Quick Trip to LAby Angie

28
Apr/14
12:04 am
0

Jim and I were up bright and early Monday Morning: he was off to a dentist appointment and I went to Zumba. It was my first time back since before our trip to Georgia. Several people noticed that I was no longer attached to my O2 tank and took the time to comment on that and offer encouragement. One sister (who is a nurse) stopped me on the way out to ask how I was doing and how long I had had respiratory problems. I explained that it was actually a complication of my heart problem. Her eyes got wide and she asked if I would mind telling her about it. I told her about my single ventricle and fontan surgery and was surprised to see her almost in tears. She has a 14-month old granddaughter who was born with the same defect! She is being treated at Primary Children’s Medical Center (my home-away-from-home for so much of my childhood) and is receiving the newer 3-stage fontan over the next three years. We talked for almost an hour, and it was a really sweet experience.

That afternoon, I helped put together a luncheon for the family of one of the sisters I visit teach, whose mother passed away last week. It felt good to reciprocate some of the service that we have so abundantly received. For Family Home Evening, we watched Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “Gratitude in Any Circumstances,” and then wrote some Thank You cards. Tuesday was Earth Day, so Jim and I had a picnic during his lunch break, complete with Jelly Beans for treat (because it was also National Jelly Bean Day).

Friday night, we drove down to North Hollywood to visit Alex and Melinda and pick up some things from Grandma & Grandpa Packard’s house on Pickford Way. We drown down after work and got rained on a bit, but got to see some really beautiful clouds, a gorgeous sunset, and even a rainbow. After it got dark, we even saw some giant flashes of lightning that lit up the entire sky, but we didn’t hear any thunder. We made good time and got in just before midnight.

Saturday morning, Jim got up early and helped to put together Alex’s new computer (which Jim helped him pick out). At about 10, he went to pick up Jason from LAX and they spent the afternoon in Culver City with Aunt Debbie, Mark, and his crew (David, Leslie Ann, their kids, & cousin Deb). Jim picked up some stuff for us and for Jon and then returned to finish the computer. In the meantime, Melinda and I left Aurie with Alex while we went to help with this year’s Mormon Helping Hands project: cleaning up flood debris and trash along the LA River. Mel & I chatted and sang hymns and primary songs and, despite it being hard work, we were having a great time. Then, in a moment of very poor judgment, I fell into the river. I went completely under, but quickly got my footing and stood up in murky water about four feet deep. Climbing out was quite a challenge and I was a complete mess but I was soon safely on solid ground and heading to the information desk to get a few scratches patched up. The only serious casualty was my phone, which was in my back pocket. We’ve yet to see whether it will survive the ordeal.

We went home, got cleaned up, and picked up Aurie, then headed out to the LA Zoo where we saw lions and giraffes, and even one of my favorite animals: a sloth. We spent several hours there, then met up with the boys for dinner at The Island’s, a Hawaiian Burger place in LA that we fell in love with after going there with Grandma and Grandpa a couple years ago. Alex and Melinda had never been, so we introduced them to it, and they enjoyed it too. For dessert, we stuck with the Hawaiian theme by getting Hawaiian shave ice, which was also delicious.

This morning, we got up early and started our trek home. Jim had to stop by the Pickford Way house, so it added a bit to our trip, which meant we walked in to church just a couple minutes late, but I guarantee we left for church before anyone else in that congregation. Of course, we drove 350 miles to get there, but who’s counting… :)

Home Againby Angie

13
Apr/14
11:04 pm
1

Returning home was harder than we expected, but it was so wonderful to have family around us for a few days. We also found a special blessing waiting for us when we pulled up to our house: members of our ward had come over and mowed our lawn and weeded (front and back) and planted flowers in the vacant planters on our front porch. We felt so loved!

Wasn’t General Conference wonderful!? I felt like many of the talks were deeply personal and applicable to both sides of our family, especially on Sunday. Is was a very comforting way to begin to return to “real life” which – this week – meant lots of work, laundry, phone calls, and thank you notes.

On his first full day back at work, Jim’s group leader, Gordon, stopped by his office to inform him that he (Jim) had won an award while we were out in Georgia! Gordon had nominated Jim for this excellence award a while back because of the Java class that Jim taught in the Fall. The nomination was approved and he was awarded a nice certificate. We are so glad that Jim has been supported and appreciated at work, despite our recent family crises.

On Thursday, Pam Dozier invited me to join a group of women from her ward who get together casually every other week to discuss whatever they’re studying in their scriptures. Though I’m not in their ward, I still knew several of the girls and it was wonderful to talk about Conference and other spiritual topics.

We decided to do something special for “date night” on Friday: we moved the couches around and built a blanket fort in the living room, then we curled up inside it with a bowl of homemade kettle corn to watch a movie on Jim’s tablet. It was a blast.

On Thursday, Jim had created an elaborate and very effective setup for archival photographing. We spent a good part of that evening and Saturday afternoon taking pictures of all of Mom’s recipe cards. I posted a video on facebook about the project. Now that the photography part is done, the more time consuming steps begin: editing the pictures and uploading them to the family recipe website, which we plan to fix up a bit.

Yesterday we had the Elders over for dinner. We shared with them some of the ravioli left over from the funeral that we had frozen, and sent them home with some extra servings… And there’s still some more in our freezer! It’s the cruse of ravioli that never faileth. They shared with us the neat new video the Church made for Easter: http://easter.mormon.org – If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out!

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Aloha `oeby Angie

20
Mar/14
10:03 pm
0

We took turns watching over Mom throughout the night in two-hour shifts. Her breathing relaxed around 3 am after sitting her more upright. It didn’t look particularly comfortable, but after over 24 hours of labored breathing it was probably a relief. Her easy breathing has continued throughout the day, which was a great relief to us after last evening’s scare. Rebecca arrived a little after 6 am, when Dad was just getting up to replace Rachel. We must have been sleeping lightly because several of us heard her arrival and joined the watchers in the living room to welcome her.

Becka brought Mom a fresh lei from Hawai’i of plumerias and orchids. Mom didn’t respond much when it was placed around her neck and we held it up for her to smell. A couple of minutes later however, her left hand moved slowly up to touch the flowers and she rested it there on the lei. It was such a small thing, but knowing how difficult it is for her to initiate movement in her muscles, we knew that meant she cherished the gift. Its beautiful fragrance has filled the home all day.

Maybe it was finding the perfect position for her breathing or having all of her children together again, or maybe it was the calming magic of the lei, but in any case Mom has been very peaceful all day. Late this afternoon we gathered around as a family and sang to Mom and had a family prayer. Dad spoke to Mom to comfort her and tell her that if she needs to leave, she can go. It was hard, but we don’t want her to linger because she’s worried about us.

Since she can’t swallow anymore without frequent (and distressing) coughing fits, we’re no longer able to give her much to drink. We swab her mouth and give her tiny sips of water to try and keep her comfortable. But she often closes her mouth tight after one sip, indicating that she just doesn’t want it. Her temperature fluctuates a great deal and today the hospice nurse recorded a slight fever, so we have been using a cool, damp cloth on her face and neck throughout the day. Luckily, her lungs have remained clear of the pneumonia that so often comes as a complication to this disease.

Rebecca’s oldest child, Amber, called today, which Mom seemed to perk up for. She is away at college, so she wasn’t with her siblings when they called the other day. Mom also showed some wide-eyed interest when I sat with her and reminisced about her coming out to California to help us move and paint when Jim and I bought our house four years ago. She continues to enjoy music and memories when all other forms of entertainment have paled.

This evening Joseph read from The Good Master, which is one of Mom’s favorite books. It tells the story of two young cousins in Hungary, Mom’s ancestral home. There is one particular chapter that we read out loud each year as part of our Christmas traditions. I have listened to her read it so many times over the years that I could hear her voice in my mind, with all the little inflections she would use. Toward the end of the chapter, a father is explaining to his child who St. Nikolas really is (in this book, his name is Mikulas). He says, “He’s always the one who loves you best in the world.” Joseph stopped and added, “You’re our Mikulas, Mom.” It was a very tender moment.

Tonight when I said goodnight to Mom, I was inspired by the lei still around her neck, and I started to sing the chorus of Aloha Oe to her. I forgot the words half-way through, so Rebecca sang it from the beginning:

Ha`aheo e ka ua i nâ pali
Ke nihi a`ela i ka nahele
E uhai ana paha i ka liko
Pua `âhihi lehua o uka
Hui:
Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again

Translation:
“Proudly the rain sweeps over the cliffs of the Pali
The clouds glide through the trees
Always following the buds,
the fragrant lehua blossoms
A loving farewell,
My dearest who walks among the bowers
One fond embrace before I depart,
Until we meet again.”

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Memories and Sunshineby Angie

11
Mar/14
3:03 pm
0

Mom had an eventful day today! After breakfast, we made her comfortable on the couch and I pulled out a spiral-bound notebook I found last week in her office. It only had writing on the first dozen pages, but what was there was golden: Mom, the amazing journalist that she was, had taken the time to sit in each room of the “Big House” and jot down some memories before they moved. I read it aloud to her, and was both delighted and moved by her thoughtfulness. That house holds so many memories for our family, and it was clear by her responses that she felt the same nostalgia now as she did then. It was a very sweet experience.

I hope this isn’t too personal, but I had another sweet moment this morning when a home health aide visited us and helped us bathe Mom. I had the opportunity to wash Mom’s hair for her. As I did, my heart welled up with gratitude as I remembered a day nearly seven years ago when I was recovering from open-heart surgery, and Mom offered to wash my hair for me. I had been self-conscious at first, but she served me with such love and tenderness that it was truly a bonding moment. Today I had the chance to return that gift, and it was a pleasure to do it.

All the movement of bathing and changing clothes is pretty exhausting to Mom, so she slept for a while when we were done. After her nap and some lunch, we took her outside to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. Jim has been reading to her from the book she compiled from her early journals as a young mom, and I got a picture of the boys enjoying her company outside.

Before we came in, another visitor arrived. Millie is Mom’s visiting teacher and, even though her own husband has been in the hospital, she has taken the time to stop by a couple of times a week for short chats ever since Mom returned to Georgia last month.

Well, that only brings me up to about 3pm, but I’m going to let Jim finish up the day because he has some pictures to share of this afternoon’s grand adventure!

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Quips and Gigglesby Angie

9
Mar/14
9:03 am
0

It’s been another quiet day so far with Mom, but we had the delight of hearing her audibly laugh at a quip Jim made.  We had been watching Mountain of the Lord, but Dad paused it so we could go have lunch.  He took Maggie from Mom’s hands and said, “We’ll just set her down so we can get you into the wheelchair, but maybe we’ll bring her over to the table while we have lunch.  Does Maggie want lunch?” Jim chimed in, “No, she’s stuffed.” Mom grinned and laughed along with everyone.  I was very happy to see it.

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Visitors and Theatricalsby Angie

8
Mar/14
10:03 pm
0

This morning for breakfast, Louise made palacsintas and cinnamon-sauteed apples.  Mom was not her usual chipper self and was tired enough to take a nap after breakfast.

Around 11am, Jason & Tiffany arrived with their girls for a visit but since Mom was still asleep we played upstairs for a while and prepared a puppet show for Grandma Hoffman.  Once she was awake, Jim helped us transport and set up the puppet theater in the living room and we put on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

The girls went home after that for lunch and we tried to feed Mom as well.  We’ve been successful at helping her drink more today, but she is definitely eating less.  After lunch she spent some time out in the sunshine, first sitting on the back porch and then being wheeled up and down the street in Rover by Jim.

Finally, it was time for Louise to head out to the airport so we said our goodbyes and brought Mom in.  She was worn out but not sleepy, so we curled up on the couch and watched Finding Nemo.  Jon arrived shortly before it ended, and sat with us while we watched a couple of episodes of Studio C.  He’d had a long night and a long flight, though, so he went to take a nap for a while and Mom eventually said she wanted to lie down as well.

Jim helped her get comfortable on her side on the couch and sat with her for a minute to make sure she was comfortable.  I was behind the couch, looking down, and thought for a moment that she seemed to be trying to say something, but then I realized that she was actually mouthing the words to the song that was playing: an arrangement of “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee” by (“the other”) Roger Hoffman.  It was so sweet.

She rested until dinnertime.  We were initially a bit discouraged that we still couldn’t get her to eat much, and she was having trouble drinking the chocolate milk (Ensure) that her blood pressure medicine was mixed into. Jon apparently had the magic touch: she suddenly started drinking again very determinedly.  She finished the entire 8oz of liquid, and we were all very relieved.

All that determination took its toll — she wanted to go to sleep before 7pm.  Jim and Dad got her into bed and I knelt next to her and asked if she wanted the Family Prayer song.  She did, so I sang, and she wanted me to go on after that so I sang all the quiet primary songs and hymns I could think of.  Several times I saw her mouthing words again.  Once, I mixed up the words and her eyes widened – I could tell that she noticed.  Jim and Jon joined me after a while and we sang a few more before saying goodnight.  She said “Goodnight, Jim” and finally closed her eyes to sleep.

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Meeting Mistyby Angie

21
Feb/14
5:02 pm
0

A lot has happened in a couple of hours!  We had a visit from Misty, an RN with Gentiva Hospice, who examined Mom and did an evaluation and then went over lots of paperwork with Dad.  The weekend nurse will be in tomorrow for a follow-up, and then we have set up some basic routine care a couple of times a week and have ordered a wheelchair, shower bench, and other supplies.

Misty will be our regular nurse and case manager – she was very sweet and helpful, and even left her cell phone number so we could call or text her anytime we need to.  The consensus around here is that we have a good feeling about this and that it’s definitely time to have the support and advice that hospice can offer.

One service that Gentiva offers is grief counseling for close family, even if you don’t live nearby.  Since someone has already expressed a possible need for that, I asked about whether that could be arranged over the phone.  Phone counseling can be arranged, but I learned that, because Gentiva has branches all over the country, anyone on their Bereavement List can make an appointment and be seen in person if they have a local branch nearby.  Jim did some research and found locations in CA, OR, and MA (not HI – sorry!).  Counseling can begin at any time now that Mom is receiving care, and is covered under the hospice services for 13 months following her passing.  If any of you in our family feel a need to utilize this, please feel free to talk to Dad and he can have Misty get you listed.

Mom is smiling and peaceful, and ever so obliging.  It is certainly a blessing that her wonderful personality has been distilled down to such a simple example of who she truly is: a cheerful, loving, grateful daughter of God.  We all love her very much, and her love for us is still constant and strong.  She called her children her crown jewels, and she is truly the burnished gold that holds us all together.

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