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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Celebrating Dad

As I woke up the morning after my dad's memorial service, I must admit that there were may different feelings swirling around in my mind and heart. The service itself was great and I am so pleased with how it all turned out.
The photo we used during the service, taken by my cousin Mike moments after his first Championship win!
Many former players attended and it was a great reunion of old friends. Several of the coaches who coached with Ted were in attendance and it was just a very special gathering of friends and loved ones.
The flowers from the Mullen Family in Illinois that adorned the altar
The flowers that friends and family sent were just beautiful and the spray sent by Immanuel International was particularly touching.
The wonderful flowers sent by our church, Immanuel International, in Stockholm, Sweden
The American Women's Club in Stockholm also sent a gorgeous arrangement.
The lovely bouquet from the AWC in Stockholm
Special to have my world across the pond tie into this significant event.
I was really pleased with how the service turned out and loved the music. We sang How Great Thou Art, Come To Jesus, and dad's favorite hymn, Because He Lives.
The gorgeous flower arrangements and dad's favorite hymn on the screens
The worship team also sang John Rutter's For the Beauty of the Earth, which we also had at our wedding and it all all very lovely and appropriate. Doug read scripture and prayed a beautiful prayer and Pastor Mike did a great job with the overall service. His message, taken from I Corinthians 9.24-27, was very good and very reflective of what Ted was all about: Family, Faith, Focus and Faithfulness.
The way the church looked as we started the service.
I was privileged to write a tribute and share it and it was really a joy to do that. I only broke up a couple of times and included enough humor that it helped me get through it all! Several of my friends from high school were there and it was a special point of connection for me.

Here is the text of my Tribute to Dad
I would like to start by thanking all of you for coming today, especially on behalf of Ted because let's face it, if any of you had died and scheduled your memorial for Saturday afternoon on the weekend of the Masters, Ted would've been complaining about having to attend your memorial during the Masters until Kingdom come. Can't you just hear him, c'mon, what kind of a clown would schedule a service right in the middle of the Masters golf tournament?
Well it is really hard to believe that just 11 months after I stood before you sharing about my mom, we've landed in the same place with my dad. This time around has been profoundly different for me as it was so unexpected. When my husband and I were here in February, we had a great visit with Ted and left feeling confident that he was back in good physical form after some difficulties and actually coping pretty well with his unwelcome status as a widower. We had even convinced him that the prison of an economy seat on a jumbo jet airliner for the hours it took to get from California to Stockholm was worth it given the absolutely fabulous time we had together last summer and had purchased a ticket for a July reunion on the other side of the pond once again. But none of this was to be when the complications of a twisted colon and two emergency surgeries proved to be too much for his body. This has been a shocking and difficult time for me because I thought I was coming back to the US to be his head cheerleader, providing him with the help and encouragement he needed to beat yet another health setback. However, there were things that were different this time around. He was so weak that he just couldn't envision how he would get back to a more functional life. He said it's the worst pain he's ever felt and he couldn't eat or drink without feeling severely ill. As he was wheeled away for the second surgery, we were able to affirm what we've always known...that we love and respect one another deeply and have been blessed to share in our unique and special father/daughter relationship, no matter how the next hours or days would unfold. He was never fully conscious again. He was able to shake his head to hearing my voice and his final words to me were, “Let me go.” Hard as it was, as usual, Coach Moon had made his final wishes clear and I knew I needed to honor that.
In the aftermath of his death, I have realized that while he was giving living without my mom Rose Ann a fighting chance, he wasn't enjoying it at all. He was committed to gutting it out but there was a deep loneliness that he could not escape. Understanding that he lived 55 years with his soul mate, it is not that surprising that he could not endure even 1 year without her. My parents love for one another, their bond in life, their shared faith in Christ, their partnership has sustained me as I have had to cope with losing both of them in less than a year's time. Two recent conversations about my parents have left a deep impression on me...I was speaking with woman who has a very troubled relationship with her mom and when asking what it's been like for her she said, “Well Jodi, you know, not everyone has parents like you do.” And another dear friend said to me in the aftermath of dad's passing, “Jodi, you know, you really hit the parent jackpot.” I'm not sure I ever fully grasped how unique it was for me to have such amazing parents. I guess because it's what I grew up with, I assumed that most everyone experienced something similar. As difficult as these years have been through Bill's death 8 years ago, my mom's 7 year fight with cancer and now my dad's passing, the gift in all of those difficulties has been my ability to see how deeply loved and respected my folks really are. I am continually blown away by the number of people who consistently relay to me that my father was the single most influential person in their lives. It is a testament to that to see guys from our football family gathered here who first met Ted more than 40 years ago. There is no one in my past who I feel even remotely that connected to and it brings me great comfort to know what a special history both Ted and Rose Ann shared with so many people.
As close as dad and I were, we did not always see eye to eye. Most notable was the Title IX Education amendment passed into law in 1972. I was 11. Title IX is best known for breaking down barriers in sports for women and girls. At the time, most men were opposed to the amendment and there were no stronger opponents than one Coach Moon Mullen. I would guess that at least 3 times a week throughout high school, my dad and I went at it over this amendment around the dinner table. There were times when my mom finally had to shout, “Enough you two. We're sick of this argument.” Oh how my blood would boil when he would claim that equality for women would only hurt his football program...too bad he didn't realize that better sports for women could have actually led to a college scholarship for his daughter! But in those days, anything that hurt his football program was to be soundly shot down. He could not have been surprised however by my voracious counter attacks as he was the one who taught me how to stand my ground, formulate an opinion and go after what I thought was right. So in the end, he only had himself to blame for my strong opinions even though I didn't always share his perspective. As life continued to unfold, and as my views deviated from his on more than one occasion, several of his friends used to ask him how he tolerated my politics (yes, I'm a left leaning liberal...I live in Sweden for goodness sake!) and his answer was always gracious and generous. He'd say, “hmmmm, let's see...Jodi is passionate, engaged, smart, articulate and a free thinker...remind me what I'm supposed to be upset about regarding those qualities?” He always understood that character was the most important quality, not a particular point of view and truth be told, Ted also possessed a pretty generous bleeding heart at times! He was like an M&M...hard on the outside, soft on the inside.
For the most part I genuinely enjoyed going to the same high school where he taught and coached. I would say the only awkward part about that was when it came to dating. I remember early on in my first year at his school, I was sitting on the school benches before school started talking to a boy who I was beginning to like a little and it seemed that the feeling was mutual. I needed money (a great reason to have your dad at your school) for lunch so I said, “Well, I gotta run. I need to catch my dad before school starts.” And my friend says to me, “Uh, why is your dad on campus this early.” And I thought, “uh-oh. He hasn't made the connection yet.” So with fear and trepidation I said, “My dad is Coach Mullen.” Fortunately he was only a sophomore so not yet interacting with Moon on the football field. Another memorable moment came when I was a Jr. and had foolishly decided to date another football player. This relationship ended during the football season. I was pretty bummed about it and through the tears of a jilted 16 year old, told my dad that this boy had broken up with me. And in Ted's sensitive and caring manner, his only comment was, “Well, I hope this doesn't screw up his concentration for the game tomorrow.” Seriously dad? Even my mom thought that was a bit much! After that, I gave up dating boys from Villa Park and ended up dating a track guy from Orange High School.
Another one of Ted's pet peeves was his beloved practice field and in particular, the evils of playing soccer on his precious field. I always knew that he felt soccer was a communist plot to overtake the world but I found something in Ted's file recently that just cracked me up. Back in 1978 he wrote a letter to several school administrators that said the following: “It has come to my attention that Villa Park will be required to field a team in Soccer which will be competing on the CIF level of competition. I believe that this activity (note: not sport) should be started on a club level initially, to better determine the capabilities and true interest in this activity.” Gee dad, it's too bad that the activity called soccer never has caught on! I suppose this makes it even more ironic that I ended up marrying a soccer player from Minnesota! But to Ted's credit, between my husband's influence and his Latino friends, he did manage to start watching Soccer during the World Cup but he never could fully adjust to the lack of scoring and wins determined by shoot out!
A brief word about my dear husband Doug is in order. Doug slid seamlessly into our family almost 20 years go and was dearly loved by my parents in spite of his love for The Minnesota Twins and Vikings. My dad often said how grateful he was that Doug was my husband and how much fun it was to have him as his son-in-law. He especially appreciated that Doug never came across as someone who took himself overly serious and genuinely cared about other people. We quickly developed the habit of engaging in a Cribbage derby every time we were together with my folks. Of course, the bringing together of 4 fiercely competitive people created quite an atmosphere of fun and engagement and even though they beat us most all the time, we will greatly miss gathering around the table to play cards with them. Doug has been a faithful companion to me through these years of family stress. While we love our life in Sweden, living overseas has definitely created some challenges when it comes to being nearby loved ones when crises emerge. Doug never hesitated in helping me make travel arrangements, re-arrange my schedule and get to California as fast I could whenever I felt like I needed to. Because we work together, my departure meant a doubling of Doug's workload both at home and at church. But he always embraced these challenges with ease and always understood when I needed to be near my parents. He loved my mom and dad and that is apparent through the ways in which he so beautifully loves me. I'm so thankful for him in my life, especially now since my family of origin is no longer part of this world. I could not have faced the magnitude of losing Ted at this time had it not been for his unwavering love and support.
We know that those of us gathered here today really loved Ted and while we all know and must accept that his time had come, his passing leaves a huge void in our lives. Dad and I have always been pretty close but the years since Bill's death and our journey together through my mom's illness really sealed the deal between us. We just understood one another and were able to be totally frank with one another while giving expression to the deep love and respect we had for one another. What I saw emerge in dad in these past years was a desire to give back to mom all that she had given him. Gone was the early chauvinism and selfish concern for what he wanted and instead a spirit of total generosity and care prevailed. We all know that he cared for mom in remarkable ways and he was also so clearly proud and supportive of me, often taking time to write a note of appreciation or admiration, always signing it, love always, dad. Always the teacher, I would like to highlight some of the lessons I most deeply treasure having learned from dad. First, be competitive but be a good sport. I love having a competitive spirit and I am so grateful for the love of sport my folks have passed onto me. When I am playing golf or tennis I feel their presence surrounding me as they were my teachers in these games. I love the thrill of winning but equally important I love that dad taught me that the win is even sweeter when we can be gracious and humble in victory, but also in defeat. Second, be generous. My folks never had much money but that never stopped them from giving generously to others. When I first started getting a dollar for allowance, dad gave me 10 dimes. He had three envelopes and he'd say, one dime goes in savings. One dime goes to the church. And you get to spend 8 dimes however you'd like. And he practiced this principle of giving throughout his whole life. He loaned people money knowing that it was more of a gift than a loan. He was quick to buy lunch for someone, take another out for a milk shake, and gave to countless ministries. It was never the amount that mattered, but the faithful, consistent, generous support of others that is his legacy. Third, while he was a champion, he taught me to love the underdog. His care and concern for those with less in life has always been evident. He loved mentoring young men who lacked a strong role model in their lives. He has taken many a young man under his wing to help him get started or get straightened out in life. He has fought for the rights of those he feels have been mistreated and he has done it out of his concern for showing others his love and compassion. He always knew there was no one too small to merit attention and care. Finally, he taught me to laugh and to enjoy life. His sense of humor is legendary and we just loved sharing a good joke with one another. He was such a fun father...fishing, camping, playing cards, going to Disneyland and Angel games, sharing a joke, laughing at a film. We shared it all and I will miss him. I will miss calling him to commiserate about a sporting event, Skyping with him when he got up during my afternoon, having him as my anchor back here in the US. I will miss him so very much.
It is still a little surreal for me to understand that dad is no longer with us. He was truly a giant of a man with the heart of a giant. He so selflessly made himself available to us as we established our own home in the desert a few years back and never ceased to express his love and admiration for our work and our lives. He was so generous toward us, with his time, his money and his love. I have to figure out how to live in a world without Ted as do all of the rest of you. The only solace I have in this thought is that Ted no longer has to live in a world without Rose Ann and I know that that is the greatest gift we can give him now. They are now re-united, alongside of Jesus, the one they both served so faithfully in their life. Dad's legacy will live on in our lives if we embrace the challenges in life with the same vigor that he did, if we exhibit a generosity of spirit with those less fortunate in life, and love well those who are entrusted to us. He loved me well, he loved you well. Let's all strive to love one another a little more well.
My only regret in life is that I was never privileged to play for a coach like Moon or be a part of a championship team. But I feel no greater joy than that of having been his daughter, living the day in day out with him, knowing that I was special, seeing how he loved me, enjoying his presence in my life in every possible way. Dad was a true champion, a man who carried within him a deep and quiet faith, and exhibited integrity in everything he did. While many here today think of Ted as a father-figure, I am the lucky one who knew him as dad...my dad, the loving, generous, giving, caring, funny and protective daddy that we all long for in this world. For that I am deeply grateful.
Coach and Mrs. Moon are back together...may their legacy continue through the things we have learned from them. Peace to their memory, until we see them once again. Amen.

Many laughs were shared at the references to the Masters and Title IX, especially by those who know us so well.
Afterwards the women of the church provided a lovely lunch spread and because dad loved candy so much, we put out bowls of Hershey miniatures...Mr. Goodbar was his favorite. During the reception we had an open sharing time during which several players, one of the coaches and folks from the church where I grew up shared stories and spoke of the impact that Ted had had on them. Doug also shared some beautiful words about him, my family and our marriage. We are blessed to have one another. There are countless stories of Ted and I hope to share several of them over the course the coming weeks. He was kind of a larger than life character, that's for sure.
I was really happy with the day and touched and moved by seeing old friends once again. The sobering reality for me is that this may be the last time I see several of these folk. Because we live in Sweden, I won't be around for other life events that may occur that I would want to attend. So the reunions that family deaths and football gatherings have provided for us will no longer take place. In spite of the sadness that this creates in my spirit, I am also so thankful for the incredibly rich life that my parents have provided for me. That they were so loved assures me that I am deeply loved. Our pasts mean something to us and I suppose it is not surprising that in my parent's death, I have a renewed interest in our family history. I have files to go through and letters to read and I look forward to the joy and laughter that I will experience as I gain more and more insight into my father's illustrative career.
So today, the day after my dad's memorial service, I am grateful. I am sad. I am at peace. I am blessed. Thank you God, for welcoming my dad into your kingdom with open arms and for reuniting my folks in paradise. Thank you for my husband here on earth, with whom I hope to have many, many more years, before we join the faithful alongside of you in our eternal home. 
Today is Palm Sunday. Holy Week unfolds. The death of Christ and his resurrection will likely never again be so meaningful for me. 
And so to you all who read this blog and have followed the Caring Bridge, I say thank you. God bless and keep you as well as you continue on the journey of grief and healing on the road ahead.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Bit of A Set Back

It's been a rough 24 hours. Dad was not able to eat much last night and was very worn out when I got him in bed. I was quite exhausted as well so was happy to find my bed. I slept well and didn't hear him through the night but in the morning found him quite weak and struggling with the severe diarrhea that is just wiping him out. We got him up and he tried to eat a bit of yogurt with fruit and some toast but the amount was hardly measurable. He tried to drink water but everything makes him terribly nauseous. I tried to change the catheter bag but couldn't figure it out. I was happy when the home health care nurse arrived around 11.00 a.m. It didn't take long for her to realize that he should never have been discharged to home. Low grade fever, low oxygen saturation, blood clot risk, low blood pressure, severe dehydration...unbelievable. Fortunately she sent us to Urgent Care where he was able to get some serious blood work done and get hooked up to both oxygen and an IV drip. Getting him in and out of the car was a real trick for me but by God's grace, we managed. And we have a wheel chair at home from when my mom was so sick so that has been a God send.
He slept comfortably and deeply the entire time we were at urgent care and his color returned and the color of his urine finally began to lighten. From Urgent Care we were referred to a skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility which is where he should've gone in the first place. He tried to eat some dinner...a bit of soup was all he could muster but at least he is now hooked up to IV fluids.
It has been a very trying day. The home health care nurse was initially not convinced that he couldn't be at home so was saying things like, "He needs to drink more, you need to weigh him daily, he needs to make an appointment with his Dr. in order to get the catheter issues assessed" and I'm thinking, how am I supposed to do this when he can't even stand up? I'm not sure why it took so long for everyone around him to dial in to how sick he is. The nurse today finally said, "He's really very sick." Then at Urgent Care the Dr. asked how many times a week the nurse was coming home and I said he has been assessed as no longer fit for home care and she said, "Why not"? And I listed all of above and mentioned that he can't walk on his own. Her initial response was, "Well, he's 81 years old and has had major surgery." And I said, "Right...which is why he shouldn't be expected to heal at home right now." The nurse at Urgent Care was simply awesome and we had a nice conversation about Sweden while I watched him work on my dad.
The nursing facility is pretty good even if the rooms lack a certain loveliness. All of the staff were awesome, truly. Marco, a big orderly who was helping my dad as I was leaving assured me that they would take good care of him. He also said that while he is chronically weak, he sees signs of strength and is confident that he will get well. He was really very sweet. I left dad around 7.00 p.m. tonight hopeful that he will get better care and attention than I was able to give him at home.  At least he's hooked up to an IV. Did I mention how important that is right now as his ability to self hydrate is hugely compromised.
It's a road that's for sure. I hope when I see him in the morning he'll have had a good night and shows a bit of improvement. He is a bit discouraged that he's not improving and even a little progress would help him a lot. I know that I need to get sleep and eat as well. I'm thankful that the jet lag has not been too severe.
On a trivial note: I had picked Iowa St. to win the NCAA this year since dad went there and was born in Iowa. If this were a movie, it would've happened. But since it's real life, U.Conn managed to kill that dream! Small potatoes right now. Really longing to see some strength return to dad, for his sake and for mine. My current sports goal is to be able to enjoy the Masters golf tournament together in two weeks!
Thanks for your prayers...we definitely need 'em!
PS...I think there was just an earthquake...

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dad Update Thursday March 27

The trip was as good as it could've been with a reasonable amount of space on the plane (empty seat next to me) and great service from British Airways.  Stinking long ways however. I watched 4 movies and played a lot of Candy Crush and Spider Solitaire! By a stroke of luck or God's good grace, (wink) the friends of ours who are using our house this week were in LA yesterday visiting other friends and the timing worked out so they could pick me up at LAX and drive me to my dad's. What a blessing that was. Not only did it prevent me from having to drive 2.5 hours alone, it gave us a chance to have a good visit in the car. And we stopped at In-n-Out on the way home!  Nice.

Throwback Thursday...I adore this photo of my bro, my dad and me...
I must've been about 4!
I finally got to my dad's house at 11.30 p.m. which was 7.30 a.m. in Sweden. It was definitely strange for me to walk in and have it be empty. I got about 5 hours of sleep after falling into bed around midnight CA time.  I woke up and called the hospital and they said to come any time. So I got cleaned up and sorted out a few things and headed up around 8.00.  I am so thankful that the hospital is about 5 minutes from my dad's house.
I must admit that when I first saw him in his bed, I was a little taken aback.  He looked pretty ragged. He's obviously lost weight and it really showed in his face. Over the course of the morning, his color improved and he started to look better.  The biggest concern right now is a combination of extreme weakness combined with low appetite. He needs to eat but is so weak that even holding a fork is a big challenge right now.  But he nibbled at his breakfast and when the physical therapist came in, he willingly got up and walked around the corridor, which is about 300 feet.  I was very impressed with how well he did.  He was standing reasonably upright and the PT could tell that he was in pretty decent shape before the issues set in. He was of course, quite exhausted when he finished that. But instead of returning to bed, he agreed to sit up in a chair, which is also better for him than being in bed. Lunch arrived and he ate a few bites of soup and kind of picked at the lasagne. He did drink a small container of orange juice. After lunch he was really tired and chilled so we got him back in bed and I left him to take a nap while I returned to his house to do the same. I went back up around 3.30 and they were lining up what needed to happen in order for him to be discharged and we were soon leaving the hospital. The transfer to the car went pretty well and the transfer to the house was OK too.  We are both glad to be home but I am anxious to see the home health care nurse tomorrow and get a little more information.
I went to the store and stocked up on things that I hope will be easy to eat and provide some energy. We're enjoying the March Madness basketball and I'm praying for an uneventful night. The walk from the living room to the bedroom will be a challenge but I'm confident he will be able to make it.
He is really not up for visitors or for talking on the phone but I am answering his cell phone and the home phone so feel free to call those if you'd like to check in. Please keep praying for his recovery. I can see how that we're looking at the long haul as opposed to a quick bounce back. I am very thankful that it worked out for me to be here. No question that it's the only place I need to be right now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Across, Again

The last 48 hours or so have been a challenge. During the extremely short phone conversations with my father, it became apparent that he was really struggling. Late Sunday night I received a note from a friend who was at the hospital that dad had mentioned that he needs me to come back and help him. Throughout the day on Monday I considered what I needed to do and it became clear that while his physical needs could be met by anyone, I was the one who could best help him with his emotional and mental needs. I also spoke with his nurse who agreed that he was pretty down and then had a long conversation with my dad's pastor who also agreed with the assessment. I spoke with dad Monday evening, (morning in CA) and when I asked how he was all he said was not good. Then I mentioned that I was thinking about coming and he said that would be good. He never asks me to come home so I knew this was serious.
I am not overly concerned about his ability to physically get better although the surgery he had was very serious and the healing process will be quite extensive. But I can tell that he's really overwhelmed by his circumstances. He's so weak that he doesn't see how he will get better and I think the reality of his being alone has hit him rather hard. This is the first time he has been sick since my mom died and I can only imagine what it feels like to face going home to an empty house after an ordeal like this. Yesterday, (25th of March) marked 8 years since my brother died and 11 months since my mom died. I don't care how tough you are...these things are hard.
So across the big pond I will go.  I got an amazing deal on a flight that will take me through London and straight into Los Angeles. Amazingly, the friends staying in our house in Palm Springs right now are going to be in LA Wednesday and will pick me up and drive me to my dad's, saving me a 2.5 hour drive once I land. And I have never seen the fare cheaper than what I got my last minute ticket for. I feel surrounded by peace in the midst of shifting my life for the next 3 weeks. I won't see my dad until Thursday morning CA time.
There are losses on this end for sure. I have two new Bible studies going that have been a lot of fun, a women's event on April 5 that will happen without me, a trip to Holland that will have to wait, and most significantly the farewell for our associate pastor who is moving with his family to Japan in May. And of course, my absence increases Doug's workload along with caring for Tanner by himself. But in the grand scheme of life, those are all manageable losses that I am actually already over. Not being present with my father during this difficult time is a loss that I can avoid. Every single person with whom I have had to cancel something has been overwhelming loving and supportive. Both the people I report to at church have said there's no question that I need to go. And of course, Doug has been great, not hesitating for a moment that I should go. I will miss him and the Tanner dog most of all.
When I spoke with my dad before I went to bed Tuesday night he sounded a bit better but is concerned about weak he is. It will be good to see and assess the situation first hand.
So yesterday was working at shifting our schedules and recalibrating the next 3 weeks. It's now 5.40 a.m. in Sweden. I leave for London at 11.50 Swedish time and land at LAX at 19.05 CA time. I am going to try to get to another hour of sleep. I'm glad I'm going even though I do wish sometimes I could be two places at once.
This photograph was taken last summer when he came to visit us. He has a ticket purchased for this summer and I am hopeful that in a few months time we will be enjoying the Swedish archipelago together once again. For now, it's my turn to be in California with him encouraging him on his road to recovery.
Thank you for your prayers and support. Caring for an aging parent is hard, wonderful, challenging and important. I'm so thankful that I have the means and the support to be able to do so even though it means making the trek one more time.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dad Update

I am very thankful that my dad is alive and no longer suffering from the terrible pain he was experiencing. He's a ways from full health but at least he's heading in the right direction. The Dr. said that when he opened him up his bowel just fell out in a big knot that resembled a spaghetti squash.  He really could not believe that it had not ruptured. Feeling relieved and of course, very thankful.
I've been able to talk with my dad about a twice a day. He sounds weak but OK. Tonight he seemed a bit down. I think the magnitude of what he has experienced is setting in and the road to full recovery feels a bit long. Plus, the post-op pain is not so fun. He did get up out of bed and was actually able to go to the bathroom, a huge step for him. Getting the oxygen tube out and other tubes disconnected has made a big difference but he feels shaky. He needs to start eating now and after not really eating anything of substance for 11 days, this feels pretty hard. He's not hungry but also knows that he needs to start getting some food in his system.
I don't know what the plan is for how long he'll be in the hospital and then what things will look like once discharged. We're in wait and see mode. We truly appreciate your prayers for his healing, both physically and mentally as he prepares to face the road to recovery. I'm of course, torn once again, about being so dang far away. So I appreciate your prayers for my peace of mind as well.
On a brighter note, my favorite wild flowers starting appearing in the park where I walk Tanner in the morning. It always amazes me to see these first bursts of color after the fallow winter.  The lawn looks totally dead, devoid of life and then out of no where, these beautiful, delicate flowers pop up. It's so fascinating to me that they lurk below the surface waiting for enough warmth and light to pull them up year after year. Always, they represent the joy and wonder of new life but this year it feels especially meaningful. The beauty of these small flowers has given me hope that out of a seemingly dead landscape, comes amazing, beautiful, new life. The wildflowers have provided me with encouragement in the midst of this uncertain journey with my father. There are things going on beneath the surface that will lead to health and well-being even though I cannot see these things at this time. I do trust that God is present with both of us, bridging the gap that the global distance creates, but I really do miss being nearby during these times of difficulty and illness. That said, I remain ever grateful for the community of care that exists for each of us on both sides of the vast pond that separate this daughter from her father right now.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Different Kind of March Madness

The US college basketball national tournament is unfolding and it is affectionately known as March Madness among those of us who are fans. Unfortunately for me, the basketball tournament isn't on the top of my list right now...my father's health is. Last week he experienced severe back pain like he's never had before. He went to the Dr. who treated it with pain medicine and took an x-ray but that was it.  He languished in severe pain over the weekend and was unable to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. He thought it was side effects of the pain medicine. Fortunately, he had a routine CT Scan scheduled as follow up to the aneurysm procedure he had in Dec. of 2012.  During this scan, it was discovered that he had a flipped colon.  Turns out this is excruciatingly painful and can actually cause death if not treated in a timely manner. They rushed him straight over the hospital and began monitoring the problem. Because of his cardiac history, he takes Coumadin, a blood thinner that makes emergency surgery difficult.  After measuring his INR( a value that gives a read on clotting ability), it was discovered that he was way out of whack. So the first thing they had to do was to work at bringing that into range. He was given platelets and Vitamin K which work against the drug so the blood will thicken and finally, Thursday evening the surgeon felt confident that he could move forward.  I got a text from my dad's pastor at 1.15 a.m. my time stating that dad had gone into surgery.  At 4.00 a.m. my time, 8.00 p.m. in CA, I spoke with the pastor who informed me that dad was still in surgery and would be for another 2-3 hours. He said I could call the nurses station in about 3 hours and likely get good information.  I tried to go back to sleep.  At 6.30 a.m. Stockholm time I got a text from my cousin stating that Ted was OK.  So I got up and called the hospital and was able to speak with my dad's nurse as well as my dad.  The nurse was happy to report that all had gone well.  They did have to do a colon resection as the part that had knotted was necrotic. (The tissue had died).  But thanks be to God that he did not need a colostomy.  She was impressed with his overall health and strength and felt that he do well in the post-op.  They did have to make an abdominal incision so his recovery will be quite extensive.  He will remain in the hospital for at least 5 days.  Later today, when it is day time in CA I will get more information on the road ahead. For now, I am so thankful that he finally got relief from the terrible pain and that all signs are pointing to a healthful recovery.
Easily, the issues with family members health is the hardest challenge that we face living in Europe. My next decision will be how to manage Dad's post-op care and right now I just don't have enough information to determine a course of action. I am grateful for all the prayers that are being said on behalf of my father and for me as well. I will update regarding his situation here on the blog.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Second Sunday in Lent

A full week of gratitude is behind me.  Here are my reflections from the past week:

Monday, March 10
My dad...it's his birthday!
Relaxing spa afternoon
That the girl giving me the treatments today was a young Christian!

Tuesday, March 11
Beautiful, clean, safe city in which I enjoy walking my dog
Material comfort
Meaningful job

Wed. March 12
That God is in charge (visited Dinara today, a single mother who is dying from cancer...such a sad and complex situation.)
That I enjoy teaching and got to do it today with an eager group of adult learners.
My house cleaner and that I can afford that luxury.

Thurs. March 13
Collaborative ministry
Great Board
Good health

Fri. March 14
Warm memories of my grandmother whose bday was today.
Ability to think and write.
God's word that comes fresh over and over again.

Sat. March 15
Thankful my father is home safely after his back failing him while in Las Vegas.
Thankful my sermon is ready for tomorrow.
Thankful for good friends to share a film with tonight.

Sunday March 16
For resources which allows us to enjoy life.
For our church which I always look forward to being a part of.
Warm clothes and home to fight the chill.

I guess I'm wondering if I have to come up with completely new things to be thankful for each day! Sometimes the best thing is to cultivate a spirit of gratitude for the ways in which life is truly satisfying.  I saw this sign on Facebook and it seemed to fit with what I'm trying to be about:

The consistent features in my life for which I am truly grateful include my husband, my family, my friends, my church, my life privileges (food, house, shelter, money, etc.).  I suppose these are also the things that I can often overlook and so it is good to remember, on a daily basis, that these "ordinary things" are far from ordinary...they are truly treasures in a life that is filled with abundance.  Blessings on the next 30 days of your Lenten Journey.