Thursday, September 20, 2012

Four Long Years

I miss my boy. I know; he's been a man for many years, but tonight I'm missing that boy that called to see how things were, that never missed an opportunity to make me smile, that took his responsibility as oldest child seriously.
It's been four years ago today that I last talked to Jason. He called on his way to play golf. We didn't talk long, something I still wish I could change. Tony and I were out walking when he called, so we just caught up for a minute. Then we hung up.
The sound of his voice hasn't left me, maybe because Carson sounds more and more like him as he gets older. The memory of his face hasn't left me. I see the way he looked as a baby, as a toddler, as a kid, as a teenager, as a man. Even if I never looked at another picture of him; his image if forever etched in my mind.
I remember how he looked before the scar, before the freckles. I remember him in the best and worst days of his life. He was such a happy kid, but he was just Humphrey enough that you couldn't always tell that. He had that serious, businesslike face that didn't always reveal that what he was doing was fun for him. I especially remember that when he was competing on a cutting horse. The first picture we have of him when he was competing was so cute. He was all smiles, and the turnback guys were all smiles too. I always wished he would continue to smile like that when riding, but he didn't. Instead, he got that "down to business" expression on his face and went to work. It was only after the scores were announced that you witnessed any emotion. A high score meant he was going to pat Sally and later Charlie and give credit to the horse. I saw him win, and I saw him lose. Not much difference.
There was one place that Jason exhibited emotion--Gallagher Iba and Boone Pickens stadium. Those two places saw him laugh, smile, scream, you name it. I think I miss him most on game days. If his Cowboys played a good game, he could discuss it for hours. If they played poorly, well he could talk about that too. One thing never changed though. He was the orangest person I've ever known, and he left that legacy to Allison and Carson. Faithful and true....they truly are.
Four years is a long time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September, I'm reclaiming you.

For three years now I've dreaded September. So many memories of that dreaded night four years ago when I first learned of Jason's death have crowded out the good feelings about the month. I love football; it starts in September, I enjoy Labor Day, the last hoorah of summer, the first day out of school for us, we always had a huge birthday party for my dad whose birthday was Sept. 10th, but the sorrow and loss has stolen this month from me. I find myself looking forward to Sept. 20th, the day that changed my life and my family forever. I don't mean "looking forward." There's nothing to look forward to, but I can't enjoy the day by day march to that date. I keep thinking... it's coming, how will I handle it this year, will there ever come a time when it doesn't punch me in the gut, what can I do to honor Jason's memory in a healthy way? I've decided that I will re-claim this month. I will look for ways to celebrate his life, celebrate his place in our family, celebrate the friendships he made in his 33 years on this earth, celebrate OSU football in his honor, celebrate the gift God gave me when he allowed me to be Jason's mom. I miss him. I don't really think I miss him more in September than I do in all the other months. I'd just love to talk to him for a few minutes. When I hear people complaining about their adult kids, I want to grab them by the collar and scream, "You are blessed to have them here to give you gray hair." "You are blessed that they need to borrow a little money occasionally." "You are blessed that they drop their kids off for you to watch." "You are blessed to have your kids outlive you." I'm not alone in this journey. I am friends with so many who have lost a child. Some of them lost children, of them lost teenagers, some lost young adults, some lost adult children like we did. The common thread that runs through our lives is we will always think in "would-have-beens." I didn't start writing this to be a sermon. I wanted to acknowledge that we have made it to another September. It's just that lately I've noticed so many people who are fussing with their family members. My husband goes every morning to see his mother in the nursing home even though she treats him horribly. I want to scream at her, "I would give anything to see Jason for just a few minutes every day." We have friends who do not speak to their parents, children, siblings, cousins, others friends. I want to scream, "Seriously, folks, life's too short for this nonsense." I have many many emotions tied up to my loss of Jason, but regret is not one of them. I've survived the heartache of losing parents, sisters, and a son, but I can look back on my relationship with all of them with no regrets.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Law of Kindness

I love studying the Bible and learning what it has to teach. I especially love it when I see that the things it has to teach are so fitting for today.
Several years ago in a sermon, Jimmy Holbrook explained the verse in Matthew 28 when Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." He explained that the young Hebrew men would "yoke" to a rabbi and learn what he knew. That's how the holy teachings were handed down. As with all situations, some rabbis were tougher teachers than others.
Jesus himself, who was called rabbi by Nichodemas, said my yoke is easy, so I'm thinking that his teachings are easy, not complicated. I find this to be true, sometimes. It's easy until it says, Love your enemy; Love others as yourself. Those are tough things for humans to do.
This week I was listening to Beth Moore on Wednesdays with Beth. These are 15 minute videos that she records every week on a popular Christian tv show. In the archives there are three videos about kindness. She explains that the text, My yoke is easy actually can be interpreted--my yoke is kind. Christ followers are supposed to be kind. Are we? I'm not sure non-believers can see any difference between us and others.
We now live in a culture of Christian with Attitudes. I see t-shirts and bumper stickers that embarrass me. "God Said It; I believe it; That settles it." What would be wrong with leaving off the last one. If I were a non-believer, that would not make me want to follow Jesus? It's not kind. Remember the WWJD bracelets. Maybe we should think What Would Jesus Think...about our t-shirt, about our attitude, about our bumper sticker, about our facebook post, about our tweet. Are these things KIND?
In the social and political arena we seldom see anyone who is kind to those that do not see things the same way. We demonize anyone who doesn't agree with our beliefs. If we are truly trying to win people to Christ, how can we do that when we treat them so horribly.
We live in such an unkind culture that we seem to have forgotten what it means to be kind--to everyone. It's easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. That's not enough.
I can think back over my life and remember acts of kindness that astonished me. They are easy to remember because they always kind of shock me.
After Allison was born, I had several particulary difficult days. Back then new moms had to remain in the hospital a full week after a c-section. I had struggled through the rough days and was gaining strength, but I still felt pretty rough. It was about day five when a nurse's aide came in to change my bed. She asked me how I was doing, if there was anything I needed. I said the only thing I really wanted she couldn't do. I wanted my hair washed. She asked if I was strong enough to stand for about five minutes. I said yes, and this precious girl washed my hair, combed it out, and dried it. Was that in her job description? Absolutely not. She did it as an act of kindness. Anyone who has been in bed for a week knows how yucky your hair gets. I felt like a new person. My mom was stunned to see my new attitude when she came to visit. She said that she had been worried about me, but she could now see that I was going to be ok. I wish I knew who that girl was. When my sister, Linda, was in the hospital before she died, a nurse noticed that her arms were dry. Linda was comatose; she had no idea that her arms needed lotion, but I walked in as that nurse was applying lotion to her chapped arms. What a precious act of kindness.
Several weeks after my dad passed away, my husband was headed in to town to mow. He had been mowing my dad's lawn for seven years. We had already sold dad's house, so I said, "You don't have to mow there any more." He said, "I've been mowing the neighbor's yard too, so I'm going to mow her yard." I was amazed. He never said a word about doing that.
My mother-in-law is in the nursing home. Some of the people that work there are so very kind to her. It blesses my heart when she tells me that one of them has gone out of their way to meet her needs.
The many acts of kindness shown to me after Jason's death were over-whelming. I appreciate every one of them, and I have tried to pay it forward when anyone is going through a loss, but I need to be mindful of the person (student, family member, colleague, stranger)who just needs a kind word or deed.
It's easy to be kind to someone who is going through a tragedy. When someone's house burns, the tornado blows through, or a death takes a loved one, we all look for things to do. These are important, but I think we should be looking for ways to show kindness all day, every day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Heaven and Back

I was watching the Today Show this week and saw an interview with Dr. Mary Neal who wrote a book called Heaven and Back. Those of you who know me know that I am obsessed with heaven. I want to know where Jason is, what he is experiencing, but I haven't been candid about one of the burning questions in my mind since his death. What did he experience on that lonely Nebraska highway? Was he scared? Was he aware of what was happening? If so, did he feel regret, sadness, joy? This woman is highly educated, an orthopedic surgeon, and her to heaven and back experience is unlike any I have ever read. She was under water for 15 minutes, so her experience can't be explained the way others have been. Many believe that the "follow the light" kind of experiences are physiological or psychological, the body's and mind's coping mechanism. She adamantly disregards that because she is a scientist and knows that there's no way her body could have come back from being under water for 15 minutes. The best thing I read was her experience of being escorted to Heaven by angelic beings, of not being at all frightened, of wanting to keep going, and of thinking that she had a choice of whether to go back or continue. I have a difficult time thinking about Jason wanting to leave us, but my logical mind that knew him well thinks that that's a possibility, especially if his reception team included his grandad, his granny and pa, my sisters, and Andrea Sigman, his high school love. He had experienced so many losses in his life, significant losses. What did he have here? He had a family who loved him, but at the moment of choice, he may have realized that we will all join him someday. Time in heaven, according to all I've read, is not like time here. From the accounts I've read, minutes in heaven feel like hours on earth. If that is true, did he know that he was only going to be in heaven a matter of weeks before we would all join him? Was he so drawn by those who loved him in the purity of heaven that he was able to leave this fallen world? At first, thinking that he had a choice hurt my feelings, but I've been pondering. What would my choice be? If I were looking into eternity and I saw my parents, sisters, and Jason, would I be able to turn back. I don't want to leave this life. I still have things to do, I still have two children and a husband that I want to share this life with, but what a temptation. Leave the cares, worries, tragedies of this life in exchange for heaven. I can't tell her entire story, but I highly recommend it. I have an abiding faith, so I don't need proof that all I believe is true, but I do like to read stories like hers. I don't think anyone would write a story like hers if they weren't convinced that their story is one that must be told. Why would a woman of science expose herself to the scrutiny and skepticism that surely will come her way? I'm thankful for her courage.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New Orleans or Bust! Planes, trolleys, automobiles, pedicabs, trains.

If you follow me on Facebook, none of this will be news to you. In case you ]don't, I just made a trip to New Orleans to the High Schools that Work Conference. Talk about an eventful trip. First, Christina Spurgin and I were the only two who could get away this summer to go, so we decided we would fly instead of drive. There were a couple of reasons for our decision. First, our school vans are getting kind of old, and I didn't really want to take off for a twelve hour drive through Louisiana in an iffy vehicle, especially with just two women. OK, maybe my dad had more influence on me than I realized. He always felt better if he knew that a "man" was going to be on a trip with us, even if that man had no mechanical skills whatsoever. I left my house at 5:00 A.M. Wednesday, picked up Christina and headed to the airport for a 7:30 flight. Because of a storm in Houston, our plane did not leave OKC on time which caused us to miss our connecting flight in Houston to New Orleans. We were able to get on a flight to Baton Rouge, rent a car and drive in to New Orleans. Amazingly, our luggage was waiting for us at the New Orleans Airport when we arrived there. We then had to pay a ridiculous 38.00 each for a round-trip airport shuttle because our hotel did not have shuttle service. We finally arrived at our hotel about 8ish. Our original plan was to be in New Orleans by noon and attend the conference that afternoon. Now for the hotel, the -call center (in India?) that booked our reservations assured us that the hotel was right across from the Convention Center. There was a Hilton Garden Inn accross from the Convention Center, but it was not the one that had our reservations. No, we were 15 blocks from the convention, in New Orleans, where the temperature is 95 and the humidity is 100%. We looked and felt great by the time we arrived at the convention both days. The hotel staff was nice, accomodating, and apologetic, but they could do nothing about the mixup. We left the hotel and walked to find a place to eat, had a nice dinner, went back to hotel and crashed. The next morning we walked down to the convention, attended several sessions, walked to Johnny's for a muffaletta, shopped near Cafe Du Monde, had beignets. We tried to get on a trolly that would take us closer to our hotel. We were standing on the platform, being polite, waiting for the people to get off. We had our $1.25 in our hands. All of the sudden, the doors closed, and the trolley took off. So we rode back to the hotel on one of those pedicabs (felt sorry for the poor guy who had to pull us). We rested and cleaned up. Late that night we went to Deanie's for seafood. We had an hour wait, but it was completely worth it. Friday morning we headed back to the convention and attended several more sessions, ate our famous HSTW boxed lunch, went to a couple more sessions and headed out to shop for souvenirs. We rode the trolley this time. We were a little more aggressive getting on. We headed into the stores to shop, and probably hadn't been in there five minutes when we looked out and realized that it was pouring down rain. So...we hired a cab to take us to the hotel. We got back to the hotel around 4:00 to meet our shuttle. The craziest driver in all history sped through New Orleans to take us to the airport. We both were a little queasy by the time we got to the airport. Guess what, because of delays in Houston, we were stranded in the airport for several hours. Then we made it to Houston and encountered even further delay. Our plane finally took off for OKC at 11:30. We had been joking about the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, but we hadn't ridden a train. As soon as we made it through security, we were told that we had to board a train to get to our gate. It was far, far away from the main part of the airport with no food available. Crazy! When they finally announced that we should board, about 30 people started singing Oklahoma! Two groups were coming back from mission trips, so I know they were ready to get home. The singing abruptly stopped when we were escorted out on the tarmac to board a very small plane to take us to OKC. Classic. On a good note, HSTW convention did just what it is supposed to do. We both started talking about next year; we began discussing and sharing ideas that we learned at the sessions. And...maybe most importantly, it gave two colleagues a memory that will bond us even more than we were before. I'm blessed to work with such a dedicated teacher. Next years' convention is in Charlotte. That is a long way to drive, but I'm thinking it may be worth it to avoid all the transportation glitches.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm Still Here

I haven't posted on my blog in many, many months. Why? I don't know. Writer's block? Maybe. Nothing to say? Not likely. Uneventful life? Possibly. I think sometimes of a subject that I might blog about; then I think of the people out there reading it, and I realize that what I have to say might not need to be written every time. I'm going to New Orleans tomorrow through Friday with Christina Spurgin, a former student who is now a colleague and a workout buddy. We are going to the High Schools that Work Summer Conference, so we will hit the floor running tomorrow morning about 4:30 and continue to run until about 10:15 Friday night when we fly in to OKC. I plan to eat some really good NOLA food. I want to meet for dinner with another former student, now friend, Annie Lombardi. I don't think we'll have time for much sight-seeing or shopping, so let's just say the food and fellowship will be the focus of our three day whirlwind trip. I have been to NOLA once before, so I plan to visit Cafe Du Monde for beignets more than once. I want to eat a muffaletta and some really good shrimp. I'd like to hear some live jazz. The chances that I'll do all of these things when I only have two evenings might be slim, but the food is a certainty. I made jam yesterday and thought of Jason. He loved homemade jelly and jam and would always consider a jar from my mom to be a wonderful gift. He pressured me to learn to make it, but I only made it a few times for him. Now, when I make jelly or jam I wish I could call him and tell him to come for a visit to pick up a few jars. I'll bet he's eaten some wonderful jam made by his Granny from flawless fruit. I'll bet her kitchen in heaven is state of the art. She doesn't have to have that great big fan blowing on her while she cooks. I had such a huge mess to clean up last night. Somehow I can't quite imagine a mess in heaven. This summer is flying by. I'm enjoying having a productive, restful, summer, but looming ahead of me is the reality that it will end soon. I usually don't start getting ready for school to start back until Aug. That's when I start seeing school supplies and get that little thrill. My mind starts rethinking my previous lessons and deciding what I keep and what I disregard. However, while it's still July, I'm going to enjoy my freedom. Freedom to go to the Y at 7:00 AM, freedom to stay up late if I want, freedom to take off to meet a friend for lunch, freedom to read for pleasure.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Live it Up, Sharyl.

I'm going to have to start blogging more often because I don't want to only write when someone dies. It seems that certain people in my life deserve more than a card to their family or a check to a charity.
My friend Sharyl Patten entered heaven this afternoon after a three year battle with cancer. Once again I'm sitting here thinking back on all the connections I have with someone who has left this life way too early.
I don't remember a time when I didn't know Sharyl. She was one of my sister Phyllis's best friends, so as a kid, I tagged along with Phyllis and Sharyl so that I could play with Sharyl's sister, LuAnne. After they married, Phyllis and her husband were friends with Sharyl and Dave, and I remember them being at my mom and dad's playing cards or wahoo or dominos. The one night I remember best was the night Lori (less than 2 yrs old) was sitting in Dave's lap at the card table, and she bit the living daylights out of him. He took her out of the room to spank her, but none of us knew why, and he was so mad that it took him a while to tell us. Awkward. We thought he had lost his mind.
If I remember right, Sharyl was my niece Janna's babysitter for a while after Phyllis went to work. Then when I married into the Humphrey family, I learned that Sharyl was a life-long friend to Tony's family. Their families go back a couple of generations. Tony's dad and Sharyl's dad were best friends.
Years ago Sharyl went on a couple of ski trips together with Mary Trahan, my sister-in-law Cindy and our kids and their friends. Carson and Jason were so very impressed with her because she was such an awesome skier. She was fun to travel with and a very good sport when we stayed in the worst motel in Colorado in Del Norte.

When Sharyl was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, I was just sick, but I really thought that if anyone could beat it, she could. I hate this evil disease.
I've been thinking all afternoon about what Sharyl is experiencing right now. Barney, Phyllis, Jason and many others are welcoming her to paradise. There's no chance that the room she had been assigned is anything but perfect. That motel in Colorado was so bad that they actually gave us a room because there wasn't room for all of us in the two rooms we had reserved. Her room in heaven is perfect--clean, safe, comfortable--just the opposite of the Del Norte room with the smelly carpet, hollow core outside door, tiny bathroom, uncomfortable beds.
As I've said often, I don't believe in Rest In Peace for a believer. Live it up! Sharyl. No more pain, no more cancer, no more chemo, no more radiation, no more stomach issues, no more procedures. Her glorified body entered heaven whole and healthy. She's breathing the freshest air imaginable (probably in the mountains of heaven). I've told this story to several people, but I have to share it with her family. I read this analogy in a book recently. If a thousand years is like a day and day is a thousand years in the Lord as the scripture says, Sharyl will only be in heaven minutes before all of us join her. That blessed my heart because I have a hard time thinking of Jason waiting for all of us. If we do the math, he's only been there a few minutes.
To her family, my heart is sad for you. Your loss is great and anything I say will not lessen that pain right now. You have all been so tough and faithful to Sharyl during her illness. You have some really long days and nights ahead. Hold tight to one another to God. It's the only thing that works. Love you all.