Do You Believe in a “Chosen Day?”


Before the ringer on the avocado wall phone rang, I felt my father’s presence. On the other end, his shaky voice crackled and choked with words, rehearsed. Finally, he simply said, “Grandma’s, gone.”

What could I say to lessen his pain? “I’m so sorry, Dad.” My father was my Grandmother’s only son, the sixth of seven children. Although I did not say it then, I remember thinking she chose that particular day to meet God in heaven. It happened to be Good Friday of that year, the perfect time for her to go. I believe she knew it so.

My earliest memories of Grandma are visiting her in a spotless abode. It was a considered a ‘salt-box’ house https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltbox, set in a quiet neighborhood on a clean and cozy city block. I remember the bedroom of Grandma’s house as being kind of sanctuary where fancy bottles of rose-water sat on a mirrored tray atop her vanity table. It was to be respected, and never entered without permission. An unspoken rule. My father was born in that very room on Christmas Day in 1933.

Clean and smooth cement sidewalks ran in front of a shiny black railing at Grandma’s house. Like monkeys, I remember my brother and I dangling from it to get a better view of the neighbors next door. Children rode fancy bicycles or skipped hand-in-hand on those sidewalks. Early on, I remember Grandma’s beloved house being covered in old black and gray speckles all the way around. Soon the sides were replaced with asphalt shingles, the color of mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream. It stayed that way for years and years….long after she was gone.

My grandmother was a proud Swedish, Lutheran. She went to church every Sunday in a crisp cotton dress and wore a hat to match upon her gray curled head. In the winter, she wore a long felt coat of camel or royal blue with a mesmerizing pin made of fancy colored stones glued into birds on branches. Now and then, she wore a double heart or a half-moon over the sun.

When I was a little girl wearing ruffled dresses with hair to my waist, Grandma dabbed a tiny dip of fluffy Avon cream to each of my wrists. Soon, I smelled like the flowers that grew in her kaleidoscope garden. Sometimes, I’d pest her until she let me try on her shiny black shoes, the ones with tiny heels and long laces… just for fun. On Sundays, if I sat quietly next to her in church she taught me to sing, “Lu-Lu” when the music played. I was still too young to read the words.

My Grandmother never learned to drive a car. My father drove her to church each and every Sunday, usually scooping her up from the curb a bit late. Our phone rang three or four times before my father together with five children rushed through our waiting back door. Racing to pick her up, Grandma will forever be in my mind, standing at the curb in front of her saltbox home. Even now, I see her there in later years, looking tiny, rocking impatiently to and fro. She’s holding a smooth black pocketbook. She closes the shiny golden clasp, making a clicking sound. Barely stopping by the curb, my dad swings open the door, as if we are driving a getaway car. There’s not a second to spare before my Grandma’s beloved church sermon begins.

Afterward, we’d take Grandma home, where the tradition was to go inside for a dollop of chunky applesauce served in dainty china bowls. On the side were freshly baked molasses cookies set on matching flowered plates. She’d wait on us hand and foot, only sitting to rest after pouring a few cold glasses of milk. Then, she’d excitedly tell us of her daily plans. Gardening, baking or writing personal letters on perfumed stationery, perhaps?

After I grew up and went to college, my grandmother began to forget things. Her old-fashioned stove of white was left burning too long or important house keys became lost in a sugar bowl without the lid. Soon, it was too dangerous to let Grandma live alone. Doctors didn’t have an exact diagnosis many years ago, but today I have no doubt that Grandma lived with Alzheimer’s disease, a Chronic Condition stealing the brain of memory and more. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disease. There is no cure, but today help is available that wasn’t an option for my grandmother. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp  

Two weeks after I gave birth to my first son, I took him to meet his great-grandmother in the sparkling snow of Michigan. For a moment, Grandma had a bit of recognition. Cradling my newborn, I knelt to introduce her to my child. “Would you like to hold him?” Her dull, blue eyes suddenly lit with excitement. Placing him carefully in her arms, she stared at him with love renewed. “Oooohhh, look at his beautiful eyes,” she said, over and over and over again. I snapped a few pictures then. They are the only photographs that I have of my son with his great-grandmother. She was happy in those brief moments, and I’ll cherish them forever. Two weeks later she passed away.

On her chosen day….

Here and Now


Today is a new day with a fresh beginning to life. Yesterday, after feeling so blue, I grabbed ‘Doodle’ dog to walk him in a nearby park. Even he had sensed my depression, not leaving my side. Once there, a new appreciation for the here and now shook me from the inside to the out.

There was a slight chill in the air as if to rid my unsettled emotions, tossing them away with the wind. As I looked high up into the measureless magic of the sky, mirrored colors of spring surrounded me. A duck waddled near a pond, trees were in full bloom, daffodils sprouted canary yellow, and God’s beauty was endless.

No, I can’t control or change my father’s circumstances. I cannot heal his bride of cancer or wave a wand to grant wishes of miracles. And, yes, there will be tears and sadness, normal emotions under such unexpected human tragedy. Still, I must hold on to my faith in God together with the power of strength. My father needs my support now nearly as much or more so than ever before. I’m praying he and his wife have a bit of precious time together, free of emotional and physical pain. The simple pleasure of a walk in a park while gazing at a sky of blue.

Seconds to sink their feet in God’s pond of here and now…..

 

Praying for Peace


As I write this in the wee dark hours of my Christian Good Friday, I pray for peace in the whole of our world. Terrorism has affected us again this week. I can barely turn on the television without watching images of mass destruction among yesterday’s normalcy. Camera shots blanket human remains. Jagged lines together with dotted speckles of bright red blood splatter against dusty walls and powdered floors almost as if in an abstract painting. “How can this possibly be,” I ask? “Where did the world go wrong?”

As a mother, my thoughts are with Mary, who witnessed the horror of her only begotten son as he was crucified on Good Friday. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_Jesus

Whatever your beliefs, I ask you to join me in prayer to put an end to terrorism in our world. Let there be peace among all living people. Everyone deserves a chance to grow old, to live life, to love and be loved. How I wish to pass my television to catch a glimpse of families, happy and playing with children, simply enjoying life. Yes, a human interest story. Remember them? When was the last time you saw one without the hint of terror or war behind it?

Please God, allow people to live freely. Let them walk across streets to visit friends or family. To travel through airports, ride on a bus, or simply have a picnic in a park without worry of a bomb going off. Give our children the freedom to go to school without fear, watch a movie, run a race or sing a song. Please feed our hungry, clothe our naked and house our poor.

Let nature together with  all that is good thrive among the human race once again. Please, God, let there be peace in the world.

Amen

Wishing You and Yours a Peaceful Easter Holiday

 

 

 

The Gift of Life


 

3d-abstract_other_glorious-day_38750Organ Transplants…The Gift of Life

I promise this post won’t be filled with quoted statistics to bore you. I have no desire to waste your time with troubling news. I simply wish to write from my heart in order to share something good and positive. Something that changes lives. Something that you can even do. Do you believe me?

Last week, one of my younger cousins, a fraternal twin, and a member of my great big extended family, underwent a liver transplant due to a heredity condition. He lived with this rare, hidden Chronic Condition for years without a single problem. Indeed, he was not even aware of it until it reared its ugly head. Unfortunately, many Chronic Conditions are like this…..

A couple of years ago, subtle changes whispered from deep within my cousin’s unseen walls, nagging him until he needed to find out what they were. Shockingly, he lived with a heredity liver disease. Doctor’s tried many things to keep his liver running smoothly. For a while, things seemed to work. In fact, my cousin lived with his Chronic Condition for quite some time. But, in the end, a liver transplant was his only option.

My cousin has a big family, a loving wife together with grown children who are graduating from college. Others are getting married and starting life anew. My cousin wants to be a part of this. It’s his family, after all! While on the national transplant list, together, they hoped and prayed and waited. Finally, in the wee hours of last Tuesday morning, words came they all had prayed for. “We have the perfect match for you!”

A week ago today. In spite of thirteen hours of surgery not without complications, followed by more surgery, my cousin’s new liver is functioning exactly the way it should be! A miracle to me. His skin is pink again and he smiles with thankfulness at all life has to offer. He wouldn’t trade a single second of yesterday, today, or tomorrow for what the future may hold. To hold the hands of his wife or children sitting by his side are gifts beyond measure. A single kiss from their lips or gentle brushes of fingertips wiping away tears of happiness are blessings from God.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my cousin’s donor family, to pray for them together with their lost loved one. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your unselfishness during an unspeakable time of grief and pain. You’ve given our family the Gift of Life.

To all of those who are reading this post, please consider signing the back of your driver’s license, allowing donation of your organs. Speak to your loved ones to let them know of your wishes in advance. It’s a simple thing really. A signature on a blank line with the ink of a pen. And yet, it’s the most unselfish thing you’ll ever do.

Think about it. To give someone…not just one person in the whole of this world, but an entire extended family, a second chance to live their lives. Yes, The Gift of Life!

Thank you.

*photo courtesy of Google Chrome

Dichotomy of Life


It is the calm after the storm here in St. Louis this morning. There is a bright ball of glow to the east of my home. Glancing through my back window, a cloudless ocean sky, casting slight shadows of tree limbs across the snowy hill behind my brick bungalow. I feel snug, cuddled in my bathrobe of valentine-colored hearts. From inside, the outside looks warm and toasty. A dichotomy between 1 degree and heaven-sent rays of shining sun. The sky begins to cast light upon snow-covered sprouts of spring grasses and freezing bushes nearby.

Sipping coffee here at my desk there is a “ping” that rings from my phone.  An important message to me? Yes, my youngest son has sent me a text. Three words, “At work safely!” I smile to think of him thinking of me.  It hasn’t always been this way. We’ve had our ‘ups and downs.’ He’s had his struggles in a world not always fair to him. He fought childhood wars, trying to save himself and others from what might have been.

Finally, after years of living with Chronic Conditions, the picture behind the camera developed for me. It was hard for me to understand, harder still for my youngest son to get through it all. He was an innocent, napping toddler of three when I disappeared with his little-older brother off to a hospital for days without word or explanation. Upon returning, normal life had disappeared. What was before was never more.

In my heart, my fledgling son ‘gets it’ now. All his time of life’s inner turmoil has led him to where he needs to be. It’s what I’m praying for…..part of God’s plan, you see. The job he started in this new year is going well for him. There is a positive change in the way he looks, how he carries himself, together with the way he speaks. He grins more often than before and has light in his lovely eyes.  Yes, I see. They, come alive! My son has met a girl. There seems to be a young woman in his life. He’s brought her to our home, something he hasn’t often done before. I like her and I’m hoping she likes me.

I’ve seen a dichotomy while living with Chronic Conditions. At least, between my own two sons. One has fiercely struggled on a physical level, yet seems to have been happy nearly every day, while the other has scratched and clawed while battling brawls seemingly impossible to win. And yet, now, I dare say he’s on his way.

As always, it is God who has a plan for my boys. He has blessed my oldest with life, and love, and happiness. My youngest has had to work a bit harder to discover the latter two. Perhaps, finally, it is his time now.

Three words I’ve read on a text fill my heart with hope.

“At work safely!”

*re-published from 3/3/14.

 

 

 

What a difference two years can make!

 

Life is Wonderful


February 29th, 1992…Leap Year. It was an extra day on the cartoon calendar pictured and pasted on our kitchen bulletin board. The news anchor of our local television station signed off the night before by reminding me to, “Have some family fun the next day!” Yes, I remember……No, I’ll never forget.

February 29th of that year began much like any other. Indeed, I did have something fun planned for our family.  We were going to spend the afternoon at the park. Our two young boys, ages six and four were up early and dressed. The breakfast dishes were washed, and handy snacks were already packed.

It was unusually warm in St. Louis for late winter in the year of ‘92. Beautiful and bright with skies painted royal blue. I remember daffodils bloomed beneath willow trees in the back of my yard.  They were splashed in colors of variegated canary yellow, dancing to melodies that sung through whispered breezes blowing beneath the trees. Later, I saw them everywhere. I clung to them as a sign of hope.

We never made it to the park that day. Only hours later my oldest son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Too weak to play with his little brother, he simply wanted to “go to sleep.” In a panic, my husband scooped him up, ready to race towards our pediatrician. Just before walking out the door, I turned to him from our kitchen window, the same one where daffodils had sung songs of miracles to me. “Make sure the doctor checks his blood sugar,” I stated, matter-of-factly.

Back then, I knew nothing about diabetes, nor of blood sugar.  Yet the words that I spoke to my husband did indeed come out of my mouth. They sounded strange, and monotone as if coming from a body suspended above. Looking back, those were God’s words, never my own. They were His words that saved my son’s life that day.

Much has happened since then, but it is a fact that Chronic Conditions brought me to WordPress over three years ago. Little pieces of me are in the posts that I write and share here. So, what are some of the lessons that I’ve learned in life? The most important one is to stay positive in the face of adversity.

If your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’m not going to lie. It knocks the wind out of you. It hurts. Remember that it’s okay to cry. Share your feelings. Don’t keep them bottled up. Even today, I’m still learning….http://wp.me/p41md8-2D4

Most importantly, be strong and SMILE for the sake of your child. Children take their cues from their parents. Please be a positive role model, won’t you? They will forever set their childhood goals and dreams in life with you by their side. I promise things do get better. Technology has improved and will continue to get better every day in the future.

It’s been 24 years ago today since my son was diagnosed, “No, diabetes isn’t easy.” But, “Yes, his life is wonderful.” I am so very proud to be his mom, to call him my son….

In dedication to all of the children living with type 1 diabetes together with their families. My heart and blessings to you today, tomorrow and all of the days of my life.

Kim Gosselin

http://beyondtype1.org/

Not Always What They Seem


The other day an elderly couple was out in the cold, standing near the curb near the exit of a supermarket with bags in their hands. Three or four, plastic and filled to the brim. I surmised the couple was waiting for a ride home. She with milky watchful eyes, strands of gray hair that swirled around her weathered face and hands that were turning blue.  He, older and protective, hovering close. He tightened his reign on her and lightened her load, taking the handles of one of the bags. They were tangled for a few seconds between the others until finally, two of them broke free. The younger-elderly woman smiled upwards. A look of love warmed the milk in her eyes. The man began to shield her silhouette from the wind. A mere step or two to the right blocked his mate from the elements. Soon, the tips of his ears turned red as a beet.

Cars went by the aging couple who waited in the blustery gusts that whirled around them. Colors and models of old and new and even trucks too drove slowly by them. The watchful woman together with the man who held more bags than ever before looked intently toward each and every one. Finally, a vehicle pulled over to the side. The couple smiled at one another. Then a girl from inside the supermarket quickly ran out to hop in. The car drove off.  Smiles of the golden age disappeared. Cold persevered.

Suddenly a boy with an orange vest pushed by several people as he pulled a string of shopping carts behind him.  He stopped to grumble a few words at the elderly couple, convincing them to move to the side in order for him to easily pass by. They started to shuffle their feet from side to side while grimacing in pain. Their bodies of old were no match for Mother Nature.

A few minutes later, a woman from the supermarket, wearing a uniform in burgundy red joined the twosome. Gently putting her arms around them, she took their bags and encouraged the couple to wait in the lobby.  There, a warm wooden bench could be seen through the walls of clear.

Soon, a taxi drove in front of the supermarket. Two employees walked the elderly man and his bride out to the car where they opened the door to help them get inside. The bags of groceries were put on the front seat while a note together with a few bills was pushed into the palm of the driver’s hand. Slowly the taxi pulled away, turning towards a neighborhood to the left.

It is ironic that things are not always what they seem. Who would have expected the boy in the orange vest, the one pushing carts to be of help to the old couple? Yet, obviously, he alerted his supervisor who assessed the situation. She took it a step further by telling her manager.  Did they gather more information from the couple themselves or perhaps find a number to call inside one of their shabby pockets? Regardless, I expect the loving and elderly couple ended up safe and warm before cooking a delicious dinner for two!

elderly-couple-holds-hands-London-384684

Kindness


How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment. We can start now, start slowly, changing the world. How lovely that everyone, great and small can make a contribution toward introducing justice straightaway. And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!”

Anne Frank

*photos courtesy of Google

When All Goes Wrong….


Christmas carols turned melancholy soon after boughs of holly were hauled to the curb. A downpour of steady rain fell from a foggy sky. First steady drops in sizes of silver heads atop pins of straight, then pocketed pennies plopped from nimbus clouds under shadows of heaven’s dribbling gates.

For several days, I watched a curling ribbon of water trickle down the hill of my little forest land. Soon it widened, forming a rather large pond near a sewer drain. Loose twigs, bark of dark and soggy leaves washed down a gushing waterfall until they stopped to build a dam of sorts. In the end, local rivers and streams filled to capacity and beyond. Flooding of historic proportions became a constant topic on our local television stations, even making the international news.

The Meramec River is one of the longest free-flowing waterways in Missouri, draining nearly 4,000 feet while meandering over 200 miles until it empties into the mighty Mississippi at a point very close to my home.  I often visit parks near the Meramec River and have shared pictures with you that are close to my heart.

The last of 2015 ended with the New Year beginning in a rage. It seemed the Meramec River was out of control through no fault of its own. While the pond in the back of my yard continued to spread on all sides, big and wide, waters of my lovely river were rising. Higher and higher they inched, quickly covering banks of grass and walls of concrete until it was more than ever before. Streets and highways were underwater, buildings too, while some homes floated away until they slammed into bridges made of steel, crushing them like tin cans of soup. The river flooded into a fast and flowing current of murky madness.

Together with Doodle dog, my husband and I were pretty much stuck. Most roads leading in and out of our subdivision were under water. Basically, we were living on an island! Still, we were blessed with everything needed within the confines of our home. Most importantly, we didn’t have any personal flooding. Others were not so lucky.

By the third day we were able to drive to the point of no return, a main intersection used each and every day, Highway 44 and 141. Stepping out of our car felt like another world. Water rippled just a few feet in front of my shoes. Debris floated under the tips of stop lights while signs of fast food restaurants surely would be slow to invite the next guest inside anytime soon.

Thirty six hours later the Meramec River receded to less than flood stage. All roads are now open, albeit muddy from the sludge. Cleanup has begun in earnest and although pools and puddles of water remain almost everywhere, soon no one driving on highway 44 will ever know.

This morning when I woke the skies were no longer overcast or gray. Sun was shining, splashing across the cheeks of my face. When I opened the door to my paver patio the pond was no longer in the far back of my yard. Perhaps it had dried from new rays of sparkling sun or soaked into wisps of brown winter grass?

Down near the sewer drain, on what was left of the pile of twigs, leaves and dark bark, was a winter bird I had not yet seen this season. He was perched at the very highest point of the dam. There he sang a lovely melody. Perhaps he was calling to his mate in the nearby woods? So beautiful he was under the brilliant sun, black and white with a bright red breast.

When all goes wrong in the world, God makes everything right.