Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Tribute...

The following are letters my sister and I wrote to my mom in a book we put together as a gift to celebrate the last birthday she spent on earth. We didn't realize that it would be the last birthday we would spend with her, but so glad we were able to express our sentiments while she was still here with us.

Dear Moo,

There are too many memories I have of you to write them all down. From the places you would take us when we were little (the museums, parks, libraries…) to the things we did together when we were older (bike rides to Athens, tennis, long walks and talks), and everything in between. Each of those memories holds a special place in my heart, but there is so much of you that I carry with me every day as a person, and as a mother. I wish you were able to see now how we carry inside of us all that you worked hard to instill in us. As a mother now, I know just how hard it is, wanting to instill in my children the things that I even fall short of and am still striving for. As mothers, we worry and wonder if the mistakes we make will affect our kids in the long run, and also if they will take for themselves the values we try so hard to instill in them. Well Moo, you have really pulled it off…not by anything you preached to us or taught us with words, but by your genuine and unwavering quest to seek and serve God and love Him and His people. I will never forget seeing you sit in the formal living room reading your Bible and praying. I will forever appreciate that your priorities for us were to love God first, and love others. You were never concerned with the goals that the rest of the world had for their kids, and yet you supported us and stayed up with us many nights studying for tests or helping with projects, which helped both of us to succeed academically. It always struck me how you never cared to fit in with the crowd or get your own social needs met, but instead you always looked to see how you could meet the needs of others, especially the elderly, the lonely, the sick, the kids who had special needs…the ones that everyone else overlooked. You loved the poor and were the happiest when you were with them, or giving to them. You had us spend our Saturdays at Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and spend summer days at the shelter for single mothers and their kids. I still have distinct memories of those places. All of this, plus countless visits to the sick/lonely/needy with you and Baba left an impact on us so great that it has become a huge part of who we are and what we do. You were always so wise, such a good listener and counselor. Sometimes I think you are in the place you are so that God could give you the desire of your heart, to be a blessing to others, to live as a nun ;), and to serve those who are the hardest to serve. Even in your sickness, you are continuing to bless so many. Your sickness changed us, and saved us in ways we could have never planned ourselves.

What an incredible woman you are- and I get to call you Mom…

There are so many days I wish I could call you and ask for your advice about things with the kids. Days where I stay awake worrying if I’m doing anything right, worrying about them, and wishing I could talk to you about it…and then I realize that deep inside of me, your voice, your spirit, your answers are there. Recently, I found an incredibly touching poem you had written in your journal, and I believe that the last 2 lines capture the way you lived your life.

It read:

“Shall the Great Judge learn when my task is through, that my spirit has gained some riches too?

Or shall at last it be mine to find, that all I’ve worked for, I’ve left behind…”

My dear mom, truly all of the riches you worked for are spiritual riches, an inheritance you passed down to us that moth and rust cannot destroy. Every time I worry about something, and wonder what you would say, I remember that you always had such a heavenly perspective. Grades, career, worldly accomplishments, and everyday struggles start to fade in the light of what really matters. Your life, your spirit, and now your sickness are a testimony to that and for that I will be forever grateful. I love you.

Mama who evolved into Moo is the most selfless person I know and I didn't truly appreciate it and understand it fully until I became an "adult."

My childhood was filled with daily home cooked meals, special snacks, notes in my lunches that eventually turned into weekly letters in my college mail box.

Endless rides to school, basketball practice, Girl Scout meetings, friends' houses and never a complaint - always out of love.

I realize how much she put on hold for the whole family.

She has a contagious laugh that was sometimes uncontrollable and lead to tears.

She instilled in me a desire and an obligation to help others - her Christian faith permeated every aspect of her life.

She was beautiful in her simplicity.

Even though she's still with me, I miss her and I hope she knows how much I appreciated her!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Miracles STILL Happen

For the last seven years, I've been suffering from a condition called anosmia- the complete loss of smell. This loss of smell consequently left me without the ability to taste as well. The most common cause of this condition is, as in my case, nasal congestion from allergies or sinus issue. Most people take their sense of taste and smell for granted, but if you've ever been without these senses even for a few days, you know the misery it can cause. In fact, in the little research that has been done on this subject, it was found that over the years, people with anosmia are likely to develop depression since many of the "pleasure centers" in the brain are activated when we taste and smell things that are desirable. Of course there is also the safety issues related to this condition. Once I had left the stove on, and had no idea that a fire was about to start until the fire alarm went off. And of course there were also the embarrassing moments when my kids were still in diapers and everyone but me knew that they needed a diaper change...

I had gotten used to not being able to taste or smell, but it was definitely starting to slowly chip away at my quality of life. I missed the years of smelling the "baby smell" of my kids, I missed smelling the beginning of Spring and Fall, I missed smelling the sunscreen that would remind me of summer, and of course I missed the taste of all my favorite food. I stopped buying perfumes, scented candles, and the like. I tried all that I could to help my condition- sinus surgery, taking steroids (which I couldn't do long term), sinus rinses, etc. I even made appointments with the best ENTs in the area. After seven years, I reluctantly gave up hope that I would ever find a solution. I accepted it as one of the crosses I would carry in life, and tried to make the best of it. I still had 3 of my senses, and so much more that I was thankful for. I started trying to enjoy just the textures of food instead of taste, i.e. a crunchy ice cream cone with cold ice cream, a toasted crunchy bagel with cream cheese, etc.

Around four months ago, I was in Michigan for what I thought was just a bi-annual visit to see my mom. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia and was now at the stage where it was nearly impossible for her to travel anywhere. Within an hour of my arrival in Detroit, my sister and I were informed that my mom was "active". Not knowing what this meant, we were confused, because she didn't look active to us since she had been bed-ridden for quite some time. To our disbelief, we learned that "active" meant that she had begun the process of actively dying. The doctor told us that her death was imminent- it was only a matter of hours or days. For the next eleven days, my sister and I sat at my mother's bedside, watching as her body and life faded away. During those eleven days, the veil between heaven and earth were very thin. Amidst all the mourning and sadness, a window to heaven was opened that I had never experienced before. The unknown of what happens after this life was right in front of us for a brief moment in time. God became more real than ever, and heaven a real place. Sitting at the death bed of one of His saints, who happened to be my own mother, allowed me a glimpse into the reality of heaven that I had never experienced before.

I cannot explain what I felt and experienced, but I can tell you what happened and how on earth this relates to my lack of taste and smell! You can imagine the amount of crying that was going on for those eleven days. The crying, coupled with little sleep and good old Michigan pollen cause my allergies to be OUT OF CONTROL. I could barely breathe and I was just miserable. One day when I was sitting on my mom's bed, I held her hand and looked into her eyes and said, "When you go before the throne of God, can you please ask Him to show me how I can get treated for this? I don't know what to do anymore." I believe that over the years as my mom's body and mind were deteriorating from the awful disease of dementia, her spirit was only getting stronger. I knew at that moment that she heard my prayer request. On October 28th, my mom's spirit departed from her body, and at that exact moment, I saw my mom for who she now was- her young self, free from disease, and soaring in her spirit as she was now free. I don't know if you would call it a vision, but I did see her in this new state, and in the middle of my sobbing, I whispered to my husband, "I have my mom back", as this horrible disease had stolen her from us much too early.

One week after I had come back home to Virginia after the funeral, my friend who is a doctor called me from work. She was excited to share some news with me. She wanted to let me know that a patient of hers, who wasn't able to taste or smell for fifteen years was finally healed. Her patient had gone to a doctor in the area who had done acupunctre for a few months, and gone on a clean eating diet. I was so excited about this new and hopeful information, but it was not until I hung up the phone with my friend that I remembered...

This was exactly what I asked my mom for! To go before the throne of God and ask Him to direct me in getting treatment for my condition!

I couldn't wait to get started. When I arrived to the doctor to start acupuntre treatment, I was a bit surprised by the non-traditional office. I was never into alternative medicine, but at this point, I had nothing to lose. As I laid down on the treatment bed, I thought to myself that the doctor must surely be into some new age religion. Before I could even finish my thoughts, the door to my room was shut by the doctor, and a large cross was now visible at the back of the door. This is the place I'm supposed to be I thought to myself and smiled.

For around 3 months, I drove almost daily to this office that was almost 30 minutes away from home. I walked in faith. Just like the blind man that Jesus healed by putting clay in his eyes and asking him to wash in the pool of Siloam, I listened to the somewhat odd commands of doing acupunctre and changing my diet that God was telling me that would lead to my healing as well. I began to feel much better, my breathing was significantly improved and my asthma was almost gone. I no longer needed medication for my allergies. Everything was great, except that I still couldn't smell and taste. I was drained from driving and the expense of it was adding up. Even though I was extremely thankful for how much better I felt, decided to take a couple weeks off from the acupuntre.

Just last week, I woke up and brushed my teeth as usual, but this time something was different. I could taste my toothpaste I quickly ran downstairs and started opening up the peanut butter, the coffee beans, and anything I could get my hands on. I could smell everything! I opened a banana and ate it- and I could taste it. Since that day, my taste and smell have come back off and on, but most days I have these senses back. I honestly never thought I would ever see this day. I firmly believe that God has allowed me to experience the fruit of my mother's intercessions so that I could share that the victorious Church- made up of those who have gone before us- is truly alive and working and interceding for us, the struggling Church here on earth. The unseen spiritual world is just as alive and real as the physical world we see around us. I believe that God healed me after taking a two week break from acupuntre so that I wouldn't wrongly attribute my healing to just the acupuntre, though I know that this treatment that God led me to was extremely affective. Just like He didn't want the blind man to attribute his healing to the clay that was used, or the pool water- God wanted me to know that He alone is the author of my healing. Our God is alive and His mercy and compassion became a reality to me through this experience. To Him be all the glory.

And to my sweet great it is to know that you will never stop taking care of me.