Saturday, December 28, 2013


  When my eldest son was about fourteen, he came back from Summer camp having lost quite a bit of weight.  He was quite ill and was hospitalized shortly after in Richmond.  The eventual diagnosis with Crohn's Disease.  As a critical care RN, I knew that many if not most Crohn's patients respond to treatment, and are managed through their illness.   I also knew that some excellent new treatments were emerging at that time.  Although my son was extremely ill during the hospitalization, I truly believed that he would respond to the treatment being provided.

                  It was during this time that I heard this song for the first time.

Mark Shultz "He's My Son"

During this hospitalization, my son did not respond as was expected, and we began a major medical center to major medical center oddysey in order to find a treatment that would be effective and would return him to relative good health. I prayed as much as I could, especially when I realized that my son's Crohn's Disease actually threatened his life, and had disabled him. This song so well reflected my prayer. My son's oddysey was not to end easily. For years he continued to be treated, and did not live anything which approximated a normal life. The boy who originally had trained to be a speedskater as a teen, could no longer do this. He learned to paint in acrylics and oils and for a long time, this was his only activity. He was not well enough to attend school. I used to feel very badly in this time, not only for my eldest son, but for my daughter, and two younger sons, who did not get the same measure of my time. But there was plenty of time to make this up when my eldest son was well. Then, eventually my son experienced a heart rhythm disorder which the physicians attributed to a fluid and electrolyte imbalance related to the Crohn's Disease. Once again, we made numerous trips to the Emergency Room, and our eldest son continued to lose weight. At eighteen, he was given the option of having a radical surgery in which his entire large intestine, which was badly diseased was removed. He would never be completely normal, but he might not die, and this was certainly the path he was on. The surgery was done, and I spent two weeks in the hospital with him as his private duty nurse. I missed my other children very much. Eventually, my eldest son recovered sufficiently to attend college on a lighter schedule than most. Our eldest son had become engaged at college and was doing well, when Daniel collapsed and died inexplicably at the beginning of the Christmas season in 2008. All my prayers to keep my eldest son on Earth with me, were heard. Somehow, I did not instinctively know that God would instead call my youngest son home. The initial autopsy on Daniel found nothing wrong. Eventually, the pathologists offered the theory that Daniel had experienced a sudden heart rhythm disturbance and had died instantly. When I hear this song I remember not only how hard I prayed for my son who was known to be ill, but also how I somehow missed knowing that God would call Daniel home. Life on Earth IS difficult without Daniel here. Tonight it is five years and one month since his departure, we still miss him very deeply.   Our eldest son still battles Crohn's and other medical issues which are related to it. We are grateful that he has been able to remain with us on Earth.    We still miss Daniel and sometimes still can't believe that he was suddenly taken from us.. This season, and every other, please make sure that you spend as much time as you can with ALL your children, those who might be taken home, and those with no known medical issue, because the ride for us all may be short, and because sometimes, there are no warnings.

Daniel was always understanding when we had to spend so much time in hospitals with his older brother.  I loved him for it, but I also regret not being able to carve out more time just for Daniel, during his 12 1/2 year stay here on Earth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Electronic Christmas Letter


I have a feeling that you can intercept my electronic data and my blog.   You, and the NSA, that is.


            Here on Earth, this is the fifth Christmas we have experienced without your being here in flesh.   As you know, each Christmas, I have placed a Christmas letter to you in your stocking.  This year, the printer is not working and so, I will be writing it to you here, and I hope, printing it later.   It seems fitting as things electronic and internet were so clearly your domain when you were here, and I would imagine you still watch all the little megabits as they form.

    We still mention you, think of you, and laugh about things you have said, even five years after your departure. With time, our recollections are more complete and less tainted by grief.   I am so grateful for all the memories we have.  We may not have done all that I had hoped to, with you, but we lived a life.  We really knew you, and you knew us, and perhaps this was part of the reason for your trip to Earth in the first place.  As time passes, we accept that it is less that you died and more that you were selected by God for a particular path, and that you are away completing those tasks, for God, and also for us.   The "teen room" we created for you is still frequented by your siblings.  They borrow your Hancock DVD,  Black Adder, Jeeves and Wooster, etc.   We have stickers with your face on all your DVDs to ensure that they are returned to your room, eventually.  We act as if you are away, perhaps on an expedition with Papa Lawrence, and that you and he will pop in completely unexpectedly, as he used to while traveling.
     I am well and working on projects as well as keeping everyone else moving in a positive direction. The loss of you and Dad was a life defining occurence. I spent time fighting it from being, but nothing can ever be the same, in both bad ways and in good ones. I waste nothing now.  No moment is wasted and I am mindful that every interaction I have with someone could be our very last one.  I am also mindful that each day here could be my last.  I make time for the people I love, and spend absolutely no time with those I don't wish to, because I can't squander time.  None of us have that luxury.

    I think you know all that is going on with your Dad and your siblings. I catch a remnant of your being sometimes when I am working with the dogs and the alpacas.  I know the horses amuse you. I also feel you and Dad watching me sometimes as I give immunizations to horses, and particularly when I am moving a horse in a muddy pen.  Please tell Dad I am as careful as I know how to be, and that I still hear recollections of his telling me not to approach a horse from the rear.  From all the knots I use, it is clear that I was paying better attention in those years when I appeared not to be, than I think he realized.  Both of you have impacted me greatly and taught me so much. Thank you both for that.

       As always, I will try to make this as positive a holiday as is possible.  (Your dog) Jared is, for the moment, hanging on, and functioning fairly well.  However, I think this year, your thirteen year old Siberian Husky will be going with you, so please keep an eye on him.

        When you next see God, tell him I am grateful for the time in which I did have you, and Dad.  I am grateful for His gifts both seen, and unseen, and I give in to feeling sorry for myself only occasionally.  I love you, Bug, more than you'll ever know.   Merry Christmas to you both.

This is "Hallelujah: Light Has Come" Performed by Barlow Girl This appears here under fair use laws. Please buy it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Goodbye Townhome......A Christmas Story


                  My parents divorced after many years of marriage, when I was 24. I can only imagine the loss a young child feels in divorce because this was a saddening and traumatic time for me, even though I was already a young married myself, and pregnant, to boot.  My mother was a British subject and had moved here when she married an American.  Even though she lived most of her life here, she related that, after the divorce, she felt a bit as if she had been stranded in a foreign land.

                        This left my parents living in two cities.  My father seemed to fare better, at least initially, but my mother had a difficult time.  Her children were raised and she'd left a good career before we were born.  It was very difficult for her to define herself and be an individual in a sea of couples. She also wasn't emotionally ready to once again, secure employment.

                        After I too moved out of state with my husband and small children, she wondered if she should do the same.  Winters in the Northeast were difficult, and perhaps an apartment in the South would be easier.   Within a year of my husband and I moving to Virginia, my mother followed, moving her things into storage, and at least initially, staying with us, in the new home we'd bought.   She needed encouragement to either rent something herself or to buy and so ultimately I pressed her to find something.  The choices were much better than in the Northeast.  She could have bought a quite lovely three bedroom home with a nice yard only about four miles from me, and she could even have assumed a preexisting mortgage which was at a reasonable rate.   I found several things that I believed would be excellent and nearby, but she had no interest in any of them.  Eventually, she announced that she had bought something.  She was true to her British heritage in that she had bought a home in a row house townhome community in a  more urban area than the one in which I lived.  Superficially, the building did remind me of some of the suburban housing in some of London's suburbs, perhaps Ruislip, but that is where the comparison ended.  My own personal prejudice is that I would always prefer to own something which is not connected or overly dependent upon someone elses property.  It is my belief that in a townhouse community, you are more vulnerable to potential bad behavior by your neighbors or poor maintenance of their homes. Your investment depends in part on your neighbors and this makes you vulnerable.  The home was also forty-five minutes from my home, and this would cut down on how often we would see one another.  It did have three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, and nice sized kitchen, living and dining rooms, along with some of the best storage I have seen in a townhome, and it had attached storage. It also had easy proximity to the interstate, and in one or two exits, an international airport, which I believe she saw as a giant plus.

                         I don't think I ever had a chance to tell her this but I am proud of the way she redefined herself by building a new career.   After a series of jobs that paid well but that she absolutely hated, she found a job as a researcher and docent at a museum.  Her natural intelligence, great memory for facts, figures and her love of  history stood her in good stead.  She also liked meeting people, and was very good with dignitaries. She continued in that position making many friends as a consequence of the position until her passing, in her eighties.  Physically, at least, up to that time, she looked well, and appeared much younger than she actually was.

                  My mother had a Will in which I was the executrix for many years. My family and I moved to another part of the state when our four children got  older, but I retained a copy of this Will.  However, in the last year of her life, she forgot this existed, and someone at work drew a new one.

                    As a result of the new Will, her home was left to my brother who lived out of state, and was often out of the country. For a time,he did not know he owned it, and she did not have reliable means by which to contact him and neither apparently, did her executrix. The monthly fees to the townhouse began to climb and to accrue, along with utility bills, taxes, and homeowner's insurance and my attorneys instructed me, that since I was not her executrix that I was not to pay them.

                    Eventually my brother was reached.  He not only didn't want any part of the home, but could not come to sell it, and absolutely could not pay the thousands of dollars in back fees on the home which was now "magically his". He could not make use of the home she had kept and planned to give to him.  I decided, in order to help my brother, and in order to go through our family pictures and things which I presumed were in her home, that I would buy it from my brother, and then sell it fairly quickly thereafter.  My brother was happy to be finished with it.  He turned up for the closing, and was gone again fairly quickly.  Then of course, the financial and real estate collapse of 2008 occurred, and there were some terrible family losses to me personally as well.  Both my Dad, and Daniel passed, and having work done on my mother's home, in order to sell it wasn't on my list of top priorities.

                    Then, since two of my children were at the university about a half hour from the home, I kept it thinking that they might wish to live there and rent out one room for the income while in college.  They never did.    In addition, the family photos and the special momentos my mother had been holding for me for years, were not found in the home.

                   For five years I held on to the house I never liked and never thought she should have bought.  I have privately joked to my husband that it is the purchase that keeps on taking, and that the address really  ought to be Albatross Lane. For much of this time, the home had been up for sale, but with the economic downturn, and so many foreclosures throughout the US, there were no takers, and often no one who looked for a long period of time.   Then, last year I found a tape of a Christmas spent at her home, when her sister, my beloved aunt,  flew in from England.   It showed them,  my husband and I, and our children, and it some wonderful footage of Daniel when he was less than a year.  This was a tape of Daniel's first Christmas, a part of which he spent at my mother's townhome.  It looked so beautiful inside with the pale yellow living room,  blue and white vases filled with holly, and a five foot tree draped in gold and blue. There were lots of noisy toys that Daniel adored.   My mother is now gone, as is her sister, and so is my little Daniel.  They are all gone, but the townhouse holds the memory of that Christmas, and of our time spent together, on that magical day.  It now sits alone with new carpet and curtains, having not heard children's laughter in years.

                 Last month I had that tape copied onto several DVDs so that we will always have those memories.  I think the house served my mother well.  She paid off its mortgage within a few years and its reasonable cost allowed her to do things she wished to.    My mother's home finally sold at a great loss, last month, and the closing is in just a few days.  The costs of acquisition coupled with the taxes, fees, maintenance costs, repairs, and association fees have very much exceeded what I will get for it.  However, I think I did the right thing.   It's a nice home with three bedrooms in a central location, and it will be a good home to its next owner. Sometimes, all we can do is the best we can.  I am a little sad to see it go.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday, December the Thirteenth, 2013

Today, a courageous mother whose blog I follow is dealing with marking funeral arrangements for her three month old premature son, who was never able to leave the NICU. Her comments on making final arrangements for him reminded me so well of the day, five years ago, when I had to make final arrangements for Daniel. The fact that someone else has to endure the December burial of her youngest son has me in tears. I have no wisdom. I have no encouragement or words today to help put such a loss into perspective. There is no perspective, and I am not sure that there ever really will be.

       So, rather than leaving a sad and inane post, I am choosing to repost my post from December of 2011, when I apparently had more center and more wisdom.  

Picture from:

Picture from

    We come to Earth as babies, and many of us find a loving mother, often a loving father, grandparents and sometimes even siblings.  Uncles and aunts and cousins round out our families, and many of us are lucky enough to be woven into a basket of loving family as we are babies, toddlers and children. We have more connections to the world than we can count, and this is how it is meant to be.  Of course, this can change. Fathers can leave or die, mothers can return to work, or pass also.  Uncles can move and take cousins with them.  Disasters can take entire families as well.   Most often we enjoy our extended families and don't begin to lose large numbers of our family constellation until we are in our fifties or our sixties, when God prepares us one family member at a time, to begin the process of realizing that we will return to Him, from where we came.

            Please try to remember this holiday season that many people have not had the genuine treasures that we associate with Christmas and the holiday season. I am not talking about presents or material things we have. I am speaking of the real treasures of this life, the love, camaraderie, shared acceptance and joy that can come from spending time together as a family.   Not only do many people not have this as children, but it can be hard to create in one's own family when one cannot recall these moments well in adulthood.

              Some of us lose entire families when circumstances take us from them, and some of us lose family when they pass to God, one by one. In any event, people are often left here on Earth without the connections to others they had when they were younger.  At Christmas, when the hype of happiness, joy, and a glorious special day is all around us, it can be a very difficult day for many people.   Please remember this, and take part of your holiday season and share it with someone who might not have the connections to family or to friends that you do.   Jesus Christ did not send a blessing to all of us on a proxy date of his birth. He sent us blessings year round. The longer we dwell on Earth the harder it can be for us to see sometimes.  And this, is one of the most important things I have learned from Daniel and also from my Dad.   Merry Christmas all.

The lead vocal in this song is performed by Jody McBrayer.
Jody was one of the vocalists in the group Avalon.    He left the group some years ago due to an issue with an enlarged heart, and released some great work as a solo artist.      Jody is once again working on some exciting new projects.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

An Update on Daniel's Dog Jared

Is that an Arctic wolf in the Mud Room ? No, it's a beloved Siberian Husky who is under the weather.

   To those of you who follow Daniel's beloved animals, who are of course, aging, this is an inspiring post regarding Siberian Husky, Jared.