Monday, October 16, 2017


I didn't sleep the night before.
I have always struggled with bouts of insomnia, be it from anxiety or just simple worry. Some nights I have difficulty sleeping.
That night was different.
I thought that something was wrong. Every part of me wanted to do something to fix how I was feeling, but the feeling just wouldn't go away. I didn't understand what it was at the time.
I got up in the middle of the night to get some water, and I found the front door to be wide open. I knew that must have been the reason my brain wouldn't let me sleep, and I closed and locked the door and went back to bed with my glass of water.
I slept maybe 3 hours when I heard them leave for the airport. I had given my mom a big hug and kiss right before she went to sleep, and I told her I love her and that I would miss her until she got back.
She wouldn't be back, though.
Bear with me as I write this, on the blog that used to be (and will forever still be) my mom's. It is oh, so painful, but I know that I need to get it out. I also feel it might be something some of you need to read.
I texted her as soon as I got up. It was about 9:30, and their plane was almost ready to leave. I sent her pictures of our dog, who had dragged me out of bed to lay with her. My mom said she felt anxious, because she always hated flying. I told her I loved her, to have fun, and that she would be okay.
Again, very painful, but if you're still with me I thank you.
I am blessed that that was the last thing she heard from me. I really am.
I will not go through the details of hearing about her death. It was the most horrible moment, and I could not do justice to explain. I just sunk into the floor, and forgot about everything else. I was also blessed that I was with Phoenix and his mom who were able to somehow take care of whatever I was in that moment. I could never thank them for all they did that day.
That day was so difficult. I know difficult seems like a rather trivial way to phrase it, but that is honestly what it was. It was harder than the other days, I think because instead of feeling singular emotions in waves like I do now, it was literally every single emotion going through me at the exact same time. Pain, fear, sorrow, anger, confusion, rage, emptiness. But I also felt incredibly blessed. That was another thing that was so difficult. My good friend for a long time and her mom came over as soon as they heard. My cousin was there, and some of my mom's friends for many years from our homeschooling community came, as did some of her childhood close family friends. My aunts and uncles came. Everyone was surrounding me and my family while we waited for my dad to get back to us.
Time was not even real that day. Phoenix just held me the whole time, and rubbed my temples periodically to try and ease all the physical pain that came from the intensity of emotions that had ripped through me. I kept falling asleep, as if my brain just had to shut down now and then to protect itself from feeling too much.
I was a puddle of a person, lying in the middle of the floor.
The people that surrounded me, just telling me to feel things and that there isn't a wrong way to act, and especially just being there meant so much to me. I felt like God had me in that moment right in the palm of God's metaphorical hand. And that, let me tell you, was a difficult feeling to have. But I remember noticing the forces I felt. And it was comforting.

We can flash forward to now, a little more than 5 entire months later.
Things are still SO difficult. But in a new way. It of course got better from that first day, but as I now understand, grief is not a linear process. There are ups, there are downs, but I am ultimately better after each low point.
The thing about my mom, though, is that she really was a self-named control freak. That woman was the most amazing mother, homemaker, and business woman I have ever been blessed to know. My family was so lucky to have her when we did, but I've discovered we can barely do a thing without her. I don't know how she did it all, when even a fraction of it is so hard for me to remember. My school payments, dinner at home, buying whole foods, keeping up with oils? Yeah, no. That is too much for one person, and she did so much more than just those things. I wish I could have her teach me all these things, but I have been learning. We all have.
I am glad that I am where I am now.
I wasn't proud of the things I thought the first few weeks.
The people I had picked who could have died instead.
Wishing we weren't so incredibly close, because maybe that would be less painful.
Thinking maybe it was all just a sick, twisted nightmare that I had so often dreamed.
The times I wished I wasn't the spitting image of her, because it was too painful to see her in me right away.
Wondering why, just why God would pick our family.
But God doesn't choose who the bad stuff happens to. Life is a mofo, and God can only help. That is my personal belief. And honestly, looking at my family and how strong we always have been, I know that sure, we were left completely shattered by the death of our beautiful Lori, but because our foundation is Jesus we have been able to rebuild together a lot better than we ever would have if we didn't have Him.
I wasn't proud of the things I thought those first few weeks, BUT I am proud of who I am now.
Not in spite of death, but because I know my mom lived every moment to the fullest. She traveled to all the places she wanted to see, many times even. She had a beautiful marriage, and did a great job raising her kids to be women she was proud of. She died of natural causes. SO many people loved her with all their hearts. She touched people's lives that she never even met. All around the world was she mourned, and hearts are still broken from the loss of her magnificence. And I'm so proud that I look just like her, too.
I miss talking to her. Getting her silly texts, receiving care packages here at the dorms even though it would save $5 to just drive 10 minutes over to here and hand it to me.
But it makes me feel a little better to see her friends post on Facebook about how they miss her, too. How they saw something and thought of her. How it's just not the same anymore to go through their news feed and not have her "realness". How she inspired people.
I looked up "lori stull blog" to try and get on to this page and write this tonight, and instead I found two blogs written about her by her good friends a short time after she died. So much love was out there for her, and we all were rocked by it. It's just nice to know that it's not just my family and me who still miss her. It's not just us who think of her each day, and wish we could just have a little more time.
It's all of us who had the honor of knowing her.
And I am proud of that. The magnitude of grief caused by one, single person is beautiful to me. It makes it clear just how inspiring, loving, hilarious, and fierce my Mommy was.
So yes, I am doing okay now. I have an amazing support system always around me. People brought food and whatever we needed the first few months, and it helped so much. It's been rough coming back to school. Harder than I expected, but I am making it. It will all be okay.

To wrap up this post (because I know it was all over the place), I just want to say that I can't STAND one phrase that I hear people say, mostly to other people going through a hard time.
"God never gives you more than you can handle!"
Well, my friends, that is complete bullsh*t.
We are absolutely, 100%, given more than we can handle. I'm just a person, and I can only handle so much. That is a simple fact, and sometimes it utterly sucks. Like, really, the DAY before Mother's day? F-you, world.
However, do not fear! I am not so pessimistic, just wait for my wisdom bomb that is about to drop...

I believe that sometimes, you are given way more than you can handle.
But we are never given anything that God cannot handle.

Boom! That was it. Get it? There is nothing that is more than God can and will handle.
That is what keeps me holding on. The fact that I can't carry this burden does not matter, because I don't have to carry it. I have God on my side, and Jesus suffered more than I ever will have to, and because of that my Mommy is up in Heaven right now. And I am surrounded by people here on earth who love me, and who will always help take care of me.

Thank you for your time, and I hope my first crack at this blog was worth your time and/or tears. I know it is hard for us all. I feel a lot better having got this all out, and I hope you maybe got something out of reading it. Maybe you didn't, and maybe not one person will read this! That would be okay. This was cathartic for me, and I have been meaning to do this for a while. I hope if you were friends with my mom and read this that you know how much you meant to her, and mean to me as well.

Much love,

Saturday, March 18, 2017

It's Hospice Time

Please don't be sad.  I know the title is sad.  But this post is actually about being blessed!

Most people think Hospice means the end in imminent...weeks or even days away.  But you can qualify for Hospice care if you are expected to be on this earth for 6 months or less.  And you can be re-certified if you surpass that mark.  I didn't know that.

My Dad has reached this point.  His dementia coupled with the new diagnosis of congestive heart failure mean he probably won't be with us for very much longer.

The first thing to point out here is that my Dad (the REAL guy, not this one with dementia) was always a strong believer in Jesus.  He helped show the love of Christ to hundreds of kids over about 25 years or so in a church Youth Club program.  And he was there so long that he did the same for some of THEIR kids! He was a Lay Leader in the church, very involved.  He literally helped run just about every aspect of his church.  He knew what lay ahead and that our time here on earth is temporary.  It's hard to feel very sad especially since I read Imagine Heaven by John Burke and I really learned what is in store for my Dad when he gets there.  He gets to be with my brother! He gets to be with his sister, and with one of his best friends who went ahead of him.  He gets to be with Jesus, and be 100% healed! No more pain.

Pain.  That brings me to what has been on my mind so much lately.  The pain of dementia.  Now, admittedly, MUCH of that pain is ours.  He has been gone for a long time now.  We see a little bit of him peeking through now and then.  But mostly, he is gone.  That hurts us, a LOT. What some people don't realize is that he is mentally in pain very often.  Anguish, sometimes.  There was a doctor at the hospital who was in charge of his care and this man didn't seem to understand that pain.  His goal seemed to be to remove as much of those calming medications as he could.  "He is too sedated," is what he told me.  Yes, some of those dementia related meds make him sleepy.  But you know what? Sleepy and calm is better than confused, nervous, angry, sad, agitated, frustrated. Can you imagine feeling all of those emotions all day and all night, 24/7?

Enter the Hospice team.  So far, these people get it.  His nurse today gave me a new perspective on his crankiness as well...he is quite possibly feeling physical pain somewhere, and he just can't describe it, so it comes out as these emotions.  So that is yet another view.  What has been incredible to me so far with Hospice is that they understand my Dad shouldn't have to feel all those nasty emotions these last months of his life.  They are all about his comfort and happiness.  It's such a blessing!  They also provide so much help, with supplies, equipment, medical personnel, bathing.  They make this process so much easier.

When you don't have to worry about the long term effects of certain drugs, there are different doses you can give.  My Dad had some extremely rough times in the past month (hospital and rehab center) where he was the meanest person you could imagine (NOT his pre-dementia personality).  He doesn't have to feel that way now, and we don't have to hear him talk that way anymore.  He has gotten physical a few times with my mom, nothing serious (YET...) and we can now avoid that with meds before he reaches that extreme level of agitation.

Thankfully, he loves my essential oils and lets me apply them to him, diffuse them, and I made him a little aromatherapy inhaler that he is enjoying.  I have become very into avoiding medicine for my own family whenever possible! However, to see him without is NOT a pretty sight.  I will continue to oil him up, I will welcome the Hospice aromatherapist with open arms (and an open notebook so I can learn from him!)  We will use the oils as a supplement to his meds, and will gladly use everything medical Hospice has to offer to keep him calm and happy.

I shouldn't speak for my mom, but I am :)  We are both feeling relieved for everything they can do to help him.  It IS sad to know his diseases mean he won't be here much longer.  But he is already not here.  Dementia started taking him from us FOUR years ago.  Hospice will help him have peace, and that is just priceless.  He is definitely having more happy moments here at home than he did when he was hospitalized.  And most of the time, when he is angry, it's at my Mom and he thinks I am the big hero!  I am relishing those moments while my Mom just rolls her eyes.  We have to laugh, it's the only way to survive this!  One funny story, he uses eye drops often because of eye issues he has.  He lost his drops at the rehab center and she gave him the bottle from her purse when she got there one morning.  I came in a bit later, and he showed me the eye drops and told me the others were gone.  The next day, he was mad at my mom for not giving him eye drops, and went on and on thanking me for the drops.  (that SHE brought him hahahahah) So Brad and I are often the Golden ones.  hahahaha Mom!!

Brad helping him shave at the rehab center

I know we still have many challenges ahead.  But I have given it to God.  Well, that sounds past tense, like it's done.  I have to continually give it to God.  He never promised things would be easy and wonderful.  He DID promise this, though: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)  I find comfort in this verse, because it tells me that everything will be ok.  My Dad taught me to trust in Jesus, and that is what I need to do.

This song gives me so much comfort as well.  Please give it a good listen!