Mom’s Handsby Jim

19
Mar/14
7:03 pm
0

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The other day, as I was holding Mom’s hands, I was struck by how much I love her hands and by how many emotions I feel as I look at them. I’m sure to most people, they look like ordinary hands, but when I see them I’m filled with memories of love and tenderness. I see the hours of labor she dedicated to blessing the lives of those most dear to her. I sense the commitment she showed to those she loved. I feel the calming and comforting peace she gave me in my times of grief or anguish. I feel the safety she provided to me as a child, the gentleness she used to guide me and teach me to walk in righteous paths. To me, these hands are the purest form of beauty.

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“Can I kiss your smile?”by Jim

18
Mar/14
9:03 pm
0

This morning Dad had a very tender moment with Mom. He was giving her some water (as he has done so faithfully for a few days now), and she just looked up at him with a very pleased look on her face. Her smiles are pretty faint now, but we can still tell when she does. She was looking steadily, right at him and Dad was delighted, so he said, “Can I kiss your smile?” He did so and she smiled even more.

Dad found Mom’s copy of her patriarchal blessing and read it to her. It was another very precious moment to hear about her life and see how faithful she was to the tasks that she was entrusted with. I had never heard her blessing in its entirety and I had no idea that so much of her life was dedicated to fulfilling her mission. Her family has been the most important thing to her — I always knew that — but now I understand a little better why it was so important to her. She was being obedient to her most important responsibility. What a great example of faith and dedication.

Rebecca called this afternoon and all of her children (at home, that is — her oldest is at college) took turns telling Mom how much they love her. Then at the end, they said it all together with an enthusiastic, “Aloha!” They live in Hawai’i and Mom has found many opportunities to go visit them. Who wouldn’t want to? Hawai’i has always held a special place in Mom’s heart.

Later this evening, Rachel’s children called to express their love. Rachel’s children are a bit younger, so not everyone can speak yet, but we still heard from them all regardless. It was very sweet to hear from her beautiful children also. Mom loved every minute of it. Rachel was lamenting that her kids couldn’t say something like, “Aloha!” at the end… they don’t really have an equivalent in Boston. We tried to come up with some ideas, but something like “Yo!” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Jason and Tiffany joined Rachel, Joseph, Angie, and me in our singing tonight. Her eyes were already drooping when we started, so we sang her to sleep and then sang a little more together. Mom slept a lot today, and her swallowing and coughing are weaker. She hasn’t been able to drink as much and she has eaten only a few spoonfuls of food all day. Her breathing has been a little more labored also. In her most “present” moments, she still loves to just look at each of us and listen to us reminiscing.

Jon is arriving tonight and Rebecca is flying back out tomorrow night and arriving Thursday morning. It will be good to see everyone again. We’ve been so overwhelmed by all the love and support that we’ve received over the past few months. Thank you all.

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The Treasure Boxby Jim

17
Mar/14
11:03 pm
0

This morning I made palacsintas for breakfast and Rachel whipped up some whipped cream. I asked Mom if she wanted to lick the beaters, and since she didn’t say no, we gave her some. Who doesn’t like a little fresh whipped cream off of a beater?

Throughout the day, I’m frequently saying, “We sure love you, Mom,” or just, “I love you,” or, “We love you.” This morning, when I said it, she started to try and say something back. It was very faint, but she distinctly started saying, “I love… I love,” but couldn’t quite get the words out. “You love us, too?” I offered. Then she just mouthed the words with a look of relief on her face, “I love you, too.” That was all I heard from her all day.

Angie and Rachel went to run some errands and I think Joseph was catching up on some work, so it was pretty quiet this morning. Dad had a few minutes to sit alone with Mom and I could hear him talking softly to her from the other room. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could sense his sweet kindness in the sound of his voice.

This afternoon Dad put on Fiddler on the Roof, one of Mom’s favorites. It was fun to listen to the wonderful music while I tried to get a little work done from my bedroom. Of course, I still have the music stuck in my head, but I don’t really mind since I love it, too.

Spring is springing here in Georgia and there are a few trees that have blossoms that have opened in the last day or so. Mom loves gardening so much that we figured she would like to go and see her trees. We loaded her in the wheelchair and rolled her down to the pool room where her indoor lemon tree is potted. We helped her to smell the one blossom that has bloomed on that tree and then showed her the peach tree outside that has little pink blossoms all over it. It was a little cold and wet outside, so we just admired the tree from the comfort of the house.

For Family Home Evening tonight, after our opening song and prayer, we took turns reading from a little wooden box Mom kept in her office. It is shaped like a little treasure chest and has little slips of paper inside and the words “My Treasure Box of Precious Memories” on top. She started writing down special memories on a little slip of paper and storing them inside. She had about 20-30 inside. I’m not sure how long she’s been doing it, but I got the impression is was in the last several years. There were things in there about going to weddings, going to high school performances, things from way back, like details about our births, etc. It was a great activity.

Tonight we sang to Mom again, as we always do. Jason joined us, as he has these last few nights, and we sang Mom to sleep. At one point, Angie said, “We love you.” Mom’s eyes widened a bit — her indication over the last few days that she is very present and aware at that moment. Her eyes were replying, so Angie spoke the words for her: “And we know you love us, too.” Mom nodded.

It was another very sweet day with our mother. Thank you for all your prayers, love, and support. We know many of you wish you could be here; we’re grateful for your care and concern. We hope you still feel a part of things through these posts.

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Sweet Sabbath Experiencesby Jim

16
Mar/14
10:03 pm
0

Mom continues to get weaker each day. Yesterday we weren’t able to get her to eat or drink much of anything, but today we were much more diligent (especially Dad) in making sure Mom was hydrated. We really don’t want to put in an IV unless we need to, and as long as Mom can still swallow, we’ll keep giving her water instead. Mom was really a trooper and drank sip by sip throughout the day. Several times, Dad explained to her that we know it’s hard for her to keep drinking, but we want to keep her comfortable. She gave no indication of a response, so one of the times, Dad turned to Angie and said, “Well, at least she’s not resisting.” Angie replied, “That’s because she thinks you’re irresistible!” Mom’s eyebrow quirked up and her eyes widened a bit, making it clear that she had heard and understood the quip, and enjoyed it.

We listened to the soundtrack of Rob Gardener’s Lamb of God this morning. It is amazing how much the meaning of that beautiful music has deepened for us over the last year. We’ve faced some difficult challenges, and our testimony in the comforting and enabling power of the Atonement has been strengthened. There are times in our lives when our circumstances have a bitter sting, but we are never alone: the Savior Himself felt overwhelmed by what he was called to bear, and asked if the cup could pass from Him. But He endured and overcame, making it possible for us to do the same. Mom knows this, and we’re continuing to learn from her.

Rachel arrived this morning and she sat with Mom and told her some memories from her childhood. Afterwards, Angie, Rachel, and I sang to Mom for a bit. She got sleepy and so we let her nap for a couple hours after lunch. I’m pretty sure I got a faint smile from her after she woke up and Dad was giving her more water.

Something very special happened this afternoon when the young men from the ward came to bring us the sacrament. We were under the impression it was going to be just a few boys, but we probably had 16 young men in our living room. They started by singing a hymn and then administered the sacrament. Three of the boys were in Boy Scout uniform and after the sacrament, each of the three sat down next to Mom to personally express their gratitude for Mom’s service in helping them achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. One of the young men was very emotional and couldn’t hold back the tears. It was very touching to see the love these young men have for my mom. Dad said a few words on Mom’s behalf about her experiences in the calling. He said it was difficult for her — in fact, probably the hardest calling she’s had — but that she persevered, faithfully served, and now she has left a legacy in this ward that will continue to bless their young men for many years.

It is getting to the point that we can’t get any response out of her most of the time. Instead of nodding or shaking her head, she usually will just look at us. We’re also not sure how much her memory loss has progressed, though she continues to recognize family and friends. We were talking about Mom’s memory and someone asked Mom, “Do you remember you’re amazing?” We all we saw her faint nod, which made us all laugh.

This evening we sang to Mom again and we were able to sing 4-part harmonies. With five of us here, I got to sing bass with Joseph, which was fun. We sang some Easter hymns and some Christmas hymns tonight before sending Mom to bed. Since Joseph and Rachel just got here, the two of them sat with Mom in her bedroom to chat with her and sing a little more before Mom fell asleep.

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This Frail Existenceby Jim

15
Mar/14
11:03 pm
0

Mom said very little today.  Jon got a faint “good morning,” but she didn’t say much more than that all day.  We had some visitors this morning: Dad’s cousin, Ann, and her partner, Sue, stopped by to visit for a few minutes on their road trip to the east coast.  It was good to see them and to chat for a bit.

We took advantage of having a superb pianist in the house and had Joseph play for us this morning.  I could tell Mom enjoyed it.  Her smiles are getting fainter, but you can still see them in her eyes.  She always loved listening to Joseph play the piano.

After our concert, Jason’s wife and girls came to visit.  They sat with their grandmother and sang and told her stories. Tiffany held 4-month-old Claire on the bed near Mom, reaching out a tiny hand to stroke Mom’s and wrap her baby fingers around her grandma’s thumb.  Claire was very happy and Mom’s eyes were shining — it was clear that they both enjoyed the visit.  Mom sure loves her grandbabies.

Jon had to leave this afternoon.  His presence here has been a great strength to us.  Thanks for helping with our posts and for singing with us and everything else you did.  We look forward to your return next week.

I spent some time talking to Mom again, like I’ve done over the past few days, telling her stories from our childhood.  Even though she doesn’t talk, I feel a connection with her.  I could see her love in her beautiful eyes in the way she looked back at me.  Many times throughout the day, each of us tell Mom that we love her.  Days ago, she would always reply with, “I love you, too.”  I have begun telling her, “and I know you love me too,” because I can see that she wants to reply but can’t.

A funny and unexpected moment happened today while we were sitting around Mom’s hospital bed. She had people sitting on either side of her and someone was talking to her.  Dad came around the foot of the bed and Mom caught his eyes looking at her.  She followed him with her eyes for a moment and then suddenly, Dad ducked and pretended to sneak around the bed.  Mom actually laughed out loud at his antics, which surprised us all.

The following was written by Joseph, who offered to contribute to tonight’s post.  Thanks, Joey, for helping us document the day.

Mom is now to the point where she does not respond to most questions that you ask her. You might ask, “Are you thirsty?” or “Would you like to watch some Studio C?” and she will just look at you, and you know that she can hear you, but it seems very difficult for her to find a way to reply. That is, unless it is something she has a very strong opinion on, and then we may get a little quiver of her head to indicate a nod yes or no. We’ve experimented with other ways to communicate yes and no, like blinking, or squeezing, or pointing to the “Yes/No” sign, but all have become too difficult for Mom to coordinate at this point. So, for now, the best we can hope for is an occasional little hint of a nod or shake of the head to let us know her desires.

One humorous example of her feeling compelled to share her opinion was during “music time” today. I had exhausted all of the classical and sacred piano repertoire that I had brought to share, and I wanted to lighten the mood, so I had moved on to some musical theater selections. We sang “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma and “I Whistle a Happy Tune” from King and I and many others. Then I came to “Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific, and I said, “Hey Mom, here’s one that Dad might want to sing for you!” I started to play the chorus and sang out, “There is nothing like a dame, nothing in the world…” Then, wanting to make sure Mom was enjoying this, I paused and turned to ask her if she wanted to hear that one. She gave her strongest and clearest “no” of the day: her eyes got wide and her head gave a little shake back and forth. Needless to say, we moved on to other songs!

Another fun and very memorable moment was when Dad joined in the singing and serenaded Mom, singing “On the Street Where You Live”. It was very sweet. Only problem was he started forgetting some of the words, and inventing new ones of his own, which got Mom smiling and even laughing out loud (which is rare now).

At one point in the evening, I had the special experience of sitting close to Mom and we just looked into each other’s eyes for a while. After a little while, I said “Hi, Mom”, and her eyes seemed to light up a little, as if to say, “Hi” back. So, looking deeply into her eyes,  I said it again, “Hello, Mom”. And her eyes lit up even more and it was like we both understood in that moment that I wasn’t saying hello to her body, which was unable to say anything back, but to her spirit, which was able to say “hello” back with wonderful clarity. Her spirit is still very strong, though it seems to be preparing to leave her body very soon.

Then, in a tender moment, Dad and I sat on both sides of Mom and talked a little about her approaching departure from this life. I can’t remember the exact words, but we both expressed to her our gratitude and love. We said that even though we would miss her sorely, we recognized and accepted that her time left on earth was short. Dad then offered to give Mom a priesthood blessing, which we proceeded to do, with Jason, Jim, and me participating, too.

After the blessing, it was getting close to Mom’s usual bedtime, so we all decided to continue our tradition of singing to Mom as the last thing we do before she sleeps. Tonight we enjoyed full 4-part harmony with Jim on melody, Angie on soprano or alto, Jason on tenor, and me on bass. We sang probably a dozen hymns, and then we told Mom it was time for bed. She somehow seemed reluctant, so Jim asked, “Do you want to stay up and do some more singing?” She gave a very clear yes with a little nod of the head, so we sang for probably another hour, even venturing out into a few Christmas hymns. It was a very sweet evening. It is amazing to me how many hymns have new meaning now, given our present experiences.

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An Open Letter to Alex Boyeby Jim

15
Mar/14
8:03 pm
1

Dear Brother Boye,

I wanted to write to you and thank you for your music video Smiles for LifeMy mother was recently diagnosed with a rapidly degenerative and terminal neurological disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. She began by having balance problems followed by losing her short-term memory. Smiles for Life was posted just before she lost the ability to remember new things. She has a special fondness for it because her oldest daughter and son-in-law are featured for just a moment in the video. They’re the couple that does a spin and dip during one of the dance montages. She was so proud of her children and loved the music and the message it conveyed. Multiple times a day she asked us if we’d seen it and wanted to show it to us, having forgotten that we’d seen it already. She liked it so much that we always just watched it again with her.

That was about 2 months ago; in the last couple weeks she has deteriorated to the point that she barely speaks and needs help with everything she does. Every day she gets a little worse. Her time with is us is very short; she will probably not live to see her 62nd birthday at the end of this month. We watch your video each morning because it always brings a smile to her face. It has brought happiness to our mother at a difficult time for our family. We do our best to fill her days with joyful memories and happy moments. It is a very precious gift to us to see her smiles and her laughs. Thank you for contributing to the happiness of our mother. I wanted you to know how much it means to us and how grateful we are.

Sincerely,
James & the rest of
The Hoffman Family

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An Open Letter to the Cast of Studio Cby Jim

15
Mar/14
8:03 pm
0

To the cast of Studio C,

I wanted to write to you and express my gratitude for your videos on BYUTV and YouTube. In an unexpected and poignant way, your show has become very significant to our family. My mother was recently diagnosed with a rapidly degenerative and terminal neurological condition called Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. She began by having balance problems followed by losing her short-term memory. Back before she started showing symptoms in September of last year, she was already very fond of your show. My mother has always been very selective about what was viewed in our home and strove to provide good, clean, and wholesome entertainment for our family.

The stages of this disease progress very quickly and in the last couple weeks, my mother has slowly lost the ability to communicate. She’s degenerated enough that she requires help with everything she does. Every day she gets a little worse. One thing that she has not lost is her sense of humor. She is still able to laugh and appreciates good clean fun. Her time with is us is very short; she will probably not live to see her birthday at the end of this month. We try and fill her days with joyous memories and anything that makes her laugh brings us tremendous satisfaction.

Lately, we’ve been watching familiar Studio C sketches daily because they still get a laugh out of her. Mom’s favorite sketch is Shooting Booth, which makes her chuckle every time. I think she likes that one best because it’s about a protective mother. I can’t tell you how much it means to us that you’ve provided us with something that brings happiness to our mother during this very difficult time in our family. Every laugh now is a precious gift to us. Thank you for contributing to the happiness of our mother in her final days.

Sincerely,
James & the rest of
The Hoffman Family

Filed under: Mom, Posts by Jim