I’ve been in China for nearly a month and on the job in Feicheng, Shandong Province, for two weeks. Truly the highlight of my trip is our dinner at a Feicheng colleague’s home, which I understand is a rare privilege. Before sitting down to the indescribably delicious meal that his wife and sister prepared, we had fun making dumplings (the kind that are boiled, not fried).
This quote by Billy Crystal says it all:
My granddaughter’s birth has made me want to create things she will love.
I find it interesting that when I’m at home, I might go two weeks without seeing my son, daughter-in-law, and my GRANDDAUGHTER. However, here I am on the other side of the world with an ocean dividing us, and I am missing them horribly after only one week; I ache a bit to realize that I won’t see them for a little more than a month. It must be horribly painful for those in our military to leave their families for a year or so.
I took this shot last Saturday night, just a few hours before leaving the country.
I’ve wanted to write about the experience, but each time I sit with my red leather journal or at the computer, words fail. Yet …. I need to write about it. Perhaps someday it will come out. I had written a little bit about my father’s battle with Alzheimer’s previously (Hope).
Last week was intense. Daddy went into the hospital Tuesday night and was released Wednesday night to go home to die, at his request. My mother, all of my brothers and sisters (I am the oldest of 10), and most of his 21 grandchildren were with him in his last days. We kept vigil, sometimes praying, sometimes telling stories, sometimes laughing, sometimes sleeping, from Wednesday evening until Friday morning.
We were all standing around his bedside as he took his last breath on Friday morning, June 8. His death was dignified and peaceful. Although we are enormously sad, we are thankful that his struggles and pain are over and that he and my family, especially my mother, are spared further ravages of that horrid disease Alzheimer’s.
I am blessed that I was able to be with him. Had this happened just two weeks later, I would have been on the other side of the world.
I am blessed that I had the opportunity to stand by his head, with my older son beside me, during his last moments.
I am blessed that he was where he wanted to be, at home. There were no tubes, lights, monitors, machines, strange sounds and scents … only the peaceful sounds of prayer and soft tears.
I am blessed to have spent five days with my large family; by Monday, both of my sons were with me. Because we are spread across the country, it is rare that all of us are in one place at the same time. Our father brought us together in a very special reunion.
One of Daddy’s favorite Bible verses is from 2 Timothy: “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.” (2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV)
He has finished his race, he has kept the faith, and he now has his crown of righteousness.
Alzheimer’s had stolen bits and pieces of my father over the last several years so that he was only a shell of the great man he once was. He suffered with breathing problems and heart problems, and throughout his life he lived in constant pain in his feet and his back.
He had only an 8th grade education, but he was as intelligent as people with triple the amount of education. His mind was sharp and clear; he could calculate any problem, design (and build) a kitchen or a house. I rarely saw him just sit and rest; he was always working on something, whether hoeing in the garden or building a piece of furniture (after putting in 8 – 10 hours in the factory).
I am blessed to be his daughter, and I am doubly blessed to be able to spend his last hours on this earth with him.
I don’t have a picture to share; I took some, but they are private. However, as I left the church after the reception, I glimpsed a bee hard at work. Because my father worked so very hard all of his life, I thought it appropriate that this bee would be there for me.
In my father’s handwriting on the back of this photo: “This is why I fell in love with Martha Ann Fromme.”
While babysitting and playing with my favorite model yesterday, I took advantage of the opportunity to practice with my new 50 mm lens. I’m still struggling with the focus, but I’ll get there eventually (I hope). I wish the sharper focus were more on her eyes and less on the beads.
Lately, she’s been petulant when I’ve taken out the camera, turning her back on me and proclaiming the toddler’s favorite word, “NO!” Yesterday, she was in a playful mood. (I’m serious about the playful part. We played nonstop for nearly five hours until I finally manipulated her into a nap because grandma definitely needed to rest.)
…and developing her independent spirit!
Wednesday (Pi day…get it…3.14?) was my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday. We celebrated with a morning at the zoo and a short visit before nap time at their house. I got few good shots of her with my point-n-shoot because she was everywhere at once. She did slow down long enough to pose before getting into her car with her baby. You can’t see it very well, but she is wearing glass slippers along with the sparkly beads. The princess tiara was discarded 1.5 minutes after she was crowned.
Something about this feels odd and I can’t quite put my finger on it. My granddaughter, who will celebrate her 2nd year birthday in a few days, can find things on my phone that I did not know are there. She took some pictures, played Angry Birds, & spent a few minutes playing PacMan before texting one of my friends. She is able to pull up Netflix on her dad’s iPad and choose the program she wants to watch.