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I got it

Listening to our grand-daughter, MJ, I can’t help but chuckle every time she says these three words: “I got it!”

Jumping into the pool … I got it!

Opening her juice box … I got it!

Putting on her sandals … I got it!

You name it, she’s got it.  And as someone who’s soon to be 3, this is an important phrase to learn and commandeer so cheerfully.

Thinking back over the past three weeks, I reflect on the hours spent sitting with my friend at her mother’s bedside.   Cancer.  Terminal. Time for Hospice. Nothing more they can really do. Just keep her comfortable. It won’t be long.

Short sentences, spoken in hushed tones.

We watched as she and her husband moved her Mom into their home and set up “shop” in the living room, right in the middle of the action.  Near the kitchen and the TV and the dinner table, exactly where she wanted to be.

Hubbs and I visited often, sitting with them all and sometimes the guys would slip out back to stand under the stars and get away from the inevitable.  And sometimes we did, too.

This friend is the child in her family who takes care of everyone, makes sure holidays are organized, helped others pay their bills, cooked and cleaned for her Mom and worked a full-time job. She’s been the go-to gal and her stepping forward and taking on this next step was not a surprise, as daunting as it was.

I visited with her and her Mom every day of my vacation and last Monday before I left for St. Louis.  Truthfully, we were amazed she was still hanging on.  But spirit does that sometimes; sometimes there are words left unsaid and work yet to be done.

Sons and cousins, aunties and friends stopped to see her one last time and I’ve pondered on how difficult those visits can be.  How tough it is to say what you mean to say as emotions are strangling your words.   I listened when my friend shared moments of awe and wonder:  her Mom rocking a baby she’d lost years ago and asking where those little girls went, the ones who’d been playing near her just now.  When I thought she was sleeping her eyes would pop open and she’d smile at me and say, “Nice dress, where’d ya get it?”  Then we’d laugh and we’d cry and we’d laugh again.

I watched the fatigue etch my friend’s face as days turned into weeks, surviving on coffee and snippets of sleep.

I saw the love in her eyes as she tenderly washed her Mother’s face and helped the Home Health Aide change the sheets.  The sounds of game shows and gospel music permeated the room.

When I got back into town Friday, it was Hubbs who’d committed us to visiting that evening.  Hubbs –  who’d rather be outside for the rest of his life than be in and face what was transpiring – but he did, because somehow he had a feeling and he was right.

And, as was our pattern, we hugged and comforted and laughed and cried and when asked how her Mom was my friend asked, “do you want to come see?” and I said “yes I do.”  We saw the shift those four days had taken on her, on all of them.  The time was nearing and it was soon.

And that’s when little Miss MJ’s words came to me.

I leaned down, placed my hand on her Mother’s arm and whispered, “I got it.  I got your girl and I will help her through this; I don’t want you to worry about it … we’ll make sure she’s OK.”

I don’t know if she heard me but I like to think she did.

My friend heard and we hugged as she cried and it wasn’t long before my tears matched hers.  And as we stood there facing what was to come, we saw her Mom relax a little.  Sitting down, we said a prayer for her homecoming and for strength and courage in the days ahead.   And with that her Mother, by now resembling a little baby bird, grabbed her wings and flew on home.

* * *

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  Psalms 23:4

* * *

Have you ever witnessed death? 

How did the experience affect you?

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Categories: fear, Forgiveness, Grief, Growth, Life, Personal, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

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41 thoughts on “I got it

  1. MJ, my thoughts and prayers are with all of you. To answer your question, yes, 20 years ago today I sat with my daddy as he took his last breath. I similarly said I got it… I told him I’d take care of my mom… A tear rolled down his face and he was gone… I believe it’s a blessing and honor to be with someone as they pass from this worldly life and into the hands of God.
    ~Sandi

    • Thank you, Sandi. What are the chances that I’d write this on this date that’s so significant to you? *Chills*. I agree, it is a blessing and an honor to be present. I thought I might be scared or freaked out but I had a job to do and that steadied me. Stumbling through a home-made prayer, I remembered this quote, “Our prayers may be awkward, our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado

      I’m sure you’re missing your Dad today and always.

      MJ

      • It’s pretty amazing that you posted this while I was taking a break from writing my post! I LOVE that quote! It’s been a hard day, being so far from family and it didn’t help,that I was watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy Season 5 on my iPad… I’m so glad you were able to do your “job” and do it with so much grace 🙂

      • Thank you, Sandi, for sharing. I hope that you have peace today. MJ

      • Thanks, MJ. Just writing it out helps.

  2. I will keep the family in my prayers as they grieve
    God Bless
    susie

  3. Beautiful post……touches me in many, many ways. Peace to all.

  4. Beautifully touching MJ. Similar experience with my sister. She was end stage ovarian cancer and home w/ hospice…she would never speak of dying for all the years she struggled w/ oc. Then, three days before she passed we were sitting on the couch and she said to me, “She died today” I asked, “who?” and she replied, “I did” It was the first time she spoke of death, and I held her hand and said, similarly to you, it’s ok… trust…we’ll all be here for the girls (her young daughters). In my deepest heart I believe her spirit really took flight that day, she stopped speaking afterward. The physical body (only 46) however, lingered.
    I’ve believed for a LONG time that the curriculum for life should include presence at (minimum) one birth and one death. We’ve made both coming and going so antiseptic in our culture, and it is our loss.
    *anna

    • Oh, Anna, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal experience. What a moment you had with your sister; I am so sorry for your loss.

      I agree that things have been made far too sterile and the reality is … as much as it hurts, death is part of life.

      MJ

  5. The first time I met my Wife’s family, was at her Grandmother’s funeral. What a time to be introduced. We were still dating, and I did not mind not being noticed. Again, the next time I saw her family was at on of her Uncle’s funeral. I wasn’t sure what to think. But when they saw I was not just a fling, and was standing by her for when she needed me, they began to accept me. I always thought that that is what made me stand out from anyone else. Being there in the good times is easy, it is in those difficult times where we see a difference.

    Thank you for sharing. Many prayers for your friend’s family and for yours as well. I will light a candle tonight.

    • Thank you, Mac. Somehow, knowing you a little bit, I am not surprised that you were the “stand up” guy who stayed in the hard times for your girl. I can see that.

      Thank you for the prayers and for the candle; I am sure it all helps.

      MJ

  6. I was given the gift of sitting with my Mom is her last week of life. There is so much to see and learn. There are so many parallels to what I experienced in what you have written. There was one day Mom took us on a tour of the neighborhood she grew up in…all the names of the people that lived there. She kept waving her hand at the ceiling, she said she was saying hi to all the people waving back. One thing she did that puzzled us – as she lay in bed she’d bring her hands up and intermingle her fingers as if she was knitting something. This went on for two days every so often. Finally my sister sat on the bed next to her and asked what she was doing. My Mom held her hands apart as if holding whatever she was knitting by the edges and handed it to my sister, who gently took it from her. Still holding the invisible piece my sister asked “What’s that?”. My Mom burst out laughing and said, “There’s nothing there.” My Mom the prankster…even in death.

    It was my Dad’s passing that really convinced me of a spiritual world. He was lying in the hospital, jaundiced from kidney and liver failure. The rest of the family had gone to lunch but I walked in his room to see he was sleeping. I reached over the railing and took his hand in mine. His eyes fluttered open. When he saw me he turned his head and said, “I’m already there.” I said “I know”. He died within 18 hours.

    No one should ever die alone. The fact that you all were there shows love and respect for those important in our lives, be they the ill or the family members.

    • Thank you, Coop, for sharing your experiences with your parents. Wow … what a journey, hey? The prankster cracked me up, thank you for that.

      You’re right, no one should ever die alone … and it was my privilege to have been there for my friend and her Mom.

      Hugs
      MJ

  7. MJ, your words are beautiful. I appreciate the sense of peace that permeates through each and every line. My heart goes out to you, your friend and her family.

    • Thank you, LD. We will all be there at some point. I don’t have a lot of experience with it but I am grateful that, in that moment, grace found me. They were not my words that were spoken, they were His. Of that I am sure.

      MJ

  8. MJ, many times those near death need to know their family will be okay without them. You gave that mother the reassurance she was waiting for, giving her permission to complete her journey. Well done!
    Keep the Faith!

    • I agree; I hadn’t “pre-thought” it at all … but at that moment, the words came. I am grateful for His grace and the words that comforted both her Mom and my friend. It was an experience that I will be forever grateful for, as weird as that sounds.

      MJ

  9. Well done MJ.
    R

  10. Oh, MJ, what a beautiful and moving post–poignant and touching in a deeply personal and profound way. You are dear. Blessing to you–and to your friend.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    • thank you, Kathy … there were moments of laughter co-mingled with tears… and somehow, in those saddest of instances, I was given the strength to help my friend through. I am thankful to have been there.

      It was not scary and it wasn’t dark. It was powerful and moving and life-changing, all in one.

      Hugs
      MJ

  11. What a heart-breaking experience for all of you. I admire your strength; the strength it took to go visit often. To find ways to comfort your friend and her mom. That is a gift not everyone possesses.

    • Well I can assure you that, walking in there, I didn’t think I had “it” either.

      Still not so sure … but there are moments in our lives that are “defining” and this was one of them. Somehow grace found me, it wasn’t of me but through me, of that I am sure.

      MJ

    • PS you would do the same, of that I know.
      MJ

  12. Watched death too many times; I’ve also faced the Reaper myself a few times, and got a few nicks in the process. The main thing it does is reminds you of your own mortality, and that the time you get in this life is limited and much too short.

    • You are so right, Bob. It is a very literal reminder of what the h**@ are we worried about all this other stuff for?

      Life is short, but it’s awfully long if you’re miserable and I am determined to never be that.

      To that point, I wore my cutest dress and snappiest shoes to the funeral. Why? ‘Cause Madeline (the gal that passed away) would have totally loved it. I rocked it out just for her.

      Thanks for your kind words,
      MJ

  13. This was beautiful…so moving.

    I cared for my mother-in-law during her struggle with terminal lung cancer. I wrote about it here: http://k8edid.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/the-silence-the-end/

    The description of the “command post” set up in the living room is exactly what we had for Betty. She loved sitting at her desk near her favorite window – she could watch hummingbirds, neighbors, traffic, children. When it came time to place a hospital bed for her there was no other location that would do.f

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been meaning to come by for a while.

    • Thank you, K8. Since you’ve been through this I am sure that what I wrote is all very familiar to you; this was lung cancer as well. Horrible stuff.

      The command post was right in the middle of the action and she loved that; I think I’d be the same way.

      Come back soon!
      MJ

  14. Thank you for choosing to write what you do as you do. You faced this with strength and just knowing where you were led to go. I read this yesterday and now I come back to comment with thoughts less muddled.

    I have a sad update since I have written about her (read on) in my posts and even a picture. Just last week, the kids had to put Zena down – 15 1/2 yrs. old – they chose to do it at home. It fills my heart they chose to face this in this way.

    • Thank you, Georgette. Having a job to do and someone to help actually helped me.

      I am sorry to hear about Zena; I know you all loved her so much and I am sure it brought her comfort to be at home with her family.

      MJ

  15. What a beautiful post! And what a wonderful thing to share with this dying woman. You are an inspiration. I know just what you mean, how difficult it is to be with someone who is coming to the end of their life. I’ve struggled with this, as most people do, sooner or later. I think we fret about what to say. But what is most important is that we are just there.
    Blessings to your friend and her family! ~ Sheila

    • Thank you, Sheila. I agree that most of us fear saying the right thing … the challenge is in risking saying anything at all. I didn’t want to take that risk so I dove in!
      Far better to try and bumble through than to have regrets later
      hugs
      MJ

  16. I was the first on the scene at a fatal car accident. The driver was unconcious but I held her hand and told her to look for the light and go that way. She took a few more breaths and then left. I could almost see her spirit leave. I’ll never forget it.

  17. MJ, I am SOOOOO late reading this post, but I had to comment anyway. As tears stream down my face, I just wanted to say that your comment to your friend’s mother was perfect. I’m sure it helped comfort her as she knew her time was nearing. What a wonderful friend you (and your hubbs!) are. Old friends are the dearest.

    • thank you, Dianna. I really do feel led to speak up. I had been encouraging my friend to say whatever needed to be said but, until those last moments, I hadn’t considered that her Mom might need to hear those words as well.

      Thank you for understanding. It was beautiful and gutwrenching, all in one.
      MJ

  18. Pingback: On value, growth and being seen | Emjayandthem's Blog

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