A Tale of Pink Roses

Mother Easel Pink Roses sm

Last Friday, which normally would have been my weekly day out with my mother for lunch and doing something fun with her afterward, I once again found myself leaving the house to grab a quick bite of lunch, then run some errands of my own.  I left the house about the same time that I would have normally left to go pick up Mom, too.  It didn’t feel weird to run this schedule on this day, but rather, it gave me a little sense of comfort to do it.  Perhaps this will pass over time if/when my weekly schedule begins to change, but for now, it just felt good to be back to what felt normal to me.  Life has most definitely not been normal for the past two months, and every day that things feel even just a tad bit normal right now is a huge blessing, for sure.

I just grabbed a Whataburger (with cheese) nearby and ate it in the car, rather than opting for a lunch visit to the steakhouse where Mom and I so often ate.  Dining there is going to take a little bit of working up to for me, I think.  It’s just too soon for that.  Mind you, neither of us ever actually ate steak there either.  I usually had a bun-less burger and a salad, and she had a tasty chicken dish.  The food there is great, so I’m sure I will return there with someone else over time.  Anyway, my Whataburger was quite tasty, especially since I even ate the bun with it, something that is definitely not on my low-carb eating plan.  I’ve given myself a pass on the diet a bit during all of this, but honestly, I’m ready to get back on my eating plan again, too.  I’m feeling the carb bloat and I don’t care for it now.  I’m ready to get back to normal in this aspect again, too.

After I enjoyed my burger while listening to some good tunes in the car, I headed out to run several needed errands, including some errands for the estate business.  But after a few of the more critical errands were done, I ended up at Wally World to pick up a couple of Valentine’s goodies.  I had one special gift in mind for a non-family member and wanted to get it purchased before they got terribly picked over – some pretty pink roses, specifically from Wal-Mart.  I needed a good end to a previous story that took place when Mom died, and I knew just the sweet lady who would love and appreciate such a gift.

After Mom died, we had to wait six days to have her funeral service.  This gave out-of-town family members that wanted to come for the funeral sufficient time to get here.  We also had a family wedding planned for the Saturday after she died, and none of us wanted to change anything about the wedding, despite how hard it was for some of us to “celebrate” that weekend.  We just put on our happy faces and did the best we could, and it was a sweet wedding.

On the Thursday before the wedding, while other family members were busy with wedding preparations, hubby and I went to the “best” florist in town to order the flowers for Mom’s funeral.  The roads were still slippery in many spots from the winter storm that had moved through right after Mom died, so I was glad to have him drive.  I had already been on the phone the day before with several florists in town to see who might have some nice pink roses for the casket piece and the “Mother” and “Grandmother” easels, but I was having no luck at all.  Finally, after talking to the “best” florist’s designer on the phone, I agreed to just meet her at their shop and discuss options, given that it was late in the week and good flowers were scarce at best.  To make a pretty long story short, hubby and I then went to a nearby Wal-Mart to see if they had any decent pink roses for the florist to use.  We found eight dozen pink roses for $9.99 a dozen and took them back to the “best” florist in town for the floral arrangements.

By Saturday morning, all three floral arrangements were done and delivered to the funeral home for weekend visitors and our family visitation the next day.  They were decent-looking arrangements but definitely not the best work I had seen this particular florist do.  When we arrived at the funeral home on Saturday to preview everything before opening up Mom’s room for visitors, we noticed another easel in the room that was sent by hubby’s company, and to my horror, it had pink roses that were dead.  The florist that delivered the easel did not leave any identifying information as to where it came from either.  It was just unreal.  The folks at the funeral home were livid but did not know who to call about it, since the company that ordered it was closed for the weekend.  We informed them that it was the company where my husband worked, and he tried to get in touch with the human resources manager by cell phone to ask her where it came from.  She did not return his calls or texts over the weekend either.

Finally, on Monday morning, hubby got in touch with another woman at the company who finally got the HR lady to tell where she ordered the flowers, and shockingly, it was from the same florist we had ordered our own arrangements from!  The florist actually played dumb on Saturday, claiming to have no clue where those dead roses came from as they delivered our flowers to the funeral home.  Unbelievable.  The man at the funeral home, along with my dear florist friend from the Houston area, got the florist to re-do every single floral arrangement they had done, including the ones we had ordered, as they had received their fresh roses on Monday morning.  My friend was instrumental in reworking the pieces, and she spent most of Monday morning helping the florist rework all four arrangements.  They were all just gorgeous, too, and when I finally saw them just before the funeral on Monday afternoon, I got very teary.  My Mom was finally going to have pretty flowers at her funeral, and that made me happy.

Despite the fact that this part of the story really did have a fairly happy ending, it still felt a little bittersweet to me because of the stress it caused at a bad time, and I felt that I needed to add one more piece to it for Valentine’s Day to complete the story properly.  We have the sweetest little lady living next door who no longer drives and is shut-in most of the time.  She has family members here that are good to care for her, but we have enjoyed having her live next to us for many years.  She was not able to come to Mom’s funeral but sent a nice memorial instead.  She also called me a couple of times to check on me through it all.  So, I decided that she needed some pink roses for Valentine’s Day, and decided to just head back to Wal-Mart for them.  Once again, I sifted through the many pink roses in the store until I found a bunch of nice ones that were just beginning to open up.  I grabbed a cute box of chocolate candy to give with the flowers and a couple of cards, then headed for the checkout.

Before I finished running the rest of my errands that afternoon, I went back to the house, put the roses in a small vase, added the packet of preservative, and delivered the goods to my little neighbor.  She was so surprised and grateful, and I got the best hug I’ve had in quite some time from her, even as we both had a few tears in our eyes.  I told her how much I appreciated her as a friend and neighbor, and she said the same thing to me.  She also commented about how most people don’t enjoy being around older folks and prefer to “do for the kids, rather than the old people.”  Her comment caught me off guard, but my immediate reply to her was that I did not feel that way and that I loved her very much.  It made me just a bit sad to hear her say something like that, but I know it is true for many people.  I have always had elderly people in my life, it seems, and I just do not understand the animosity that many people seem to feel toward the elderly these days, even people my own age.

I witnessed first-hand the many struggles of our parents as they grew old and feeble.  I’ve even written about this here at times.  I’ve felt my own frustrations with our aging parents, too.  But now that my journey in caring for aging parents is done, I have no regrets that I can think of right now.  It was hard – very hard – and it was worth it all to help them end their earthly lives well.  I’m glad that I have no regrets in the decisions I made, especially over the past decade where my mother was concerned.  If I had regrets at this point, it might be hard to move on, which is already hard enough to be sure.  There are some struggles that they just had to battle for themselves as we just had to sit by and watch, and this is the hardest part of caring for the elderly, the feeling of helplessness that we are so often faced with in their physical and emotional struggles.  I wrote of my desire to become more solidly grounded in my faith here some time back, and watching these struggles is precisely why I feel I have work to do in this area.  Those will be hard days, and I want to be rooted in a firm foundation when they come.

“Flowergate” was a very trying ordeal that I did not ever dream I would face when planning my mother’s funeral, but perhaps the gifting of pretty pink roses going forward will be an enduring legacy from it all and will help me to always remember my sweet mother in each and every gift given, even if I just pick them up from Wally World. 😉

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Making Progress

There is so much to be done following the death of a close relative, especially for the executor of the estate.  That responsibility has fallen to me following my mother’s death last month.  Slowly but surely, though, I am making progress in handling her estate matters.  I have the help of a good attorney, and she will likely schedule the hearing about the estate for the first week of March to make my job official.  All of the larger items have already found their permanent homes, and I am grateful this was done in a short amount of time.  I have a few things that I will try to sell to help with estate expenses, too.

I think I am slowly making some emotional progress as well.  Life is slowly, but surely, starting to get back to a new normal without Mom in my life.

On Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to make a hospital visit to see a friend’s elderly father.  He is in the same hospital, and even on the same floor, where my mother was in early January, and I didn’t know how I would feel going back up there again so quickly.  Thankfully, it was a good visit, and I just tried to focus on my friend’s family rather than my own sadness.  As it turned out, I was there in the room with them when the same gentleman that I had previously worked with to get my mother transferred to rehab two different times showed up to assist my friend and her family get her father moved to the same rehab facility.  I was actually able to help them in a small way during that process, as they asked me to stay for that conversation with this gentleman.  It felt very much like a God-thing that I was there at that time when I had no clue that he would come during my brief visit.  I think my friend, her mother and her father truly appreciated my help, so that made me feel that the trip to the hospital that I dreaded was actually a blessing for me, too.

Bible and Cross

Such is God’s plan so often, isn’t it?  It gave me faith in the days to come that I will continue to be held in good hands and will have a good purpose in my life going forward, even if I don’t have a clue day-to-day what that purpose is going to be.  It’s just one day at a time right now, and I am perfectly fine with that.  Just as I saw so plainly over the past few weeks in taking care of Mom, I continue to see God’s hands in so many areas that are just working out on their own perfect way and in perfect timing.  It happened regarding many of the aspects of Mom’s care during the month that she was ill, in some situations with money, and in situations with family and friends that were there at just the right time for her and for me, too.  I talked at length to the Hospice chaplain about these God-things, and the Hospice chaplain broke down in tears when I finished telling her about all the things that I had witnessed during that time.  These God-things continue to happen even after Mom’s death, too.  Some issues that I thought would be problematic have been handled quite easily, even if it required some work on my part.  I don’t mind work, and what a blessing that there have been no real issues so far.

Yesterday, I finally finished my thank you notes to friends and family members that sent flowers, food and memorials.  I took the time to read all of the sweet notes and cards again, and I got very teary as I did that.  I am so blessed to have such sweet friends in my life, and I will never forget how so many friends and family members came running when I needed their support.  It makes me want to be a better friend going forward, and I think I will look into volunteering for the funeral food committee at church now, too.  What an important ministry this is at a critical time in the lives of so many families, and the members of the church where my mother was a member just did a fabulous job feeding our huge family before the funeral.  They even printed custom paper place mats with Mom’s name, the year she was born and the year she died.  This is something I could definitely do going forward, ministering with love through food.

One thing I will always regret, however, is not having a non-family member around to take pictures for us on the day of the funeral.  Friends and family members came that I have not seen in years, and I have no pictures from this day, except for a few pictures I took with my phone of the beautiful flowers before the funeral service.  “Flowergate” is a story I will never forget from this time, and perhaps I will share a post about it sometime later on.  My florist friend from the Houston area came to our rescue, for sure.

I have also begun to look at the impact to us financially, even though I’ve only given a little quick thought to this aspect.  I will likely have the rent house in a couple of months, as well as a nice little nest egg to help with retirement in a few years.  I will have some investment decisions to make soon, and I pray that God will continue to be in this process, too.  Investing these days is so tricky, and I am not big on risk at this point in my life, for sure.

We are hoping to get out in the RV again in a couple of weeks, and I am looking forward to that opportunity very much.  Most of the state parks have plenty of openings for the last week of February, so we will just wait to see what the weather looks like and decide where to go right before we take off.  RV travel in the winter months in our area depends on weather conditions more than anything else, but if our present weather pattern holds for a couple more weeks, we should have beautiful weather for our little trip.  It was 80 degrees yesterday, which is a little warm for this time of year, for sure.  After all of the cold and snow we had while Mom was ill, I will totally take this gorgeous weather for a while, even though we have a little cold front moving in today.

I’m finally off to take the dogs to the groomer today.  They are shaggy pups and have not been to the beauty shop since mid-December.  I will be glad to see their eyes once again.

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As I think back on life since December 23, I think it is safe to say that “overwhelmed” pretty much describes it for me.  I don’t really think that I have had the time I need to take in my mother’s death yet either.  I have transitioned from her primary caretaker in life to her estate business manager since her death.  I have had deadlines to get her things moved out of two different places, which is not a big surprise.  I knew someday this would likely be the case, having to get a move done quickly after her death, but I never thought I would be moving out of two places at once.

When Mom was released from the hospital in early January, I moved her to the same facility where she was for several weeks last year and received such good care for rehab.  However, after a few days in this facility for care with Hospice, the experience was completely different and not satisfactory at all.  The folks with Hospice assisted me in locating a more suitable facility where she would have her own private bedroom and bathroom, as well as her own furniture, and miraculously, I was able to get both Mom and much of her furniture moved in about six hours.  The new place was absolutely perfect for her situation, as it was a private home that was a fully licensed nursing home for ladies only.  The staff there was very familiar with this type of situation with Hospice, and I will never regret moving her there, even though she only lived a week there before she passed away.  She had both her regular bed and a hospital bed in the room, and she was able to sleep in her own bed until her final day when the Hospice nurses finally had to move her to the hospital bed.

This was our second experience with private “in-home” nursing homes in our area, and both were great experiences and far better than more institutional options for Hospice care.  My husband’s mother went through a similar experience just over a decade ago.

Moms Room
Mom’s room in the private nursing home. What a blessing this place was to her and all of us in the family in her final week.

As a result of this move, I have had to clear her things out of both this new place and her former apartment very quickly.  As of yesterday evening, both places have now been vacated, with some things being moved to my house, my sister’s house and a storage unit for some out-of-town family members that have an interest in her estate.  While there is still much to do, this particular burden is now off of my shoulders, and I am grateful for this progress.

I am the executor of my mother’s estate, and this is a whole new experience, for sure.  I am fairly familiar with the process, having worked in the banking industry for a decade, but actually being the executor is quite a job.  I have already spent hours on an Excel spreadsheet to divide my mother’s personal property three ways, and she only lived in a one bedroom apartment.  I cannot even imagine having to do this if she was still living in her big house.  Thankfully, she divided most of her personal property a decade ago when she sold her house and moved to a retirement community.  There is also a rent house to be handled in her estate, which hopefully will not be a problem.

Due to all these things that have needed my immediate attention, I really have not had a single day of down time since Mom passed away.  My nephew has helped me a little bit here and there to take care of the needed moving, but other than that, I have had to do everything on my own.  When my father died, we had a lot of time to take care of things, such as clearing out his clothes out of their home.  This experience has been so different and so hurried, due to the necessity of getting Mom’s things out of two different places, and I can honestly say it has been far worse than I thought it would be.  I was prepared in my mind for what would need to happen, but I was not prepared for how hard it would be emotionally.

I’m exhausted and need a break soon.  Hubby had to resume his work travel this week, too.  Today may just be the day I just let everything go for a bit and have some down time.  I had dinner with our son last night, and I am scheduled to have dinner with a couple of dear friends tonight.  We have all had a tough start to 2015 in our own ways, but hopefully things will start to get better for all of us soon.  I cannot even begin to properly share how important my daily Bible reading, quiet time and gratitude exercises have been in all of this.  I am thankful for these healthy habits today, for sure.

Even when times are so very hard, God is faithful and provides.  Despite everything right now, I see the light at the end of this dark tunnel.

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