Friday, February 19, 2010

American Idol

Yesterday, I got home from work and thanks to the wonders of modern technology, sat down to watch American Idol. One year ago I was doing this same activity with Mom. She is the one who got me hooked on the show years ago and is the best one to share this with. We never missed an episode and we had our own simple way of judging. One thumb. Thumbs up is "great", thumbs down is "awful". But it can also be anywhere in between depending on the performance. I miss this so much, talking to her, laughing with her, seeing her smile, sharing such special times together.

Because of our shared enjoyment of the show, I decided I needed to take Mom to LA and go to American Idol to see the real taping and get to experience to whole process. I had been once before with some friends who had connections, but apparently it is VERY hard to get tickets for just the average Joe. But I persevered and made plans for a trip to Cali.

I contacted an organization called "Dream Foundation". We were in LA before we heard from them and had resolved to just enjoy our time in the sun. But we got a call and about 4 hours before the show we were heading to the CBS studios. We were told that we were only going to get to see the dress rehearsal, but we took our chances. After standing in line for a long time we were finally escorted to our seats. We sat down, the stage manager cames out and gave us some info and then Ryan Seacrest started to walk down the mobile center stairs. Suddenly the stage manager falls from the second story right behind him. Luckily she was not hurt, but it took awhile for the paramedics to get her on the backboard and out the door. As soon as she had left one of the giant revolving ball stage props cames crashing down. Then we were all escorted out for fear that it was going to fall all the way down. That was it, no American Idol rehearsal.

We found our contact outside and begged and pleaded that they might find some seats for us for the real show. More lines ensued but we did it. We made it in. We watched the whole show, I think it was final four. Then we even got to watch the taping of the musical guests for the next night, No Doubt and Paula Abdoul's dance and singing performance. It was an amazing night, and I drove a very tired Mom back to the hotel. I'm still not quite sure who enjoyed the trip more, but it is an amazing, precious memory that I get to be reminded of every time I watch the show!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Thank You

It has been four weeks and one day since Mom went to heaven.

I have so many thoughts going through my head that I don't want to forget. I don't want to lose people that have become so dear to me. I don't want to lose memories, or smiles, eyes of joy, time spent with loved ones.

I have been totally joyously overwhelmed by the outpouring for condolences we have received. For a week after Mom's service the house smelled like a flower shop and I enjoyed the beautiful symbols of remembrance each moment. Thank you. I got home last night and in the mail there were two more cards with sweet notes about both my mother and father. The constant stream seems reassuringly never ending.

I just got a message on my phone yesterday that my voicemail is becoming dangerously full and soon I will not be able to receive more. Proof that I have received so many loving calls checking up on me and loving me and missing Mom. Although not all of them get returned, and usually not in a timely manner, I always listen and cherish them.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jeremy's Tribute

I just wanted to come up and say a few things if I can get them out.

My mother was a beautiful woman. She was a teacher, a counselor, an enduring friend, a caring sister, a loving daughter, a faithful wife, and a mother designed by God especially for Shelby and I.

For months we have grieved Mom's passing. We walked with her down a difficult and often ugly path. We watched as she struggled for each breath. We watched and did not look away as her body began to deteriorate until it was only a shadow of the beauty that had been. And now, after that horrific struggle, our mother is home. She now rests comfortably in the arms of Jesus, glorifying our Lord beside dad. I can wish for nothing better for all of us than that we too will one day enter into paradise to finally be at rest and celebrate eternally with our Savior, and our God.

Aren't we sad? Don't we miss our mother's sweet smile and the way her eyes lit up when she looked at us? Yes. We miss her, but our missing compared with the glory she now knows are incomparable.

Even though we miss her terribly and mourn the separation we now endure, we are so thrilled with her eternal victory that we cannot suppress the joy overflowing from our hearts. The sorrow we feel is overshadowed by our joy at her success. Mom is not only no longer suffering, she is now rejoined with her beloved husband to dwell eternally in Paradise.

As this family knows all too well, Death stinks. Having completed that wretched journey, we who say we believe ought to act like we do and celebrate through our tears the success of those we love. In our grief, real as it is, we must not forget the hope of heaven. Paul wrote that if heaven is not real, then we are to be pitied most among all men. If, on the other hand, heaven is real, we have won a great victory. Live in light of that hope knowing that all of these trials have their purpose to perfect us into the image of Christ. The best is still to come.

When Teri looks down and sees us here I do not think she will appreciate any self-absorption. I think she would like to see us honor her memory by continuing her legacy. We have good to do today.

God is sovereign over life and death. Our ‘plans,’ ‘ideas,’ and ‘goals’ for the future ultimately imply an element of human control which contradicts the truth of God's sovereignty as portrayed in scripture. It is error to take life when it has been given, and it is equal error to demand life when it is taken. God gives and He takes away, blessed be His name because He knows better than we do what we really need. He knows and directs what is best for us, which can sometimes be very difficult for those of us planners to accept.

I want to leave you with this story. It is such an example of God’s grace and power and the simplicity of something we struggle so hard to grasp. My five-year-old niece, Emma, has been able to get to know mom throughout the past year-and-a-half. She has watched and observed the slow decline of mom’s health with a grace and understanding far beyond her years.

About a week ago, after a pretty difficult day for mom, Emma and her family were able to discuss mom’s prognosis. Mom was getting weaker and we were unsure of just how much time she had. The following has been retold for us by her parents, with some help from Emma, who gave her permission to share it with you today:

The last time I saw your mom, I could see that she was suffering. My heart ached to see the pain etched in her face, and so that night after the kids were in their beds, I went to my room to cry. The kids were concerned, so Steffen brought them into my room to ask why I was crying. I said I was sad because Miss Teri is so sick and will go to heaven soon. Emma said with eyes as big as saucers, "I didn't think it would come to this. I knew it was bad, but I did not think it would come to this!" She went on, "I just can't believe it. I thought she would be here longer, and now she has to go to heaven!" After a couple of minutes, she stopped, and said, "We better pray." I couldn't pray, I hate the way that illness contorts beauty and leaves only ashes, and Steffen was silent. So, Emma started in on her lengthy dialogue with the Lord of Hosts. (Emma doesn't pray out loud often). Before she started to pray, she asked me if Teri knew Jesus and loved Him. I said she did. Then, Emma prayed with confidence, “Dear God, please take care of Miss Teri in heaven. Keep her safe in heaven and love her in heaven. I hope Miss Terri will be okay in heaven; I hope she will be happy. I hope she will see us too in heaven at the gate. When we get to heaven, Germy will be happy and I will be happy and especially Germy and Miss Terri will be happy. Keep her safe too. Please, God."

After she was done praying, she said, “I will be right back. I have to go and get something.” She came back with her well-worn Bible (you know the one without a cover) and started thumbing through it. Neither Steffen nor I had the stomach to help her; we know which story she thinks is perfect for death. After fumbling for some time, she rejoiced, "Here it is!" Sure enough, she had found the story of Jesus dying on the cross for sins. Steffen obediently began to read. Emma interrupted the reading to comment that it must really hurt to have nails put through your body. I keep thinking about those nails because in the face of real death, Jesus' death becomes all the more tangible and grotesque. We finished the reading, snuggled up, and went to sleep.

From the mouth of a five-year-old came the simple understanding of how the Lord has overcome death. The cross, and our sovereign Lord’s death upon it, has given us eternal life. She understands that with death comes a new life, and in that Truth we find Hope. How glorious that our God came to conquer death and the separation it embodies so that one day soon we can be reconciled to Him one holy church, a bride without blemish. Perfect unity awaits us. No more separation. No more pain. No more sorrow. Perfect joy in the harmony of Christ's redeeming love is our destiny and our hope.

God is good. He gave mom a good, fulfilling life here on Earth. She lived life to the fullest. Her radiant spirit impacted everyone she knew. We have been blessed through her, and the love of Christ that flowed from her. Mom, I will miss you. Blessings and goodbye until we meet again on the other side of sorrow, in that beautiful place where there is no suffering, no pain, and no tears. Now to the King Immortal, Invisible, the One True God, be all glory and honor forever.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teri S. Brown

On November 17, 2009, Teri Shelby Brown (57) died as she lived her life, with grace and dignity. Her loving children, Shelby, Jeremy and his wife, Naomi, accompanied and cared for her through the challenges of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and were with her during her final peaceful moments.

Teri was happily married to Scott J. Brown for 32 years until he preceded her in death in 2006. Throughout the marriage they were faithfully involved with the Grace Church family, they delighted in their children and their activities, and, oh yes, Lobo basketball.

Teri graduated from Manzano and received her BA and MA from UNM. During a 25-year career with APS she taught at Truman and Inez. Her leadership ability inspired others and she became an APS District Math Leader and an Instructional Coach at Mark Twain. In 2003 she won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics.

Along the way she played softball, made posole, led Bible studies, and shared her husband’s joy in nature. She is also survived by her father, Joe Shelby and his wife, Marge, her sisters and their husbands, Janice and Lucky Sells, Lynn and Chuck Colberg as well as caring nephews, nieces, and extended family.

A celebration of Teri’s life will be held on Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 10:00 at Grace Church, 6901 San Antonio Dr. NE 87109. Memorial contributions may be made to:

Young Life – Albuquerque and sent to Grace Church or to A.P.S. Foundation-TLS Math Fund 6400 Uptown NE Ste. 420 W. Albuquerque, NM 87110 Flowers may be sent to Grace Church.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 17, 2009

It is done. She is free.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cranes & Swimming

Finally, Monday came and I knew I had four precious days off. So, motivated to get the most of the time, I woke up early and got a run in. Came back and got Mom showered and myself ready. Not an easy plan of events to complete by 10am. Eventually, by about 11 we made it down to my Aunt & Uncle's and with Jeremy also we made it to the open space to see the cranes. Beautiful, the sun, the peaceful field and as Mom approached the cranes, they took off, slowly circled and flew away.

The next day, I had a work meeting and Mom got to see the hospice nurse. After the morning of activities we loaded up and made our way up to the foothills and enjoyed a very relaxing soak in the hot tub. This was the first time Mom has had a soak since she had the feeding tube placed. And thankfully the entire activity was very uneventful. To see her muscles twitching all over her body continually - it must feel so good to defy gravity in such a small way and have a slight change of perception.

Today, we finally made it to church. I had been so looking forward to this fellowship, and was challenged by the events of the morning to be able to enjoy the communion and people. Mom was so glad to see everyone and flitted around giving hugs out. So good to see her enjoy something that has always been such an important part of her life.

So often I find myself wondering what is going to happen next and will I be able to handle what I am faced with.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Past Three Weeks

The end of September brought a trip for me to San Diego and a birthday surprise. Although I am slightly embarrassed about the surprise event, we had a great time at a Britney Spears concert. Pretty hilariously entertaining. It was so good to see friends and have a little time to do some wine tasting and some real shopping too!

The next week Mom and I hosted my old roommates from California. Three girls and two beautiful babies. This is the first time that they have experienced The Land of Enchantment and all of its glory. They were impressed especially with the food and the skies. We did Acoma, Santa Fe and of course, the main event - Balloon Fiesta. They now want to come back with the rest of their families. We had a great time and they were totally enchanted.

The next week we got all of us packed up and made the trek all the way across the country to my cousin's wedding in New Hampshire. So, so beautiful and so, so good to see family and celebrate. The plane rides made me a little nervous, but went surprisingly well. It was hard to be that far away from home, but I know that Mom enjoyed our Duck tour in Boston and the beautiful leaves on the way to Jackson, NH and the little bit of snow we got to see and the fun time with family.

In the midst of all this I continue to work full time and still coordinate Mom's schedule. Not an easy job. So many friends and I can barely fit them all into our schedule. We are still doing the tube feeding about 6 times a day and Mom is needing more intense help with the activities of daily living. Very time consuming. She still loves walking and movies and being with friends - a little bragging, but we have been told that her smiles are biggest for Jeremy, Naomi and me. It is so variable whether she has energy or is feeling well. This makes it difficult to make plans too far into the future. But I am so very thankful for the friends and family who have committed to spending time with Mom regularly. As par for the course, I have been able to share some of my professional expertise as Mom is needing more and more skilled care. It is not easy to take care of some one you love in this way, but I do know that it is so important. We are all going to be there someday and to show this kind of love, especially for a friend, a sister, a mother, a child; this can be such a precious time.

I am back at work today, the last of three, and then we will have four days off together, in Albuquerque, to do what ever we want. We are thinking of swimming at a friend's house and taking a walk to see the sandhill cranes.