Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Time to Weep.....

Today was rough......I was hoping it was going to be a FULL day of school...no distractions....no fluffing off...tons of laundry to do.....bedding to wash, and then in the afternoon.....a baseball game for one boy and a practice for the other. It would have been a packed day no matter what.....

But then I got a call from my mom.

And things flip flopped.

She had called to say that my Auntie Kay had fallen the night before causing a Huge hematoma in her head...leading to brain surgery last night and now she was in the NeuroICU in a light coma. Sounds bad right? It's worse when you know the back story....

My dad comes from a rather large family of 12 brothers and sisters. (Amazingly my grandmother had more like 18 pregnancies...but only 12 of the babies survived!)

So my dad is one of the younger brothers. This means that I have always been surrounded by TONS of family....by the time I came along there were aunties and uncles old enough to be MY grandparents- and they had kids and grandkids like crazy!
Because my grandmother died when I was barely in Jr. High, these aunts and uncles acted more like my grandparents. Here are a few of the local siblings back in 2003.
That's my dad in the back row...the one with the hair ;)

My Auntie Kay is the one with the glasses....

Well, by the time I reached adulthood, the twelve siblings had wittled down to nine or so....not including their spouses- who mean JUST as much as the actual siblings!....but the consistent deaths started happening about 4 years ago. First my Auntie Grace died (she's not in the picture above)....she lived out the end of her life near Redding. So I would see her infrequently....but she was always the same....a Stinker! Her expression in the picture below is SO classic! She liked hard liquor and playing cards. She was something else....I remember her always cackling....that's right cackling!....she had that smoker-cough/laugh and she'd cackle at ANYTHING.....I loved that sound. She was a tiny bitty thing even before she 'shrunk' with old age. (I think I outgrew her hand-me-down shoes in like 5th grade! I doubt she was more than 4 foot-10in!) But she and and my Uncle Tony had a beautiful, devoted marriage with a huge wonderful brood of their own. (He died last year or so-completely lost without her)

So after Auntie Grace, we lost my Aunt Sarah.

She was known as Midge....because she was So tiny. She was hilariously fiesty and her husband reminded me of Clark Gable....they were a stunning couple! Here she is at my Aunt Grace's funeral in 2006:

The next sibling to die was Uncle Al. He was a gem. He dressed up as Santa each Christmas Eve....that was his legacy....the generations of cousins he had placed upon his knee and posed with for pictures. He left a HUGE collection of Santa statues when he died. I'll never forget how he used to greet me with, "Well, hello gorgeous....!" It always made me blush.....but he really was the most personable and gentle Uncle....ever- a real charmer....but So sincere. The best part was we shared a love for the Lord, and he wasn't ashamed to talk about God or his faith. I'm sure that played a large part in the peace with which he accepted his death. I really miss him. He's the one with the suspenders and the black hat......that was his comfy look ;)

So there are six siblings left (one Uncle lives in Oregon and rarely makes it down for photo ops)

So back to my Auntie Kay, as you can imagine, at this point in time we're all getting used to mourning....but it doesn't make the process any easier.

As in all families, you find yourself closer to some family more than others. Whether by proximity, or pure adoration, we saw a lot of my Auntie Kay and Uncle Dick. They were the ones you would find at my parents house atleast once a week, just stopping by for a chat. Uncle Dick was a huge burly guy who gave GREAT BIG BEAR HUGS! Here he is with Auntie Grace.....do you see the squish in her face-he'd smother you with his hugs! (when I see this picture....I can FEEL his arms :)

So this was Uncle Dick. The self-proclaimed 'Oakie' of the family. He bonded with Jarrod in all their 'white boy' glory! In recent years he suffered from Alzheimer's and became very shaky.......But he'd still hug me with all his might and tell me I was beautiful (are you sensing a pattern in how to win me over??)

Maybe a year ago, he fell down and suffered injuries which he needed to undergo physical therapy for.......Because of his sheer size (over 6ft tall) .....he was required to check into a convalesent home. This broke his spirit.
He gave up because he hated it there SO much. He died a couple months ago.

In the meantime, his bride, Kathy....my Auntie Kay.....was suffering from her own ailments. One surgery lead to another and she was in and out of the hospital with infections. She once told my dad that she was holding out for my Uncle Dick. Then when he passed away we wondered if she had the will to go on.....

Recently, she started suffering from dizzy spells, and test after test showed nothing.....then her kidneys weren't working properly....and she was checked into a hospital again. During that time she was told she would need to check into a convalesent home to rehabilitate and regain her strength. That's where she was last night........

Checking into a convalesent home....horrified at the thought that THIS is what her husband had to go through. Terrified to be alone. Stubborn as all get up, and determined to prove she was still able, she refused her wheel chair and insisted on standing with her walker. As she stood there she apparently lost her balance, and just fell over. With the force of her whole body she hit her head on the hospital bed next to her. At this point, the surgery to relieve the mass of blood in her head was sucessful. However, all of that pressure caused a stroke. We don't know yet, how or if she can recover from this.

So that flip flopped day I was talking about.....it was spent crying tears of sadness, for the long lives that grind to a halt in various ways. For the lack of freedom and dignity that aging necessitates....for the pain and suffering my family is enduring as they stand together to rally around another sister. It's hard to watch.

And my Auntie Kay would hate the tears. She likes happy thoughts.....She is another giggler....she loves being 'babied' and she milks her cuteness. She used to be SO crafty with ceramics, paints, dolls, etc, until arthritis crooked her fingers. In recent years, she never met a casino she wasn't willing to drive HOURS for....but mostly she loves her family- especially her grandaughters. And she has always been SO sweet to my babies....here she's holding our girl.

So tonight I'm reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:4
There is "a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance...."
I visited Auntie Kay briefly in the hospital today. I long for her to heal, but I hurt for her to go through the process. Her life has been full and joyous, fun and love-filled! I can't imagine going from pure independence, living with your husband for decades and then suddenly finding yourself lost in a vortex of hospitals. I think God uses old age, not to punish us, but to teach those around us to cherish life.
So there will still be time to laugh...and moments to dance. And I'll do it for all those who have gone before me. Knowing they lived passionately, and sweetly, fiestily and sillily. But above all they lived for family.
May it be so with me Lord.
Tonight I pray for Auntie Kay.....for rest in her body. Peace in her soul. And for love to cradle her very heart. Our every breathe is in your hands, God.


MommyDesiree said...

Oh Nik...

I have no words to describe my heart ache for you, I'm so sorry...but I will pray, and pray and pray....for you, and your family.


Anonymous said...

Nikki, I can so relate to being in a large family. My dad comes from a family of 14 (he's #11), Lee is the youngest of 8 with 8 very close aunts, uncles and all their spouses. We still see several of them often. We've also had several losses over the years, including Lee's dad, and his mom is currently suffering from Alzheimer's.

Here's a "Big hug." I'll be praying for you, your large family and your Auntie. May you be filled with His love and peace. -bev

Maritez said...

That was such a sweet tribute to your entire family. How precious it is to be remembered as one who had such a devoted marriage or the uncle who gave big, burly hugs :)

And I think you're right, we can learn so much by watching those around us endure so much as they grow older.

You & your family are in my prayers...always. Love you, my friend.

Sonya said...

((hugs)) to you friend!!!