Monday, December 21, 2009

Farewell for Now Angel Girl

Well, it's been more than a "few days", but it's given me time to reflect on all that's happened these past few weeks....and of course, learning how to move forward without caring for Jessica full-time as well as being without her presence. She wasn't herself these last few weeks and we all knew it, but in my heart she was and still is my chatty, abundantly full of life and love, funny, thoughtful, interesting daughter.
I miss her coming into my room, plopping on the bed and sharing her heart....or the latest Hollywood gossip :). I miss our meal plans....and we could plan meals!! We loved looking through recipes and had just started our subscription to "Food Network" magazine....I miss the way she worried about all of her siblings and was sure she could fix their problems somehow. And how she always looked out for me, always so sensitive if she saw me overdoing it or stressed out....and so much more. We learned to read each other well through all this and didn't end up using a lot of words at the end. I really thought that when she died, it would rip out part of me because our lives were so entwined. And there is definitely some of my heart missing... figuratively speaking, of course!:) But, I have learned something. When you love as deeply as most of us mothers love our children, and the one you love is in agonizing, terrible pain, your heart is actually hurting too much to want to hang on to them. Letting her go, encouraging her to go, begging God to take her home was all I could do at the end. And my heart is now at peace, because my girl is.
Mark feels exactly the same..... as do all the children. Jessica's suffering was just too great. Kayla, Alex,Jordan, and even Joy, though they've all had their very hard moments, are really, really glad she's not hurting anymore.

The memorial service to Jessica was just as she would have wanted, I have no doubt. Many of us dressed in pink, or wore some form of pink for Jessica, including Cory and Mark who actually wore pink dress shirts!! and Jordan in his pink beanie. She did not want a dark, drab funeral and we honored that. Our church has a 60' screen that they had written across "In Memory of Jessica Jean Snead". Seeing that beautiful name so big like that was my first breakdown. A few of us in the family shared a little of our journey with Jessica including Alex, Mark and I and the previous letter from Alyssa. Music included a very talented singer in our church singing The Climb (Miley Cyrus) and closing with It is Well with Our Soul, as well as other worship. Our worship team did such an amazing job. A lady who worked with Jessica had offered to put together a slide show and did a fabulous job! But of course there were so many tears seeing Jessica's entire life go by in 20 minutes. Finally and best of all, over 20 people raised their hands in response to our pastor's invitation for people to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Jessica was most certainly rejoicing in heaven!

We wrote a little about Jessica's passing, but I cannot stop reliving the awesome event that it was. The dying process had actually had started the night before but we didn't know it. I only slept an hour because she was groaning so, and we were told it was her meds causing that sound. She began to lose focus and her lungs had had enough, so the doctor told us late in the morning we didn't have long. The reason I share all this, is because death can happen quickly or it can be a long, drawn out process. The Lord was perfectly merciful to all of us in not letting it be drawn out, but giving enough time for all the family to be there who wanted to as well as our pastors that her gradual entrance into heaven be witnessed by all of us. He didn't have to let us see that, but He did. He wanted us to see that heaven is very real, that Jessica was going to be very glad to go there (that final, amazing smile on her face said it all), and that we could rest knowing all these things, as well as share the story with others who wonder about afterlife. I realize that we have the assurance of salvation if we have accepted Christ, but there is something amazingly powerful about witnessing any kind of a glimpse of eternity. We realize that eternity is so much closer than we think.....truly just a breath away!

Jessica even made us chuckle in the last minutes (between our tears). At that point, many of her words were indistinguishable and slurred. Well, she was listening to all of us tell her to go ahead and go, she didn't need to fight any longer, etc. just releasing her. Suddenly we hear her say, "I'm trying!". That was so cute. Then she says "should I stop breathing?". She was being so sweet and innocent, just trying to do what she thought she was supposed to! But we did also get to hear her utter some last "I love you's" and a few of those beautiful words describing heaven. That sight remains forever etched in all of our hearts who were there.

This journey that started over 18 months ago and probably longer if we read Jessica's symptoms prior to that, has been long and difficult, although we know of many people who travel the cancer road much longer, some for years and years. The thing that just astounded our family though, and truly made the journey much, much lighter was the many, many (yes, I'm repeating words a lot here) people who journeyed with us. You just don't expect people to stay the course that long. Yet, we have so many faithful friends and church family who never let us go. They held us close in prayer, they checked on us constantly. They fed us, blessed us in unique ways and kept us on a steady diet of faith and hope-filled words. I am crying just thinking about it. And the doctor God sent us couldn't have been better. He encouraged us to keep believing against the odds, even when his scientific mind told him there was no hope. He let Jessica lead and that empowered her till the very end. All in all, God has been very good to us, in what could've been a lonely, depressing, pain-filled road.

If you ever, and I pray you don't, ever have to endure such a journey, may you know the love of the Saviour who never lets you walk alone, who holds you close through every painful moment, and who can ultimately reunite you with the ones who have gone to heaven ahead of you.
And may you also know what it is to have a family of believers around you. There are amazing people out there who are ready to do life with you. You can find them in any good, local church if you are willing to step out and become a part of it.
Well, those are a few of my thoughts, but if it helps any, they are backed up by many great bible verses!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The First Week

What does grief look like after the funeral? I am sure it depends on many things, but for me right now, it is an emotional distancing from life. I cannot think about stores, or errands or socializing or my old life too much. It is not like I am thinking about Jessica every minute, but there is just such sadness in my soul. We were privileged to get a glimpse of the workings of eternity, but it feels like the veil has come down somewhat and I am left with memories of those events and scrambling to stay in the word, read the word, read the word. Do not despair, I tell myself, keep her close, imagine her life in heaven, know that she is thinking about you and those common passions you share will be shared again someday. I wonder, too, how to interact with others around me. Just because I am talking and maybe even laughing doesn't mean I'm okay or want to keep talking. I'm just not a fall apart all the time kind of person anyways.
I am glad for a large family. They are my comfort and I hope I can comfort them. Obviously, Jesus is the source for all our comfort, and I am completely trusting Him for it, even if it needs to be minute by minute.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Healed Forever with Jesus

At 2:30 today Jessica entered into her rest and perfect healing. It was a privilege to watch her as she saw glimpses of heaven, "it is pretty", "its so beautiful", "its too bright". She raised her weak little arms in worship and smiled her last smile here on earth.

The pain and suffering were so great last night and today. With Cory, Mark and Kayla and a team of pastors we encouraged her, urged her to go and be free.....and she even said, "I'm trying"... in her weakened state.:)..and continued being polite to everyone. Her doctor said she was the politest patient she'd ever known. And the toughest. (We said, if you only knew!)
Goodbye for now, my baby angel girl/best friend......

Rejoicing for her, sad for the rest of us.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Only A Miracle

So, unless we get an amazing miracle Jess won't be coming home from the hospital. She is having a very hard time and we are making final preparations. She is in a lot of pain so they have changed her medication now to something stronger than ever. She is hurting in so many places, has no appetite at all now and just wants to rest.
So, we want her to have the perfect rest...which can only come in the arms of Jesus.
We don't know if we have a day or two or not. Just saying our goodbyes and trying to keep her comfortable.
The cards and gifts have just blessed her so much!! You will never know how much....
Probably don't need to send them any longer unless you'd like to send any to Cory.
I cannot say enough about the support we have from our church. It seems like the entire leadership team has made themselves available and have lifted so many burdens from us, standing (or sitting :)) with us, helping with details, emotional support for the kids, etc. We can just focus on spending this time with our girl....which I am going to do right now. Back to the hospital!
Thank you Wave Church, thank you friends for your love, calls, support and prayers.

In all this we know our God IS good and we trust Him more than ever before with our hearts, our lives and our future.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cherishing the Moments

At this point, no one can give us an exact timetable, but Jessica's kidney's are failing quickly. Once the kidney completely fails, she will not be with us long. She is suffering with swollen legs and feet along with her abdomen.

She is spending her time organizing things between many short naps, writing notes,hanging with Cory and her siblings and having short visits with people. She is still amazingly beautiful and sweet and sensitive and can still make us laugh.....her and I have late, late nights together watching Dr. Quinn or Christy reruns and talking while I rub her legs and feet or back. These are times I will cherish forever.....

How do you prepare to say goodbye to a beautiful person like this whom you have loved for over 23 years? Right now all we can do is enjoy each minute of each day we have together, hug and kiss her as much as she will let us, and keep talking it all through, keeping the big picture in sight as much as is possible.

One day at a time right now.

Jessica is loving the Christmas cards that have been coming in the mail. On Facebook we had asked people to send Christmas cards to bring some Christmas cheer into Jessica's world. Anything to see her smile......

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Auto- Pilot Can Fail

So, I've realized this week that much of how I've been surviving this storm is on auto-pilot. We moms are good at auto-pilot. We can look at 3 ingredients in the fridge and create a meal, while thinking about the bank balance, what chores haven't been done and wonder if we've spent enough time with our husbands this week! In my life right now, though, I have added Wednesday appointments to Dr. Fleming's office to my mental calendar, thinking of yummy meals I can make to share with Jess, and frequent calls and prayers regarding her pain. Yes, I pray on auto-pilot and if you're honest, so do you!

So, somehow this week, I "got" disengaged. That's the only way I can describe these emotions that came crashing in on me. It's like a mini movie camera started rolling of watching my girl suffer this last year; all the pain she's been in, the repetititious throwing up, the sticks and pokes to her port, her shrinking body, her tears, her heartache, marriage battles, etc. and it wouldn't stop. Neither would the tears. I mean, I really couldn't get a grip. Like the veil was lifted on how abnormal all this is and I need to take time to process it on a regular basis. Part of it, no doubt, is feeling overwhelmed with my fall schedule with this "other life" I live.

So, I sent out an email to the "sisters" who really have come forward to help carry my burdens, that is, after I finished arguing with myself first.....thoughts like, I shouldn't sent this, I'm being weak.... can't I just get alone with Jesus and fix this? Am I bothering them? Yah, my insecurities at work (and the enemy, I'm sure).

But without a doubt, my spirit was lifted by the prayers of those friends and I was able to get my bearings. I cannot imagine life without prayer. It has been a humbling experience, a challenge to my prayer life (for others) and an encouragement that the Lord IS moving on the prayera of His people...He does hear every prayer for my Jessica and for all of us....and IS answering.
I will write about some other things very shortly, just still catching my breath......

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More bad news

My daughter's cancer is spreading. To her liver and lungs. And ironically, the night before we got the report, Jess had been feeling a new kind of pain, intense, sharp on her right side. This pain is unbearable. How do we get through this next part of the journey? I feel the momentum of the Lord, this journey is going somewhere fast.
We went to my friend, Ann's house for girl game time. Jess is throwing up on the way. We get there, she's masking the pain. The newly increased drugs aren't working, but she finds a way to put it all aside for a few hours. She is witty and fun and it is a wonderful time out in their backyard, even though I keep winning our game. I love how she is determined to live well and find some joy in the midst of this.
At breakfast with Mark, she talks about being in love with and ready to see Jesus, {if all there is here for her is pain and suffering}. Yet pondering the alabaster box, feeling empty handed, what can she offer Him to pour at His feet? A girl with a revelation that takes my breath away.
Ahhhh, this is so much sometimes. have to just keep living life with this torn and tattered heart, yet know it is being held and loved by my Saviour. Ready for healing, though, for all of us.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

About Her

There's a sidebar that says About Me. But what I like to talk about a lot is her. I mean, I love to talk about all my kids (what mom that doesn't), but with Jess facing what she is, well, she deserves a little extra attention. First of all, she is truly beautiful. She's always has been my dark-eyed, dark-haired beauty. I know she has insecurities about this or that, but what comes through when you spend any time with her, is her sweet and gentle beauty. Jess truly cares about people. She will actually listen when you talk and be thinking all along if there's anything she can do for you. I don't think a day goes by when she doesn't ask ME if I need anything. Pain, nausea, exhaustion, etc., and she'll STILL ask me! Like I'm going to say, sure, honey, could you cook me up a steak?! But that's just her way and I love it. She's also generous in a way that says, I was thinking of you and remembered you love this or were craving that, or whatever. Without ever expecting anything in return. People might say she's a people pleaser and maybe there's some of that in her, but you can't force someone's heart to be that tender, no matter the motive.
Jess is also very witty. It's a natural kind of humor that is hard to explain. She can impersonate any of us in the family to a tee and yet also see some crazy point of view in a situation that no one else can and make a joke of it. I know that laughter has helped us all go from one medical situation to the next. Even during chemo, she'd find something for us to laugh about.
I know I could write pages about her. About her love for the Lord, how her personal relationship with Him that has grown in leaps and bounds since this first began Or her creative side. She can draw or decorate or design things in minutes. She has a fashion style that is uncanningly ahead of it's time. I will see her wear something and the next month it's in every store! Or her strength and courage. Losing your hair and eyelashes, surgeries, bad reports, chemo, sickness upon sickness? Maybe some sadness, but she never complains, never.
Ultimately, my Jess is in so many ways still just a girl who's facing a very big giant and wants to be rescued, delivered and given her life back. But the fact that she can remain her strong, beautiful, funny, caring self in the face of that? Well, she's just being the amazing girl I've always known her to be and who she will continue to be long after she is healed from cancer.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So, this is my first "official" blog. For the past year I've been writing on my daughter's Caringbridge website, which is a great place for people facing critical illnesses to update friends and family. But so much of what my heart wanted to share just didn't seem appropriate for that, or for my daughter to read. I mean, how can a mom write about the way her heart aches every time she sees her 23 year old baby poked in the chest to get her port accessed for the hundredth time knowing that she will read that? Or the first time I saw her without hair. Her long beautiful black hair, gone, because of deadly chemicals that are supposed to save her life? How I cry for the life she should be having, the vacations, the job, the babies, the songs she wants to write, the mountains she wants to climb, the dreams that every 23 year old has... No, those are not things moms share with their kids. It's the on the job training we get that starts the the first time our child steps on glass and blood is everywhere, and we really want to freak out and throw up, but we stay cool and calm. At least until we call for dad, then we freak out and throw up.
So, after 5 kids I am fully trained on being cool and collected in the face of any calamity. Which is a good thing with cancer. Whether it was the 60 staples across her abdomen after an unsuccessful tumor removal surgery (yes, I looked) or the endless vomiting of every substance and color during chemo or the painful heart to heart talks we still have about life and death and babies and such. Yes, this mom is cool and calm enough to speak words of life and strength to her without too many tears....but here I will not be so strong or even pretend. Because you are not really strong when your baby is facing death, not ever. Only God will get us through this.