Covid Humor

The corona virus is not funny; many have suffered through it and recovered. Others have died, or have lost loved ones to it.

But there is so much varied information going around that sometimes we just have to laugh rather than cry. As Philip Yancey says, this should clear up any questions we have about the COVID rules.

Enjoy. And stay safe and well.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

Preparing

I’ve written four blog posts on grief and heaven since February 2nd. Was God preparing me for my mother’s passing April 4th?

Mom had prepared well for her death. Her communication regarding heroic measures and the disposition of her remains, and the Wills and Trust she and Dad prepared years ago have helped us, her children, make decisions in line with their desires.

Nonetheless, even with good preparation there’s a significant amount to be done after a death. During the COVID-19 challenges and Shelter in Place orders, how do we prepare a memorial service? And we grieve, family talks to each other by phone and FaceTime, and yet, that is nothing like the family being physically present together, telling stories that result in both laughter and tears, hugging each other, grieving together. I really want my family around me right now, but it’s not possible. And that hurts!

My brother watches the obituaries in their local paper each weekend. Most have a note saying something like “Memorial service information will follow as circumstances allow.”

Once again, this death has caused Don and me to look at our own preparations. What do we need to share with each other, or put in writing, in the event one of us should become incapacitated or die, as will happen at some point. How can we serve each other by making our wishes clearly and legally known, thereby taking some of the burden off those left behind?

hospital bed

These are some questions we have used to start the discussion about about our wishes in the event of critical illness or death.

  • If you are unable to make crucial medical decisions due to incapacitation, or your heart or breathing stop, do you want medical personnel to perform life-saving procedures? If not, do you have an Advanced Healthcare Directive or DNR (“Do Not Resuscitate”) form signed and on file with your physician(s)? (See http://www.answers.com/topic/do-not-resuscitate-dnr-order)
  • Where are the physical copies of your legal documents i.e. wills, trust documents, deed of trust for your home, automobile pink slips, and stock certificates? List banker(s), lawyer(s), financial consultant or CPA, insurance and stock brokers. For an overview of financial steps needed following a death, see https://secure02.principal.com/publicvsupply/GetFile?fm=EE12086B1&ty=PDF&EXT=.PDF
  • List bank accounts, credit cards, and locations. Where will you keep these confidential lists safe?  If you have a safe deposit box, where is the key? Is the other partner (or parent, sibling, spouse) listed as a designated signer on the bank’s form? Does he/she have a key? Should you list a non-family member in the event both spouses pass away at the same time?
  • Do you prefer burial or cremation? If burial, where? Can you pre-purchase the site? If cremation, where would you like your ashes spread or inurned?
  • If needed, teach each other how and when to pay bills and complete other tasks that may have been his or her responsibility before illness set in. For example, my mother had never filled the gas tank before Dad died. That was one of the hardest tasks for her.
  • Have you each specified in writing who you want to receive special personal items such as wedding rings, jewelry, art, tools, or furniture?
  • Have you discussed special wishes for music, favorite scriptures, pastor or priest you wish to perform your memorials, or other preferences for your services?
  • Where would you like pets to go after your death(s)? (My contract with the woman from whom I purchased my Cavalier King Charles Spaniels indicates that in the event of my husband’s and my deaths, Paigey will return to her. This ensures our dog will continue to be loved and well cared for, and that no family member or friend has to take in a pet they may not want.)

The good news – no, great news – is that a day is coming when …

…he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8 NIV

I’m reminded of my father’s comment when he knew he was dying. Mom reminded him that God was preparing a place for him in heaven. A building contractor, Dad’s response was “I’d like to see the specs.”

Well, Mom and Dad, you no longer need to see the specs because you are THERE, dancing at the feet of the God and Savior you have loved throughout your lives.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4

My Redeemer Liveth

Sadness has shrouded my spirit this past week. While I’ve been glad that my mother is free of the restrictions of age, while I am thankful for the hope we have in Christ, I’ve missed Mom deeply.

Quite a few years ago Mom put some of her recorded songs on a CD for the family. Among them are her solo of “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”, along with trios and duets between Mom, my older brother Arnold, her sister Mary, her brother Irvin, and me.

Mom, Irvin and me

After a welcome nap this afternoon, Don put on that CD–the first time since Mom’s passing. We sat, held hands, Paigey between us, closed our eyes and let Mom’s beautiful voice flow over and around us. Memories flooded my mind. Mom, Mary and I around the piano at my parents’ home. Arnold, Mom and I singing together, Mom’s clear soprano, Arnold’s strong tenor and my alto. Irvin and Mom dueting.

I grew up listening to my mother sing, at home and in church. She taught my older brothers and me parts and as we drove across the country we would sing four-part harmonies.

So listening to her CD brought back wonderful memories. I realized that in her last years Mom had lost much of what she loved … Dad, her ability to sing, her hearing, her desire to sew. She so longed to be with her Savior, to see my father again, along with her parents, brother and others who have preceded her in death.

Listening to Mom today, I felt some healing inside. Oh, tears will continue and I will miss Mom every day. But I realized she is just where she wanted to be, free of any constraints and rejoicing in the presence of her God and Savior.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, which we celebrated this weekend, we can be confident in His love for us. We can be forgiven and share in eternal life with Him. This is the truth Mom sang about in “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”. It is the testimony of her life, and what gives me hope even as I grieve.

One of my mother’s favorite scriptures was Psalm 143:8.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.”

I’m feeling hopeful again tonight. May you be blessed as you put your trust in the God of the universe, the Redeemer who lives forever.

From Death to Life

Once again grief roars into our family.

I keep wanting to pick up the phone and call her. Then I remember. She left us Saturday. Transitioned from death to Life. My precious 98-year old mother has longed for the day when she would see Jesus face to face. She’s eagerly awaited that great reunion with my father, who preceded her by eighteen years. Saturday evening her prayer was answered.

Mom and Dad’s Wedding. Her beautiful sister Mary is the bridesmaid on the left; Dad’s brother Jake is his best man. Mom’s brother, Irvin, is the ring bearer.

Mom lived independently until about a year ago when she moved into an Assisted Living Center. Over the past year her hearing has declined significantly so that conversations were often difficult, both in person and more so, on the phone. I treasured those moments when I saw her personality shine through her twinkling eyes, young again because of a shared memory, a laugh, a thought.

Mom could laugh – at herself or others – but never unkindly

Mom’s mobility also decreased significantly. Her legs were weak and she first needed a walker. Then she got an electric scooter which was wonderful in helping her get around the Manor and to meals in the dining room. More recently, Mom was usually in a wheelchair when she left her room.

A month ago Mom fell and broke her ankle. She’s been in a cast since, which limited her mobility even more.

I have so many precious memories with Mom.

She was a wonderful cook and homemaker. My brothers and I thought we were so clever when we came up with our own riddle:

Q: “What does Mom always look for and never hope to find?”

A: “Dirt!”

When I was quite little I spilled a glass of milk from my high chair. I expected a scolding. Instead, Mom picked up a towel, said “Oh well, that can be fixed,” and began wiping up the spilled milk.

I received Christ as my Savior at the tender age of eight years. But as a mid-teen I faced doubts–had I said the right words and was I really now a part of God’s family? When I finally confessed my fears to Mom, she helped me understand that God knew my heart. I didn’t need a specific word set if I acknowledged my need for forgiveness of sins and a Savior. She showed me John 6:37 where Jesus promised “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” And my soul was at peace, knowing I was accepted in the beloved.

Mom modeled love for Jesus Christ and for others. She was hospitable, gracious and kind. She was gifted with a beautiful, classically trained soprano voice and taught vocal lessons for many years. Whenever I couldn’t be home on an Easter Sunday I knew Mom would be singing “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” from Handel’s Messiah in church.

She modeled the disciplines of a walk with God–she loved reading her Bible, doing her Bible study and praying.

When my father died eighteen years ago, Mom refused to wallow in her grief. Deep as it was, she continued to meet with their friends, to enjoy their Sunday school class and church, and to invite others for a meal or conversation. One day not long after Dad’s death, I took Mom to a shopping center–I can’t recall why. As we walked and talked I told her I wished I could take her pain.

Gracious as always, she turned to me. “Carol, you have your own pain.” Despite her grief, she could look beyond herself to see my need in the loss of my beloved Dad.

Later, when both Mom and I were widowed, we took several overnight trips together. Our conversations during those times were deep, fun, meaningful. We talked about whether she had any desire to remarry (she didn’t, although she had a valued male friend for several years). We talked about my hopes and desires for my future. We explored other geographical areas.

We enjoyed seeing movies together.

Going to lunch together.

For many years Mom, my brother Arnold and I enjoyed singing trios together, until both her voice and mine waned. For a time we sang in the same church choir and I loved how her voice next to me challenged and improved mine.

Mom with her sister Mary, their brother Irvin, and me

When I was a child our family enjoyed family nights every Friday. Mom was our resident Chinese Checkers expert and winner. When my youngest brother, Bob, was five we taught him to make the popcorn and that was his job from then on. Since we didn’t have a television ’til I was in high school, Dad bought a movie projector. He and Melvyn often went to the city library and selected 16mm films we could enjoy as a family. Mel and Arn enjoyed playing with the movies–and watching downhill ski segments reversed so skiiers flew uphill backwards gave us big laughs!

Mom still enjoyed playing games until the last week of her life. She was part of a Wednesday night Rummikub group at the Manor. She loved it when she could win one or two games, and enjoyed the mental challenge and competition.

She loved her husband, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren with all her heart and prayed for us faithfully. Her deepest desire was for her family members to know, love and serve the God she taught us about from our birth.

With the corona virus outbreak it’s been very hard not to be able to visit Mom in person. Bob and Sheila, Don and I have talked to her through her room window. But no touch, no hugs. Last Monday and Tuesday Mom told me she just didn’t “feel right” and was extra fatigued. Tuesday night an ambulance took her to Kaiser. Bob and Sheila and I waited in the parking lot, unable to enter the ER. Every 20-30 minutes one of us would check at the door for updates. Finally Mom was admitted and, because her x-rays showed spots on her lungs, she was isolated for two days awaiting results from a COVID-19 test. Mom did, however, have pneumonia and a serious case of sepsis (blood infection).

When the COVID-19 tests came back negative, Mom was admitted to end-of-life care and was allowed one visitor at a time. Over the next three days Don, Bob and Sheila, Mel and I spent time loving her, holding her hand, telling her it was all right to go Home. Arnold, unable to travel from Kansas, was with her on FaceTime.

I had the privilege of spending Friday afternoon, night and Saturday morning with her. I read Psalm 23 aloud and croakily sang several hymns, often breaking down in tears. I held her hand and kissed her and told her how much I love and appreciate her and that she would soon be with Jesus and Dad.

Saturday afternoon Bob spelled me and sent me home to rest. He loved on her too; and at 6:19 that evening she took her last breath on this side of eternity.

To use my nephew’s phrase, I am heartbrokenly grateful. Grateful for my mother’s long and loving life; for having her in my life for so many years; for her freedom from pain and suffering, limitations and loneliness. Grateful for God’s promise that because Jesus lives, I will be reunited with Mom when He calls me Home. And heartbroken because I want to pick up the phone and hear Mom’s voice, to hold her and hug her one more time.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 25:21

I love you Mom. Give Dad a big hug for me, and I’ll see you both soon.

Prayer for a Pandemic

My emotions have run the gamut this week … fear, joy (at how people are serving each other), anxiety, hope, depression, and on and on …

How about yours?

Psalm 91 encouraged me this week, and I will copy it here in full.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

***

A dear friend sent me this wonderful prayer from the Sisters of the Incarnate Word. It reminds me that even in my concerns for my own family and friends, I need to remember the many others in very great need during this time.

Prayer for a Pandemic, Cameron Bellm

May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have the luxury of working from home remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.

May we who have no risk factors remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel our trips remember those that have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margin money in the tumult of the economic market remember those who have no margin at all.

May we who settle in for a quarantine at home remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

Amen.

https://www.ccvichapel.org/post/prayer-for-a-pandemic-cameron-bellm

God be with you, bless you, meet all your needs by His mighty power.