I already want to take a nap tomorrow.

I am grateful for Nabisco and the genius who decided that it would be a good idea to create red velvet Oreos for Valentine’s Day this year.

I am grateful for the ability to stretch when I have been sitting for a long time, and I am grateful for the pleasant feeling a good stretch causes.

I am grateful for woodpeckers.

I am grateful for time to just play the piano.

I am grateful for scientists and doctors who know how to format their documents.

I am grateful for sleep.

I am grateful that my nose works, except for tonight. It’s not so good that my nose works tonight when a skunk got stuck in the window well and the whole house smells like a mixture of skunk spray and Bath & Body Works sprays and Lamberge smoke.  And the skunk wins.

I am grateful that Michelle came to visit us this weekend.

I am grateful that my Dad has new ears so that he can hear every little squeak and creak and we don’t have to talk so loud.

I am grateful for a wonderful family and friend who decided to bless a waitress at dinner tonight.

And I am grateful for the word “splat.” Use it in a sentence this weekend and smile when you do. I will.

Dickie, dicky, dickey. No matter how it’s spelled, it’s still goofy.

I am grateful for Panera mac & cheese. And Panera bread all warm and fresh. I love my Panera.

I am grateful for greeting cards and for people who still send them in the mail.

I am grateful for new pictures of Parker and Reilly and a beautiful picture of my daughter and her family.

I am grateful for this hymn today:

I am grateful for the smell of John Deere carpet cleaner.

I am grateful for turtlenecks. Who’s the wise guy who thought that would be a great name for this type of collar?

Okay, and on THAT note, who was the wise guy who thought it would be a great idea to call the above pictured item, a dickie? Mom used to wear these things, and I always thought they were the goofiest things in the world. I still do.

I am grateful that I don’t wear one, don’t own one, and don’t have any desire to, either.

Tuesday evening, Sam said something to me that went deep into my soul. “Your eyes don’t look good.” I did not feel well at all, and only one other person has ever said this to me when I was coming down with something. Mom used to be able to tell I was getting sick by looking at my eyes. She would tell me that they didn’t have their usual “sparkle.”  And I hadn’t heard those words in a very long time…until Tuesday evening.

I am grateful for a day of sleep, even though I missed the beautiful weather.

I am grateful that Sam knows me and knows my eyes.

I am grateful for clean counters.

I am grateful for music. Not so much the ugly kind, but very grateful for any music that takes me to a good place in my thinking.

I am grateful for a little boy who said, “Hi Sam! Hi Rhonda!” last night on our walk.

I am grateful for brilliant advertising, and I am anticipating some exceptional commercials on Sunday.

I am grateful for the little team that could. Go Seahawks.

I am grateful for empty trash cans and trash day and sanitation workers.

I am grateful for cardinals that sing outside the window early in the morning.

I am grateful for our friend, Dennis, and for his great advice this morning.

I am grateful for anticipation of a fun weekend with friends and family.

And I am grateful that God always gives me a song.

Whoever walks toward God one step,
God runs toward him two. – Jewish Proverb

Instead of cleaning the house, just turn off the lights.

I am grateful for the opportunity to sit in the noisiest gymnasium on the planet and watch a million high school girls scream and shout and sing at the top of their lungs while dancing all goofy as my niece’s basketball team dominated their rival. It was miserable and fun all at the same time, and when those million girls entered the gym, all dressed as dalmatians following behind Cruella Deville (looooong story about the rivalry and traditions of two Catholic high schools), I had silly tears in my eyes because they made me happy. And then, at the end of the night, when the victorious Stars did a dance on the court for their senior girls and I saw my niece shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture…I tear-ed up again. I’m a sap. And grateful for fun moments in the middle of miserable ear-deafening nightmares.

I am grateful for an evening of sitting on the couch, doing nothing. It doesn’t happen often these days, and it was so nice last week. Thank you, Sam.

I am grateful for silly videos, the most recent of my youngest granddaughter who is practicing her pageant/princess wave for future parades. And grateful for her oldest sister who looks to be learning that being the oldest isn’t always the most fun, but is also learning how to be a great babysitter.

I am grateful for a fun lunch with Sara.

I am grateful for the news that my second granddaughter asked Jesus into her heart last Friday night.

I am grateful for lessons learned from others’ mistakes. Some serious mistakes, some not so much.

Serious = texting while driving and hitting a pole, a mailbox, a parked car, a pedestrian.
Not so serious = microwaving an underwire bra to warm it up.

I am grateful for my daughter’s Christmas camera that she is using, so that I receive these kinds of pictures on a fairly regular basis.

I am grateful to have been a guinea pig while giving blood yesterday – Wesley needed a kind, understanding, and calm patient, and I am grateful that I didn’t freak out when he missed the mark. I am grateful that my daughter called at just the right moment to keep my mind occupied on something else, and I am grateful that there was a supervising needle expert standing nearby.

I am grateful for four Oreo cookies at the end of the blood giving, even though they are banned from my 24 day challenge. I have failed the challenge many times over, and I am grateful that it doesn’t matter.

I am grateful for people who have figured out a different way to say, “Have a blessed day.” It’s overused, people, and in my shallow opinion, it sounds insincere. I need to work on being very sincere when I tell someone to “have a great day!”

I am grateful for cobwebs that seem to be showing up all over the house these days, because there’s nothing like a cobweb to remind me that I am in serious need of a full Saturday to clean the house.

I am grateful for reminders.

And I am grateful for the hymn, “Each Step I Take.” Currently playing on my internal jukebox.

THIS is the day.

As I sat at the kitchen table with my sister on Saturday, we spent time putting a puzzle together and talked quietly about life. We talked about remembering two years ago. I bring it all up in this blog posting, not to stir pain, but so that I don’t forget. I fear that as time passes, the memories will fade, and I want to remember the last days with Mom. I want to remember the beautiful moments, even though they were painful and sad. I want to remember her homecoming.

So today, I am grateful that I journal. Journal to remember.

I am grateful that God gives me words.

I am grateful that even though it has been two years today without Mom for those of us left to carry on, it has been two years for Mom at home with God. Two years that she has been able to hold her little Judy’s hand, two years that she has been with her brother Lloyde and her sisters Arlene and Eileen, two years with her Mom and Dad. It must seem like just a day to her…

I stood at the kitchen window this morning, admiring the amaryllis that is in full bloom, the sun shining in just as it did two years ago today, welcoming the day with glorious morning light, as if to say, “THIS is the day.”  Sitting next to the blossoms…my little red glass cardinal bird, both gifts from Mom’s best friend, my second Mom in this world. I am blessed, so blessed, so completely unworthy, but so blessed.

And I am overwhelmed today with gratefulness.

2012-05-18_19-20-01_92

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Written January 27, 2013

I just knew when I got up yesterday morning that it was going to be the day. Mom’s color had changed. Her breathing was shallow and seemed to take more effort than she had left in her. She didn’t move in her bed any longer. She just slept. 

I held her very warm hand in mine and there was no gentle squeeze returned. As my brother Dwight put it, “She is shrinking before our eyes.”

We attempted to have a “normal” day, if that is what you call this vigil. Leftovers for lunch. Dad went to the drug store for coffee and ordered donuts for church. Angela took a walk to the Et Cetera Shop. Dwight was at the apartment all day while Marlene went to a swim meet. Sam and I went for a long walk and bought potatoes for dinner. Steve went to the motel and took a nap in the afternoon. Aunt Ivol and Uncle Fred stopped by for a visit. And none of us were really in the apartment at the same time. Until 5:00 p.m. 

Returning from our walks, Angela, Sam, and I were in the kitchen getting potatoes in the oven and broccoli cheddar soup on the stove for dinner.

Dwight and Angela went to Mom’s bedside to check on her, Dad and I joining them a few minutes later. Marlene was talking to her sister on the phone, and Sam and Steve were visiting in the kitchen. 

We weren’t at her bed very long when we realized she was at the end of her long walk home. Everyone gathered around the bed, “My Jesus I Love Thee” was playing, and we watched her last few gasps, as “I Surrender All” began to fill the room. Her husband of 62 years was holding her hand and her family surrounded her as the gates of Heaven opened wide to welcome her home. What a horrible, touching, unforgettable, priceless moment. 

“I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now…

…All to Jesus I surrender;
at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now. 

I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.”

A few minutes later, we were standing in the living room waiting for the mortuary to arrive, many tears shed and hugs given. Angela looked down on the floor and picked up a quarter that was shining up at her. She held it in her hand, feeling that it wasn’t a quarter at all but a silver coin with an angel on one side and the words, “Someone is watching over you” on the other side. The living room is small. We have all lived in this room for over a week now. And that coin just happened to appear at that moment? 

I choose to believe that was no coincidence. Mom was still being Mom, and I believe it was God’s way of letting us know she is okay, and we will be okay, too.

Mom spent her life pointing the way to Jesus. Mom impacted more people than we will ever know. When all was said and done, Mom fought the good fight. She finished the race, and she will be absolutely beautiful wearing that crown. 

Well done, Grace Johnson Ferguson. We are blessed to have known you.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

No regrets.

This weekend, Dad is visiting.

To begin this day, I was able to spend some extra time just talking to him as he sat at the kitchen island having breakfast.

We talked about life in the near future, his transition from the 9th floor apartment to our home in a new city, a new environment. We talked about sorting and packing and finishing projects at the apartment and around the house.

We shared the morning devotions.

Dad asked what he could do around the house to help out. I pulled out the red “grease rag” that has been the Angela/Rhonda dust rag since we were on Mom’s knee, along with a can of Behold, the dust on the furniture taking notice of potential cleaning.

Sweet moments, these were this morning. Usual mornings are quiet and serene, me alone in the kitchen to gather my egg and put fruit in my bag for work, me alone to spend some time with God, me alone to daydream as I watch out the window at the wakening world outside.

But this morning, I enjoyed moments with my Dad.

Sweet moments to relish. Sweet moments to appreciate. Sweet moments to not take for granted. Nothing spectacular. Nothing other than ordinary. But moments that are special and extraordinary, because it is time with my Dad that I cannot replace. Every moment counts.

And for that, I am grateful.

I am also grateful for the moments that my brother has taken to spend time in the apartment, watching the Royals or KU basketball with Dad, taking Dad to Juco games or high school football games. I am grateful for the moments that he has spent with Dad under the hood of a car, or teaching Dad how to navigate on the computer. I am grateful for the moments that my sister has taken to travel with Dad to London or to Washington D.C. I am grateful for the moments she has spent on the road to the apartment in order to spend the night in a recliner and have breakfast the next morning with Dad or go with him to visit family. I am grateful that SHE is the one who volunteered to play golf with him in 30 degree weather.

There will be moments in 2015 that will test us, that will challenge us, that will most likely make us question, at least for a moment, the decision to consolidate. There will also be moments that will make us laugh and throw up our hands and wonder, “Who knew?!”  Moments that will make us cry. Moments we will not want to end. But, I am grateful that my Dad is going to live with us soon, that I will have the privilege to have dedicated time with my Daddy once again.

As I reflected and read about Mom’s final journey today, I was reminded of Joe’s quote and how relevant it is for this season in our lives, in Dad’s life:

Sweet Moments – January 23, 2013

“You will never regret what you have done for your Mom, but you will always regret what you haven’t done for your Mom.” – Joe Schmucker, Hospice nurse
The apartment can be stuffy. Of course, an apartment made for two is not as comfortable when there are 4-20 people milling around. A small kitchen is not the most desirable place to serve meals for a crowd, and when a nap is needed, there aren’t many choices for a secluded area away from the constant visiting.

But the best place to be these days is a stuffy apartment made for two. The best place to be is where Mom is. The best place to be is where Dad is. And I will never regret the time spent here in the last week. I will never regret the memories being made with my brother, sister, and parents. The sweet moments of rallying around each other and just being together with Mom are PRICELESS.

There have been many sweet moments in the past few days.  

  • A smile on her face as she opens her eyes and recognizes the person standing at her bed.
  • Her concern that Dad is eating and getting rest.
  •  Pure and total devotion for my Mom in everything Dad does and says.
  • A daughter-in-law who is caring for her mother-in-law with such tender loving care.
  • Dwight making a bee-line from the front door to the hospital bed every time he arrives.
  • The apartment building custodian showing such concern for our family.
  • Reading emails that are full of memories of Mom’s servant hood, service, and silliness.
  • The peace that only Jesus can give that is felt as family sits and waits and shares with each other.
  • Her desire to once more sleep in her own bed next to her husband.
  • Numerous members of the extended Ferguson family who have traveled distances to come and support the family and love on Mom and Dad.    
  • Mom expressing her desire to see Natia, her dog, one more time.
  • Hearing that her great-granddaughters are praying for GG to not be sick.

When awake, Mom still recognizes everyone and calls for us by name. She has quit eating anything of substance, although when she tried a bite of blended roast and potatoes from Aunt Estalene, she indicated it was delicious and said, “Delmar, try it.” She’s still attempting to get her vegetarian husband to eat meat. That’s my Mom.
        
Last night, she had a restless night. As I listened to my sister describe the details, I was reminded of one of Mom’s favorite songs that she told me she really wanted her granddaughter Karissa to sing someday: 

I will never regret this time or these sweet moments…    

– Rhonda

I love that my Dad is young and active and living life and not letting life pass him by. I love that he is beginning a new chapter of life and is taking a chance and stepping outside the comfort zone to do something new. I love that we will be a small part of the next chapter. I love that he enjoys being with my husband. I love that my Daddy and I have interests in common and enjoy being around each other.

For all of that and much more this weekend, I am so grateful.

Life is like a long bath. The longer you’re in it, the more wrinkles you get.

I am grateful for wrinkles. Wrinkles in my skin, that is. I am learning that each one has meaning and shows experience. Either experience in laughter, or worry, or stress, or life. Experience is a good thing. As are wrinkles in skin. At least the wrinkles that come from laughter, or worry, or stress, or life. Wrinkles just mean that life is happening, has happened.

Wrinkles from sunbathing, not so much a good thing.

Wrinkle. What a funny word. Who decided on the silent w? Wuh-rinkle. Wuh-hoo. Wuh-rist. Wuh-rap.

Okay, a silent w is better, I guess. I’d rather be full of rinkles than wuh-rinkles.

I am grateful for red velvet cake. Mom used to make me a red velvet cake for my birthday every year. Hers were the best. Always from scratch. In honor of Mom and in celebration of my birthday, this week, I took red velvet cupcakes to Bingo. Not homemade. Costco made. But still… I am grateful for the sweet memories a cupcake brought to mind.

And I am grateful for my Bingo friend, Katherine. She is in her 90’s and is sharp as a tack. Katherine plays four cards at a time at Bingo and I do not call the numbers fast enough. At least it’s the way it was…and then, Katherine’s COPD took over, and her legs began retaining fluid and she was hospitalized just after Thanksgiving. And then went to a rehab facility. She has been gone for about two months, until this week. Katherine was back home on Tuesday evening, but she looks gray. She needed me to slow down when calling I-16, N-43, O-67… Several times, she had to ask which Bingo game we were playing, confusion hovering over her. I had not seen Katherine attached to a clear tube under her nose until this week. And after the fun and games were over, my friend Grace and I wheeled her back to her room and helped her get situated. Katherine is not used to feeling helpless. She shared with me, head drooping, as we waited for the nurse’s assistance, that she was humiliated needing the help. The oxygen concentrator hummed in the next room, and Katherine’s world brought me back to a 9th floor apartment, two years ago, as my Mom lived her final week:

Observations from the 9th Floor – January 22, 2103

Yesterday was a banner day. Mom was more alert than we have seen her in days. Her eyes were clearer, her mind was focused, and she was able to communicate better than she had in days.

After telling Mom that she would be proud of Dad, that he got up and made his own toast and coffee and we were now sitting down for more leftovers for lunch, she responded, “Poor guy.”

The nurse checked on Mom and said she was looking good – we already knew that. Even in her weakened state, she is beautiful.

In the quietness of the day, Pandora played some of Mom’s favorite music from the Gaithers – “Something Beautiful,” “He Touched Me,” “There’s Just Something About That Name.”  She was listening and enjoying.

Mom is still Mom. She was insistent on telling us that the pancakes weren’t on the right shelf. And she wanted to make sure we corrected our mistake.

I’ve been reading emails and responses regarding my updates to Mom and her face lights up when I say the names of people who have written to us. She either smiles, shakes her head in amazement, or verbally makes an astonished, “Oh?!” I love that people are sending these encouragements to her and to our family and especially love that she knows every person and is so touched by their words.

This morning, I am reminded of the way I grew up with music – particularly Mom’s little songs she sang to us in the car. As I sit here soaking in the sun/Son, this one comes to mind:

“My mommy told me something, a little girl should know,
It is all about the devil, and I’ve learned to hate him so.;
She said he causes trouble when you let him in the room,
He will never ever leave you if your heart is filled with gloom,

So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin,
Smilers never lose, and frowners never win,
So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin,
Open up your heart and let the sunshine in!

She used to sing, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days, all the days of my life…” Wow. I can hear her voice. She’ll be singing again soon. The choir is getting ready for another seat in the alto section.

Psalm 23 (The Message, with bold added by me)

God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word, you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. 
You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.

Rhonda Rhonda Ro Rhonda, Bo Nana Fana Fo Fonda, Fee Fi Mo Monda – RHONDA.

I’ve been called lots of names. Some, not-so-nice. Some, so-so. A few, very endearing. For a long span of my life, it was this:

Hey.

The dog whistle.

Or, I wasn’t given a name. Just spoken to, without specifics.

When I was young, I was affectionately called Rhonda Donda by my Mom. Kids at school, when it was something to speak Pig Latin, called me HondaRay. People, mocking the spelling of my name, jokingly call(ed) me Ra-Honda.

As an adult, I became known as Mom, Mama, Mrs. G, Mama G.

And how many times over the years has this been sung in my presence?

“Help me, Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda…”

But again, for many years, it was this:

Hey.

The dog whistle.

Or no name. Just addressed by speaking to me.

One of the most endearing qualities about Sam is that he says my name. And he surrounds it with love.  All those years, I rarely heard my first name spoken except by a few friends. My Mom said my name and wrote it in a birthday or thank you card on occasion. But, to hear “Rhonda” spoken from a place of love and not anger was a rare thing.

It’s electrifying to the soul when you hear your first name spoken, surrounded in love. It is also devastating and semi-permanent to be labeled with a first name surrounded in anger.

I was reminded when I read this. It’s powerful, and it brought forth so much emotion :

One Word That Can Bring Us Back to What Matters

Funny thing, or maybe not so funny at all.  Babynames.com says my name means “noisy.”  Okay. I get that. I do tend to ramble. And I am certain my girls and my students would attest to that definition after having to sit and listen to my long diatribes over the years. But, I first thought of this scripture in I Corinthians 13 when I found the website definition. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” I hope that the definition of THIS Rhonda does not mean noisy in the sense that I have no love when I rattle and ramble.

Babynames.com may say that my name means “noisy,” but God says my name is written down in glory and He knows me by my name. And for that, I am very grateful today.

I am grateful for my husband who says my name surrounded with love.

I am also grateful for the reminder from Hands Free Mama that it is so important to do this:

Speak his name.
Sing her name.
Whisper his name.
Cheer her name.
Pray his name.
Celebrate her name.

Say it with fondness.
Say it with tenderness.
Say it with reverence.
Say it with kindness.

Attach it to soul-building words like:
You are my favorite.
You are enough.
I believe in you.
I’ve been thinking about you.

Take a moment to remember the time, thought, and care that went into choosing the name of the person standing before you and then say it—say it as if it’s the most beautiful word that ever came from your lips. This one simple action holds the power to strengthen weak connections … make lowly shoulders rise … let someone know he is not forgotten.

Today, let us not forget.

With one single word, we have the power to heal the past, pause the present, and illuminate the future.

Simply say it with love.