Goodbye August | Fort Worth Family Photographer
This post has been swirling in my mind for almost a month. It’s a post about God’s timing and providence. I just haven’t gotten around to putting words on the page. And then everything changed. My ONE story about God’s timing and providence turned into THREE stories. Literally overnight. So, I guess it is time to get these words written. Bear with me, this is a long one…
August 2017 started off with a bang. And not a good one. On Friday, August 4th, the night before we were to start driving home from vacation in Colorado Springs, I woke up in the middle of the night in a lot of pain. A LOT. To the point that I couldn’t sleep. To be honest, I just thought I was probably really constipated (sorry, TMI). We had been traveling for a week already and my body doesn’t normally travel well. Plus I had been eating a lot of junk, including a massive brownie sundae for dinner, so I blamed it on digestion.
I finally got out of bed at 5am because I wasn’t comfortable and couldn’t sleep. I took some miralax, drank a green smoothie and started packing. We drove 5.5 hours to Amarillo that day and I was in excruciating pain the entire way. We stayed the night in Amarillo to break up the drive for the kids (and adults). Luckily the hotel we stayed in had a hot tub. I climbed inside and tried to relax. Still thinking I was super constipated I thought relaxing in hot water would help the process. Plus my back was hurting a ton so the jacuzzi jets felt nice.
The next morning I was even more miserable and couldn’t stand up straight. We started the drive from Amarillo to Fort Worth and at one of the stops on the way home I got some laxatives out of desperation. I took 3. We got home at 2pm Sunday afternoon and I immediately parked myself on the couch. The pain was so bad that I was cringing, moaning and making audible noises at times. I was also exhausted and fell asleep for a couple hours. Later that evening, the laxatives started to kick in. Big time. I was still in a ton of pain but super thankful to be cleaning out my system and thinking I would get some pain relief soon.
Monday morning rolls around and there isn’t much change. Except that my bowels are now empty and I still can’t stand up. At this point, I am a little panicked. I KNOW for sure that this is not constipation anymore and yet I am still in a ton of pain! Y’all, I was walking around the house, hunched over and holding onto counters and furniture like they were a cane. It was not pretty.
My husband was worried about me but had gone in to work early because you know, we had been gone for a week already. I had been hoping to work that morning too so luckily, I already had a babysitter lined up. Instead of working, the second she walks in the door, I leave and head straight for the ER. (Side note: driving yourself to the ER is a very interesting experience).
I made the game time decision to go to a hospital a little farther than necessary solely because we have a friend who is an ER doctor there and he was on call that Monday morning. I was scared and wanted to deal with someone I trusted. We hugged, I told him what was going on and he sent me straight for a CT scan. An hour later, my doctor friend was telling me that unfortunately I had appendicitis and would be going to the OR for surgery within the hour. Um, okay!?!?!?
This is when my mind goes into crisis mode: call husband so he can get his butt to the hospital asap, contact mother-in-law for help with childcare, contact babysitter and tell her I am going to be longer than expected, contact assistant because I need some backup, contact close friends and ask for prayer, and on and on.
Sure enough, 35 minutes after I was told about my appendix, I was being wheeled into pre-op. My husband rushes in 5 minutes before I go into surgery just in time to kiss me goodbye. And off I go. The surgery was fine. My appendix had not ruptured which is amazing because it was really close. I was admitted to the hospital for the night and I was counting the multitude of blessings and perfection of God’s timing:
We made it home from Colorado before I ended up in the hospital.
It didn’t happen before Colorado, ruining our trip.
I had zero sessions on my calendar for that week.
My mother-in-law was able to come help with the kids the two days that we didn’t have a sitter.
Surgery was done before my appendix ruptured, which could have caused a lot of complications.
Our friends, family and community rallied. They prayed. They checked in. They brought food and sent flowers. My phone was constantly blowing up with texts and calls.
During the week I was home recovering from surgery I spent a lot of time mulling over God’s divine timing and control. If there was going to be a disaster one week of the summer, THAT was the perfect week for it. Truly. Sure, I don’t love that I have more scars, or that my belly will never look the same (hello plastic surgery). And I definitely could have done without the pain but I was, and still am able to find so much peace knowing that He is always in the details.
Like I said in the beginning, I mulled over this post for a few weeks. I kept it in the back of my mind knowing that I wanted to share the story when I had a chance but blogging always gets pushed to the bottom of the list so the post was never written. And then last week happened. And the story has now changed.
Last Tuesday night, my Mimi was admitted to the hospital. She hadn’t been feeling well for a few days and someone finally talked her into calling 911. My uncle rushed from Austin to be with her and he kept me in the loop. We were being told that everything was fine. She would be home by the weekend. Wednesday was much of the same. She is fine. They are running tests. We were still hoping she would be home by the weekend. I talked to her on the phone Wednesday evening and Thursday morning and she sounded semi-okay.
Thursday night, I get the phone call from my uncle. “I finally had a chance to meet with her doctor and this is it. This is the end. Her doctors have conferenced and agree that her heart will not tolerate any intervention. Her kidneys are shutting down. They are going to focus on comfort care now and at this point it could be days or a couple weeks. You need to get here when you can.”
Of course I hung up the phone and burst into tears.
It was 8pm. I was hysterical. And I had 5 mini sessions in the morning. My mind kicked into crisis mode. I needed to email my clients. I texted my assistant. I called my best friend. My husband called his mom to see if she could, once again, come help with the kids. I started packing my suitcase. I figured I would be hanging out in a hospital for a few days so I packed layers, my bible, my laptop and stuff to be gone for a week. I sent out an email and a slew of texts to close friends to start praying.
And then I started getting responses from alarmed friends. They were sad and, of course, praying but they also reminded me about Hurricane Harvey. It was supposed to hit this weekend. You are heading right into it! Thanks for the heads up y’all but obviously it didn’t matter. I was going to head straight into a hurricane to be with my beloved Mimi.
Based on the weather, I decided to leave earlier than I originally thought, at 5:30am to try and beat the rain. I made it to Houston in record time and arrived to the hospital at about 9:30a. Shortly after I arrived, the kidney specialist came in to talk to me. He confirmed that her kidneys were shutting down. I asked him point blank, what the timeline looked like. He said that based on his experience she would probably pass within 24 hours.
And then the world stopped spinning.
I literally lost my breathe.
The doctor and I went to find my uncle in the waiting room and told him the same news. And again, I went into crisis mode. My uncle and I split up the list of urgent phone calls- the church, Mimi’s brother, my mom, my brother, a few of her closest friends and her attorney. I sent out text updates to all of my friends letting them know to continue praying. And then I was able to exhale for a moment.
The rest of the day was spent on rotation. My mother, uncle, brother and I rotated who was in the room with her. We wanted that space to stay calm and peaceful. We didn’t want her to be alone. We wanted to say our goodbyes. We were all very emotional. So we just kept rotating in and out, one at a time.
For the first 5 hours or so, Mimi was unconscious but responsive. If you told her a funny story, she would laugh in her sleep. If you cried, she would mumble, “Don’t cry”. It was a beautiful and miraculous thing. I had two magical conversations with her that I will never forget. Both of them filled with tears and heartbreak. But beautiful moments of goodbye.
At one point she mumbled to me, “Have you seen the doctor?” and I told her that yes, I had seen one a bit earlier. And she responded with, “How long?”.
It took me a minute to realize what she meant. That she was fully aware of what was happening.
And it felt like all the air was sucked out of the room.
I responded with, “The doctor said probably tonight or tomorrow” and Mimi simply said, “Ok”.
She knew what was happening. And she was ready. I sat with her and told her that Jesus was waiting and that it would be over soon. I told her that soon she would be reunited with Grandaddy. I promised that we would keep her comfortable until the end.
I told her some of my favorite memories growing up with her. She laughed. I thanked her for teaching me how to love wine. She laughed again. I wept and told her how much I would miss her. I held her hand. She told me not to cry. And how much she loved me. And she told me to be strong. Those conversations on Friday were truly one of the greatest gifts that God has ever given me.
Mimi died Friday, August 25th at 8:05pm. It was fast. She was surrounded by family. She was in no pain. It was raining outside. It was pretty much exactly how she would have written it.
I will say that the next few hours were not pretty. At all. And then, as fast as the tears started, they just stopped. And I was so tired. Even though I had planned on staying in her apartment that week, I knew it was too soon. I went about finding a hotel close by and abruptly left the hospital. I got checked in, dragged my things up to my room and basically collapsed. I checked my phone for the first time in a few hours and had 35 text messages to respond to. I typed out a quick note about Mimi’s passing and copy/pasted it to every single person. I just couldn’t. I didn’t even have the words to call my best friend. I was completely done.
I woke up the next morning to rain. Shocking. After finally dragging myself out of bed I headed over to Mimi’s apartment in the afternoon. The family had lunch at our “usual” Mimi spot and had margaritas toasting the greatest woman we knew. We left the restaurant and all split up. We still weren’t ready to process yet. Even being together was just too raw.
I went back to Mimi’s apartment and literally wandered around. Aimlessly. Touching her clothes. Looking at pictures. Just wandering. And then I curled into a fetal position on the floor and fell asleep. I don’t know how long I slept but when I woke up it was still raining. Again, shocking.
The thing is, the rain kept coming. And getting harder and harder. And then the news anchors said the flooding had started. But I was just out of it. I basically wandered around like a zombie on Saturday evening and then finally gave in and went to bed. I slept hard and long. Which is rare for me. I woke up at 9am Sunday morning to a torrential downpour. I went to the window and looked at the parking lot. And my car was partially under water. And part of the lot was rushing water. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
And then I went into crisis mode… do I try and move my car to higher ground? CAN I move it? The water outside was moving fast. It was still pouring. I called my husband. He was in church. I called my brother. He said don’t move, I will come get you. Yea, that didn’t happen. My brother made it almost all the way over and had to turn around to go home because waters were rising too fast. I called him and told him I was going to try and move it onto the median. I put on my rainboots (that I miraculously thought to pack) and headed into the water. I made him stay on the phone with me in fear something would happen. I waded out into almost knee deep water to get to my car. The water was almost to the exhaust pipe but still hadn’t reached it so I was in the clear (thank you huge SUV!). I turned on the car, reversed 6 inches and then put it in drive to hop the curb in front of me. Success! I had pulled up to the highest spot possible. All the other cars in the lot had already done so in the night or early morning (while I was sleeping).
And then I spent most of Sunday focused on the weather. And the water that continued to rise. It was unreal. It just kept rising and rising. I paced back and forth between the balcony of Mimi’s apartment to survey the flood levels and the TV to watch the news coverage. Both were horrifying. And in the moments in between, I was reminded that I was in Mimi’s apartment without her.
At some point I realized that things could really go south and I might lose power and water so I prepared for those things… filled up the bathtub, charged my phone, checked in with family that I was okay, filled up pitchers with drinking water and did a quick load of laundry. Again I sent out an update to friends asking them to continue to pray, this time describing the complications of a hurricane to top everything off. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to leave for several days. I was stuck.
I spent the next few days going through photos and paper work. Mimi was the family historian. When I say that she has thousands of photographs, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. And for the most part, they are all organized by date, into photo albums. It is pretty remarkable really. I basically learned about my family history and my childhood just by going through the albums. I have spent 4 days looking at photos. I also spent some time writing her obituary and making calls to her friends. I contacted all the organizations she was in and also her church. But mostly, my days have been filled with photos and memories. Luckily I never lost power or water. And I had food to eat.
My mom, dad, uncle and brother kept checking on me. We, like all of Houston, were stuck. Fortunately, none of us had any home flooding but we just couldn’t get to one another geographically speaking. Everyone kept calling, “Are you doing okay in there?”, “Are you eating?”, “Do you need to talk?” I think they were all worried that I was a weeping, wailing mess the entire time. They knew how close Mimi and I had been so they assumed being stuck alone in her apartment must have been a horrific nightmare for me.
But honestly, it wasn’t. It was comfortable and calm. In an eerie way, it was very peaceful in her home. It is almost like I am still in a bubble with her. Quite honestly, I have almost liked having an “excuse” to be here alone for so long. I can’t explain it but as long as I am here, she is here too.
The waters have receded. The sun has come out. My car has been inspected and appears to be fine. It is time to leave the bubble. My family at home needs me and I miss them terribly.
But the thought of leaving this space, the bubble, induces panic. Leaving this place means that it is over. Means that I have to enter the real world again. And that world doesn’t have my Mimi in it. And my heart completely breaks. And then I think of the catastrophic devastation that is happening in Houston, my hometown, and to so many friends, family and strangers and I can barely handle it. Everything right now seems so broken.
And yet, amidst it all, I can still see the blessings. And God’s perfect timing at work again:
-The weather was a catalyst for me to leave earlier than normal to get to Mimi’s side. This allowed me several beautiful conversations with her at the end while she was still responsive. Had I left later, those would have been missed.
-Jesus took her quickly. She had been praying for this for months and months. She wanted to go quickly.
-She deteriorated before the hurricane hit. Had the timeline happened a few days later, she would have died alone, scared and trapped in her apartment.
-Her family was able to be with her at the end.
-I got trapped in her apartment alone. As weird as it sounds, I am fully aware of how huge a blessing this is. Had I spent Saturday night somewhere else, I would have been trapped there and been so miserable knowing I wasn’t in Mimi’s apartment. THIS is where I wanted to be. Where I needed to be.
-I was given the gift of time. Take away flooding and being trapped and I would NEVER in a million years been able to take 4 full days, with zero responsibilities, to go through photo albums and memories and to rest. Never. It has been a gift.
-I was able to move my car to high ground at just the right moment. 30 minutes later and water would have been too high to move it safely. Had I left it in the parking spot, water would have seeped into the interior and totaled my car. And I wouldn’t have a way back home.
-This all happened in August. Before my busy fall season when my jam-packed schedule would have just complicated things.
-Again, my friends and family, from near and far, have rallied around me. I have received texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, comments and Instagram messages from so many people. Everyone sending their love and support.
– Prayer. I can’t pray right now. Normally I pray a lot. I always pray for others. But I have not been able to pray since Friday. I am not angry or upset with God. Quite the opposite. I just can’t settle my mind. But I feel it. I know that I am covered in it. I am confident that so many people are interceding on my behalf just as God calls them too.
This blog post has gotten entirely too long already so let me wrap this up by saying this, do not ever doubt that God is in the details. Because He is. You may not see it at first but you just need to be patient and look closer. You may not see how everything is playing out just yet but I promise you, it will make sense once day. There are blessings everywhere. Even in emergency appendectomy’s. Even in the death of a most beloved. Even in a catastrophic hurricane.
I am in the midst of the most traumatic event of my entire life. I have been dreading this moment for years. And it is even worse than I imagined it would be. The pain I feel is indescribable. I feel like there is an actual, physical piece of me missing. And yet, despite the sadness and grief, I can see God’s hand. I truly can. I know He laid out the details. I know He is in control. I know there are blessings in everything.
With that said, August 2017: I am done with you.