Posts Tagged ‘family’

A Post from Allana

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

“Where are you headed?” He asked.

“To Florida,” I replied.

I’m sure he was looking for a specific answer, but he let it slide.

“Is this trip for pleasure?”

The question hung in the air while I tried to find the right words.

“Um, something like that.”

He really didn’t need to know. I am sure that the look on my face told him that wasn’t completely true, but for the two minutes it took to look at my passport and check my boarding pass, he let that answer be enough.

I moved through the rest of our time in the airport, on the plane, the drive to the hotel, and even as we sat down for a late dinner much like a robot. Trust me, it was way easier to walk through that day numb than to do the type of sobbing my heart longed to do. The truth is. My dear mother-in-law was dying.

From the time of her diagnoses two months ago, her health slid downhill faster than any of us expected. Just last weekend, Sam’s brother, Paul, said that he thought Dorothy only had about two weeks left. Sam had already been down to see his parents a couple weeks ago and spent a significant amount of time with them both. “She probably has like two weeks…” came as a major surprise and yet when I asked Sam if he wanted to fly down to Florida to be with his family, who had all gathered there, he declined saying that he already had time to say, “Goodbye.” However, on Thursday, Sam came home from work and told me that he really felt that he needed to go tomorrow to Florida and he needed me to go with him.

As any mother would, my brain frantically thought through all the logistics. When did Samantha need to be at work throughout the weekend? What schoolwork needed to be focused on? When would I get groceries and do laundry? Would my mom be able to take off work to stay with my three girls? You know that kind of thing. Yet, one thing screamed louder than anything other thought – my husband needed me to be there with him, so I was going to be there with him.

Being the empath that I am, these very intense high emotion moments can be difficult for me to handle sometimes. Not only do I have my own sadness, but I can also feel the sadness that everyone else is feeling too. Yes, it can be overwhelming indeed. I have found through the years that I do better when I find a quiet-ish corner and daze out as I need to.

Throughout Saturday I watched my three beautiful sisters-in-law float easily throughout the house, caring for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. At the beginning, I have to admit, I felt like a major loser. Thoughts ran through my head like, I should have just stayed at home. Sitting in the corner barely moving wasn’t helping anyone, not even Sam. I could disappear and my missing presence wouldn’t even be noticed. You should be more like them and get off your behind and go do something helpful, and yet there I sat motionless.

Saturday evening, Dotty’s breathing became more strained and she was responding only through moans, and even that was becoming less. Sam, our son, his wife and I were getting ready to head out, but the hospice nurse came just as we were leaving and Sam wanted to hear what she was going to say, so he told Robert and Jen to go to the hotel and we would meet up with them there after the hospice nurse left. The very sweet and quick like adopted family hospice nurse moved about with much love and care carrying out her medical jobs. When she was done, she told us that our dear mom had about 24hrs left, and we should spend as much time as we could with her. My heart sank to the floor and my emotions whirled around in all different directions. Thoughts like I would never get another hug from this woman who gave such caring hugs. I would never get another of her encouraging cards in the mail. I would never see her like or love another post on Facebook. I also thought about how I just wanted Jesus to take her home as soon as possible so she didn’t need to suffer any longer. My thoughts turned to thankfulness as I thought about the great love she showed me. I also thought about all the times that I had allowed my insecurities win and I believed the lies they whispered to me often that Dotty didn’t like me.

When the hospice nurse left, I stayed in the background to let Dotty’s husband, Norm, and her children surround her. However, they quickly called me over to share this moment with them. Truth is I was scared. I was scared of being that close to this woman in her fragile state. I was scared that my emotions would flow over and I would fall into a heap and I would uncontrollably sob. Debbie told me that I could touch her, and with everyone watching me, I put the bravest face I could muster and I touched my mother-in-law’s soft arm. It was like the air was sucked out from my lungs at that moment, and yet, as I breathed in I just felt a sweet peace.

We all sat around her bed with worship music playing. There were tears, and I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who cried a mix of happy and sad tears. As my father-in-law held the hand of his beloved wife of 58 years, my heart broke for him. This was going to be a difficult journey of grief. None of us got much sleep through the night. But for me, there was an ‘air’ of peace.

Throughout the next day, Dotty became more and more unresponsive. Around 5pm, I saw Debbie stand up and lean over my mother-in-law. I noticed right away that her breathing was quieter than it had been since Sam and I arrived the day before. I got Sam’s attention, and others must have noticed my signal because we all got very quiet and waited for a few seconds, then we all gathered around mom’s bed. We watched while her breathing slowed but had become easy. At 5:45pm it was almost as if she smiled, her face full of peace she took her last breath. We put our arms around each other and took time to cry. After a few minutes we all went outside to call our children while dad took some time alone to say goodbye to his beautiful bride.

Robert and Jen offered to go get dinner for everyone. While they were out Jen texted saying that she could see a rainbow, so we all ran outside to see and sure enough, there was not only one rainbow, but a double rainbow right over top of the house. Then the sky changed from beauty to beauty for the next few hours. I think Heaven was rejoicing at this beautiful saint coming home.

I am going to greatly miss my mother-in-law. We didn’t talk all the time, but she was a part of my daily life on Facebook. She ‘reacted’ to just about every single one of my posts. She often made loving comments on pictures or posts about my children. Dorothy Guidry has left a great legacy. I am so thankful she was able to watch her prayers for her children be answered, as each of them came to a personal relationship with the Savior of the world. When Norm and Dotty’s pastor came by to minister to the family, he mentioned what a blessing it was that their faith has been passed down to their children. Norm looks over at Sam and said, “Yes, it took some longer than others.” It was a very funny moment.

It truly has been an absolute blessing to be accepted into this family. I will never forget the first time I met Dotty in person. I was nervous because most of Sam’s family was all gathered together in Boston after celebrating his grandmother’s 90th birthday. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Dotty ran out the door, passed by Sam and ran over to me and gave me a huge hug. I was baffled and yet the welcome continued to be just as sweet. I was no longer just in love with Sam; I quickly fell in love with his entire family. They have always brought so many joyful moments! When I started my cancer fight, each of the Guidry’s poured out so much love out to not just Sam and I, but our children as well. I am grateful to not have any idea what friends are talking about when they complain about their in-laws. My continued experience has been so opposite. Norman and Dorothy have been such an incredible witness of Jesus’ love and that continues to trickle down through their children.

Mom, I am going to miss you! However, I am so thankful that I know without a shadow of doubt that you are free from pain and sorrow because I know that you loved Jesus with all your heart. I love the vision I had of you when you passed away from this earth into your eternal home. I saw you running with ease and leaping into the arms of your Savior. I saw your smile bigger than I ever saw it before. I saw tears of joy and awe as you marveled over the immense beauty that surrounded you. I am so thankful that you are free from pain. I am so thankful that you are being rewarded for your faithfulness to the Father. I am so thankful that I know there is a heaven and that you are there. And I rejoice that I will see you again. Yes, I will miss the loving cards that you would send. I will miss the sweet butterfly reminders that showed how much you cared about me. I will miss seeing your reactions and reading your comments on Facebook. I will miss your great genuine hugs. Thank you for lovingly accepting me into your family.

This is why death for a Christian is different. We put our faith in something that cannot be seen with human eyes, but is instead felt with spiritual ones. You have a strong knowing that when you enter heaven’s gates, there is freedom. Death didn’t win. My mother-in-law lives more deeply than she ever did here on earth. Cancer didn’t steal Dorothy from us… no… God welcomed her in to the place she belonged. Yes, it’s true, I absolutely hate cancer… but when a person dies from cancer, God doesn’t fail. He always heals, it may be a healing here on earth like I have had, or it may be a healing He chooses to give in heaven. God is good.

Allana G.

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Tita.Johns.ReceptionWe will be headed back to Florida in a couple of days to celebrate the life of Dorothy Guidry, my mother.  As a part of that service I have been asked to write out a memory that I have of her.  There are of course many individual memories that are cute and maybe a little angsty.  There is the time she was chasing me (in fun) and I headed out the storm door, missing the handle by inches, my hand went through the glass sending us on a trip to the nearest ER.  I remember how quickly the nurse in her came out as she wrapped my arm and instructed me to put pressure on the wound.  Her quick and calm response kept me from panic and you can be sure that I soaked the injury for all it was worth for years (If you have seen White Christmas you will know what I mean…)

There were strings in our string beans, hidden gifts on birthdays, Christmas scavenger hunts.  I remember her chain smoking as we waited for the movers to come during one of our many moves (she quit before I was a teenager).  I remember her patiently working with me to send a tape (mini reel to reel!) to my Dad who was posted overseas.  However my greatest memory of her is not any of these events.  It is a quality.  My mother pursued the heart of Jesus.  She loved and adopted people, just as He does. This love was without conditions and the adoption was freely available, it only needed to be accepted and there was a tacit understanding that this adoption extended to our family.

Whether it was the woman under the couch, the girl with the injured heart or the eleven year old smoker who would bruise me repeatedly standing outside our church, she brought them into the love of Christ in our home. Some of her adopted family will be sitting in the memorial service on Friday.  Some could not accept or persevere in their adoption and passed from view and some ended tragically bringing tears that few saw.  Some were (briefly) boyfriends or girlfriends but the love and adoption was never withdrawn.  Some are husbands and wives who stood by her side during these last days of life here on earth.  She has in this adopted family Peters, Pauls, Zaccheus’s, Mary Magdelenes, Marthas and even a few Lazarus’s. She has blessed so many and we have all been blessed in return.

This Spirit led heart guided our choice of church family.  We were never a “denomination”.  She taught us to seek the place the Holy Spirit would have us serve, not necessarily the place where we felt most comfortable or the place that served us best.  Our church family consists of Anglican,Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Armenian members literally all over the world.  This was not born of an inconstancy of belief but from a solid faith anchored on the Rock that allowed her to grasp the width and breadth of the Kingdom of God as few do.

 

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The Chemo Tree

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope ; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8:25-26

 

Cancer for all its evil, all its robbery, is a great teacher of true hope.  As I sit here preparing to fly to Florida for the memorial service for my mother I am reminded of God’s lessons in hope, God’s lessons in Hupomone.  “Is this the sum of all your fears, or the truth of all your hope?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)  My mother is with the Father.  She stands in our family as the truth of all our hope.

I have wrestled with this post for weeks. In fact I am still struggling with it and will probably continue to struggle with it. It is not meant to be doctrine or even counsel. It is simply emotional and spiritual transparency from a moment in which God spoke into my life.

Some time ago Real Hope with Perseverance sat next to me. He probably does not even realize how profoundly he impacted my life. God is so amazing in the way that he pairs the events of our lives with the biblical truths that he is laying on our hearts. This man and his loved ones walked the path that Allana and I, along with our family and so many of you walked over the past 18 months. He road the rollercoaster of emotion. He even walked the same hospital hallways. He prayed and was prayed for. He held those he loved and was held by them. A few short weeks before I met him the vibrant woman of God, his beloved wife, whom I will only meet when I get to stand in the presence of my God died.

As I sat there with my lovely Allana across from me God whispered in my ear…ok maybe he shouted. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope.”But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Hope and perseverance are inexorably entwined for the believer and it is not hope in the visible and perseverance to the seen but a hope that is embedded in faith. ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

All the numbers that I had heard and read rolled through my mind, percentages of life and death. Grief and fear walking alongside faith and hope as I stood with my beloved. The same grief, fear, faith and hope that I saw sitting next to me. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope”

Blessings,

Sam

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Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3

maphome

Turn right onto 140.  Take a slight right onto Highland continue through the S Curve onto North Vine St.  Turn left onto Reservoir Rd. and then make a right onto Violet Circle…

Going home really doesn’t seem such a big deal to most of us.  Simple directions like those above bring us….home.  Well at least they bring us to a place where we have a roof over our heads.

“Honey when you are home, you are not really home.”  Allana’s words stung.  Of course I was home.  I knew my address and could navigate my way.  The reality of this statement was both so much more subtle and reached so deeply into who I was that it would not be until years later that I would see the truth in it. This particular disability strikes deeply separating us from the Hupomone God who loves us just as it separates us from those around us who would do the same.  We cannot remain under or about a place that we have never really been.  As I look back I can see God calling to me so many times “Beloved, when you are home, you are not really home”.

Walking through the motions of “getting home” does not cut it.  There is an undeniably spiritual aspect of HOME. More importantly it takes a spiritual intentionality to enter into a HOME relationship with anyone, but especially one with God.

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,  Isaiah 29:13

Israel knew the way HOME.  If you asked them, they would tell you they were HOME.  They followed the traditions, they followed the law, they sacrificed, celebrated; they did all these things and believed it meant HOME.  They were wrong and there would be consequences just as there are for all of us.

Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”  Isaiah 29:14

I wish I could say that today I am an expert at being home, that it comes naturally.  The truth is old habits die hard and the technology of the 21st century makes easier than ever to not be wherever you are.  Being home requires an ongoing commitment to God, to my family and to all the people God brings into my life.

Jodi King of Love and the Outcome has perhaps more opportunity than any of us to miss being home.  The life of a musician on the road and in the studio, constantly having to be new and fresh for the fans could certainly leave one with little time to be home.  She recently started video blogging on Mondays and this is one that touched my heart and gave me the ending for this blog (that I initially wrote over 6 months ago, so thank you Jodi!)

 


 

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 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

My original intent was to follow these nineteen days , day by day.  This obviously did not happen, for a variety of reasons.  One is certainly that processing the events of two years ago, now removed from the rigorous exigencies of Allana’s treatments and Bone Marrow Transplant recovery is not as structured, neat and clean as I thought I might be able to attain.  As we pass through this season I can watch each of us quietly working through our feelings.  When the busyness of the holidays passes for a minute and routine life emerges the stress of this process emerges in a variety of fashions.  Still as a family we have the deep assurance that God is in control and that we have an eternal High Priest in His presence interceding on our behalf. 

The frenzy of birth fades in the light of our celebration of our Saviors arrival on the scene.  These days are filled with wonderful preparation and quiet enjoyment (with little sleep).  We are blessed by the generosity of so many of you who will read this, as we were suddenly and unexpectedly blessed this year.  Then as now I don’t know why I am surprised when I pray for provision and it comes in abundance.  Presents are wrapped as Nisa is loved and coddled by so many.  The preparations made over the previous month are in full use now.  Allana is enjoying her Christmas blessing, drinking in Nisa’s presence having desired this particular beverage for so very long.

She wakes on Day 7, a little sore, her throat a bit raspy and maybe just a touch of fever.  Not to worry, she did just give birth and the crazy weather is enough to make anyone a bit….

The preparations made over a lifetime by an all knowing God are about to be tested.  Quiet joy and praises rise from home and ministry wrapped in one.  So much has been put on hold as we waited for Nisa.  We are already making plans for the Spring and Summer, mapping out what our lives and ministry will look like.  We did not know that in less than two weeks everything would change, but God had been molding us into “change managers” for some time.  Early in our journey to full-time ministry when I had left the Hospitality industry God had given me a word that I would only know what I would be doing and how we would be living 30 days at a time.  It was frustrating and difficult but it prepared me for the runaway train ride that was coming.

Blessings,

Sam

 

 

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The frenzy of the night (Nisa was born at 9:40 pm) and the flush of the first day gives way to a wash of relief. The tensions of the past nine months; the fear at each ultrasound appointment; the waiting for the pronouncement that a new cycle of loss and grief would begin; they all fall away.Nisa Day 2

We joyfully prepare to bring Nisa home.  I am not sure that my words can express Day 2 any better than the twinkle in Allana’s eyes.  This Christmas gift is probably the best that we have ever received.  The whole family rejoices at the absence of that fateful “talk” with Robert, Sami and Chayla.  Each of us in our own way process the losses of the past in the joyous light of Nisa’s arrival.  We cannot help think of the siblings in heaven, from the Crashing resonation of Josiah’s passing to the unheralded passing of Ezra Matthew.   Day 2 becomes about rest, enjoyment and blessing.  The gathering storm is still beyond the horizon.  There is no sense of the deadly changes perhaps just beginning to take place.  Still what would come does not erase the joy and peace of Day 2.  It only serves to highlight it and to make me more thankful for God’s grace than ever.

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The Chemo Tree

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope ; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Romans 8:25-26

I have wrestled with this post for weeks. In fact I am still struggling with it and will probably continue to struggle with it. It is not meant to be doctrine or even counsel. It is simply emotional and spiritual transparency from a moment in which God spoke into my life.

Some time ago Real Hope with Perseverance sat next to me. He probably does not even realize how profoundly he impacted my life. God is so amazing in the way that he pairs the events of our lives with the biblical truths that he is laying on our hearts. This man and his loved ones walked the path that Allana and I, along with our family and so many of you walked over the past 18 months. He road the rollercoaster of emotion. He even walked the same hospital hallways. He prayed and was prayed for. He held those he loved and was held by them. A few short weeks before I met him the vibrant woman of God, his beloved wife, whom I will only meet when I get to stand in the presence of my God died.

As I sat there with my lovely Allana across from me God whispered in my ear…ok maybe he shouted. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope.”But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Hope and perseverance are inexorably entwined for the believer and it is not hope in the visible and perseverance to the seen but a hope that is embedded in faith. ” Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

All the numbers that I had heard and read rolled through my mind, percentages of life and death. Grief and fear walking alongside faith and hope as I stood with my beloved. The same grief, fear, faith and hope that I saw sitting next to me. “Is this the sum of all your fears or the truth of All your hope”

Blessings,

Sam

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