What a crazy, crazy, crazy life we journey through. The small “dash” from birth to death holds memories of a life time spent, and regardless of how much time or how many memories were made…it is never enough.
I sit here at 5:30 in the morning with two cats piled on my lap, who are trying to figure out why I moved from bed to the couch at this hour on my day off. But I feel they can sense that the universe has altered and they sit peacefully providing pet therapy by purring more loudly than normal (and not fighting) while their fur catches my tears and I contemplate the “dash” while finding comfort in putting my feelings/thoughts into words. My form of therapy.
This contemplation is going to be full of memories and recounts of situations that has built my life and experience with my Aunt Claudetta. She was the first of six children, five of which were born to Christine and Samuel March, and the sixth came with the union of Christine and Kenny Foster.
My Aunt C. loved photography, or I should say pictures, and she had photo albums stacked everywhere with pictures and newspaper clippings. Many times you would not even realize an article or picture had been taken until you picked up one of her albums and found history/the memory that had been captured and forever kept and marked. I recently found out she has a section in her album of my journey through nursing school. I was at her house a few months ago and she was like “did you ever see my picture” and pulls out the photo album and I had a whole section dedicated to me. She loved her family and this is how she kept us close and created bonds of memories.
At Christmas time one of the doctors at the hospital brought in rock candy. The mason jar full of cinnamon candy flashed me back to years gone by and brought memories flooding in of my Aunt C. and her shelves of rock candy. It was tradition at her house to have divinity (she was the only one that could get it to turn out right) and rock candy. The rock candy was in every flavor imaginable, placed in mason jars, and displayed on the shelves that make up the window between her kitchen and frontroom. It was a colorful display and readily available to the little urchins that were running around the house. We would often climb up on the cream colored couch that had the rust floral design and pilfer our treasures.
Aunt C.’s was where we would gather for games. We played outside games of horseshoes, badminton, washers, and later hillbilly golf and bean bag toss. Inside we held boxing matches between all the cousins in the “add on” while our dads looked on giving pointers from the side lines, and piled into the laundry room around the Saga game console, the pre Nintendo game that Elmer Gene had. We didn’t question the fact that we were sent to the furthest room from everyone trying to talk, sat on linoleum flooring, and played for hours…always in sight from the kitchen or livingroom area and easily within “hearing” distance to be yelled at if we squabbled. The adults would play spoons, dominions, or just sit around and talk for hours. The house was full of love and laughter.
On January 5, 2017, our lives were altered. We finally received answers that had been being searched for since September 2016. In September we had been given a green light by Dr Peter’s office saying everything was good, yet things were not good. So in October surgery was done to remove her gallbladder, and things still did not improve. After many doctors and a visit to the ER, and weeks of waiting, we were finally told that she was diagnosed with Large B cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. She met with a new cancer doctor on a Monday, January 9, and had her first chemo treatment was given on Wednesday, January 11. We tried to prepare ourselves, we knew that day ten would be the “worst” and we were preparing for weakness and vomiting and overall malaise. We were not prepared for what day ten held.
Throughout the past two weeks as I would visit and assist my aunt she stayed positive and would always have the attitude of the Shunammite woman of “it is well”. This past Wednesday I stopped on my way home from my shift in Arkansas to visit and check in, and she shared with me the scripture in Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper”. She stated “this is good stuff”. Then of course we talked, or I should say I talked, about how this situation “doesn’t happen to us”, it’s something that you hear about and deal with for friends, not something that we should have. She calmly looked at me and said “sickness is no respecter of persons”. I left Wednesday night with the “I love you’s” spoken and reassurances of calling me if she needed anything given. I had two more days of work (of my five day stretch) and I headed out the door to get some sleep. I was not prepared for the next call of assistance I would get.
Saturday morning, January 21, started for me at 0637 when I received a call from Diane to come to Aunt Claudetta’s. It was DAY 10. She was weak and sick. Blood was drawn and we found out her white count was zero; her doctor said to get her to the hospital. The ambulance was called and the process was started. She wasn’t herself, but it was DAY 10, so we thought this was her day 10 self…though each time I would go to her to give ice chips or give assistance I could tell she was declining. But who knew what to expect? They don’t give out instruction manuals or books for “what to expect when you’re chemo-ing” as they have available for expectant mothers; and when you asked people that had been in the situation with family or themselves you’re told of the weakness, hair loss, and vomiting.
Working in the medical field as a nurse, and in my own community where I was born and raised, I have always had the “what if” scenarios that play through my head of how it will be when I get into a situation of caring for someone I know personally in an emergency situation. I have had a few scares of some close acquaintances that have visited the ER on my watch for chest pain. We either ruled out heart attack, or got them out the door to the proper care with no harm. I have never had to have a close friend or family member in trauma one….until Day 10. It didn’t play out as my scenarios in my head, it happened on the side of the road in my church parking lot in the back of an ambulance as I had to put my nursing cap on and abide by my state license and oath as a nurse of giving assistance where needed….regardless of the situation. When the door closed everything left except that I am a nurse, I help people in emergency situations, and I am trained for this. I did my job. I assisted where needed, and we succeeded. I stepped back out of the ambulance and got into my car and drove the two minutes to my house so I could at least brush my teeth and change out of my night shirt…and the enormity of what had just transpired hit me full force in the middle of my chest. This part was as I had envisioned it, though I was not pressed against the fence behind the hospital, I was standing on my car port bent at the waist hyperventilating crying…trying to make it into my house so I could complete my plan of brushing my teeth and changing clothes so I could go to the hospital and see what else Day 10 held. I walk away knowing that training takes precedence, a person does what one has to do in that moment of time, and then when the moment is over self comes back.
We made it to the hospital, actually I think half of Ripley County made it to the hospital, and the wait started. Decisions had to to be made. We prayed, had faith and hope, and was holding onto the promises that are given throughout the Bible. We knew and believed that God can and would heal…it’s just not always how we envision or want the healing to take place. God chose to give complete healing, body and soul. He gave it on Day 10.
I had came home to put some feed away for my dad, take care of my cats, and take my medicine that had been forgotten earlier in the day. I was on my way back to the hospital when the call came at 11:24 that she had passed away. We were not prepared for this on Day 10.
I walk away from Day 10 knowing that you are never prepared, that I have the ability to compartmentalize and can function as a nurse when it is required regardless of the situation, that we have a massive family and network of friends that will bind together at a moments notice and help anyway they can, and most importantly that God is God regardless and that He loves us. We may not understand His plan, or comprehend the ‘why’ of the situation…we must continue to trust and believe. Is this the answer we wanted, definitely not. Is this what we envisioned for Day 10, definitely not. Will we continue to move forward, live life, make memories, and succeed at it? Most definitely.
Our lives were altered on this day 10. We will have bouts of grief, anger, and confusion throughout the next few months or even years…because life sometimes just does not make sense. But we will walk through it all knowing and trusting as the Shunammite woman that “It is well”…and it will be well not because of who we are, or the strength we possess but because of who God is and His strength.
Aunt Claudetta…It is well, the weapons formed against us shall not prosper. We mourn your passing but rejoice in your freedom from pain. We miss you and love you more than we ever let you know…but we celebrate this journey of a lifetime.