Sunday Happeningsby Jim

7:03 pm

Today was another quiet day. This morning, Rebecca pulled out a sign that was made for Mom on her 60th birthday five days shy of two years ago. For her 60th birthday, we all surprised her by showing up at my brother’s house in Portland. We spent the evening together and Mom wrote in her journal that day that it was the best birthday of her life. She loved the occasion so much that she put together a scrapbook just about that weekend. Rebecca read to her from that book and showed her the pictures.

We watched music & the spoken word this morning, which was especially meaningful to us today. They sang Rebecca’s favorite song, which was very beautiful. She told us that David Warner wrote the words, which makes it even more poignant.

One of the things we’ve been doing is going through some of Mom’s old journals. We found one from when she was a young mom and my sisters have been happy to see that Mom struggled with the same things they struggle with. It gave them hope knowing that Mom had the same difficulties they have and that she still turned out as wonderfully as she did. One thing that Rebecca also commented on was that one thing she really admired in Mom was that she never stopped improving herself. That, too, gives her hope.

This afternoon, we sang a hymn and administered the sacrament. It was a special experience to do that service for Mom. Afterwards, we had a little testimony meeting, kind of like we used to have when we were kids. It was good to share a few words with each other about our gratitude for Mom and our testimonies that she helped to instill in us.

We were imagining what it will be like when Mom gets to the other side and is greeted by all those Hungarian ancestors that she’s done temple work for and how they’ll all want to give her a hug. We then wondered what the Hungarian word for “hug”, so Angie went and grabbed Mom’s Hungarian dictionary. She said, “Hungarians must be a very loving people, because they have 4 words for different kinds of hugs!” I’m sure she’ll get all 4 kinds when she is greeted.

Rebecca went out and cut a small branch from the peach tree to show Mom and let her smell the blossoms. It was very beautiful, so we put it in a little vase next to her bed.

Louise (one of Mom’s life-long friends) sent Dad a letter that Mom had sent to her about five years ago. Dad read it to us; it was about the role of mother and Mom’s decision to be a Mom instead of pursuing a career. She was told by a high school teacher that she was throwing away her career by choosing to go to BYU instead of a place like Stanford. She knew she wanted to go to a place that put as much emphasis on gospel learning as it did secular learning. She also knew she wanted to learn all she could so that she could be a better mother. She said in the letter that she firmly believes that the best contribution anyone can make to this world is not a successful career or big paycheck, but raising a new and strong generation. She dedicated her life to doing just that: raising a righteous family.

Mom’s breathing gets a little weaker each day. She’s starting to sound a little congested. Jason is going to join us by taking a watch tonight and stay up with her.

Filed under: Mom, Posts by Jim

A Scripture Storyby Jim

6:03 pm

Yesterday morning, I reminded Mom of a scripture story that she had shared with me while I was on my mission and that had had a profound impact on me at that time: Right after Christ heard that his cousin, John, had been killed, he left on a boat to be alone. The people heard of his departure and followed him. Even though he was grieving, he looked on them and had compassion on them and healed their sick and then taught them. When it became evening, the disciples told the Lord that He should send the people away, but He commanded his disciples to feed the multitude. They had only five loaves and two fish, certainly an insufficient amount for five thousand people. Jesus told them to bring what they had and He blessed it and they proceeded to feed the throng. When all were filled, they gathered up what remained and had twelve baskets full. This miracle is familiar to all Christianity, but the profound idea that Mom shared with me over 10 years ago was the practical application to our lives. The Lord requires a lot of us: we are even commanded to be perfect — certainly an impossible task. But, just as he said to his disciples, if we bring Him what we have and let the Lord bless it, it will be more than enough to accomplish the task He’s given us. And, when we are done, we will have more than we started with. So it is with what we do. If we dedicate ourselves to Christ-like service and let the Lord bless our efforts, we can become better than when we started. Mom exemplified this principle. She dedicated her life to serving others and it has made her magnificent.

Filed under: Mom, Posts by Jim

A Sacred Placeby Jim

7:03 pm

It has been hard to be here and see what is happening to Mom, but this home has become such a sacred place that I feel a strength carrying us along. I know that is also from the many prayers and manifestations of love everyone has been sending our way. Thank you for helping us through these times.

Early this morning, Rachel left to catch an early flight back to Boston. Thank you, Rachel, for your sweet spirit and all the help you’ve provided during your stay. You will be missed.

Later this morning, Mom’s neighbor and gardening friend, Marian, brought some beautiful daffodils from her own garden to brighten our home. She had a big red macaw sitting on her shoulder, who goes on walks with her around the neighborhood regularly. The bird would have been frightened if Marian had come into the house, so she chatted with Dad for a minute at the door about how Mom is doing before going on her way.

Rebecca and Angie were singing this morning to Mom and after one song, Mom took a deep breath and then didn’t breathe for a few seconds. We were all a little worried, but Mom started back up, so Becka just said her singing must have just “taken her breath away.”

We received a beautiful hand painted card from Mom’s brother Tim and his wife Sally. Thank you for your kind words and your beautiful gift.

Betty, the weekend hospice nurse, came to visit us today. Mom’s heart rate and temperature are still above normal, but are down from yesterday. Her blood pressure was significantly lower. We sat at the kitchen table to chat a bit and she went over some things we’ll need to know in the coming days. She asked if we needed any chaplain services. Dad’s reply confused her, I think. “No thanks, we’re all chaplains here,” he said. At her surprise, he explained, “We belong to a church with a lay ministry, so we all can minister.” That led to a sweet family discussion after she left about what it means to minister to one another.

Mom’s breathing has been mostly relaxed and even. It is weak, but consistent. Mom was pretty unresponsive most of the day, but this afternoon Rebecca got out Mom’s digital picture frame and she followed it with her eyes. We took this as an indication that she wanted to watch it, so Rebecca sat next to Mom and reminisced with her as the pictures scrolled by.

We got phone calls from a few people today. Rebecca’s Hawai’ian bishop called with a very cheerful, “Aloha!” which I’m sure Mom loved. He remembered Mom from her many visits to the Carlson’s ward, and sweetly called to express his love and encouragement. Courtney also called to chat for a bit, which was really nice. Mom seems to still respond well to phone calls, even though she can’t say anything.

We’ll be doing our nightly vigil again tonight, taking turns watching over Mom. Though it may be hard, as it is with much of what we are doing here, this is time that we cherish and will remember with fondness for years to come.

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Nearly 42 Years of Marriageby Jim

9:03 am

Wedding Rings

Dad asked me to take the picture on the right. The one on the left is from their wedding day in 1972, taken by my grandfather. We pulled out Mom’s wedding dress to take this photo. Fortunately, Rebecca knew exactly where it was. To me, these hands convey so much love and devotion. Thank you both for being such a wonderful example to me.

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Phone Calls and Family Historyby Jim

11:03 pm

Joseph left early this morning to be with his wife, who had knee surgery today. We were sad to see him go, but we all felt it is what Mom would have wanted. (I’m sure she’ll be guiding us for years to come by her example.) I’m pleased to report that the surgery went well and Kelly is on the mend.

This morning I finished up work on the memory tree website with Brittany. I’m happy with the way it turned out and would like to invite anyone reading this to please share with us a memory or two that you have of Mom. There are already several very nice memories for you to read. The link is go ahead and go there right now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

This morning Mom’s “ladies-in-waiting” gave her a sponge bath right in the hospital bed. Her muscles can get very rigid and they had to be careful of the catheter, but overall it went well. It must have been a nice feeling to be all clean again with fresh clothes on because we got a rare smile out of her as well as faint movement of her lips that appeared to be her mouthing “thank you.”

She’s been pretty sleepy most of the day. We swab her mouth and give her little bits of water through a straw. She can only barely swallow, so we have to be very careful how much water we give her.

Tawny, Mom’s hospice nurse, came and took her vitals and helped us to make Mom more comfortable. Her pulse was down a little from last time (though, still higher than normal) and the slight fever she had yesterday has come down also. She said Mom looked comfortable and that we were doing a great job caring for her.

This evening, Dad shared with us the presentation he and Mom put together on family history. They gave it at a stake Relief Society conference a while back and it was such a hit that they agreed to give it in all the wards during ward conference. Dad’s had to give it solo the last few times, which has been hard, but he’s been faithfully fulfilling his assignment. It was a very inspiring presentation about how we can do our family history and how important it is. Family history was always so important to Mom, it was great to hear her contributions to the presentation.

This evening, we sang to Mom as we normally do. She can’t stay awake for very long now, so our singing is often shortened (and restarted later). We didn’t have Joseph with us, but we forged ahead without him. Before we were done, however, he called with Kelly to chat with Mom for a bit. It was very sweet to hear Kelly tell Mom how much she means to her. Their children sang to Mom over the phone and then Kelly sang to Mom. It was really beautiful.

Rebecca made a comment this evening about Mom’s legacy that I thought was quite profound. She said that it is our responsibility to carry on Mom’s memory to our children: That it will be through our stories and recollections that they know her, and that we have the power to mold the way she will be remembered. I hope the memories I have of her never dim so that I can tell my children and my nieces and nephews so that they can benefit from the incredible example that my mother lived.

Just like the last two nights, we’re staying up in shifts to be with Mom in the living room. She’s sleeping peacefully right now. We love you and are grateful for all your support.

Mom's smile

Mom’s smile

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Aloha `oeby Angie

10:03 pm

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
Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again

“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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Gathering Aroundby Jim

9:03 pm

Mom slept most of the day. I doubt her rest was very sound last night. Her breathing has been labored all day. Jon arrived late last night and Rebecca will arrive tomorrow morning. We each have taken turns sitting next to Mom to comfort her as she drifted in and out of sleep. We’re doing our best to try and keep her comfortable, but since drinking any significant amount of liquid now is nearly impossible, we know she will not be with us for very much longer.

Angie sat with Mom this morning and reminisced about our family reunion last summer at Lake Shasta. We all stayed in one big house, plus a tent in the backyard. Angie retold the evening devotional we gave about the Jaredites: we trooped all the family and “flocks” (aka, youngest grandchildren) out the backdoor (or the “city wall”), around the backyard (“wilderness”), and in another door to the living room, where we pushed the couches together to form “barges.” Mom’s eyes were wide and she was very attentive. Her eyebrows shot up when Angie described the stones being lit by the hand of the Lord. She certainly seemed to enjoy it.

A couple days ago, I got a message from one of Mom’s high school friends who saw my posts on Facebook. She told me that she’d shared one of my posts on their school’s Facebook page and many of Mom’s great friends from those days responded, reminiscing about Mom and the impression she made on each of them. Today Joseph read these responses to her, and it was wonderful to hear how many people throughout Mom’s life had great respect for her beauty, intelligence, and kindness.

We had a bit of a scare tonight as Mom’s breathing got very difficult, with occasional moments where she’d skip breathing altogether. We all gathered around her, but Mom worked through it and started breathing more easily after we shifted her around a bit on the bed. Tonight we did our regular round of singing, with the whole crew minus Rebecca, who is currently flying over the Pacific on her way here. We asked Mom if she liked our singing, and we got a rare response where she nodded and raised her eyebrows a little.

We’re each taking turns tonight staying up with Mom. It is nice that we have so many in the house to share the load of care.


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