Ned and Sammy

One of my favorite stories to share about Ned is the love that developed between him and our dog Sammy. In order to do the story justice, I need to start from the beginning.

We had a dog growing up. A basset hound named, Duchess. She wasn’t the most loving dog. A good dog but not one that was allowed to come hangout in the house, primarily because she smelled and she shed!

She lived many years and Ned took really great care of her as she aged but he wasn’t all together fond of dogs.

Almost always on Christmas Eve, Mom and Ned would spend the night at our house. They were always eager to be part of watching their grandchildren open their gifts on Christmas morning.

In 2008, it was no different. Although, I did ask Ned if he was sure he wanted to stay because Amy was getting a puppy.

He replied, “Of course your Mom and I want to stay. I just don’t understand why you feel the need to get a dog. They’re nothing but trouble and you have to find someone to take care of them when you’re gone. Don’t ask me because I am not keeping yours or anyone else’s dog!”

I’ll bet as soon as he saw the delight in Amy’s eyes the next morning, he, too, was smitten by the 1.9 pound puff of white fluff.  However, he wasn’t about to cave-in at that point. He was way to stubborn!

After about 6 weeks, we were sitting at Amy’s basketball game and I told him we were going out of town the next weekend.  Jokingly I said, “You want to keep Sammy?”

His response, not shocking, “Now, I told you I don’t like dogs.  I am not keeping your dog.  I told you they’re a lot of trouble and you had to get care for them when you go out of town.”

I replied, “No worries.  I’m already boarding him.  I just wanted to see if your mind had changed.  You may not want to keep him now, but I’ll bet you will.  He’s so cute and sweet and he doesn’t shed.”

He huffed and said, “I’m not keeping your dog.”

After another few months, we had to board Sammy again.  It was not a good experience for him or us.  He was mistreated.  That didn’t make Ned happy either.  However, he still wouldn’t yield.

Then we found Emily.  A friend’s daughter who agreed to keep him.  He enjoyed staying with Emily and her family.  He was well-loved and cared for there.

One weekend, Emily wasn’t available and I decided to give Ned an opportunity to say, “yes”  By this time, Sammy was more than welcome in their house.  He was actually invited to come anytime we were visiting or having family functions.

I called and we chatted a few minutes.  I was prepping him for the big question.  “So, we’re going out of town this weekend and don’t have anywhere to leave Sammy.  I don’t want to board him.  Will you keep his cute little self?”

Without an ounce of hesitation, he responded, “Yeah.  I’ll keep him but I’ll tell you one thing right now, that dog is NOT sleeping in my bed. ”  I assured him that I would bring Sammy’s crate and he could put him in the crate at night.  I did forewarn him that he would cry because he was accustomed to sleeping with us.  I told him, “He likes his crate but only in the daytime and only when you’re not home.”

We left and Sammy was happy as a clam to be staying with Mamaw and Papaw.

The next morning, I get a call from Mom.  I just have to tell you what happened.  “We put Sammy in his crate last night.  (They put the crate in the laundry room which is on the opposite side of their bedroom)  He started to cry.  He was so pitiful.  I went to brush my teeth.  I told Ned, ‘if he doesn’t stop crying I’m going to get him.  I’ll take him upstairs with me and we will sleep on another bed.  I just can’t stand hearing that little thing cry.’  By the time I got ready for bed and came back into the room, Ned had the dog in our bed.”

She sent a picture and I can’t find it.

Needless to say, Sammy stayed with them anytime we went out-of-town, except for the past few times and Ned was too sick.  Good for Sammy, Alex was home and willing to take care of him.

The above picture was taken two Christmases after Sammy arrived.  Again, on Christmas day when Mom and Ned were at the house to watch their grandchildren open their gifts from Santa.  My what a difference two years made…….

This year will look and feel so different for us but I am so thankful and grateful for the many Christmases we had together!

Whole and Beautiful

At times over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a certain disconnect. So much so, after being around my family the other evening, I called my friend to talk it over with her.

She said, “It’s very normal. You’ve been through a lot of emotional upheaval the past few weeks. It’s your way of coping Its ok. Just know that it won’t last!”

Sometimes, I would prefer if my friends were wrong. But then again, that’s why I call the trusted and true because they know.

The above conversation took place on Wednesday evening. By Thursday morning, I was a mess.

Terry said, “What’s wrong! Why are you crying?”

Between sobs I said, “I miss him.”

“I know. I miss him too. I miss my Mom and Dad too. It’s ok to cry. ”

After I dried up, I recalled the conversation from a few nights before with my cousin, Greg.

It was Monday. The evening before my Uncle Howard passed.

Standing by my car with my door ajar. Greg said, “There’s something you need to know. I need to tell you”

My ears were perked and ready.

“On Saturday evening, Dad was standing, in his own strength. Suddenly he fell back into my arms and stopped breathing. I just knew it was the end. I held him for a few minutes. He began breathing again. I got him back into bed. Then he sat straight up and said, ‘I don’t know why God brought me back.’ Greg was confused at his comment and questioned him further. Uncle Howard responded, ‘I went to heaven. I saw Mack (my Daddy) and Linda (their sister) and they were beautiful. I just don’t know why God sent me back'”

Fighting to keep composure to drive home, I looked at Greg and said, “I know because somebody needed to hear this.”

Maybe it was me! Maybe I needed confirmation that all those who’ve gone before me have been made whole and beautiful. Maybe you need the same confirmation. Maybe someone who’s dying needs to hear, if they’ve given their heart to Christ, they will be made whole and beautiful. I don’t know who needs to hear it but someone surely does and maybe it’s just me!

The influence of a life well-lived

Some days are just a little harder than others. It’s funny how, even after all this time, I still see myself as the little girl climbing on your lap to sit. I can almost remember the smell of your skin.

As I watch my little, well not so little, girl with her daddy, I wonder. Would you and I have been so close? Would I look at you with adoration? Would you have been my hero?

I would hope so! I think it’s quite possible. Yet, I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know.

In the seven short years I knew you, the overall impact of you and the legacy you left behind, impacts me on a daily basis.

I think of your sure and steady faith. I think of how you knew and believed God for all things, not just some things and not just the good. I think of how strong you were! Most of all I think of your smile and the joy that illuminated your face, even on your hardest and most difficult days.

When I remember these attributes of your character, it gives me hope to carry on. It gives me the ability to push through the hard days and know that joy awaits me! It gives me hope and a steadfast endurance.

I simply stand amazed that after 41 years, your life influences and impacts mine.

God blessed me with you!

Happy 78th birthday Daddy!

Love your little girl!

What I am thankful for today

I don’t mind telling you that the past two days have been a bit of

a struggle!

It began as I was getting ready Sunday morning. As I hopped in the shower to get ready for church, I began to think about my Dad and Ned.

Tears began to fall. I struggled to put makeup on. Finally, I maintained composure and finished up.

We made it to church. Our current series is on being #ThankFULL or full of thanks.

The message began with a short video. It made me tear up! Not ugly cry but definitely a flow! Dan Lian delivered quite possibly one of the best messages on being able and what it means to thank God, even in our trials.

Here’s a short summary from my notes. I encourage you to watch online

We can be thankful.

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy….

Trials and Temptations

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Testing of faith produces perseverance

Testing of our faith is good!

Testing produces the genuineness of

Faith

There is nothing more important than genuine faith

A trial reveals in whom you have your faith

Producing of perseverance…

Our resolve is being developed!

Resistance strengthens you!

As a loving Father, God what’s to teach me to carry the load….not take it from you

Finish its work….

Trial is time-sensitive.

God has got more in store for you.

You have to let the trial run its course

Allow perseverance to finish its work

God doesn’t always want to lighten the load but to strengthen you for the load!

This trial is testing my faith and testing my faith is good!

I will persevere in this trial and it will make me stronger

Future me will look back and be #ThankFULL of this trial

As we neared the end of this message, he asked us to stand and repeat the last three phrases together. Once. Twice

Through tears and a quivering voice, barely audible, I repeated all three. Thankful he didn’t ask us to repeat more than twice!

After coming home, I had the privilege to attend a beautiful celebration of life service for a dear friends’ daddy.

During the reception, I talked with my sweet cousin by marriage, Denise, to learn that my uncle wasn’t doing well.

Yesterday, I had the sweet joy and privilege of visiting him and a whole host of Reese people. We don’t do things in small numbers. We are not a small number family.

When I got home last night, I realized I had not written a #ThankFULL post for the day. I tried. The words wouldn’t come.

So what am I #ThankFULL for today? I am grateful for this journey God has me on right now. I have no clue where it’s leading or how he’s working. I just know that He is good and He is able to teach me to carry the load and rest in Him.

18….5….8

I’m not giving measurements here I’m proving a point. The point being. I wasn’t meant to be there!

Be where, you ask?

Be at the bedside of Ned, my dad, the night he died.

At the midnight hour on October 29, my sister and I left the Elizabeth House. Ned was snoring when we left. Our brother, David was staying in the room with him, while Mom and her friend Norma slept outside the room.

Exhaustion overwhelmed me on the 10 minute drive home. Stepping into my house, I knew I had to get in the bed.

In typical fashion, I plugged my phone up! It stays in my kitchen. I always keep it on vibrate. I detest the ringtone and have trained my ears to hear the moan.

Terry’s phone sleeps beside mine and his irritating ringer is generally always on.

Amy was also home with us that evening and she sleeps with her phone, like most teenagers do!

In other words, a call should be heard. Right?

Wrong!!!

At 2:30 AM, drowsy Amy comes into our bedroom, crosses in front of the bed, and over to her dad’s side and starts, “Mom, Mom you need to wake up. You have a phone call”. She hands me her phone and the first thing I do is hit the end call button! (That’s how out of it I was.). I hand her the phone back and say call!

After a couple of rings, my brother answers and says, “Sissy, he’s gone.” He can’t talk and hands the phone to my sister who says, “We’ve been trying to call you. Daddy died at 2:00! We’ve called the funeral home and they’ll be here to get his body in about 30 minutes. Do you want to come see him before they take him?”

I blurted out a quick and emphatic, “No! I said goodbye earlier and he was breathing. I don’t care to come.”

Upon hanging up, I tried laying back down but the tears kept flowing. I knew Terry needed sleep and if I kept crying, he wouldn’t get any. So, I got up!

Tears streamed down my face. It was the ugly cry. I fought back the urge to thrust myself to the ground and scream. (If I’d done that Amy and Terry neither one would’ve been sleeping).

Between sobs, God reminded me of two very important things.

First, at the very beginning of Ned’s 19 month journey, I had asked God for a few very specific things. One that He would show me when to go and when not to go! Two that I would go with the right attitude and heart and never, ever go based on guilt. Three that He would always get me there right on time, every time!

Second He reminded me of the anger and frustration I felt towards my Mom after my biological Daddy died. I saw him the right before his death. I was not allowed to go to his funeral. I remained embittered with rage, directed at Mom, for years because she didn’t allow me to go. She would always say, “I didn’t want you to remember him that way. I wanted your last memory of him to be a live memory.

Just then it dawned on me, God had orchestrated this whole thing, 41 years ago. He knew I didn’t need to see either Dad dead but alive. He knew my last memory of both should bring me joy! Joy that the struggle had ended and “He (Jesus) will swallow up death in victory” Isaiah 25:8

The numbers above represent the number of calls made between 1:00AM and 2:30AM on Sunday October 29, 2017.

My phone was called 18 times. Terry’s phone was called 5! Like afore mentioned, Terry’s annoying ringer is usually on. However, because he had been with me at the Elizabeth House, it was turned off. Amy’s phone, which sleeps on her pillow was called 8 times before it woke her up!

Was I suppose to be there?!! Absolutely, positively NOT!

I trusted God to take me and without fail or falter, He did. Every time and right on time. It was never his intention or plan to have me there when Ned took his last breath. Just as it was never his intention or plan for me to see my daddy lying dead in a casket.

The lesson I learned is that when I ask God and believe that He is good to keep his word, He will not disappoint or fail me. Never!!!!

A Miracle in the Making

Cancer…..stinks.  Pure and simple.  There’s hardly a good connotation that derives from hearing the word.  It’s a word that people hate to hear.  And yet, it seems  so commonplace these days.  I know plenty of people who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.  Some have survived.  Some have not.

In March of 2016, Ned (my dad) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Atypical Non-small cell adenocarcinoma in his right lung.  It was found in the fluid of his right lung.   There were no tumors, nothing to pinpoint the source.  It was just there.  His oncologist described it like this, “Imagine an island has fallen off into the ocean and you have no idea where the island came from.”

The prognosis: four months with no treatment. Nine to fifteen months with treatment. It wasn’t lengthy either way! However, if you know Ned, then you know he’s tenacious and determined. His determination wasn’t just for himself. It was also for my Mom. He didn’t want her to have to bury another husband. He felt like she was getting the raw end of the deal. He felt responsible and wanted to fight for her and for himself.

During his first visit with his oncologist, Dr. Navin Anthony, he asked the following question, after formal introductions. “I have one question before we get started. Do you believe in God?”

His response, “Yes, I do.”

To which Ned responded, “Good! I believe that God is going to use you to heal me!”

Ned decided to bring chemotherapy. First, he would need to have a PluerX catheter inserted into his right lung and a port.

About a week after his surgery, he began chemo! The initial treatment began with a three drug round-up. Avastin, Alimta and Carboplatin. These were administered every three weeks.

In May, he began having problems with his vision. A few weeks later, discovered he had a stroke. A stroke caused from Avastin. Therefore, it was dropped from his regimen.

Around the end of June, as we prayed diligently, the fluid production in the ling, stopped. Air began moving completely through his lung. CT scans began showing no visible signs of cancer. It was miracle.

After about six weeks, the PluerX tube was removed. Life was normal, except for every three weeks of treatment, with the chief complaint of tiredness.

On September 28, he had his last round of chemo. From September through April, he enjoyed life. He had some tiredness. Got winded more easily but really began living again.

In April, the CT Chest scan revealed swollen lymph nodes in the mediastinum. A bronchoscopy would reveal the cancer had returned. Ned was not surprised. He hadn’t been feeling up to par. However, it was disappointing and discouraging.

His PD-L1 was a 90% efficiency rate, meaning that made him a perfect candidate for Keytruda. The immunotherapy drug. The rating at 90% indicated that his cancer would most likely respond favorably.

He decided to proceed. He knew the risks and side effects associated with the drug. What we didn’t know is how his body would respond. His body didn’t like Keytruda. He was hyper-sensitive and for him it caused an adrenal insufficiency. After only three treatments, the drug had to be discontinued.

Thus began the downward spiral. It would take hours to write about what happened from August 8 until October 29 and maybe someday I will. Suffice to say, beginning on or around September 6, Ned was in the ER four times in less than six weeks. Three out of the four, he was admitted for hospital stays.

The final admittance was on October 15. For several days, he was unable to keep anything on his stomach, including medicine. His pain and nausea were unbearable. He was pitiful.

By Wednesday, we had already consulted with Dr. Sawyer, the Palliative Care Doctor. She showed great empathy and concern for us, as we talked over events from the past two months. At the end of the conversation, she said she wanted to talk with Ned, alone and also confer with Dr. Anthony.

On Wednesday evening, one of the few times, I wasn’t physically in the room when a doctor was present, Dr Anthony came to talk to Ned. I was privy to hearing the conversation via phone.

On that evening, Ned made it clear that he no longer desired treatment. Dr Anthony told him that he would respect and honor his decision.

In typical Ned fashion he said, “Well, if it’s my time to go. It’s my time to go.”

As Dr Anthony left the room, tears began to flow. I could audibly hear Ned. Then my sister, Kristi, walks out into the hallway, through broken sobs herself and says, “It’s so pitiful watching mom and Ned cry.”

I think Ned knew for awhile that his healing wasn’t going to be here and that he was going to receive the ultimate healing. His body had just worn out. He was tired. He was ready to go home.

I believe, with all of my heart, that Dr Anthony was greatly used by God to bring healing to Ned’s body for almost 19 months. I also believe that Dr Anthony was greatly used by God when he told Ned that he would support any decision he made. He released Ned to the Ultimate Healer. Now, Ned is whole again!

You see, we pray for miracles. They don’t always come packaged the way we want them. But if you believe in God, you are a miracle because He has set your soul free.

I believe in miracles. I believe we see them everyday. I believe sometimes our jaded sense of what a miracle actually is limits us from seeing the whole miracle.

My Red Cross Experience

One thing I feared most was that one or both of my boys would be unreachable if something happened to Ned, or any of us for that matter.

I feared and dreaded the “red tape” I might endure with the American Red Cross. I never had reason to contact them.

On Wednesday, October 25th, that changed. Facing the reality of the depravity of Ned’s illness, I could no longer hesitate.

I was given instructions and the number to call from a lady at the Elizabeth House. She informed me that it may take a little time giving the information but assured me the process was easy.

The initial call consisted of giving information about Matthew. It was easy. After about two hours, our nurse Jen, told me she had talked with Red Cross to validate the information about Ned’s condition. Within 8 hours, I received a call from Diane. She would be managing my case.

She informed me that if I had not heard anything within 8 hours to call her back. I did. She knew Matthews boat had been notified. However, we had gotten no response. So, she put out another plea.

The next day she called and assured me the boat had received notification. She said, “Hopefully, you will hear something from Matthew soon! Please let me know the minute you hear anything.”

Later in the evening, a call came through. I knew immediately it was Matthew. Our connection wasn’t ideal; but, I was able to tell him his Papaw was still alive. Our call was dropped.

Upon returning to the Elizabeth House, after my brief conversation with Matthew, I found out that he had been able to talk to Ned and Mom. What a blessing.

I immediately called Diane. She was thrilled to know we had talked with Matthew. I thanked her profusely.

A few minutes later, I get another call from the Red Cross, informing me that if Ned dies, I am required to open up a new case.

In the wee hours on Sunday, October 29, I received the call about Ned’s passing. Needless to say, sleep was not on the radar after that call. I cried. I prayed. I cried more. Then at 3:45 AM, I once again called the American Red Cross, only this time I had to open two case files, one for each of the boys. Although, I could call and talk with Ryan directly the proper channels have to met for emergency leave. It’s the process.

Several hours later, Diane called. She wanted me to know that she had sent notification to both commands.

The following day, she called again. Just checking to see if I had heard from either boy. Fortunately, later in the day, I was able to inform her Ryan had been granted leave. He would be home.

Tuesday came and went. Wednesday morning she called again. She said, “I have verification that command received the message but they haven’t replied.” I explained that I was very aware of Matthew’s importance on his boat and also aware he may not get to come home.

I told her several times how instrumental she was and how her continual communication with me was much appreciated. I cried while thanking her for going the extra mile for me.

Then she said, “I normally don’t share my story but I will share with you. The reason I became a volunteer is because I had the same situation happen to me. My son was deployed when my father died. I called the ARC. They didn’t follow-up. I even held up my dads funeral for 10 days waiting to hear from him, which caused issues with other family members. When I finally received notification, I was told that he was on special assignment and they could not even deliver the news to him, much less allow him to come home. Due to the lack of communication, I was determined not to allow this to happen to other families.”

No wonder she was so remarkable communicative, She knew. She understood. Instead of being angry and complaining about the system that failed her, she did something about it.

But her story continues.

Diane is a Gold Star mom. She has buried one son. Diane has another son who was shot at Fort Hood in 2009. She has not just sat around mourning the loss of one son and the substantial damage to another. She gives and she gives. She goes way beyond the call of duty. She’s just a volunteer.

Diane’s story is only one of many whose families have lost loved ones fighting for our freedom. This family, like so many others, is the reason we celebrate Memorial Day. These men and women have placed their wants, desires and needs aside to defend and protect the United States of America. Let’s say to the families how much we appreciate them for supporting their loved ones decision to become part of something bigger than themselves. Just like Jesus says in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends” For years and even now men and women have been called to give up their lives for our freedom.