Happy Friday morning to all from the Cardiac Unit of Carolinas HealthCare System...
As I sit here in the hospital room with my mom I find my self reflecting quite a bit on the past six months...
My mom had an event on Thursday of last week that seemed a bit like anxiousness and she experienced some shortness of breath, she had another event on Saturday that led her to venture to the ER, she experienced arm and jaw discomfort which made her feel as if she was having a heart attack. She was released from the ER with an order to follow up with her Cardiologist and a prescription for Nitroglycerin. At her follow up she was scheduled for a heart cath yesterday that revealed a big problem! She has a very tight blockage in a very tricky spot that was not easily accessible for a stint placement. She was transferred to a larger medical center for potential open heart surgery/bypass. Today we wait on the Cardiologist and the Thoracic Surgeon to confer and determine the course of action and schedule of events for her. Thoughts, prayers, positive energy and crossed fingers are appreciated as we face the unknown.
I made a quick update last Tuesday but realize I didn't divulge the whole story... Life has actually been quite manic.
There have been a lot of really great times, wonderful times actually. We have had a lot of fun pre-wedding events, birthdays, this is a big year for my oldest daughter in her senior year of high school and we were married. All of these have been our "Good Times"!!
There has also been a lot of really horrible times. Our last half year or so really has felt a lot like to image above! In May I lost my Papa Mayer, my mothers father, and in July I lost my best friend, my Nana Smith, my dad's mom. I can't even type that sentence with out my eyes welling up with tears. Both were unexpected they both died after brief illnesses. I don't think I will ever get over this. It has been very difficult to keep going in a forward moving motion and hard to remember to be happy in all the good.
My Papa, who I lost in May, was a decorated World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy. He was 97 years old. Born in Milwaukee County, Wis., He served in the U.S. Navy on the USS Copahee in the South Pacific and spent time on a variety of the islands in the South Pacific. After returning home from his service he worked for Trade Press Publishing Company until his retirement in 1981 at age 65. In 1983 he and his wife (my Nana Mayer who we lost in 2008 to Parkinson's Disease) retired to the beautiful foothills of North Carolina and made their home where they enjoyed the rest of their years. He enjoyed woodworking, fishing, landscaping, making and inventing things that made life easier and was quite the jokester. My Papa was a great man! He was the kind of man all men should strive to be. He loved his family, he loved his wife and he loved his life. He was gentle yet strong. He lived life the way it is supposed to be lived and he built a pretty incredible family that I am proud to be a small part of. I can't tell you how hard this hit my family.
My Nana, who I lost two months later in July, she was so devoted to her family,.She was 89 years old. She was born in the South Mountains of North Carolina and she lived her life, built her home, lived and raised her family here. She was one of a kind. She enjoyed dancing, gardening, quilting, picking berries, stringing beans, cooking, canning and visiting with and tending to her family. She made the best buttermilk biscuits you would ever eat. She truly was my very best friend and I was able to deliver the eulogy for my Nana at her service, this is a little glimpse of what my Nana means to me:
My Nana Smith was more than my grandmother, she was my nana and she was my best friend. We all are so heartbroken. I have so much I could say; there isn’t enough room on these papers or enough time in the day to get it all out. I wanted though to take a moment to say some things about my nana because she means so much to our family. She taught so many life lessons and she is the glue that kept us all together! While many of these are my memories, I bet most of them we all share!
I have so many memories of spending time with her as a child killing mice in the smoke house, feeding apples to her cows, dancing with her and poodle dog in the basement, going to the fish camp to eat fish with eyes, listening to her stories of dancing at the dance halls (painting pictures of it in my imagination), picking up cans along the side of the road so she could sell them, picking blackberries, blueberries, grapes (getting seriously attacked by bees) and strawberries (do you remember when she made the paper, that was big time for her), she taught me how to make jam and cobbler, often times we spent our Saturdays driving around from dump to dump to see what treasures we might find, it was actually quite fun and we always came home with cool finds, I loved stringing beans with her, collecting eggs from the chickens, and eating as many of her buttermilk biscuits as possible, good God is there anything on earth better than those? There are so many things about life with her that I am going to miss! I am so thankful for the ability to remember her.
She taught me an early life lesson that life is so full and wonderful when you open up and let it all in.
My nana in her later years enjoyed eating lunch at the soup kitchen from time to time and she’d tell me tales of the people she’d meet there.
She taught me to never be too proud, I have worked the soup kitchen, we must always remain humble.
She was a hard worker; she always worked, doing something. She would tell me about her working in mills as a young girl and the first thing she bought with her paycheck, she told me about working in the rest home as an older woman. In the last 10 years she has worked hard in her garden and collecting her wood. Always busy, always at work. She enjoyed so much “working” this last year at Generations too. Every time I saw her she’d talk about her job. How she and my cousin Tammy worked at the same place (now you know that made her feel like something). She had a strong work ethic and passed that along to her children and grandchildren.
She taught me to work hard, we are not owed a job, you must work hard for it, work is good and we are fortunate to have work to do! Work for what you have, work puts food on our tables.
I tell people often about how simply she lived, how she had this beautiful house that she and her husband worked hard for but for as long as I can remember she lived in the comfort of the cozy basement with the cinder block walls and her two beds, some chairs/sofas, cupboards, dinner table, wood heat stove, wood cook stove and few refrigerator/freezers and the toilet behind the curtain wall with the wash bowl to wash your hands. While to some this may seem different to me it was nana and I loved it! As I got older it helped me stay grounded.
She taught me that no matter what you may have it’s the simple things that mean the most.
She worked for several years to teach me how to make her biscuits. She told me she made them with her mommy for as long as she could remember. I’d watch her put White Lilly Flour in the bowl (now ya’ll get out you pens and paper… White Lilly self rising… no other will do), she’d make a well in the middle, she’d put about this much shortening and then about this long of a pour of butter milk (you all got that?) then she’d kneed until it “felt right” and then she’d put them in the oven. I almost have her biscuits down but I am convinced I probably need a wood cook stove (Ashley), maybe that is the secret; I just about have it but not quite. I will keep practicing till I get it and I will let my brothers and cousins be the judge!
And yet another life lesson that if it doesn’t feel right, well it’s not!
When picking berries or green beans I was always impressed with how many she’d collect in the same amount of time that I collected only a few. Early on I watched her and saw that she didn’t just go for the shiny plump berries or fat long green beans, she grab them all, she pulled them all off and filled her bucket to the rim! And now so do I!
Here is another lesson, fill your life up! Be accepting of all, you can always weed out the bad ones latter!
She told me a lot about what the old people did, when they planted what seeds, when they covered what seeds and how they knew it would frost. The old people knew a lot about the seasons and gardening.
I learned from her to respect my elders and to listen to the old people because every time they got it right!
She was always packing if you know what I mean… my girls will never forget little nana grabbing her gun to shoot some birds that were getting in her garden.
She taught us to protect what is yours.
We loved our girl talk on Sunday afternoons! We talked about almost everything! She especially loved talking with us about boys she loved to hear about when the girls started to court, she was pretty hands on when the girls hit puberty (I’ll let you ask them about that) she would always ask about my old man ha ha and I bet there isn’t a person in here we didn’t talk about! Always good stuff, always good stuff (and if I know your secrets I promise to never tell!!!) I am just kidding, she never had a cross word to say about anyone. She loved her family and friends, she loved her siblings, her children, her neighbors, nieces, nephews, her friends, us grandchildren and all her great grandchildren, she even had the opportunity to meet a great-great grandchild. She was proud of her family and she knew that she in part made all of us and certainly helped mold us into who we are; she loved her family and friends more than anything else in this world.
I have learned through her that family is everything that is real and valuable, without family there is nothing.
She loved it we people came for visits and loved visiting her people! She loved going and was on the go a lot for many years. I can’t tell you how many times I came home to a pair of shoes, a can of beans or a tomato or two on my doorstep. She was such a giver, always thinking about others before herself.
I learned that true generosity means giving without expecting anything in return.
I am so blessed to have had the relationship with her that I did. My dad is who I can attribute that to. As kids he would pile us in the car and we’d go out to Golden Valley what seemed like every free moment we had and we’d spend hours sitting with Grandma Hudson. While they’d talk I’d watch her brush and brush her long grey hair and in one swoop it was up in a bun. I named my Tessie after her. When my girls were little I prayed that God would let me keep my grandparents for “just 10 more years at least” because I wanted my girls to have as fond memories as I do. My prayer was answered, I was lucky enough to get almost 17 extra years with my nana. Madie will be seventeen in a little over a month. When my girls were born my relationship with my nana grew even stronger. She made it her job these last 17 years to take care of us. She stopped smoking when Madie was born and when I had Tess she began babysitting them so I could go to school. She’d drive over and take care of them at my house a day or so a week. We began going to her house on the weekends and for almost 11 years while it was just us girls she’d make us boxes of food to take home and pick us up clothes and shoes any chance she could. She wanted to take care of us. She gave us blankets every winter and would call us the next morning to make sure we slept warm enough. Even though technically we were able to take care of ourselves it was important to her and I knew that and in a very deep rooted way she did take care of us. We are forever intertwined and she is forever etched into our hearts and souls. She tried often to talk me into getting married. I have wondered lately if maybe she held out until now for me.
She taught me to stand by those you love through good times and bad, believe in your children and grandchildren, she taught me to take care of the ones you love. She was, is and always will be my very best friend; she knew more about me than I knew about myself. I will miss her terribly.
She adored her children, she would often say how she wished they were little again so they could live with her and she could take care of them. I truly believe this last year or so that she got to live with them made her so happy! She finally had that opportunity to tend to them and take care of them even though they thought they were caring for her.
She was a woman of extreme strength, courage and love. Her hardships were many but her worries were few. She built a beautiful family and taught us all so much about life. We will carry on her lessons, carry on her spirit, carry on all the things that made her alive and vibrant, and joyous and loving. We are all branded by her and while life will never be the same without her we will carry her on in our hearts for generations to come.
When we buried her, it was a beautiful day, just like the days she loved most. It was a day of honor and remembrance and a true celebration of her life. On the Sunday before her funeral I went with my brother to her house so he could gather dirt from her garden and then we traveled to her beloved home place, Golden Valley, to gather dirt as well. Our girls gathered grape vines, blueberry bush branches, morning glories and flowers that she tended in her garden for many years and made a beautiful cross. My brother and I collected every wild flower for 30 or 40 miles between her home in and Golden Valley where she was raised. There was something comforting about spending our afternoon in all the places our nana loved, gathering bits of all those places to bring with us for her funeral. We placed the wild flowers in a vase at the funeral and later placed them on her grave. At the cemetery our girls gently laid the cross across her casket where it remained for her burial. Our family stayed at the cemetery as they so tenderly lowered her casket into the earth and then we each took a silent turn sprinkling the soil from her garden and the soil from Golden Valley over her casket. Her garden soil was so rich and beautiful and it was so special to be able to do that for her, sending her off with the dust, truly, from which she came. I know that she was so honored by this and it was so healing for us. We have a long journey ahead of us but I know she is resting in peace. She is so loved by so many and she is forever etched into our hearts.
We will never fully recover from our losses but we look forward to sharing with you all the good that has happened these past few months and getting back to sharing our adventures.
On All Saints Sunday at my Church this prayer was printed in our bulletin, it was perfect and fitting and reminded me of my Nana and Papa.
Please keep my family in your thoughts, it's been a rough couple of months and now here we are again worried yet hopeful for a positive outcome for my mother.