Oh, Well

I’m not precisely certain when Popaw began using the phrase, ”Oh, well” but it was definitely within the last few years of his life. Fortunately, Popaw retained his mental faculties, with the exception of being able to recall what he had eaten. When asked he would often respond, ”I can’t recall but I know it was good because I cleaned my plate.”

But this phrase, ”Oh, well” had multiple meanings for him. He used it when he couldn’t conjure up a response. He often used it when he would hear something he didn’t necessarily like hearing. But most often used to mean, ” It’s okay. I am satisfied.” In other words, Popaw simply took the cards he was dealt and played them out. He knew where he was going and was content until the end.

Of all the times I heard him use the phrase, these two times will stand out above the rest.

That was a hard day for me and my Mom. The call came around 9:30 am and by the time I got to The Bridge, they had him sitting in his lift chair. At first game, he looked calm. He recognized me but his speech was muffled and difficult to understand. After a few short minutes, he began fidgeting in the chair and aggressively attempting to get up. But there was a problem, he couldn’t walk. The stroke had affected his ability to walk and he couldn’t comprehend.

It took hours of sitting by his chair with my arm held up to gently nudge him back down. Over and over again, Mom and I would tell him, ”You’ve had a stroke. You can’t get up. Your legs don’t work anymore.”

Finally, the meds arrived, and once they got into his system, he was able to calm down. Once calm, his speech was clearing and his mind was less foggy. His irrational behavior had subsided. Although there were times he would want to get up and go to the bathroom. Again I would firmly explain that he had a stroke and couldn’t walk. Finally, we reached a conjuncture with him and he understood precisely what I was saying. He looked at me with a smile so soft and tender, I could’ve cried, and said, ”Oh, well.”

The following morning I stopped in briefly to check on him. Mom had gone home after a night of restless sleeping there with him. A sitter was with him until 2:00. As soon as I walked in the door, a smile spread across his face from ear to ear and he lit up at the sight of me. He beamed. ”Hey Sweetheart, it’s so good to see you.”

I leaned over, kissed him on the cheek and said, ” It’s so good to lay eyes on you this morning.”

We chatted for a few minutes then I kissed him goodbye, assuring him I would see him later in the day. Little did I know that would be our final conversation.

The sitter, as I was leaving, said, ”You must be someone really special because I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up the way his just did for you.”

”Not really, I’m just his granddaughter. He’s that way with all of his family. ”

Upon my return, things had gotten progressively worse and they were having to medicate him more often. I knew deep in my heart where things were heading.

The next morning there was a horrible rain and wind storm. Terry and I had to wait until 11:00 am before we could leave for Hendersonville. Popaw wasn’t any better and I knew something had to be done. (It’s a story for another time)

Finally, by 5:15, I received a call from Hospice informing me they would be coming to pick Popaw up by 6:00 and transport him to the Elizabeth House. I was alone with him when the news came to me and he was restless.

I put my hand over his heart and said, ”Popaw, the ambulance is coming to get you soon and they will be taking you to the Elizabeth House. We are taking you there so you can be made comfortable.”

He turned his eyes toward mine and said, ”Oh, well.”

I wanted to laugh and cry all at once. I knew what that ”Oh, well” meant. It is well with my soul.

”Popaw, I love you.”

”I love you back.”

Those would be the last words he would say to me!

Popaw, thank you for teaching me that life isn’t about the things, it’s about being content in all circumstances knowing that God is in complete control.

Why Their Standards Are Set So High

Yesterday we had the opportunity to celebrate the marriage of Blaire and Hunter. Blaire and Amy have been friends since elementary school. Like Amy, we have had the privilege of watching Blaire grow into a beautiful young woman.

It occurred to me yesterday that this is a new season of life for us. Our children’s friends are now getting married and having babies. And you know what that means, my kids are all old enough to get married too.

Before the wedding, I said to Terry, ”You know this could be Amy in a few years”

He said, ”Don’t rush it. She’s got plenty of time.”

Considering all of our children are now old enough to be married, and are not, I have to ask myself the question ”why?”

First of all, maybe it’s because Terry has told them forever, ”Don’t get married before you’re 30!” Ryan will be 30 in December.

Second, until recently the older two haven’t really had time for relationships and they all have very high standards. Besides, it’s difficult to get married when you don’t have a significant other. 😊

So that begs a different question, ”Why are their standards so high?”

I believe there are three very good reasons.

The first reason is because of the display of love and devotion they witnessed through watching MaMaw and Popaw. They saw what it looks like for a man to love and devote himself to a woman. They also saw how she adored and loved him. They observed how he tenderly provided care for her for ten years prior to her moving into an assisted living facility. They saw love in rare form.

Next, they watched and observed how Mom and Ned loved each other. They listened in as they would sometimes get on each other’s nerves but then would kiss and make up. They watched and observers how Mom took such great care of Ned as his health declined. They saw how his love for her propelled and fueled his desire to get better. He loved her with every fiber of his being and she loved him back in the same way.

Third, and maybe most importantly, these kids of mine have had on display for almost 25 years, the way a man should love a woman. Terry has taught the boys to respect women and he’s taught Amy she’s worthy of respect. He’s taught them that even through hard times, you love, you laugh, you cry and then you do it all again. You never give up and you never give in. He’s taught them the value of commitment. He’s taught them perseverance and determination. He’s taught them not to settle but to look for Gods best.

So on this Fathers Day, I am rejoicing in the legacy left behind by two great men, and I am most thankful to celebrate my man today. He is God’s gift to me and our four children.

Our First College Graduate

Yesterday we had the awesome privilege of attending Alex’s graduation. He is our third child but the first one in our family to graduate with a college degree. He certainly won’t be the last.

Alex’s early years greeted us with many challenges. It was not always an easy task but so worth it in the end. Alex dedicates himself to everything he sets his mind to and he always completely finishes whatever he starts. He is dependable and reliable. He will go far in life because he’s fueled with a passion to do his best in everything he does.

Alex recognizes his strengths and weaknesses. He is not afraid to fail because he realizes that sometimes failure leads to greater success. He is highly independent and can definitely think for himself. But when advice is needed, he is not afraid to ask.

Since the summer of 2011, Alex has had a job. He began on waitstaff at Kanuga Conference. A job he would work through the summer of 2016. This was a year-round job with rona of flexibility for him. Alex also worked at Crooked Creek and Champion Hills golf courses. It was through his job at Champion Hills, Alex received over $10,000 in scholarship monies to help fund his education. Read here

Once Alex began his studies at UNCC, he worked 20 hours per week at Charlotte Country Club and currently works at Myers Park.

I’ve had folks tell me that to make a child work during school is a disservice to them because they need to focus on the academics. First of all, we didn’t force Alex to work. Our stipulation with all of our children was to have a summer job. This summer job would help pay for car insurance. We told each one of our children that if we were providing a car for them to drive, they could be responsible for the insurance. To be honest, we wanted our children to be responsible drivers and felt by making them responsible for insurance, maybe we could promote responsible driving. It worked.

Alex just loved working. He loved having extra money to do things he wanted to do. He loved the routine of work. It also helped him create a balance in high school between sports, school and work that would prove beneficial once in college.

It is really no surprise that Alex received his BS in Business Finance. It just seems the logical choice for him and I have no doubt he will go far. Words cannot express the joy my heart feels for Alex and his accomplishments.

Here’s the letter I wrote him before graduation

Dear Alex,

Words cannot begin to express the love Dad and I have for you. Being your parents has not always been easy or fun but watching you grow in the fine human you are is one of our greatest joys.

I remember a conversation I had with your Papaw (Ned) about three years ago. He said, ”Never in a million years could I have predicted or even thought Alex would. turn out to be such a remarkable young man. All I remember is that time he got so angry with me I had to pick him up by his feet kicking and swatting at me and thinking this child will. probably end up.in jail one.day.”

Your life has always had adversity and you have always risen above. It has not been easy and you’ve had bumps along the way, but by God’s grace, you’ve always risen far above your challenges.

When, as a four-year-old, you prayed earnestly for God to give you self-control and patience, I knew you were something special. Even as a young child, you didn’t want to be out of control. Your prayers were not answered immediately. It took time, patience and perseverance from.you as well as a healthy dose of consistent discipline from us.

I’ve always been amazed by your ability to exercise good and sound judgment and also your ability to use discernment and exercise wisdom. You’ve always set goals and been committed to working hard to achieve them.

No, you’ve never followed the beaten or normal paths of. others, you’ve always set out on paths best suited for you. In the end, choosing your own path, the one that God ordained, has always been the best one for you.

As we celebrate you on this your graduation day we, Dad and I, cannot contain the joy we feel. for you. We are so very proud of you. Most of all, we thank God for allowing and choosing us to be your parents. He did a great thing when he gave you to us!

Continue living your life by putting God first in everything and you will be a success in all you do.

Remember this. ”A man who walks with God always reaches his destination. ” John Hagee

And also the famous words of.Dr. Seuss, ”Why fit in when you were born to stand out.”

Love you more today than yesterday,

Mom

Another baby story…..27 years and counting.

When I began this blog thing, I began on February 12, 2017. The 19th birthday of my youngest child, Amy. Read Here.

Considering I have four children, I have four very different birth stories. And so today, on Matthews 27 birthday, I decided it would be a perfect day to tell another story.

First, I need to set the scene. Hopefully, I’ll find a picture to verify my story but in case I don’t, here goes. I looked as if I’d swallowed a giant watermelon and it sat sideways in my belly. I was huge. So big I could literally sit a plate flat and belly and eat from it. It wasn’t just my belly that was getting huge. About two weeks before Matthew was born, I was retaining fluid in my legs and feet. Most of the fluid was being held in small pockets on my legs. When walking these pockets of water began to rub together, creating tender skin and difficulties walking.

Matthew was due on October 2, 1991. On Friday, September 27, I trudged my way into the Doctors office. Dr. Ellis, concerned about the amount of fluid I was retaining, told me that he would induce me on Monday, September 30, unless I had the baby over the weekend.

The weekend drug on and on, I could barely walk due to the amount of fluid. I was sick and tired of sitting. I was utterly frustrated. On Sunday, I’d had enough. I decided I had to get out and walk. Every step was a struggle but I managed to make several laps around the outside of the house. It felt good just to be outside and not cooped up.

Later in the evening, I decided a bath would be relaxing. I convinced my sister to help me shave my legs because I couldn’t reach over the giant watermelon in front of me. Finally, I felt relaxed. As I was getting out of the tub, my water broke. Until that time, I hadn’t had one contraction. (This was very different that with Ryan).

We scurried about to get on our way to the hospital. We had a 30 minute drive from Columbus to Hendersonville. By the time we arrived, around 11:00 pm, my contractions were regular and coming about every 3 minutes. Baby was definitely on the way.

A little after midnight, September 30, Matthew was born, weighing in at 8lbs 11 oz and 21 1/2″ long. His head circumference was over 14 1/2″. He was my biggest baby. As soon as he came out, water gushed like a flood. Dr. Ellis said he’d never seen so much fluid come out behind a baby. He told us there was at least a gallon, maybe more. Needless to say, my watermelon sized belly was now almost completely flat and poor Dr. Ellis was soaked.

When I think about Matthew’s entrance into the world, It seems like only yesterday. Yet, when I look at my big man boy, and realize the years gone by, I am reminded that his life completely changed my heart forever. God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave me this child. He knew this child would stretch me and grow me in more ways that one. Determined. Strong-willed. A deep thinker. Adventurous. Generous and kind hearted, always putting the needs of others ahead of his own. He truly is one special and unique individual. True to the meaning of this name, a unique and special “gift from God”.

Unforgettable……forever etched in my mind

Recently I was at mom’s and there was a card left on the counter. I had already heard about the card. Alex told me about it! knew it if it brought tears to his eyes, I was in trouble. It was just a good thing that no one was there.

I knew Mom had left it there for me to read. So, I picked it up and began to slowly read the words Dr Anthony had written to Mom. It began something to the effect that it was way over due but wanted to let her know what a privilege it had been to have known Ned. His words were, “I think of Ned often. He is etched in my heart.”

As I read those words, all of the things that people said about him come flooding back.

A few days prior to his death, I asked family, co-workers and friends to tell me 3 words that came to mind when they thought of Ned. The response was overwhelming and we were able to read all of them to him prior to his death. He knew he was well-loved. In fact those at the Elizabeth House knew how loved he was. During his eight days there, there were more than 100 people who came to visit him.

At Ned’s request, I spoke at his Celebration service. I told the crowd there I was perplexed when he insisted that I speak on his behalf because he frequently gave me a hard time about my excessive talkativeness, dubbing it often as “diarrhea of the mouth”.

As I began to prepare for what God would have me say, I asked specifically for one word. Actually, I asked for a song with a one word title to best describe him. Almost instantaneously, the song, “Unforgettable” popped into my head. “That’s it. Precisely.” Then I began to pray over the scripture passage to use and one of my all-time favorites resonated clearly, Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

As God began to weave my thoughts with words, even I was shocked how quickly it all came together.

One of the most important aspects was not to just let people know what I thought about Ned but to also share how others including family, friends and coworkers felt about him.

Listed below are the things people said:

Unforgettable in every way!

Family:

Mom- love of my life

Terry- loyal, family, Nitro

Kristi- selfless, giving, caring, stubborn

David -loyal, dry, caring

Ryan – hardworking, devoted, stubborn

Matthew – my hero

Alex -stubborn, generous, dynamic

Amy- stubborn, strong, caring

Zach- stubborn, caring, strong

Haleigh -ornery, loving, stern

Marshall & June- stubborn, generous and rabid Florida St fan

Jennifer- love for Ann, stubborn, Seminole fan

Mark-smiling, fun-loving, and family oriented. Maxine-musical, faithful, and funny

Co-Workers

Amber- stubborn, loving, Ann

Mike Miller — Do you know how hard it is to describe Ned in 3 words, well here it goes: Friend, Mentor, and Blessing

Elizabeth Kohl — Great sense of humor, Compassionate, Down to Earth

Stephanie Cantwell — I can’t do just three! Wonderful Godly example as a supervisor, leader, husband, father and grandfather. We always knew where he stood but even when we were in the wrong he would discipline with a gentle heart and hand. It was a true pleasure to work with him and call him a friend.

Chris Denny

Here are my three words for The General; grouchy old codger! No not really, he was an example of a solid Christian man who lived his life setting that example, true to his faith and a very kind and caring soul. Once you found it! 😀 ok that was more than three but I couldn’t think of single words to express what he represents to me.

Steve Carter — FAITHFUL, ENDURING, HONORABLE

Jerry Rice – Faithful loving husband

Cheryl Griffin – Happy Papaw Nedward

– Humourous, Direct, Humble

Jerry Hartline – Loyal, Stubborn, Definitely a Christian

Cecelia Rossell – Stubbornly loving and caring

Friends

Doris & Robert- supportive, wholehearted, prompt, outspoken

Jim & Retha- OK Kelly. I talked with Retha. Here’s what we came up with.

Integrity – he always wants to do the right thing. You couldn’t get him to cheat if you wanted to.

Kindhearted – beneath that sometimes rough appearing exterior, he would do anything for you we have observed.

Missions – nobody could do it like Ned, and nobody ever will.

Bob & Carol Friend loyal honest direct. Talented, committed, Nitro

Robert & Norma Ned was a Friend, Christian servant, Missions-minded, Faithful, Focused, Organized, Dry, Frank, Competitive, and Meticulous.

It’s evident that Ned’s life had a profound effect on everyone who knew him!

I think most of us will agree that his stubbornness, while sometimes, abrasive, was the driving force behind the last 19 months of his courageous fight. He touched the lives of many, including those who took care of him.

He loved with great passion! He never did anything half way! He always finished everything he started including finishing his earthly race with dignity and pride!

What he said the day he decided to allow Hospice to care for him!

He left a mark, one way or another, on everyone he encountered. He passing is leaving a substantial void but his legacy is one to be admired and mimicked. Be who you are, no matter who you’re with and no matter where you go!

Ned Whitmire. You truly made your dash count.

Enjoy celebrating your 1st birthday in Heaven. For those of us you left behind, it’s still difficult to do life without you. You were such an integral part of all of our lives. We wouldn’t wish you back but knowing you’re waiting for us makes the desire and taste of Heaven sweeter every day.

It all began with Fireworks

It all began with fireworks. I guess the should’ve known they were destined to become one!

On July 5, 1976 Mom took Kristi, age 5 and David, age 1, to the fireworks show at Brevard High School. They were delayed a day because of a monsoon rain on the 4th of July. Little did she know that God already had been working behind the scenes to make sure that Ned would be at the very same place with his two nieces, Sheila and Jennifer.

Mom and Ned had both grown up in Brevard and actually attended school together and graduated from Brevard High School in 1964. So, they knew each other but they had never been friends, just acquaintances. In fact Mom wasn’t really impressed with him in school because she dubbed him as the “class clown” and he was in trouble a lot!

At the fireworks show, Kristi sat with friends Betty and Larry Owen. So Mom found herself and David a seat. A few minutes later, Ned saw her and sat down beside her. The last time they’d seen each other was their Class Reunion a few years prior and Ned was engaged and Mom was pregnant with David. Mom naturally assumed he was married and that Sheila and Jennifer were his children.

They talked. Ned’s dad had passed away in March after having colon cancer. Mom told him Daddy “Mack” had died in April, of course Ned already knew that. In fact Mom said that’s probably why he came and sat down beside me! (She’s probably right). Mom said he held David throughout much of the fireworks. Oddly enough when they said their goodbyes, he didn’t ask for her phone number.

After their encountered, Mom said one night she fell to her knees and begged God to bring her someone to help her. She recognized she couldn’t raise three children on her own. And wouldn’t you know, a few days later Ned called. He actually used a telephone book to find her number. He told her The Letterman were going to be in Asheville and asked if she wanted to go with him.

Her response. Wait for it…….”I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my Mother!” I still find this hilarious. Mom is 30 years old and has to consult with her Mom. It wasn’t for approval as much as advice. Mom was afraid of what people might think. My grandmother told her that she shouldn’t worry about what others thought. If she wanted to, she should. Best advice Colleen could give her daughter. So, she accepted Neds invitation and they went to see The Letterman in concert in August.

My Mom had made a promise to herself not to marry until two years had passed after Daddy’s death.

After a year she and Ned were continuing to date exclusively. Mom was sickly at the time. All the stress of Daddy’s death coupled with raising three children on her own began to take a toil on her body. She ended up in the hospital with phlebitis.

During her hospitalization Ned stood by her side. In fact, as he tells the story to me, “I knew she couldn’t run away, so I decided that was he perfect time to propose.” She said, “Yes!”

It was decided they would marry on June 10, 1978. Mom said even up until the day before the wedding she asked God to give her a sign if he wasn’t the one. Obviously, Ned was the one because the wedding went off without a hitch. Ned would often tell her, “You know that the say, third times a charm.” He said this to her because he had been engaged twice before.

You just never know how powerful a fireworks show can be when God is orchestrating the details of your life!

Learning about the Good Shepherd

I had a plan to write a New Year’s blog which was obviously interrupted. That’s the thing I’ve learned, sometimes God stops me. He puts ideas and thoughs on hold or changes the direction of my writing entirely.

As 2017 came to a close, I was reminded of how it began. Laughter and joyous celebration. The anticipation of a new year. The thankfulness in our hearts because Ned was doing well and looking forward to sharing another year with him.

As we moved into February, I  felt the spirit of God working and moving in our lives. During this time, I received an unexpected text from a dear One asking me to pray about starting a Bible Study with her.  I didn’t need time to think or pray about whether this was God’s will or desire.  I had already been praying for a year and a half for God to open up the doors for a Bible Study.

In March we began our study with Finding I Am by Lysa TerKeurst. In this study, like the title suggests, we were encouraged to find and explore the I Am statements that Jesus makes about himself through the Gospel of John.

The most memorable declaraione for me,personally, is the following:

I am the good shepherd .

John 10: 11-18 New International Version (NIV)

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

It reminds me of my deep need for a shepherd. One who protects me from danger. One who looks for me if I lose my way. One who calls my name and I hear his voice and I know Him and He knows me. Most importantly one who is willing to sacrifice His life for me. I am just a sheep in desperate need of shepherd.

It’s no coincidence that at the time we were studying this particular statement that Ned’s condition would begin to turn iffy. His breathing quickly becoming more labored. CAT scan would reveal swollen lymph nodes. Bronchoscopy and biopsy confirms cancer has returned. His fear. Mom’s fear. Our greatest fear confirmed. Our hopes quickly dashed. Disappointment set in. But wait! There is hope. Hope is always there. Why? Because Jesus always there. He is our Good Shepherd and He will never leave us, even in the most trying and difficult of days.

A few days before Ned’s CAT scan would reveal the swollen lymph nodes, Alex graduated from Blue Ridge Community College with his Associates degree. Mom and Ned were able to be there to celebrate with him. Ned was complaining o shortness of breath but still managed to walk a mile to watch Alex graduate. The blessing and joy of being there for Alex, outweighed any struggles he was having that day, Again, the Good Shepherd providing for his sheep.

At the close of May, our daughter Amy would make conference for WCU Track & Field . Mom and Ned were unable to attend this event. However, Terry and I were able to go for the two-day event and watch as Amy finished 9th in Hammer Throw, 7th in Shot Put, 8th in Discus and Javelin Throw, We had a more cause to celebrate and see how Jesus was graciously caring for us.

The molecular testing on Ned’s biopsy showed that he was. “Great candidate” for the drug Keytruda. His efficiency PDL-1 rating was 90% indicating the overall response of his cancer to the drug would be favorable. The overall side effects were substantially fewer, a lot less than his previous chemotherapy treatments. Overall response of current patients using the drug e was also favorable.. Obviously there were risks and they were clearly and audibly disclosed. I sat in the office with Ned as Kate Kennedy, Dr. Anthony’s P.A., discussed them. The percentage of severe risks were extremely low, The drug, by all appearances, would be a perfect match for him. On June 13th I sat with him while his first treatment was administered. He was excited at the possibility of this new treatment being just right for him.

It wouldn’t take but a few days before Ned developed a rash and intensified cough. Side effects, common ones, from Keytruda. Fortunately, the initial dose of prednisone cleared his rash. It didn’t do much for the cough. After the second round the rash returned and the cough remained. It was irritating and uncontrollable at times. There would be random outbursts. Periods of lull but nothing completely diminishing the cough. This time they gave him more stronger dose of steroids and added some cough suppressants. The cough becoming a total nuisance began causing pain in his right side and back. But it was too early in the ballgame to make a judgement call on the effectiveness of the Keytruda. We all felt highly confident in the advice and assessments given from. Dr. Anthony and Kate. We knew Ned was in good hands. Another wonderful provision from our Good Shepherd.

The day after Ned’s third round of Keytruda, Alex went over the visit. He was leaving for college on Friday. He came home and said, “Mom, Papaw is pitiful. I’ve never seen him so weak. Something is right”. I told him it was probably just due to the treatment from the previous day and I would check on him the next day.

Wednesday was a better day. I didn’t get too worked up. He said he just felt tired and if he could get rid of that “stinking aggravating cough, he would feel better”.

I decided to start researching every medication and supplement he was currently taking. Looking at all the common and non-common side effects. Dang! Getting that involved in drugs and their side effects will cause you to question the value of medication.

On Friday, Alex and Amy both went to visit before Alex’s departure. They came home saying , “Mom, Papaw isn’t well. He’s so weak he struggles to get out of his chair.” Now, one thing to understand about my kids is they’re not the melodramatic type. If anything they are fairly low key and don’t get worked up quickly. So, I knew it wasn’t good,

We decided to go by on Saturday before we took Amy to school, just to check on him. He said he felt a little better but I wasn’t convinced. He looked terrible. His side and back were in excruciating pain. He wasn’t able to sleep in his bed. He found more comfort on his chair or the couch. When we got ready to leave with Amy, she bent down to give him a kiss. That wasn’t good enough for him. He said, “Hang on, I’m getting up so I can hug you before you leave.” At that moment, when I watched how challenging it was for him to stand, I knew things were on a downward slope. This just wasn’t our Ned or Papaw.

Due to taking kids back to back days to college, Terry and I already decided to forgo driving to Greenville to church. We went out for a celebratory breakfast and predetermined to go check on Ned. Before we got to our breakfast destination I got a picture test from Mom. Ned was sitting slouched over at the table. Arms crossed and head down. Caption read: He tried to come sit and take his meds.

As soon as we get there, their dear friends are already there checking in. They had seen a substantial decline since Thursday. They were concerned. We were all concerned. Ned was being stubborn and refusing to let Mom call the doctor.

Did I tell you that Ned met his match for stubbornness when he crossed paths with me? If not, he did! I didn’t just insist he call the doctor. I called for him. With him in the background saying, ” I don’t know why you’re bothering to call. There’s nothing they can do.”

Dr Anthony was quite perplexed when I shared with him the radical decline. He tried to get Ned to go to the ER. Ned convinced him that he didn’t need to go and would be ok until he saw him the next day. Reluctantly, Dr Anthony agreed.

Thus began the poking and prodding to find the cause. After researching Ned’s symptoms and side effects Keytruda as well lab results. It was discovered that Ned’s body was not tolerating the Keytruda and it was creating an adrenal insufficiency.

Obviously, Keytruda would be stopped and full intent to go back on chemo drug Alimta. However, the symptoms needed to be managed first. The only problem with symptom management was the need for other drugs. The need for other drugs constituted various other side effects. Yet, hope remained.

A bone scan revealed 3 distinctive spots not present during a previous bone scan. The cancer was now metastatic and would need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, Ned’s body was not strong enough for treatment due to the side effects from Keytruda. Keep in mind the side effects Ned had were not common. Only a very small percentage of patients develop these issues. Like the rarity and uniqueness Ned’s cancer, his body reacted to drugs the same way.

On September 13, Kristi, my sister would call and FaceTime me to show me how pitiful he was. He had barely talked, wasn’t eating, couldn’t get comfortable. He and mom sitting on the couch. He was slumped over and she was sitting with her arm around his slumped shoulders. I told Kristi that I was calling the doctor.

This call would result in EMS coming to get him. He would not return home. Well, not his earthly home.

At some point, God will probably open my mouth to share about the last 6 weeks of his life but many parts of that story are still raw and painful. Suffice to say, he was blessed with good care everywhere he was taken. Jesus, the Good Shepherd continuing to provide.

On October 29, God called him home and he gladly went. His body was tired. His fight was long and hard. We Had hooked beyond all hope that God will heal him here on earth. God said, “No! His work is done here and I want him with me”.

All during and through Neds illness and death our family witnessed a huge outpouring of deep love and support from family, friends and former co-workers. Again, The Good Shepherd giving us all we need. Protection. Food. Love. Comfort. Sacrifice.

The key thing about Jesus, The Good Shepherd, is that he was willing to lay his life down for yours. When dark shadows refuse to reveal light. When the tests are screaming bad news. When your bank account is dry. When your hope runs on empty. When you feel like you can’t go on. Remember. Jesus paid it all. He felt everything you are feeling. He’s the only one who fully knows and understands. Because of the high price he paid for us, He is our hope. He is our joy. He is our Good Shepherd, if we’ve put our hope and trust in Him by inviting Him into our hearts.

Look how David so eloquently describes the Lord as his Shepherd.

In closing, 2017 will go down in the yearbook as one of the most difficult years on record for me and for my family.  However, even through the most challenging times, the many tears we cried, watching our loved one lose his life, Jesus was and continues to be our constant source of strength and hope.

A big thank you to all who continue to read my blog.  I’m not sure where 2018 will take us, but I know that God already has it mapped out.  As He leads, I will continue to write.

A new understanding

For the longest time I never understood how folks could become so attached to their animals. Let’s face it, growing up with a Basset Hound is not what I consider to be the ideal family pet.  She wasn’t a bad dog, she just wasn’t that stereotypical, picture perfect dog that could be classified as “man’s best friend.”  Of course, she was never allowed in our house, only the basement part of our garage and only when it was frigid outside, or she was in heat, or when she had pups. How could one get so attached to a creature that spent most days roaming the yard or woods?  Duchess wasn’t a dog who would just sit and enjoy being petted. Plus, she smelled, as most hounds do,  and she hated baths.  As soon as she was out of the bath, she was running to find dirt or grass so she could roll around and dirty herself up again.  In other words, she just wasn’t a dog that captured your heart, at least not for me, my sister and brother may disagree.

Anyway, when Terry and I were first married, we took in a stray cat because he refused to get the boys a dog. To be honest, I am not a cat person.  I learned to like them because of my children.  In fact, you learn to like a lot of things for those you love.  We’ve had several cats and buried several cats.  A couple even ran away, maybe for better food or for more adventure. Who knows.  Anyway, I just don’t have a particular fondness for cats. Obviously, I was sad when one of them died or went missing, but not completely heartbroken.  I was more heartbroken for my kids because they were heartbroken.

Finally when Amy turned 10 Terry decided it was time to get a dog.  The dog would be “her” Christmas gift. One afternoon before Christmas, Alex, Amy and I went to the local pet store to scan and look at the puppies.  There were plenty of cute puppies to choose from but the Bichons caught our eye.  I don’t know if it was because they looked like little cotton puff balls curled up beside one another or if their cute little black noses and eyes(Side note: Bichon’s do not have fur.  They have hair.  It actually grows like our hair, which is why it has to be cut every 5-6 weeks) Maybe it’s because I knew ahead of time the breed is hypoallergenic and that was important to me. Needless to say, I gravitated to the Bichon and even took a picture of Amy holding him.  Sent it to Terry.  He said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, December 24, 2008, Terry and I went back to the pet store to peruse and find the perfect dog for Amy.  Again, we were surrounded by multiple choices and some really adorable dogs.  Of course I migrated toward the Bichons and finally persuaded Terry to come look at them and then it happened.  I encouraged him to hold one and I held the other one. After a few minutes the owner came over to talk to us.  He was telling Terry all of the benefits to having a Bichon, just like I had previously told him. It also helped when he told us the breeder was going to lower her price because it was Christmas Eve.  Terry chose the one he wanted by putting them both back in the crate and observing their behavior.  He chose the more calm one.

That happened nine years ago.

Remember the dog is for Amy, right?  Amy didn’t pick the dog.  Terry picked the dog.  Amy didn’t name the dog.  Terry named the dog.  So who’s dog is it anyway?

Most days he’s my dog.  Oh, he loves to curl up on Terry’s lap when he’s home.  Terry says, “He’s the only dog I know that can make you tired because he’s tired.”  I have to remind him that a Bichon Frise means “curled up lap dog”.  He definitely lives up to his breed.   He follows me.  When I get up, especially if I’m heading into the kitchen he follows me. There have been times when I’ve had to cook with him on my hip just like when my children were babies. If I’m not holding him, he lays on the floor and watches my every move.  Of course he’s hoping I’ll drop something so he can scoff it up. He’s always excited to see me when I get home.  He comes to me when he needs to go outside.  He lets me know when he’s out of food or water, which doesn’t happen often, just every now and then. He takes care of me when I’m sick, or at least he thinks he does.  He just curls up right beside me or on my lap and won’t leave my side until I get up. He’s highly protective of me.  He’s the best watch dog. His bark is annoying and aggravating but no one is getting in my house without warning. I absolutely adore him.  All of the kids accuse me of loving the dog more than I love them.  There may be some truth to that.  He’s always delighted to see me.  He doesn’t talk back.  I can hold him and love on him anytime I want.  He will always stay little and he will always need me.

Now I completely understand how people become so attached to their fur babies.  They truly become part of the family.  I really can’t imagine what it would be like without the company Sammy provides for me.  I know I will miss him terribly when he is no longer with us because he is a part of our family.

There are many things in life that we do not understand.  We don’t understand because we don’t have the experience.  Experience is a teacher.  Once we’ve learned by the experience, then and only then, can we share the lessons we learn and impart knowledge and wisdom gained along the way. I know wheat it’s like to watch a parent suffer and die. I know and understand from the standpoint of a young child and older adult.. However, I don’t have the foggiest clue of what it feels like to lose a spouse or child to death. I can pray for them, empathize with them and point them to others who’ve had that experience but I cannot impart any great knowledge or truly understand how it feels. It would be a travesty for me to try to impart some wisdom or truth into something I know nothing about. On the other hand, it’s a travesty if I’ve been given wisdom and knowledge and refuse or neglect to share what I’ve learned with others who are facing similar situations. Remember people need people. We were not designed to go it alone. God never intended for us to do life alone.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.. James 3:17

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself  Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you.  I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old.  I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in  They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s.  They went to sleep right away.  Terry and I went to bed.  He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in.  We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw.  Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed.  Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors.  He came to the door and turned the knob.  It was locked.  He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder.  Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed.  I was crying too.  It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle.  It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was.  It needed to happen.  We just weren’t ready, at first.  It was traumatic for all of us.  Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us.  He just knew what was best.  I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread.  We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28.  It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know?  They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree.  Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened.  It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass.  Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree.  The thud.  The crash.  The breaking of glass.  I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys.  Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass.  At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me.  Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry.  We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones.  I didn’t want to be consoled.  I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate.  We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out.  We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate.  If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything.  It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.

The Proposal and the Wedding

The Proposal and Wedding

“Ephesians 5:31Amplified Bible (AMP)

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [a]one flesh.

If memory serves correctly, the closing on the house was on December 7th.  Thanksgiving came and went without a proposal.  Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed.  However, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was talking my sister on the phone and she asked, “When are you getting married?”  I told her that I was clueless and she asked to talk to Terry.

After a few minutes, Terry handed the phone back to me and she was screaming, “Oh my gosh, you’re getting married December 17th!!!”  Stunned and a little confused, I said, “Really?  He hasn’t even asked me, but he’s already set the date?  Ok!”

So I get off the phone and Terry says, “Well I had to give her a date because she’s coming home from Texas and she wanted to plan her trip around our wedding.”

“Maybe he’s not going to ask the old-fashioned way and maybe he’s not even giving me a ring.”  I thought silently.  Oddly, I was ok with that.

The following weekend was my birthday, but I was already committed for the weekend performances of the Messiah; so any celebrating had to wait.

On Monday Terry asked if I would go eat with him at Red Lobster.  As we drove to Greenville, our plans for the wedding were coming together (yes still without an official proposal).  We were going to have a small family wedding in the chapel at First Baptist.

We finished our meal and ordered dessert, as we were finishing, Terry moved his right hand across the table and turned his hand over, revealing a diamond ring he was wearing on his pinky finger. Oh the elation and excitement, I thought my heart would pop out of my chest.  Then, he asked, “Will you marry me?”  By now, several other patrons realized what was happening, so of course, all eyes and ears were on me.  “Of course I’ll marry you.”

And so it was settled…ring and all…December 17, 1994

Obviously, we didn’t leave ourselves much time to prepare or plan. The good news was that Mom had frozen a ton of leftover goodies from my sister’s wedding in April.  We decided that we were not going to have anything elaborate.  It was the second time for both of us.

The Chapel at First Baptist Hendersonville would serve us well.  The perfect place for a small gathering of family.  Immediate family only.  We had to draw the line somewhere.  Keep in mind that Terry comes from a large family.  His Mom and Dad had 6 children and Terry was the baby.  All of his siblings were married and had at least one child, at the time.

Besides, we couldn’t just pick out a few friends and not invite the whole lot of them.  We would hurt people’s feelings.  We just had no cut-off point.  Aside from that, we were funding the wedding ourselves.  My parents had already paid for one large shindig.  We had just purchased a house.  I was only working part-time.  We just couldn’t justify spending a ton of money we didn’t have.

Our plans were made and everything was coming together.  Anticipation and excitement filled the air.  But wait…..a honeymoon.  This discussion would become another source of contention between us.

Keep in mind, we were getting married only a week prior to Christmas and going somewhere for an entire week was out of the question.  Terry kept saying let’s wait and we could just do a honeymoon later.  I didn’t like that idea.  Kristi had been telling me about the cottages in Gatlinburg.  When I checked pricing, Terry erupted in an emphatic, “NO!  We are not spending that kind of money for a few days.”  Disappointment set in.  Again, I knew better than to pitch a hissy fit and cry.  I wouldn’t get my way.  I just sucked it up and decided I would be ok with waiting.

Then it happened.  Clear out of the blue.  The Sunday evening before our wedding we were sitting in church waiting for Pastor Steve to preach.  We sat beside Andy and Alice Lawson.  Alice was a former English teacher at Hendersonville High School.  Yes, one of Terry’s former teachers.  She loved him.  Her sweet husband Andy, a Nationwide Insurance Agent.

Alice put her hand on Terry’s knee, patting it gently and said, “We are so delighted to hear about your impending wedding.  We are just thrilled for you both.”  We graciously thanked her and then she leaned into Terry’s ear and asked, “Do you and Kelly like the beach?”
“We love the beach.” he replied.

“Do you have honeymoon plans?  I know your engagement has been short-lived.” she inquired.

He responded, “No, actually we don’t have any plans.”

Instantly, she leaned over Terry and spoke directly to both of us, “Andy and I wanted to do something for you.  We have a townhouse in Murrells Inlet and we would like for you to go stay there for your honeymoon.  We will get the keys to you this week. ”

If I had any doubts, they suddenly disappeared.  I knew we were doing the right thing and I knew, while our timing was questioned by some, was the best time for us.

The day before the wedding, I made one change.  I called Pastor Steve and told him we were going to add one more song.  I felt very compelled to sing the song, “I see Jesus in you”.

I awakened the next morning to a brilliant Carolina blue sky and sunshine in my eyes.  A flutter of joy in my heart and a little skip in my step.  It was going to be a great day. It was, after all, our wedding day.

Last year I asked Terry a question I’d pondered for awhile.  “You were so certain I would say “yes” to your proposal that you planned the date of our wedding before you asked me.  What would you have done if I’d said “No!”?

He replied, “It never really crossed my mind.  I don’t know.  I guess I would’ve been sad and had to take the ring back.  I’m so glad it didn’t happen that way.”

No doubt it’s been the best decision I made for myself and my two precious boys 23 years ago today.

The lyrics to the song I sang go as follows:  I see Jesus in your eyes and it makes me love you.  I hear Jesus in your voice and it makes me listen and I trust you with my life because you’re his.  I see Him in you….”

This is far from the end of our story.  This is only the beginning……