it takes to breathe again. Only then I step back into the daylight, return texts, messages, phone calls and resume whatever normal looks like…until the people and problems heap on my back again and I break under the pressure, again.

Not so with Nana. She has always been very vocal about her needs. There’s no ambiguity of where she’s at in life and her outspokenness is kind of a family joke (in an endearing way).

However, stating a need and asking for help are two different things.

Nana is one of the most strong and strong-willed women I know. For 32 years I’ve called her MacGyver and watched her sew torn luggage with dental floss in the middle of the airport; foster over 60 dogs with her husband; and throw together a dinner for twenty in less time than it takes most of us to drive to the grocery store.

When she moved to our city, I committed to helping her move in, get settled, and do life with her. We found great deals for nesting her apartment at consignment stores – her happy place other than garage sales. Two weeks in, she fell. For these past two years it has literally been one health crisis after the next starting with this fall and maybe a month thrown in here or there to come up for air.

I know it’s been hard on her. Relocating to a new city, joining a new church, leaving old friends while remaining open to making new ones, learning new roads, finding new stores, it’s a lot for anyone at any age, and she was 79 at the time. She met the challenge with a strong spirit and determination to conquer the city. Her enthusiasm was contagious.

Needless to say, her health issues have been a total surprise; with each one more serious than the last. This isn’t the retirement she had planned; certainly not a terminal diagnosis within six months of moving here.

I call her my Naomi and I’m her Ruth. I told her we’d get through all of this. ER trips, surgical boots, physical therapy, fourteen doctors with just as many medications, surgery upon surgery, MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, pre-op, post-op, a broken ankle, a fractured vertebra, sinus infections, cancer, a mastectomy, bridge work, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and more doctor appointments than I can count just to name a few.

She’s been such a trooper with each episode. Whether it was days when she was up and ready to go, or days I arrived and she had forgotten and was still in her jammies, she rose to the occasion and simply trusted me to care for her. If I filled a new prescription, she took it. If I gave her the walker, she used it. We waded waters of medical decisions, dental decisions, orthopedic decisions, neurology decisions, split decisions, decisions made with family; so many decisions I can’t recount them all. I sat with her through every single doctor’s appointment for two years. She recovered from both surgeries in our home.

I’ve watched her defer to us for help of all kinds. Her “tough ‘ol broad” self-proclamation became softer as her mind became fuzzier, and she began to lean on us more for direction and decisions. Treating her no different than I would have treated my own mother if she was still alive, and how my sister and I cared for my grandmother, I’ve helped Nana as if we were bound by blood, not marriage.

Perhaps I got a little too close. Her life and mine became so intertwined I’m not sure where she stopped and I started. My family saw this. They encouraged me to have boundaries and take time for self-care.

But there’s this advocate in me that won’t be quiet. I’m a fierce fighter who will stand in front of whatever moving train is threatening someone in my care. The voiceless, the helpless, the vulnerable – we are called to help them and I take it to heart. And when those are family, we are called to help them all the more. And as for widows, God specifically mentions our duty to care for them several times throughout the Bible. Another box checked on the life list for my Naomi.

An attitude of, “I’ll fix this. I’ll handle this. I’ll take care of this. I’ll protect you. I’ll fight for you. You’re safe with me,” is the advocate in me that won’t stop or rest or back down for those who need it. Not ever.

I’ve watched Nana have to accept more help the more serious her physical and neurological needs progressed. The worst was having to take her car away after she put herself in a dangerous position and didn’t realize it. She was mad at me, and the family, for four months. I’m not sure she ever fully forgave us. But with every other decision, she’s been amazingly compliant because she has always known we are working in her very best interest. The way we’d want to be treated. They way her husband, my favorite father-in-law, would’ve treated her if he were still alive. The way I will stand before God one day and be held accountable for caring for his daughter, a widow, elderly, lacking memory to advocate for herself, and lacking physical health to provide for herself.

I’ve taken this task extremely seriously which is perhaps why I often cry all the way home on the long drives during every season and in every kind of weather until near hyperventilation.

As she has let me help more as her needs grow, I watch her fight herself for freedom. Two moves: the first one was to relocate down here and gain independence, and the second one to forfeit that new independence exactly a year later to an assisted living facility, with no other option for her safety. She has desperately wanted to stay independent in her desire to make one more meal for herself; pay her own bills and balance her own checkbook; power-walking up and down the halls of her apartment just to prove she still could; moving very heavy furniture by herself to demonstrate her strength (which led to the fractured vertebrae); working crossword puzzles and word searches to stay mentally sharp; answering the neurologist’s memory questions honestly, as I turned my face away to avoid her seeing me weep at the six answers she got wrong compared to the one answer she got right.

We locked arms and boldly marched on with every appointment. Most times she didn’t know which doctor we were seeing or why, but I had her back. I peeked over her shoulder as she stepped on the scale so I could monitor her weight. I held candid discussions with the doctors and her when she didn’t want to admit she had lost more physical or mental ground. Sometimes I felt like a tattletale, but as her advocate doctors needed honesty to treat her properly.

She fights to hard to stay independent, yet she has a keen sense of knowing when to accept help when she needs it. I look back on the past two years, which feel like a lot more in some ways with all the physical and mental battles she’s fought and me at her side fighting for her, and it’s sobering to see where we are now.

I’ve had her strapped on my back for two years without ceasing. Without ceasing. It has been some of the hardest work I’ve ever done, but also some of the most rewarding.

So on December 18th, exactly a week before Christmas, I pulled into the Starbucks parking lot barely able to breathe. Choking back tears, I walked in, not knowing what the person looked like whom I was meeting.

Not one, but two women greeted me; both with the same first name. They were with Hospice. This meeting about killed me. It was supposed to last about an hour. We were there 2.5 hours with my never-ending questions. They were incredibly patient, kind, and gentle. They assured me the decision was totally up to the family and that they were there to answer questions and help if we so chose.

Our family knew this meeting was happening and I had their blessing. Still, signing the paperwork as her HCPOA, the weight of responsibility nearly broke my heart in two. Despite the emotional fit I was having on the inside, I hid it pretty well on the outside…until…

They explained that Hospice would now be her PCP, oncologist, etc. I know their help is a good and necessary thing, but a wave of grief overtook me in one tsunami tidal crash I didn’t expect and couldn’t control. The women saw my countenance drop and asked if I was okay. I replied, “I need a second,” and looked away. Turning back toward them, with tears welling up, I asked, “So the last time we went to the oncologist was the last time we would see him?” Short answer, “Yes.”

Grief grabbed me and choked the lump in my throat. “It’s just that, well, he was the best doctor we’ve ever had, and I didn’t get to tell him. We didn’t get to say goodbye.” There was a chasm in my heart, a gaping hole void of closure between me and this decision to sign on Hospice.

Suddenly, the past two years flashed before me like a movie reel in fast-forward. Memories we made together came flooding to mind such as the many trips to various doctors and surgeons; trips through the drive-thru after a hard appointment, as my grandmother did for me when I was a child to make things better; our hundreds of car conversations; wringing my nervous hands in elevators; endless waiting in waiting rooms; dashing to fetch the car for her in pelting rain; heating the car for her in the dismal, frigid winter; finding every handicap parking space at nearly every medical facility in our city; wearing face masks and gloves in the ER; falling asleep sitting straight up in stiff, hard doctor office chairs in the middle of the night; watching other patients wait with us who were just as sick as Nana was, or sicker, as they moaned and groaned and threw up and passed out all around us in the hospital; checking voicemails and texts in the bathroom so she wouldn’t feel overlooked; half-reading half-interesting, outdated magazine articles in doctors’ offices; meeting up with the sweet driver at her assisted living facility when she could help drive her to appointments – we must’ve rendezvoused in every parking lot in a twenty-mile radius in our city; more of her favorite hamburgers and milkshakes; more waiting at the pharmacies; watching her struggle to find one of the five lipsticks in her purse she swore was not in there; assuring her that she looked pretty as her appearance has always been important to her; triaging her symptoms-of-the-day to discern whether or not it required a call to the doctor; sitting with endless doctors and making endless decisions with her and for her…it was all over. In one conversation and a few signatures, it was all over.

I suddenly wanted so badly to drive her to one more appointment, shoot the breeze in one more waiting room, fix her a cup of complimentary coffee, listen to her muse about the world around us, shake hands with one more doctor, and check one more doctor’s visit off the list.

What felt so dreadfully hard on some days, I silently begged to have back now sitting with Hospice and realizing this lap of her race is over. I didn’t know what to do with this new reality. The adrenaline that fuels the advocate in me was still pumping in my veins to do, to act, to help Nana. I wasn’t ready to hand this baton to anyone else and trust them to run on her behalf.

I understand Nana is no less Nana in Hospice’s care. She is no less our responsibility as family. Hospice is help. They are the very best at what they do and surely, they answer a calling 99% of the population could not handle for one minute. I am convinced there is a special place in heaven for Hospice staff. Their crowns will shine like the sun. But the protector in me struggles to let go.

I looked at the two ladies eye-to-eye and said without blinking, “Please don’t be offended, but it’s hard for me to entrust her to you. I’ve done my Hospice homework, but don’t truly know you. We’ve just met, and although so far so good, I’ve had some other medical companies ditch us and neglect her care. I’m worried.”

They sat with me for 2.5 hours until I was satisfied this was the best thing for Nana even though I knew in my heart and head it was time. Nana’s physical needs outgrew what I could provide. No number of doctor appointments could keep pace with the progression of Angiosarcoma and Alzheimer’s.

I often woke up in paralyzing fear in the middle of the night worried about her. If I wasn’t with her, I worried whether or not she was okay. Did she not answer the phone because she forgot she had a phone, accidentally turned the sound off, forgot to recharge it, forgot how to use it, lost it (which all of the aforementioned have happened), or was she lying on the floor unconscious from another fall? Rational and irrational thoughts warred in, and wore on, my mind and soul.

Hospice has been the very best thing for Nana. Her needs are tended to every single day in the comfort of her own space. They are a godsend and I couldn’t be more grateful for their help. It gives us enormous peace of mind and comfort as they happily accommodate my request for daily updates on who was there, what they did, and how she is doing. And in their words just today, “She’s doing as well as can be expected as the cancer grows.”

I’m so appreciative for their updates, but still I am not okay. The fighter in me feels like a failure. The advocate sits in awkward silence. The warrior stands weaponless on the battlefield. The protector feels the powerless weight of empty arms that are used to holding Nana, figuratively and literally.

I’m trying to follow Nana’s example of accepting help. I’m thankful, I really am. But in one morning meeting the dynamics of “us” completely changed forever, and that is something I wasn’t emotionally prepared for, even though it’s a good thing.

After hours of conversation and signing the paperwork, one of the ladies had to leave for another meeting as the other one sat across from me with tears in her eyes. She told me her story of going through a similar situation in her own family and that she understood my feelings.

I looked at her, and with a shaky voice muttered, “For the past two years I’ve been 90% caregiver and 10% daughter-in-law. Who am I now? What is my role…now?”

She tenderly answered with a quivering chin and merciful smile, “Now you’re 90% daughter-in-law.” We both sat in silence as she gave me time to process.

I broke the long silence between us with an, “Okay,” said under my breath, slowly nodding my head in peaceful acceptance, trying to hold it together in a bustling Starbucks full of young moms busy with their babies, business men in expensive suits with important places to be, and hipster millennials with earbuds in and eyes fixed on their laptops. “Okay,” I said again agreeably.

In that moment I understood a little of what Nana felt when she conceded to help with big steps like allowing the family to help with her finances, handing me her keys to the car she loved, and once again packing up her apartment and the independent life she loved after only a year.

Knowing decisions are right, and are even for the best, doesn’t make them any less difficult to live out.

Fast forward one month later. I’m huddled in my heavy robe scrolling texts and toggling between Hospice nurses and family. I texted the Hospice chaplain to see if she could visit Nana again as her health declines and the calendar continues to turn. To my surprise, the chaplain responded by calling me back. I didn’t want to talk and would’ve rather had a one-dimensional conversation through text as I struggle to find my way out of my emotional hiding place from all of this.

She said, “I can be at her place in 20 minutes.” “Whoa,” I thought to myself. I was shocked she could get there so quickly! Borrowing some of Nana’s willingness to accept help, I sheepishly asked, “I don’t want to burden you, but, um, how often do you think you could visit her? The doctors have given her a couple of months at best, and I think the more visits from friendly faces the better, but I don’t want to take too much of your time.”

The chaplain replied, “I can come as often as you’d like.” “Oh wow. Um, would once a week work for you?” I asked. She replied, “Baby, listen to me…” Her comforting words and soothing, motherly tone made me feel emotionally safe in our conversation. “Kristi, Baby, listen to me. I am here for Miss Salli. But I’m also here for your family. And I’m here…for you, too.”

Bundled up in my robe, hiding from life, tears streamed down my face I sat speechless. She touched a soft spot in my soul. It’s like she knew it was difficult for me to ask for help without me admitting it. The confidence with which she spoke allowed me to let down my guard and accept her support because she can be someone to Nana that I cannot be; just like the nurses; just like so many people who have joined us on our journey these past two years. Her words and voice convinced me she really meant it. She really wants to be there for Nana. My heart quietly raised its white flag of surrender, yielding to the truth that there is safety in numbers. Not even my husband and I together can do this. Nor can rest of the family spread out across three states. This is bigger than all of us.

“Are you still there, Kristi?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m here,” I spoke in a faint whisper.

“Okay, then I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” she assured me.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” I pleaded.

“It’s what I do and I’m happy to do it. And if I can make a difference in Miss Salli’s life, and help your family at the same time, then my life won’t be in vain,” she said.

How does one respond to such authentic compassion and genuine empathy?

We hung up and I laid the phone in my lap. Staring into the dark, for the first time in a long time I felt the strength of a helping hand pulling me out of the pit.

So many wonderful people have been available to Nana 24/7 and it has been a blessing beyond measure. She’s accepted their help with graciousness and gratitude.

For me, on the other hand, I’ve still wanted to be a part of things. Not controlling or in the way, but I deeply care how she is doing on the days I am not able to see her. In part, because I love her and my heart aches knowing she’s fighting the battle for her life. Also, in part, is the humbleness of admitting that everyone needs help, including me.

Nana – the fearless, strong-willed warrior – has taught me one of the greatest lessons she could teach: Accept help. Know when we need it. Know when to ask for it. Be willing to accept it. And say thank you, which she has said no less than a million times.

Truly, her wisdom regarding when to fight and when to relinquish is something that will be part of her greatest legacy to me. Man, she knows how to fight for what she wants! Her persistence on lesser matters has caused me much anxiety. But she also knows when to say enough, end the arm wrestle, and trust someone else with the decision.

She’s spending a lot more time in bed these days. The cancer pain has been a challenge to keep under control. She is accepting everyone’s help: the nurses in their daily visits; the chaplain who prays and sings hymns with her (or to her depending on the day); the med techs who are amazingly awesome and shower Nana with love and care; and all of the folks, medical or not, who have walked a mile or more with Nana, sojourning on the road leading her to heaven.

It has been, and will continue to be, a privilege to serve her in this way as caregiver these past two years in the good times and in the hard. As much as she has allowed my help, and as I’ve watched her let others in and trust them with her care, I believe the best way for me to pay tribute to her legacy in this is to learn to do the same in my life…another passing of the baton, if you will.

In her example, I lay down my pride and stubbornness, my clinging to in the name of love and worry, and my heart will smile and accept help in honor of Nana – the fearless, strong-willed warrior – who taught me we don’t have to fight our battles alone.

Lessons from Nana – Keep looking forward…and forward to…

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Our girl gave Nana such a thoughtful Christmas present this year. Shopping for her was a challenge. What do you give someone who knows they are dying? Someone who only has months to live and has come to terms with it?

My SIL shopped for pajama sets, a great idea! I got fuzzy socks to go with the pajamas, her favorite body lotion, and her favorite snacks since some days Nana doesn’t feel up to going downstairs to the dining hall for her meals. These are all useful and she was happy to receive them.

But our daughter did something uniquely different for Nana. Knowing she struggles with Alzheimer’s, so she made her a photo album with the thought that seeing family faces would be comforting to Nana. Awesome idea!

Needless to say, Nana cried when she opened the album. With lots of photos from past and recent, and it was fun to go through them naming faces and places. It was a wonderful walk down memory lane.

However, every time she came to a photo of her late husband, the best FIL anyone could ask for, she said the same thing each time. She gently placed her hand on his photo and said with a smile, “I have a feeling it’s not going to be long before I see him again.”

I replied, “He’s cuing up the band and lacing his shoes. He’s got a dance ready for you.”

I’ve never seen a couple who love to dance more than them. For decades, I watched them jitterbug and slow dance every chance they got. It’s one of my favorite memories of them together. Dancing. Twirling. Hand-in-hand their bodies moved together as if they were one person…and after 40+ years of marriage, they indeed were one.

They finished each other’s sentences, knew each other’s thoughts, understood their strengths and weakness, and always found a reason to laugh together.

From enjoying nightly ice cream while wearing shorts in upstate New York when it was negative degrees outside; to soaking up hours of sun on Florida beaches; to attending church and being involved in numerous ministries together; to never missing a family event at which my FIL always said with tear-filled eyes, “Thanks for including us,” these two were each other’s lives.

She’s felt his absence for the past 15 years. A piece of her died when he did. Her heart packed its bags on the day he drew his last breath and she has been ready to join him ever since.

But she’s said something so interesting to me over the past 15 years regarding his passing. She says that her prayer has always been to not let her feel the full weight of his loss.
And God has granted that request.
She tells us that she only remembers the good times they had and recalls very little about his illness, the ICU, his suffering and his death.
She credits God for granting her request to block that part of their life out so she only remembers the good.

Beautiful.

However, even more beautiful is that she is looking forward to seeing him again in heaven. She knows that she knows he and her family & friends are waiting for her.
I encourage her with Jesus’ words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14: 1-3)

Since they are both believers, my FIL is indeed waiting for her. He’s been saving a dance for her for 15 years. I can only imagine how they will glide across Heaven’s streets of gold to the rhythm of angel voices.

It is great fun, and so good, to look back on photos of wonderful memories and remanence over stories told a thousand times.

Nana, and all believers, also have a whole lot to look forward to.

Only God knows the day he will call her home. She believes it won’t be long. The doctors agree.
With her time left on this earth we’ll keep sharing photos and memories. We will continue to bond over stories past and present.
And we will, with great anticipation, follow Nana’s lead and look forward – and look forward to – all that is to come.
The eternal party is just getting started…

Lessons from Nana…Sojourn

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I tidied up while Bruce assisted Nana with her cell phone at Nana’s apartment the other day. She’s not only battling angiosarcoma but Alzheimer’s as well, and some days working the phone can be a challenge.

He played her voicemails on speaker while Nana sat quietly in her bedroom holding the phone in her hand as she stared into the distance listening to friends’ messages.

One of the messages captured my heart and spirit. I stopped what I was doing and just listened. Nana’s friend left a warm and loving message. She told Nana how much she and her friends miss her in NY and that she’s never far from thought or prayer. But then…

Then her friend did THE sweetest thing.

She said, “I know this is just a message, but I want to leave you with this.” She began to sing Amazing Grace. Nana’s friend sang Amazing Grace in the voicemail. A huge lump welled up in my throat. It felt like her friend was right here in the apartment, sitting with Nana, encouraging her spirit through song.

What happened next caused me to sit down in full attention to the moment.

Nana started to sing along to the message.

These two ladies, who have seen so much throughout their many decades, who have been married, had children, buried loved ones, lived through wars and presidents and social change, sat together virtually and sang Amazing Grace.

There are no words. It was one of the most precious moments in our entire Christmas season. Nana didn’t realize, or if she did she didn’t care, that Bruce and I could hear. She simply sat on the side of her bed and sang a favorite hymn with her dear friend.

I know there will come a day when Nana will join the choirs of heaven, leaving only the echo of her voice behind. Her friend knows it, too. And that is what is so tender. Her friend is helping Nana finish her race.

In that last mile, when runners are exhausted, their legs cramp, and with dry mouths they push through the fiery burn in their lungs and know its now or never to commit to finishing the race. It’s also known that most runners quit in the last leg with the finish line nearly in sight.

Nana’s friend knows this, and in the most beautiful way, she showed up to run with her. Through her words and song, she reminded Nana of who she is and whose she is.
She encouraged Nana to keep running when the body desperately wants to quit, and with Amazing Grace she strengthened Nana’s spirit so it will direct her body to keep running.

I’ve told my kids their whole lives that if they have just a couple of friends, those who are there for the long haul, those they wholeheartedly trust and can lean on no matter what, then they are rich beyond measure. It’s better to have a few close forever friends than many fair-weathered friends.

Nana has this relationship with her friend. A woman who fought the awkwardness of calling; overcame the discomfort of not knowing what to say; and mustered the courage to sing in a voicemail and to be there for a friend she dearly loves.

Nana’s friend touched all of us that day. Her call challenged me to be that kind of friend. It challenged me to let others be that kind of friend to me despite my insecurities.

Friends sojourn. They cheer, challenge and choose to show up no matter what. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).

I will never forget the example Nana’s friend set, unaware that anyone besides Nana would ever hear her message. Truly, God’s amazing grace is with Nana and is meeting her needs right where she is, right when she needs it.

Whose journey can we encourage today? Which friend needs a glass of water through kind words, a hug through prayer, or companionship to simply feel loved and remembered?
Let’s lace up our running shoes and get sojourning. There are races we are called to help run.

Lessons from Nana…Keep your sense of humor

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My mom always said, “You can laugh or cry so you mind as well laugh.” Mom and my MIL share this perspective.

Nana calls herself Silly Salli for a reason. She CHOOSES to stay silly. Fun. Lighthearted. She CHOOSES to laugh instead of cry. In fact, since the angiosarcoma struck in June of 2018, I have yet to see her cry about it. She’s gotten teary over the prospect of leaving family and friends, but not over having this disease.

People process life in different ways. The other night, my family had a great convo about cathartic vices. Some of our tribe cry, some listen to music, some go for a run and others veg in front of the tv. Processing is different for everyone because we are uniquely made…and that’s okay as long as the measures are healthy and safe.

So for Nana, on a bleak winter day, when it took mustering a lot of strength for her doctor’s appt, she still CHOSE to have some fun with it as seen in the pic below. I call it her “Elfie,” lol.

She didn’t want to be there. She didn’t want to have to talk at nauseam again about the angio and show yet another doctor its devastation. But she did, and she did so without complaint.

She CHOSE to smile through her weariness. She’s not of the mindset to “fake it till you make it.” She really does believe humor is her superpower. I agree.

I truly admire her ability to frame the bad and sadness with a spirit of gladness. She looks at her cup half full and believes in her core that no matter what happens to her body, humor is a CHOICE which nothing can take from her.

As she scooted her walker toward the exit, doing a little two-step soft-shoe along the way, she caught the eyes of a few nurses watching her with quizzical glances. Nana smiled at them and said, “Hey! I’m Silly Salli! It’s who I am!” Then they all started laughing with Nana’s contagious cheer.

If Nana can hang onto her humor in the battle for her life, I am challenged to unearth my sense of humor that layers of stress and hurt, emotion and angst have slowly buried in my heart over far less critical matters.

In this new year, let’s CHOOSE to find joy and happiness, laughter and lightheartedness, which are the fibers of our heart that God wove together to hold life’s ups and downs.
Let optimism and positivity shine through the darkness just like Nana did on that grey, cold day.

Even when the issue isn’t happy, we can be joyful. As believers, we’re not faking it either. After all, it’s not in our humanness that we find this power. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). It’s our CHOICE to look for and welcome the sunshine.

I pray that today, where God is shining a smile into the dark things of life, you will have eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to process and a heart to accept that even in the midst of the hard, we can lean on humor to lend us a hand out of the pit.

Lessons from Nana…Hope & Perseverance

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It was a gray, cold day as we sat in silence in the doctor’s office.
Nana wasn’t feeling well. She had a headache and was dizzy; two chronic issues with which she’s suffered her entire life.

Searching for conversation, I noted as I stared out the window how cozy the cloudy skies looked. Trying to spark a positive thought, I remarked how they make me feel blissfully sleepy and how wonderful it would be to curl up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket.

She replied, “Bleck.”

Oops, I forgot for a minute that she can’t stand overcast, cold days. My bad. And my fail as that didn’t work to uplift her spirits.

The doctor entered and we discussed her current health topics. But the overlying topic is her cancer, and it was why we were there. There’s just no good news. This type of cancer has one end. She knows it and I highly admire her strength to face it head-on.

The cancer has progressed. She’s living on borrowed time. As we sat together and the doctor did his thing, the only words I found hiding in my heart which peeked out merely as a weak whisper, overcome with empathy and enough panic for the both of us are, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

There is nothing else to say. There is nothing else we can do. For someone who likes to git ‘er done, I can’t do anything to heal her.

It’s then, as the doctor filled out paperwork and I stared awkwardly down at my shoes, she said with melancholy, “Just get me to Christmas.”

There was palatable silence in the room. A moment when the doctor paused his busyness and I gazed at the bare trees enveloped by ominous clouds. No one spoke.

But I prayed in my heart, “Amen, Lord. Let it be so. Please get Nana to Christmas.”

Her words haunt me. They won’t let me go. They’ve gripped my heart for days and I haven’t understood why. Then, God reminded me it is because they sound familiar. They feel familiar.

He led me to think about Joseph and Mary on their trek to Bethlehem. There were a couple of different routes they could have taken. Most speculate the distance was 70-100 miles which is anywhere from a 7-10 days walk. They mostly likely chose their route based on the terrain for her pregnant sake as well as the regional and social climate towards Jews where they had to pass.

It’s common thought that Mary rode on the back of a donkey. Nine months pregnant, riding on the back of a donkey, can we even begin to imagine what that was like?

I’ve ridden a mule. They are slow, but you also feel every move they make. Every bump and dip in the ground. Every shift of their weight to each of their four legs with each step. The jostling of the rider when the beast shakes the bugs from its face. The rider thrusting forward when the beast stops to eat or to itch its foot. The abrupt halts for reason or no reason at all. And the rider continually shifts their weight to counterbalance. There is constant movement between person and beast to maintain their cohesive center like a gyroscope.

It’s not a smooth ride. And to take that ride nine months pregnant, with a bladder bouncing up and down, the back and its vertebrae continually stretching and compressing, tense neck and shoulders working hard to coordinate with the legs and back, and leg muscles flexed tight to hold their grip, with the baby kicking and moving, not to mention hormones and all that comes with them – as woman who’s carried three children, I give total creds to Mary.

However, she could have also walked and used the donkey to carry their things. Given a donkey’s stubborn nature, they don’t make the best transportation. They are temperamental and unpredictable. They walk when they want, stop when they want, and let you think you’re leading. Given that, it could’ve been safer for Mary to walk. But walk all that way in her condition? Bless.
Who knows if she walked or rode? The Bible doesn’t give us those details, but we can look at cultural life at the time…and even today where donkeys are used as the baggage carrier, not the vehicle.

Either way, walking or riding 70-100 miles in one trip, fully pregnant, how many times she must have prayed under her breath, or even out loud, “God, just get me there. Get me to Bethlehem.”

Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem because of a government-required census. The birth of Christ that we celebrate had yet to happen. And this is what Nana is hoping for…to live long enough to celebrate Christmas, the birth of her Savior, one more time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…”

How hard the heart struggles to juggle the two; joyfully celebrating the birth of our Savior while feeling the tangible weight of eminent death of a loved one.
I’ve been here before, caught in a paradox of eternal life colliding with earthly death.

It was 1994 and Granddad had been suffering from lung cancer for the past three months. (It was actually the past five years, but the medical world kept reading his x-rays wrong and finally caught it…too late.) He was taken by ambulance to the ICU on December 23rd. My grandmother, husband, sister and her husband spent Christmas Eve in the ICU family waiting room taking turns to see him while obeying the hospital’s one-visitor-at-a-time rule.
We slept on the pleathor sofas and only went home to let out our dog, Molly, and feed her and our cats.

I brought Christmas paper plates and napkins, the banana bread baked for Christmas morning, and a cassette player with a cassette tape of Christmas music with me so we could somehow salvage a teeny bit of the feeling of Christmas at the hospital.

On Christmas Eve, I prayed one prayer as Granddad’s death was near. I prayed, “God, please don’t let him die on Christmas day. I don’t want his death to overshadow Christ’s birth for the rest of our lives. Please, not on Christmas.”

God answered that prayer. It was the morning after Christmas, December 26th, when the nurses rushed all of us into his room. It was time.

Suddenly, God commanded something utterly audacious of me. He told me to ask Granddad if he wanted to recommit his life to Christ, a deathbed confession of sorts. My Granddad was a good man. Giving, caring, kind. He attended church every Sunday. He tithed. He read The Upper Room devotional every single day. He blessed our meals and was an honest man.
However, I never heard him profess Christ as his Savior. Tho this wouldn’t be rare as he was a man of few words.

I deeply wrestled God with this request.
I said, “Who am I to question his faith?”
God said, “Do it.”
I pleaded, “I am the baby of the family. It’s not my place.”
God said, “Do it.”
I begged, “Please don’t ask me to do this. I’m not comfortable with this.”
He said, “You have to do it, and do it now.”
“Okay.”

So, I did.

Physically shaking and feeling like I was going to throw up, I gathered all the courage I could find in my 24 year-old self and stuttered as I searched for the words that would be both dignified and respectful to Granddad, the patriarch of our family, as he laid there unable to move or speak.

I leaned in close to him and looked into his crystal blue eyes, and with a quivering lip I asked, “Granddad, would you like to recommit your life to Christ?”
I choked back the lump in my throat and gripped my neck which was stinging with pain and stress. I said to him, “I know you can’t talk, so if you want to, just nod your head.” Then I waited with bated breath for his response. Afterall, this was God’s idea, not mine.

Shockingly, he stared back at me and nodded yes. I was stunned and speechless!

“Okay. I will pray the prayer for you out loud, and you nod your head in agreement at the end, okay?”

He nodded yes.

I gently rested my hand on his arm and prayed. I wasn’t eloquent or wordy. A simple prayer owning sin and asking for God’s grace and forgiveness through Christ’s bloodshed and death on the cross and resurrection – all confessing he is our Lord. Amen.

Granddad nodded in agreement and within moments…he died.

I felt sick to my stomach and relieved at the same time. My insecurities almost made me refuse to do what God was asking. But thankfully God chases after us and won’t let us go like the Good Father he is when he draws his children close.

The emotions of that Christmas bring back mixed memories. But they also remind me that God answered my prayer of waiting until the day after Christmas to call Granddad home.

I’m thinking about Mary and how she must have prayed to make it to Bethlehem so her baby could be born in a proper place – though little did she know there’d be nothing proper about a stable for animals as Christ’s first nursery.

Yet, who defines proper? We can’t understand how our King could be allowed to be born among the animals and their waste. However, if that is the starting point to his life on this earth, then with whom can’t Jesus relate? Who is beyond his understanding? For whom would he not have compassion?

And as only God can orchestrate, Mary, Granddad and my mother-in-law are woven together in the salvation trifecta of life, death, and death after life.

Only God can create a way for life and death to coexist and give Hope a voice amidst the longest journeys, scariest moments and darkest hours.

Hope fuels Perseverance. It gave strength to Mary mile-after-mile. It gave Granddad the will to wait for one last prayer. It gives my mother-in-law the courage to suffer until Christmas so she can participate in the joy of the One who makes everyday worth living. The One for whom we would give our lives. The One who will raise us to eternal life at our last earthly breath.

Christ is our eternal hope. He is the reason for perseverance. He was these for Mary, he is for us, and he is for my mother-in-law.

Where the doctors give us no good news for Nana’s prognosis, we hang on to the Good News that cannot be governed by the laws of nature.

Read Luke 2:8-11 with me. “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (emphasis mine).

Mary cradled the Good News in her arms. Grandad clung to the Good News in his last breaths. Nana fights to celebrate the Good News one more time on earth before seeing Jesus in eternity.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? Why are you persevering through the days leading up to it?

Perhaps you are hoping to make it TO Christmas. But perhaps you’re hoping to make it THROUGH Christmas. Perhaps you are at peace with either, if you can only persevere in the meantime.

Is your prayer for life like Mary’s, or regarding death like mine? Is it somewhere in the vast myriad between the two?

In this season of hope, I encourage you to persevere. No matter the journey you’re asked to travel, circumstances beyond your control, or news you must accept, may the hope of Christ sustain your heart. May perseverance breathe life into your soul.
May both refocus our attention on why we are celebrating the News that is GOOD All. The. Time. 

 

Lessons from Nana…Christmas expectations

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Bruce and I helped Nana put up her tree yesterday. As she looked through her bag of ornaments, and we scurried around setting up decorations at exhausting warp speed, she stopped and said, “You know, it’s okay not to put everything out. Let’s just do the sentimental ones.”

Nana wasn’t feeling great. The pain from her cancer was strong. She loves Christmas, and crazy as it sounds to me, they’ve been known to leave their Christmas tree up in NY until March!!!!!!!

This day she was tired. And she ponders her grim prognosis more.
But what I love is she has the wisdom to know when to say when. Tucking some decorations and ornaments back in their boxes doesn’t mean she has any less Christmas spirit. This season she knows her limits and is okay to listen to them.

She said, “When I sleep I just want to feel the quiet.” To her, that means less is more this year.

Like Nana, let’s embrace the permission to say when. Whether it’s decorating, cooking, shopping, or social commitments – of which this beautiful season brings many – let’s keep our lists simple so that when we rest we can feel the quiet of the sacred Silent Night.

And instead of diminishing Christmas with less bells & whistles, it can actually make the season mean even more. More time to reflect. More energy to spend with loved ones. More sentimental moments. More of our focus on the One for whom this giant birthday party is all about.
Nana is more than good with less. Let’s follow her example and simply enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.