Saturday, October 5, 2013

Moving in with Jesus

Tonight's bedtime prayer session with the girls led to a look through a photo album and a discussion about death, Jesus, and Heaven.
Let me explain.

Jared's (step) grandma Esther turned 99 years old in April of this year. She lives with Jared's dad and step-mom in Kansas. She is a very sweet woman. I remember meeting her 8 years ago and being amazed at how sharp she was. She had opinions on all the latest political issues. She was funny. She was interested in our nursing classes and told us stories of what life was like as a nurse back during the second World War.

Esther with Bailey in 2010.
Man, did Esther love loving on Bailey during this visit!
And Bailey was all too content to just sit there and enjoy it.
(Along with trying to steal/break/eat Esther's glasses of course.)

She hasn't been in good health for quite a while after suffering a fall last year, but recently it has become apparent that she is nearing her final days. Over the past 2 weeks she has barely eaten or drank anything - with the exception of when she sat up in bed and asked for a piece of pie last weekend. She has been in a constant state of sleeping for the last few days. This strong woman is ready for her journey into the next phase of her life. Actually, I think she has been ready since I met her! I hope and pray the rest of her time here on this earth passes quickly and with little pain.

Jared's other living grandparent is his grandpa Norm.
Great Grandpa Norm meeting Bailey for the first time in 2011.

Norm is in his 80s now, and up until a couple years ago, he was in phenomenal health. He was attending the gym and working out every single day up until last year. But over the last few years, he had been starting to forget things and it became apparent that this wasn't just forgetting, it was the start of dementia.

It's been a long road for Jared's mom. She has basically been his sole caregiver for the last few years: paying his bills, preparing meals for the week, cleaning his house, taking him to appointments... And worrying - lots of that. He lived an hour away from her home in Loveland, CO, and eventually she just couldn't provide the care he needed to be able to stay in his home. Earlier this year he moved into a care facility near Cathy.

He has had some falls recently, leading to several trips to the Emergency Room. On his most recent visit it was discovered that he has bone cancer, which metastasized from previously undiagnosed pancreatic cancer. It was a complete shock to us when Cathy called a couple of nights ago to tell us his doctor said he has one to two weeks to live.
It's just crazy.
I think Cathy - and all of us - were prepared for a long road, watching him lose more and more of himself to this thief we call dementia. And now it appears that won't be the case.

I am not sure what to be feeling.
On one hand I know that this sucks. For Cathy to hear this news is hard. Losing a parent is never easy, no matter what your age. On the other hand, the before-dementia Norm wouldn't appreciate his life the way it is now. He would hate it. He was always a very capable, independent, no-nonsense person, and he would hate all this.

He is now on hospice care, especially to control the pain from the bone cancer. He is one strong man; up until recently he hadn't complained of any pain at all and wasn't on any pain medication. His confusion has greatly increased lately, partly due to a urinary tract infection, and he has lost a lot of weight.

I know Jared is thankful that he was able to go out and visit this summer. He had time over a long weekend to go help his mom pack up and organize Norm's house in order for it to be sold. Jared took Bailey and they went to visit Norm. He knew who she was and seemed really delighted in their visit. Hindsight is 20/20, but we both have said we wish we could have taken all the kids. We probably should have. But at the time they were trying to get a lot of work done in just a few days, and I did not relish the thought of a two-day road trip with three kids under the age of 4, especially with a breastfed baby wanting to eat every couple of hours. So it didn't happen.

Bailey remembers the visit to see Grandpa Norm though. I asked her about him the other night: "Bailey, do you remember Grandpa Norm?"
She replied, "I saw him in Colorado with Grandma Cathy!"
We talked about the fact that he is sick. She immediately correlated that to Jared being sick in the hospital recently. I explained that this is different because Grandpa Norm isn't going to get better. And neither would Grandma Esther.
She asked me, "Are they going to die?"
And I had to say yes.
"Will they go to Heaven like Max did?" (Max is our dog that died earlier this year.)
A pause. "It's okay, Mommy. They get to live in Jesus's house."

We then said some prayers for Great Grandpa Norm and Great Grandma Esther. That they have peace. That they have no pain. That Jesus "takes them to his house."  Afterward Bailey asked to see a picture of both of them. I got out her photo album, and we looked at a few of the pictures. I am very glad we have those pictures.

I like Bailey's simple view of Heaven: going to live in Jesus's house.
It's as simple as that.

Jared and I have talked about Heaven quite a bit. The whole unknown-ness of it all. We have talked about what we hope Heaven is like, while believing it to be better than anything we can possibly imagine. Jared hopes that when you reach Heaven you get to know all things. You have the answers to all your questions from life.
What really killed the dinosaurs?
Are UFOs real?
Where is Jimmy Hoffa?
(Just kidding, neither of us really cares about Jimmy Hoffa.)

I have always hoped that when you die, you get to see a playback of your life. A highlight reel you might say. Consisting of my best times, allowing me to experience all the good stuff one more time. Favorite holidays with family. A fun day in the snow with a childhood best friend. Falling in love. Moments of hysterical laughter. The births of my children.
The good stuff of a blessed life.

All random thoughts aside, I have some questions about my faith, as I think most people do. But I believe without a doubt there is something else after this life. It makes me sad to know that two members of our family are preparing to leave this world, but it helps to be able to tell my children - and myself - that their journey is not over.
They are just moving in with Jesus.

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