Saturday, October 16, 2010

In Honor of Gerald Curtis Hickman

In speaking with a high school friend this morning, we spoke of health and family. We also spoke briefly of blogging; and how writing, journaling and blogging can lead to laughter and reflection. But more importantly, what a stress release it can be. I was flattered when she said she read the blogs, and that she does have a good laugh!
Laughter is essential! Reflection is also essential!
What you are about to read is an actual email I sent to my 'ex' mother in law, I happen to still keep in touch with. I don't know how common that is, but I appreciate and love her just the same.
My son Shane and I took two separate trips to Ohio in the fall of 2008. One trip to visit Jerry in the hospital, and the other, two weeks later, to attend his funeral.
Though Jerry and my mom never married, they were together for twenty years. He was visiting Ohio that summer, when he fell ill. (cancer diagnosis) Though he really wanted to get well and get back to FL with her, to fulfill travel plans they had made together (mom had just retired), God had different plans for Jerry.
It's been two years since Jerry lost his battle with cancer.
When you read the following response I sent to my 'ex' mother in law, after she asked how our trip was and how my mom was; I hope your heart opens. I hope you feel sadness, love, empathy and appreciation.
You really should live each day until God takes you home!
Your tomorrow is an assumption, not a guarantee!
Take a deep breath, be grateful for that breath and make the most of your day!

*So very glad we were so fortunate to have seen Jerry over that weekend the two weeks before he did pass. Grateful he was awake and aware and happy to see us. He was telling his daughter Debbie about Shane's car and what a nice car it was. He and Shane spoke briefly about sports. Kept saying how cold he was. I jabbed at him for watching the girly movies on Lifetime Network. He wanted me to guess at his weight loss- guess a figure/number- I looked at him and said "Well, I'm going to need to hold your hand." So I did, and said, "45 lbs." He said I was close, "almost 50." I knew he wasn't himself and that his illness (understatement) was getting the better of him. He is never cold- and in the hospital, he couldn't get warm enough. His white hair was standing straight up, I told him he looked like Elvis (i loved it)- he was hoping to have gotten it cut. (it wasn't even long) I couldn't resist stroking his hair even more and make it stand up; calling him, the white haired Elvis! I remember Mom telling him she was taking us to Penn Station for lunch (sub shop) and all he could talk about was their french fries. He was going on and on about the french fries. The poor man wasn't allowed to eat anything for a few days and here he was talking up the Penn Station french fries. Telling us to have a good time and have a fry for him. When we left OH, I wanted to stay hopeful that he would gain strength to make it back to FL, but I also knew in spending that time with him; Shane and I both knew, we were happy we got to see him and spend some time with him.
Our visit was great. Shane and I thought the scenic drive was stunning. I remember him on the phone with someone from work talking about how "beautiful this part of the country was." TN into KY is just beautiful, especially in fall. We arrived back in GA Saturday evening 9/27, Shane caught an earlier flight on 9/28 to catch the Dallas game- Jerry had a decent week and the I remember calling Mom on Mon 10/6, and she was saying they almost lost him that morning. Shortly after, he announced 'no orders' with the doctors and nurses.
In speaking with Mom, and with all that was shared, it didn't look like a good week. Angela nor I thought it was going to be a good week. We worried for Jerry and we worried for Mom, because she was there with no family for herself. He passed that Fri 10/10. He has three children and on 10/10 his middle son turned 50 and his youngest Debbie, turned 49. On Fri, Mom said he was up at midnight and really all he wanted to do was talk- he and she talked all through the night. He then said he wanted to go see his Mom and Dad (he was an only child) and his dog (he recalled a childhood pet he had). He also asked that Mom tell (various names) friends and golfing buddies (various) messages and goodbyes. I guess the pain got so bad, he asked my Mom to go get the gun from the closet. (she knows nothing about a gun) She tried to keep it light and hopeful after that statement. She told him that if he wanted to go see his Mom and Dad, that he should- that she was okay and the kids were okay- everyone was okay. He got quiet and peaceful around 5:30am, mumbled something at 8am and passed at 10:24am. His daughter Debbie had just come in to relieve Mom- Mom was going to go home and take a shower (normally this happens in the afternoon- not morning)- Mom stepped out at 10:15 or so, made it to the parking garage- for whatever reason took a wrong turn (still within the garage), because her mind was on Jerry, and then she got a call to come back in. When she got back in, they said he had passed. Nurses and Debbie expressed to Mom, "He waited for you to leave." He wanted to spare her feelings. She sat with him and talked to him until they came to get him 12:30pm. I talked with her a little then- so did Angela. He was born on the 14th, he was diagnosed (w/ the severity) on the 14th and he was laid to rest on the 14th. One of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen. Not that I tour cemeteries- but just gorgeous!!! I told Mom that he and we may have wanted him in FL, but his parents and God had a different plan. He was laid to rest next to his parents- as an only child- I think that is a wonderful story. His parents bought a family plot some time ago. I believe his Grandmother is there as well.
I do think that everything happens for a reason. I do think that over their 20 year relationship, the last three months were challenging and wonderful at the same time and the last several hours were cherished moments and words were simply a blessing. We left OH the morning of the 15th and Shane left out of Atlanta on the 16th. Gary, Jerry's son, called at one point on the 17th to tell Mom that after the service and gathering of family and friends (on the 14th)- he had returned home (Jerry's home) and when he went to turn on the outside light- it never even came on. The light had been turned on every night. The bulb was now burned out.
It's amazing that we can laugh and cry at the same time.
Mom is doing okay- Dr has her on something- She calls it her happy pill. I told her it was okay to cry- she said she was crying at EVERYTHING. So, her pills help. She sounds really good. I speak with her almost everyday- which is normal anyway.
Shane was sad. Shane, like me, was grateful for the initial visit.
I know- your eyes are burning from all the reading! My eyes are puffy & pink because I teared up the whole time. It's a happy ending though....... I just know it!