1. Half a Century for Me! Technically, this great event took place at the end of 2014, but it was after Christmas, so close enough to include for 2015. This picture is of my 98-year-old grandfather and the 6 great-grandkids who live in the area. It's not everyone who has their grandfather at their 50th birthday, and for that I was grateful! And as "lasts" go, I think this may be the last picture I have of my grandfather, but more on that later. This day was a happy day!
2. The problem with dogs is that they don't live long enough. We said good-bye to our faithful friend, Sandy, in the first week of January. She was 11 years old, but the end was quick and unexpected. Kidney failure coupled with sepsis. She was such a sweet girl. She followed me around and slept by my bed. She would put her paws on the bathtub in the morning, until I would rub her head with my wet hands. The silver lining was that she didn't have the slow decline into old age. (Because we can't live without dogs, Ellie - a Blue Heeler - joined us later in the spring. She is totally, wholly, committed to my husband.)
3. Hard Work Pays Off. That's my son, in blue...wrestling for the state championship of his weight class in his school's division. At the end of the match, he had accomplished his goal....he stood atop the podium as the state champ! He had finished third last year, and had set his sights on first place this year. After wrestling practice he would run a few miles or lift weights. He worked hard, and I was so glad that it ended with a victory!
4. Abbey Youth Fest - Details in a previous blog post.
5. Lent and Holy Thursday - I said all of this before, too!
6. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.... When I saw my grandfather at Easter, I was stunned at how much he had declined since Christmas. For the most part, he seemed to not be there....there was one moment when he looked across the room and his eyes caught mine and he said something lucid. Within a week or so, he had moved to an in-patient hospice facility, and he was there for about a week. My grandfather was 2 weeks shy of his 99th birthday when he passed away. He still lived in his own house, but the credit for that goes to the unsung heroes - my parents - especially my dad - who were available at all hours of the day and night to respond when he needed help, to check on him, and to help him with all the little tasks of daily living.
7. School's Out Forever. We are all done with high school in this house. Just like that, they are all grown up. This kid had planned to go to the community college, but things fell into place in such a way that he ended up at the university. Full time student plus a more-than-full-time job as an equipment manager for the football team. He was admitted "by committee" to the university, but pulled off Dean's List his first semester. (Thanks to C. Wills for the picture)
8. Summer Birthdays... My first-born's 20th birthday was July 17. He celebrated by taking the day off of work, we went out to lunch as a family. We had a couple of granddaughters visiting from Florida and the younger one turned 10 the following day. My stepson's mom hosted a party for the birthday princess. Seated next to her in the greenish shirt is my mother-in-law. This was the last picture I have of her. Sometimes things change way too quickly.
10. Another Eagle....Kid #2 received his Eagle Scout Award in August...he had finished up the requirements in February (about a week before his 18th birthday), but we waited for his friends who finished in the coming months to have the ceremony. His Eagle project was re-striping the parking lot at our church.
11. And then fall happened... School starts here in early August. My son was already hard at work in his equipment manager job...he had to take time off to attend his own Eagle ceremony. About a week later, my 84-year-old mother-in-law was admitted to the hospital for some concern, and while undergoing testing to pinpoint that problem, learned that their were lesions on her liver. Never a good sign. Further testing revealed colon cancer that had spread to her liver. She had had no symptoms, and all of that was unrelated to her original complaint. She started on a chemo pill to perhaps buy some time, but no one seemed to be able to hazard a guess to answer the question of "how long"?
Things at school got off to a rocky start for me. (I teach special ed.) I had a full house of kids - 12 - but no paraprofessional. Ten of the kids were hold-overs from last year, so we all knew the ropes, and they are generally good kids, but it was difficult to keep up with the paperwork and the kids. I chose the kids. Some days I had a sub with me, and some days it was just me and the kiddos. On those days, I did not even get a kid-free lunch, because I had one who needed supervision at lunch. At some point in September, a teacher assistant came to work in my classroom. A former teacher, but with some emotional difficulties...she lasted 4 days. We carried on.The paperwork got further behind, and time outside of school to devote to it was limited (so was the time during school, as they kept us more than busy with 'professional development'.).
About six weeks into the year, in late September or early October, an assistant who was worth the wait joined us. And another kid, putting us at our legal limit. Mother-in-law had suffered a heart attack at the hospital, and the blood thinners given to combat that problem had caused her tumor to begin to bleed. Another kid joined our class, and while permission was given to hire another teacher to split my class, it did not move quickly. One October afternoon, I was driving home when the song "Just Be Held" by Casting Crowns came on the radio. It was one of those moments, where you hear just the song you need to hear at the time. I had been trying so hard to hold everything together, and it was exhausting. I remember where I was on the road when I heard it. It was good advice....stop holding on, and just be held.
October was the month of hospital visits. We knew which parking spot in the garage best met our needs. We had a routine down. Meanwhile, things for my mother-in-law were not improving. Receiving blood every few days sustained her, but did not stop the bleeding. My stepson and his family came in from Florida and spent several days with her. The Lord seemed to be beckoning, but she was not done living here yet. A visit with her priest helped her to come to peace with the future and she signed papers for hospice care.
Somewhere mid-October, I made a visit to the confessional. I like to go on a regular basis, and it was time. My penance, which as prefaced with "now don't laugh at me, but...." probably had more to do with the homily that weekend than the sins I confessed, but it was so very perfect. God is good like that. "Spend 5 minutes in prayer, each of the next 5 days, praying with your palms facing up." I will tell you that with all of the things going on in my life, it was a powerful thing to kneel in front of the Tabernacle in the mornings after Mass when everyone was gone and speak to the Lord with open hands. Not only asking Jesus to take the things that I need to let go of, but also to supply the things that I needed. Powerful.
Towards the end of October, my mother-in-law came home with hospice care. God bless my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. On the morning of Halloween, we were gathered in her room - my husband and my boys, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece, and a nurse, and we prayed the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary. It was a graced time. More hours with her in the evening, she wasn't responding. My equipment manager son was working a rainy football game. He texted after the game and asked if he should come...we said "yes" and he immediately locked his keys in his truck. She made it through the night, and my husband headed back the next morning while the boys and I headed to Mass. As I walked into Mass on All Saints Day, I felt my phone vibrating. I checked and saw that it was my sister-in-law telling me that a new saint had joined those already in Heaven. The silver lining was that my mother-in-law never experienced pain from her cancer, and in the end, she was at peace.
Another new student arrived in my room the following week and FINALLY another teacher was hired. Before Thanksgiving, we divided the classes. No, I didn't keep the "good" ones, and give her the "bad" ones. I teach the Math and Science (which is not what I would have chosen) and she teaches ELA and Social Studies. She is young and a good fit for our group, but not versed in matters of special ed paperwork, so all of that continues to fall mostly to me. We are struggling to find our rhythm, but eventually it will happen.
We have made it here...to the end of 2015...to the beginning of 2016. Thanking God for the blessings of 2015. Asking that we grow in appreciation of His mercy - of every good thing that comes from his heart - during 2016.