Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Politics bore me out of my mind. I've never been interested. I cooperate with the democratic system of this country mostly out of guilt...I'm supposed to care; I'm supposed to vote. I have rarely thought that any given candidate was the savior he, or she, proclaimed. A couple of writers sum it up well for me. I'm an avid South Park fan. I think Trey Parker and Matt Stone are brilliant and hilarious, often giving bold statements about current social issues. As the last Presidential election was taking place in 2004, these boys decided to make their statement about the election. To date, it is absolutely one of my favorite episodes. The boys of South Park have to elect a new school mascot. The choices, one named by Kyle, the other named by Cartman are a Giant Douche Bag and a Turd Sandwich. (Sorry for the crasness...I didn't make this up!!) Their friend, Stan, decides that he doesn't like either candidate and refuses to vote. Bad things begin to happen for poor Stan. Ultimately, following his dad's encouragement, he decides to cast his vote. Stan's father, in all of his wisdom, says, "Son, you are always going to have to choose between a Giant Douche Bag and a Turd Sandwich." Brilliant.

I wouldn't actually characterize either of this years' candiates with those descriptors, but...I'm still flipping a coin. Over the past few years I have felt the spiritual changes in me begin to bleed over into politics. I wish that wasn't the case. Like I said, politics bores me out of my mind. I'm not very educated, and I have absolutely no desire to be smart about politics. Nevertheless, I have been paying attention during this year's campaign. I'm intrigued. At times confused. Usually frustrated. So, I'm watching the DNC. Next week I'll watch the RNC. Maybe I'll learn something!! Doubtful, but there's always hope.

Here's what I really want to say. This country made history today. The United States of America elected the 1st Black presidential nominee. I watched the news this afternoon as the delegate roll call was taken, and the Speaker of the House made it official. Despite whatever apathy I generally have towards politics, I felt unbelievable proud today. I guess there's also a part of it that highlights an embarrasing aspect of our culture. It's unbelievable to me that in the year 2008, blacks and whites still experience so much inequality. But that feeling holds a back seat, at least for today. I just feel very, very proud. I don't know if this is the right guy. I hope he is; I want him to be. Elected as President or not, history was made. And I think that's pretty damn cool.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August 16, 2004

Today marks time again for me. It's been 4 years since my daddy, 60 years old, died of cancer. North Texas had been experiencing unseasonably cool weather during the previous week. Each morning I would sit on his deck and drink my coffee. The temperature had been in the 60's during the mornings. That just doesn't happen in Texas in August. The morning of the 16th was beautiful. Cool, and quiet. The stillness is one of the things I enjoyed so much about where he lived. As I sat there enjoying the coolness, I kept thinking, "this is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." Moments later, I walked back in to find that Daddy had taken his last breath in this world.

I'm struck right now at the irony of remembering the verse that was going through my head, and the night that I had just gone through with him and his passing that morning. I haven't talked about that last night much. I guess I felt it selfish to talk about about me during the time that he was dying. After 4 years, I really don't think about that night much. During this last week, though, I've been reminded in a way that caught me off guard. If you'll indulge me, I'll tell you my story.

I've always been a fan of the Olympics. I watch them contstantly when they are on. I probably enjoy the Summer Olympics most; particularly basketball and softball. As this year's Games started, I really haven't been very interested. I'm interested in knowing results, but as for watching the games non-stop I really haven't had any interest. There was something to this disinterest that I just couldn't put my finger on. A few nights ago, I realized what it was. The last time the Summer Olympics were played, daddy was dying. And I had particular memories from the night before he passed. It was startling to me making the connection. I find that, though I miss him, the intensity of that loss has lessened over the years. But this moment shook the dust off those feelings and I cried as hard as I have in 4 years. During the months before he died, I consumed myself with information about death and dying. I learned that the body and mind goes through a very predictable process when it is dying. At least with those who are terminally ill. His hospice nurse told us early in the week prior that his death would be soon. The 16th that year was on a Monday. We were blessed that up until Saturday, he was conscious much of the time, knew who everyone was and could have coherent conversations with us. That really ended on Saturday when he pretty much lost consciousness. My husband arrived late Saturday and I woke him. He knew who Wes was and said hello, but that was the last time he was awake. Late on Sunday afternoon, his body began to show signs that his death was imminent. His breathing changed..."fish out-of-water" breathing it's called. His eyes started doing weird things. We knew. All of my siblings, but one were already there. We called my other sister and she joined us. Another sister called a couple of friends from her church. Two wonderful women came and sat with us till midnight. Hospice recommended that we begin giving him morphine every 30 minutes or so. So, there we all were: sitting, giving medicine and waiting. At one point, I took his Bible and started reading scriptures. Everyone who was there chimed in with requests to read their favorite verses. We read for almost an hour. Around midnight the dear friends left and I needed some space. So, I took a shower. With 10 or so people in this small house, I figured that the shower was my only option for solitude. I took a really long shower. I expected that my brothers and sisters would take turns staying up and giving daddy the morphine (though I knew I wouldn't sleep). When I came out of the shower, though, everyone had picked a corner of the house and were asleep. So, I stayed up. I sat by his bed, gave him medicine at the right intervals, counted breathes, counted the amount of time that he didn't take a breathe...for hours. When I would feel sleepy, I would sit by a wall and play solitaire. And all the while, the same loop of Olympic coverage was playing. I couldn't find the remote or I might have changed the channel. Around 4 am, he started making some weird, loud sounds. It freaked me out, so I called hospice. Moments later, a nurse called me 4 am. She told me I was doing fine, what daddy was doing was normal and that I could increase the morphine. As I side note in this story, I want to say that Hospice nurses are the walking angels on this earth. I will always remember the sweet woman that was daddy's nurse that last week, Edwina. They are some of the most loving and compassionate people I have ever been priviledged to meet. Yes, they know how to care for the dying with great dignity, but they also spend just as much time caring for the living. By sunrise, daddy had settled. His breathing was much easier. Around 10am is when he took his last breath. It was a really hard night for me. I don't know what the dying are aware of or not aware of. I hope those last hours were not spent with him knowing pain. I carried a great burden of that for a long time; wondering if i did enough for him. Those images of watching him, listening to him, counting breathes...those images stayed with me a long time. And yet, I would not have wanted it to be any different. I'm grateful to have been with him those last hours whether he knew it or not. I held his hand, and at times hummed through the songs that I would later sing at his service. I hope this this somehow made a difference.

During the months preceeding his death, I spent much time thinking about what I believe about heaven, or at least what happens to us when we die. I'm still not sure exactly what I believe. I'm not sure I believe in the "streets of gold" that my Baptist heritage would sing of. I think life, after this life, is much bigger than that. I do believe our spirit is with God, though I also believe that we are always with God. Maybe it's that we just return to our most pure and perfect state. Later that day we were at the funeral home when they finished preparing his body. I dreaded this moment and was last behind my step-mother and siblings to walk up to the casket. The instant I walked up to him though, I felt a unexplainable calm and peace that I was experiencing so often during the previous months. I took one look at him and my thought was, "This is not my daddy. He's not here." And I actually smiled. I saw a very sick body that fought a very long battle, but his spirit was no longer there.

The next day over 100 people came to his viewing. There were almost 400 at his funeral. He was well loved. It really was a celebration of a very rich life. We showed dozens of pictures while I sang 6 songs that he had chosen. He had asked a couple of other people to talk or read. He planned everything. He wanted this day to celebrate his life. "No gloom and doom," to quote him. It was a wonderful and special time. We didn't actually bury him until the next day. He is buried about 45 minutes from where I live. I'm so grateful. I go there often; including this day. Many family members came to his graveside and most shared a story about him...including a high school girlfriend!! It was a hard week. It was sad. And it was beautiful.

Thanks for listening to my long story. I'm leaving now to go to the cemetary. Each year I write a letter to him, and read it while I'm there. I t's a ritual that has brought me much comfort. I love this cemetary. It's an old hay field, really. But it's beautiful and serene. And of course, I always cook to remember him on special days. Tomorrow I'm making peach cobbler. yum!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The time has come

Today is TJ's last day at home. We leave for Illinois tomorrow. Not to be melodramatic, but it just feels a little surreal right now. I can't believe how fast 4 years have gone!! My house just isn't going to be the same; I can't even imagine him not being here. I have to figure out how to cook for 2 again, instead of 3...I'm mean 4. The boy can eat! No more football games and track meets. No teenagers hanging out at my house at random times. No more teacher meetings...not going to miss that one though. LOL. And the entertainment around here goes waaaay down! TJ is a funny kid.

It's interesting timing in some respects. It took all of us a while to figure out how to live together and what our roles were. Adding to that, life here has been pretty chaotic at times and I feel incredibly guilty about that. I just pray that ultimately we have done more good for him than harm. The relationship between he and I took a while to navigate. Strong women, especially women in a position of authority hasn't always meshed well with this young male adolescent. But this last year, year and a half has been really good. And now he moves on. The impending reality has been really pressing on me this week and I've started feeling pretty sad. I wish I had more time. I worry a lot about what the future will be like for him and us. I hope he will consider this place to be his home. Though I know he has a mother, sisters, and so much other family. Everyone will want to see him, and visa versa, when he is in Texas. Selfishly, I hope we get priority! I've been thinking back to when I was 18 and leaving for Baylor. I'm sure my dad was feeling the same way I am right now. I was a punk at the time, though. I didn't go home till Thanksgiving (even though I was only an 1 1/2 hour away) I barely even called him. I wish he was around for me to apologize. My what time teaches us.

So, pray for me...all of us, I guess. TJ has quite a bit of reluctance. He has never really been away from home for very long. So, going 900 miles away is pretty daunting. And...he has a girlfriend who is staying here. He is a very engaging kid and makes friends easily. I know he'll be fine. I'm thankful that he'll have instant community by being on the football team; this will be good for him. He registers and moves in next Wednesday. There is a reception that evening for parents and students. At the conclusion, they tell parents to leave the campus. Not just leave the building, leave the campus. It's probably be best. So, we'll hit the road (with several boxes of tissue) and head toward St. Louis. The Cardinals play the Dodgers...and Manny. Sweet.
I'm sure you'll be hearing from me.