26 August, 2014

"Do not fear, for I am with you."

{{This entry on Grandma Nellie is written by my mom, Lisa Herrington.}} 


First the two verses that have helped sustain me and remind me that God is here in this with me.

Roman 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

This is the actual verse but I sang the chorus all year.  Although my pain has been incredibly deep and difficult, I have lifted my arms and praised God believing with all my heart He makes ALL things work together for my good.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear; for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

I sent this verse to mom the night before she started her first round of chemo.  We found it after she died in her cell phone, saved and locked so it couldn’t be erased.
Last year right about 8 am I arrived at my sister’s having been prompted by God to leave work immediately. I knew before I arrived the time was here.  I knew before I saw her that she was dying. I wasn’t ready. How do you really prepare for someone dying?  I had no idea the huge void that would exist for me, for us, until mom wasn’t there.  It is felt every time we get together as a family.

My relationship with mom was complex. I won’t pretend or imply it was like a "Leave it to Beaver" experience.  But the love I have for my mother is deep.  The respect I have for her is huge. My mother was a living example to me of what it means to persevere in the face of adversity.

I struggled with addiction for 29 years and every single relationship I had was affected significantly.  I have been overcome with thankfulness to the Lord for helping me find my out in time.  In early recovery it’s almost impossible to be available for anyone else.  It took all my effort and strength just to not get high. Add to that my family had lived those 29 years and understandably it took time for them to believe the change was real.  Hope had been shattered many times over the years when I would try to stop but just could never manage to stay sober for long.
 
I was 4 years clean when mom was diagnosed.  I am in tears writing this because I am so thankful.  I was never dependable or could be counted on for anything including telling the truth. I was a hopeless mess. But I had the privilege of coming alongside my mom and my sister as we walked this path together.  I was given the opportunity to care for and love my mother in a way I had not done the majority of my adult life.  I was able to share fully in this experience and be supportive to mom and Laur.  Words do not adequately express how much that meant to me and how incredibly thankful I am.

It would be so easy not to celebrate this but instead be consumed by guilt over all I have not done for many years. There’s a lot of guilt and regret that piled up from those 29 years of hell. But focus on that kept me stuck. The only chance I had at becoming the daughter, sister, mother, wife, or friend that I desired to be was to forget what was behind and strained to press forward, no matter what. And the undeserved gift that resulted; I was able to be there for my family fully throughout this whole experience.

God allowed me to participate in caring for the woman who had fought so hard to raise me and my sister as a single parent. My mom was the hardest working person I have ever known.  My mother was incredibly proud of my sister and me.  She was even more proud of our girls.

Back to this day last year.  Mom was conscious and struggling until about 12:30 and then medication and sleep eased her discomfort until she passed at around 7:30 I think.  Mom was not afraid of dying but she did not want to die alone. 

God gave my mom and us a wonderful gift in those final hours.  She was surrounded by 11 family members who loved her and stayed with her all day.  I pulled out my guitar and we sang, we told stories, we laughed, we cried, and we told her constantly we were there with her, and that we loved her so much.

You know instinctively as someone is drawing their final breaths.  We all stood up and surrounded her, placed our hands on her and watched as she took her final breath.
And I believe as my mom’s spirit was departing that she saw all of us laying on her and crying.  And I believe in that moment my mom saw a room full of deep love for her.  And I will forever be grateful for the privilege of participating in the most painful and holy moment I have ever known.

Mom, I think about you every single day.  I miss you more now than I did 6 months ago. Things will never be the same, different, but not ever the same without you.  Discovering all of these pictures of dad and seeing for the first time relationship existed between us even though I don’t remember anything has me grieving over him as well.  You both looked so happy together in many of the pictures, and who knew how cool and hip you guys were!


Mom I consider it a privilege to be your daughter.  I am so proud to call you my mom.  I love you with all my heart. I miss you every day.  I hope to honor you in the way I live my life.  I am incredibly thankful for the gift of family and memories.  Thank for leaving us with so many to cherish.  I miss you so much mom.

Nellie

I knew all day that Gram's was going to leave us that night. I got the call from mom, "We're all here with her - she's struggling."

I held back tears in my classes as my new friends encouraged me to go home. It was well-intentioned but going home wouldn't help. The only place I wanted to be was in Gram's room, holding her hand. But I couldn't.

My mom held her phone up to Gram's ear as I told her how much I loved her. She had stopped speaking by that point but I was assured that she nodded her head in acknowledgment. She knew.

I didn't want to be home alone, so, while I waited for Dan to leave work, I went for a run at the gym. The new Civil Wars album had come out and Dust to Dust was on repeat while I tried to hide my tears on the treadmill.

We went home that night and I was mostly quiet over dinner. Dan poured glasses of wine and we sat in the living room. Stories of Grandma Nellie poured out of me. It was the only part I could play in her passing: I prayed for her and I remembered her.

For the first few months of her absence there were constant tears. Tears in the shower as I remembered beautician Gram's orders on how to wash my hair correctly. Tears when I stumbled on the text conversations where cheerleader Gram would tell me how proud of me she was. Tears were easy and forthcoming in those months.

Now, it's been a year and most the tears have dried up, at least they aren't as frequent, and it's just a sharp pain as life carries on and I realize that this is the new normal. That pain will likely dull over time but I don't want it to because my job is to remember her and, if nothing else, the pain won't let me forget. So tonight Dan and I will share a bottle of wine and I'll tell stories of Nellie.

I love you still, Grams, and I'll remember you always.



23 June, 2014

An anniversary in Annapolis {and other alliterations}







^^^ You know how when hand your camera over to someone after you ask them to take a picture. And then you get the camera back? I've taken to not looking at the photos they've taken until a few minutes later. I know I am going to be disappointed. It's not that I am so great a picture-taker, but I generally know how to frame a group, right? I didn't think that was an acquired skill.

Really, I should just be grateful that the stranger took the picture, and I am, otherwise Dan and I would have only solo photos for the day and on our anniversary that just doesn't sit well. I mean, a little basic iPhoto editing and we're all good, right? Right. Memory documented.

Dan commented in passing that I don't take as many pictures as I used to. He sounded a bit too cheerful about that, if you ask me. But, he's right. It's nice to just enjoy the time together and not think too much about snapping the perfect shot. Who is that for anyway?

It is my year again to plan our celebration so we took a little day trip down to Annapolis. We had so much fun walking around the quiet little town. Maybe it's not so small but compared to the loud hustle and bustle of the D.C. area we were so happy to just sit and listen to waves lapping against the dock and meander through the flea market and sort through the antiques.

We drank and ate our way through that little military town. Those clams. Those clams casino. And the pizza. I found that little place on Sosh App. If I'm being honest, we went to Annapolis because Sosh told me that pizza was the shit. And I was not disappointed. We shared the Spotted Pig, with wild boar meatballs and spicy sopressata. Fantastic doesn't begin to describe it. Just an all around great food day.

In order to tour the Annapolis Naval Academy museum, visitors have to go through security; pretty standard for any kind of military base. As we neared the front we heard one of the guards requesting that any current and retired military should just come right through. So, Dan takes his id out of his wallet and heads to the front. The young man looks at Dan's card, stands up a little straighter, and salutes Dan. I hadn't seen that happen to him in over a year and nostalgia swept over me.

We talked about it as we walked through the museum, how, surprisingly, we miss the military a little bit.

It's been four years and we still love to talk to each other. We love hanging out with each other. We're chalking that up as a win.


17 June, 2014

hi.



It's been a long time. I'm gonna try and update you soon, but for now, I am obsessed with this gif.

Summer is good, folks.


10 May, 2014

Oh, hey.

{after a long day of flow charts}

Sorry. You know, law school. I almost forgot about this space. Almost. But now 1L is over (1L IS OVER!), and I feel like I can post semi-regularly again. When I have something semi-interesting to say/share. We'll see how often that happens. 

But first, 1L. 

It's weird because it feels like it went by so fast. I figured it would drag on and be miserable forever (because everyone prepared me for the horrendous year that was ahead), but to be honest it was just too busy to drag on. There was never time to stop. 

I felt like I was drowning the first semester. Not that the content was so hard, but everything happened at once. It was just a rough Fall. And then finals rolled around and I was in a slump and life sucked and I felt like I didn't really have anyone at school to help me through it because it still felt like we were competing with each other and, as silly as this sounds now, I didn't want to appear weak. 

Law school produces the most stressful and frustrating environment and we create it for ourselves. Part of it is the curved grading system (only so many students can receive A's, and, goshdarnit, we all think we're the rightful recipients). Part of it is the type-A personality of every student in the program. 

It's just all encompassing, and it's all you can think about and talk about. And, it sucks. The whole thing. All of it. 

Thank God for Dan. I don't know how I would have came through without him. From the beginning he has been here and available. He seemed to sense when I was about to break and he would encourage me and talk me through it all. I got through this year in one piece and with a sane mind and that man gets a lot of credit for that. I shall bake him a pie in appreciation. 

Then second semester rolled around. Grades from first semester came out and I did fine - not fantastic. For me, that was a blow - a huge blow - to my ego. But a few conversations with Dan and with my teachers and I was determined to keep my head down and power through. 

The second semester is supposedly (statistically, maybe) a game changer. First semester everyone works their butts off. Everyone is scared shitless for first semester grades, to see where they stand, and with good reason. These grades impact where you get summer internships and how things shake loose for 2L On-Campus Interviews. The sun seems to rise and set over these grades. 

And then grades come out. Some do very well. Most do just fine. And many don't. It has to be this way (so I'm told), but it doesn't seem to mean much. In my opinion (not that you asked, but you are here after all), the tests produced by 1Ls are all variations on a theme. We all know the information and similarly regurgitate it on the exam. It's very unlikely that someone just didn't know the necessary information (unless they didn't try). They won't be bad lawyers because they didn't get an A, but they will feel defeated when the A doesn't appear. 

So, second semester the sand starts to settle. Some who got As might relax a little and think its all in the bag. Those who got Bs might decide that the hard work isn't worth the effort and reconcile themselves to the grade they can receive without the struggle. 

The first year is hard and it takes a lot to maintain that level of dedication and energy through both semesters. I was determined to do so and to improve my performance if I could. 

Something happened this semester. I was working harder but I was also working smarter. What exactly that looked like, I can't pinpoint. I tried to explain it to Dan one night after a 14-hour day of studying, I didn't know what had changed from last semester but something had. I felt more confident heading into exams than in the previous semester. Of course, some of that had to do with having gone through the experience once before - most of the jitters were gone. That was part of it.

But, this semester was better. 

1L is over and I cannot believe I'm a third of the way through law school. Things supposedly get easier from here. I'm not sure I believe it, but everybody says so. Good riddance, 1L!