Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Room has Cleared

It's been a week or more since everyone has gone their own ways; back to their lives that are miles away for mother's room. Those of us that are left here to tend to her daily care must also make time for looking out for each other. It is important to give my sister as many breaks from her routine of watching and caring for her mother as possible.

I have said that for me, I can never break away from my past life, it will always pop up; at least as far as my sisters and brother are concerned. As the family was gathered at mom's bedside, it was a great opportunity to re-tell stories of our childhood and share our memories with mother. Those days of waiting at mother's hospital bed were a little shaky at first. Like when Kay and I walked into mom's room and there stood my oldest sister with her husband and my youngest sister. We chatted a few minutes and them Barb, stepped forward stretched our her hand in a very professional manner and introduced herself to me; "Hi my name is Barbara and this is my husband Jim." and then shook hands with Kay in the same business attitude. At which I said, " Barb, I have known you all my life!" which finally registered on the face that the person standing before her was her brother, who is now Sarah. I politely commented that I liked her new glasses and how she had changed since I saw her last. Then she said, " My, how you have changed". I could have said, "What makes you say that; is it my new breasts, or long hair, or could it have been how I was dressed?" But no, what I said was, "No Shit!" which was probable not a proper response; but there it hung in the air, like a cloud of deadly gas.

As the day's wore on and we finally were able to get mother home in her own home and bed, she seemed to relax and perk up once in a while; while still taking only small amounts of fluids. But as the weekend came, mom's house was once again filled with family, who wasn't shy about telling stories about everyone. It was weird, just a little to listen to my sisters stories about each other and about their brother John. Some tried to be polite and correct themselves and call me Sarah. But I had to remind them that their memories were with and about their brother John and that it was ok with me as that was who then knew, I wasn't known as Sarah then. I thanked them for trying to be correct my name, but my life and stories when I was growing up was with John. And that is Ok, and everyone had a different version of many stories about our family.

When my sister, Barbara was saying her good byes, she said that I was the same person that she knew and Sarah wasn't so bad; good starts to bringing families back together.

As the days of family grew quieter as everyone left, I can only hope and wish that during those short days I spent with my sisters and brother, that a shift has occurred and they had a good start of making new memories with Sarah. Lets hope we can build on that thought.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mother's Dignity

Getting to spend quality time with your Mother is a good thing, a very good thing. And not a chore we sit with her, but a blessing of the highest sense, as she leaves us. Realizing that the person who brought you into this world is leaving in her own way is a special time for me; and I am so privileged to be with her. I have my own audience of one during my solo concert when I sing her favorite songs; in her room. And yet, sometime the most faintest of smiles cross her face as I sing other songs from my short private concert just for her; this frail woman who is my mother.

My other sisters and bother must tend to their own family and or daily tasks; as they are spread across the country and can't drop everything and share this special time with mother as she prepares to join our father, her husband, her love.

I have watched her ever changing facial expressions and wonder what she is dreaming about, or who is visiting with her; waiting patiently just across the divide calling for her to join them in their world for the next journey of her soul.

I see her slipping every slowly, every silently from the world she has known to join her family. She is free from pain and does not know hunger as we know,

We are so accustomed to demanding IV lines filled with pain killing drugs, and machines and all kind of artificial, mechanical manipulations to prolong life, keeping death a bay because we are afraid to face the end of life; we are afraid of death. We are not accustomed to letting our loved one's die with dignity, at home, surrounded by loving, patient family and with grandkids; void of artificial manipulations to force artificial life into their dying bodies.

And so I sit amazed that she has kept death at bay by her own tenacity for life, to spend one more precious hour, one more peaceful minute with those who love her, and care for her and wait with her as her body slowly and peacefully quits. And as we wait; we care for her, we make her comfortable, we give her her life dignity as we softly sing her favorite songs to her in hushed, quiet, lullaby tones.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mother's Rally

What a week it has been for us. Last Sunday we were really expecting to be making funeral plans for Mother as we asked a priest to come to the house and give her Last Rites; we thought her to be that ill and ready.

However, for the past 2 days my mother has sort of rallied a little, drinking her drink Breeze, some chocolate and a few spoons of yogurt. So the point is that she is not our of the woods but for a day or so she seems to have gotten some of her strength back, as it were.

So now we are trying to help my sister care for our mother and let her have time to do the things she need to do around town. I guess we are in this long term care together during the time Mother has on this earth.

Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers for our family and our mother.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This rose bush is from the Jefferson's gardens at Monticello and it almost died before I got it in the ground last November, but I cut it back before I planted it and it's doing quite well. There are 7 blossoms on the first new growth and have a delicate sweet smell but they don't last too long. In fact, once they bloom they quickly open and fade; dropping petals by the second day. As you can see the outside petals are the deep rosy red colors and then opens to a delicate pink.

These are this years new growth on our grape vine. The new leaves and vines seem to grow before our eyes; if you could sit with a time lapse camera you probable could see how much they grow in one day.
Time does march on and our world around us changes just as quickly. As we gathered together this past week keeping watch on mother's condition, my children gathered together consoling each other and their mother who had kept seeing her mother-in-law and my sister. They would take mother out to eat and to places she liked to walk spending great quality time with mother. So last week all of us were together, telling stories and supporting each other. This past weekend was the breaking of the ice, as it were; my oldest son has agreed to sit down with me and talk about my transition, how it affected all of us, especially him, as the oldest son.

My mother has been able to sustain her life without much drink for the past 2 weeks, much longer than I would have ever thought, but as someone said, "She is a tough old 'biddy'". But her determination, if you will, has given the family enough time to come to her side and say their peace and prayers.

So just as Easter is upon us, so is spring and new life, and Mother will be reunited with Dad and stand by his side once again and look down on us. Hopefully, each of the siblings will learn to give forgiveness and show more mercy to each other in the years ahead.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Memories with Mother

Mother’s care has been turned over to Hospice, she has taken communion and was given Last Rites in preparation for her end of days; and so we are keeping watch over her with her last few days.

They say that time heals all wounds, but some wounds are deeper than others. Some wounds leave ugly scars that have scabs and are hard to heal. It’s only when we encounter the cause of our wounds and pain that we scratch and pick at scabs opening the wounds up to renewed pain. My mother is being taken care of through Hospice and we are coming to the end of her time on earth. She has been resting peaceful and is quiet most of the time with her eyes closed; but always listening. I think she hears much more than we ever thought.

She was admitted to the hospital on the 28th of February and spent a week on fluids, IV and meds. Last Thursday, (I think, cause days get jumbled and I lose track of time), she got up twice and walked a short ways down the hall and back again. That was the last time I got to walk with her. Up until three weeks ago, she would take her daily walks around the small circle, and my sister and nephew spent a few days at the beach walking. They had rented a wheelchair for the beach and they would let her walk as far as she wanted and when she tired, they would put her in her beach chair and wheel her back; picking up shells she saw on the ride back. She always loved waking the beach so she could smell and hear the oceans surf pounding the rocks and shore. After we would have taken mother to supper, we would come home and chat with my sister before saying our goodnights. Mother would sit in her chair and then get up and wander around the room and then sit back down.

My siblings came by often to sit with her when she was in the hospital and once she was discharged to come home, the house was filled with children and grandchildren. It was a time for story telling, laughing and remembering of our years growing up with mother. My father passed away late in 71, so it was up to mother to raise the rest of the children. Three of us (the siblings) were married and the three youngest were still in school when my father died. And so that was when my mother took her first job, at the College library as a door checker. Mother loved to read and the college students always asked for mother to help them find something because they knew she would get up and find what they wanted. She worked 30 years at the library part time while she volunteered at the hospital, the middle school library and a few other places around town.

Being at my mother’s bedside has been a great blessing for me and has created an opportunity for all of us to come together for her sake. It’s as if being in her room, the sense of time slows down and we enter a cocoon, while the outside world keep its whirling frantic pace and rushed time schedule. But in her room stories are told and songs are sung, mother is caressed and kissed. Her time with us is without machines and tubes to keep her alive. She is without pain or anguish, but rests peacefully and quiet, talking some and still giving orders.

I was in the room when my oldest and youngest sister were saying goodbyes, when my oldest sister began reciting a poem, mother chimed in reciting with her. She ask me to join in singing her favorite song, “Beautiful Dreamer”, which I didn’t remember. But the both of us stumbled along as we sang, sometimes not remembering the words, but it was a beautiful moment for those of us who were in the room.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Changing Minds and Hearts.

It's been a hell of a week. We have been helping with an older couple settle back into his home routine after experiencing a heart attack leaving his heart to function at 33% when I get a phone call telling me that my mother was admitted to the hospital last Tuesday. She was dehydrated and had a urinary track infection; add to the equation that she is 93 and has some mild form of dementia doesn't help. She does recognize my sister who has been her primary caregiver for about the last 4 years. She took care of her children's other grandmother many years ago before she passed away.

In the past this sister and I have had strong differences of opinions about Mother and her about my transition, (I think). Last year my ex-wife and daughter got my sister to let us watch Mom for one night a week so she could do yoga with my ex-wife, Linda. I have mentioned a huge shift in the relationships with my ex and daughter and it's been amazing.

My sister is Mom's legal guardian and caregiver and knows mom's habits quite well; how she eats, reacts, her daily routine. But this hospital stay is just another episode in Mother's downward health spiral, and will be a set back.

My other 3 sisters were spending 2 weeks at a home on the Georgia Coast and had expected to come get mom and take her back, without this sister who has been her caregiver. So when the one sister (P) came back to Valdosta to get mother; that was when she fell ill and had to be hospitalized. I was checking in on mom and to see if M needed a to get lunch and P looked pissed, it was as if she was blaming mom for upsetting her (P) plans, as she had brought along her dog. Why she brought her dog is nuts, cause it would probable be an problem as they travel back to P coastal home unless the dog was traveling in a kennel.

The following day my sisters (P) and (B the younger) showed up to visit mother. And they were so excited to see mother eat a little more than usual, and was making plans to take her to the beach. They just knew mom was getting better and would have a great time at the beach. But the problem is that they only saw a narrow window of her life now. She was awake and more responsive in those moments so they assume that she is getting better; false thinking, bad assumptions bad choices. They have no idea what mother will do, how to care for her, how to calm her down or what she does when she is nervous.

Our thoughts are to support my sister M as she has the Power of Attorney to care for her and made important decisions.

Convention Reflections

Reflections from the Convention Floor


Sarah J. Smith-Riggle

The journey that took me to the floor of the Convention for this year was quite by accident; although some say that events come to fruition by circumstances not of our control. I would very much agree to that; 100 per cent. Kay and I were already going to convention as exhibitors for Integrity, as it were; but forces beyond our control would put one of us on the floor as the Delegate for our church. If Kay had a wish, it would be that I could be that delegate; I needed to be a delegate, to know what it feels like to have voting power and to sit with other delegates as part The Episcopal Church.

At last year’s convention Kay was the primary delegate and I was the alternate. I had been hurt spiritually before convention began and when the convention concluded, I was angry; I felt invisible and was hurting in a detached kind of way. But as this year’s Primary Delegate, something happened; I was carried to a higher plane by the spirit of the body from the convention floor. From the moment I stepped onto that floor, I was carried through both services by the music; by the voice of all the delegates speaking as one body as we recited the morning prayer and song. I wept for joy, because I was there, because I was accepted for who I am; I felt welcomed by all, as a member of that body. And I was overwhelmed, with joy, with tears, with the spirit for those two days as I sat ready to cast my vote. The first vote, I think, to be cast by a trans woman in the history of the Diocese as a voting member of a Convention of Delegates.

How fortuitous that I should be sitting at a table that would get a rare opportunity to be heard discussing the issue of Same Sex Blessings. The delegate body was allowed forty minutes to listen to and voice our opinions on this very important issue. After listening to the other’s thoughts, it seemed that all those sitting at my table were in favor of creating a Blessing Ceremony for Same-Sex Unions. Some said that if the Church could bless people’s homes then the Church could bless those in a same sex relationship. Aren’t our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters more important to the Church than a person’s home? If we want and respect the people who fill the pews then why would we not show our Love for them as well. Why do we push people away from us just because they want their relationships to be recognized by those who say they love and respect them, a relationship that is already affirmed by God. Why do we push our Church members out the doors to find other options from supporters of the GLBT community who bless loving relationships. Are we telling our glbt church families; “We want your money, we just don’t want to see you showing affection for the person you love.”. Is that what we are saying to those in non-traditional relationships? Do we really mean that?

Let us stand united with the growing movement to affirm and bless Same Gender Relationships that is moving among the Episcopal Churches in the United States in the most visible way possible; to invite all to stand before the Alter and unite and bless Couples together in their Church’s, to publicly affirm and attest to what God already knows.