302.2 Communication, Failures and Disruptions

How about we come back with a little humor?

We could sit for hours over coffee and talk about all the hilarious encounters which happen at the library. I mean, sometimes I wonder if my life is a sitcom or perhaps one of those pranking shows is following me. This one happened later in the day on Thursday I believe.

Me: *looks up and sees patron who hasn’t been in lately* Hey! How’s it going? Haven’t seen you around lately.

Patron: Oh, hey! It’s been good. Getting my life in line, going to church ya know. How about you?

Me: *understanding he had gotten mixed in with some bad stuff* That’s great! I’m happy for you! I’m good. Work, school, kids. The usual.

Patron: Cool. Yeah, maybe you could use some Jesus in your life.

Me: *sputters for a few minutes because I’m not sure what just happened* Uh, yeah, actually I go to the Vineyard. But thanks!

Patron: Right on. That’s good.

*Librarian K finishes checking out his movies*

Patron: See ya around!

Me: Bye!

Librarian K and I look at each other for several moments.

Me: I can’t believe Linz missed that…

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Missing Moments

Most days we assume our loved ones will be there to share in important moments – whether they are big or small. Most days we take our loved ones for granted. We’re never ready for the loss of someone we care for. For those of you who haven’t read my last blog, my mother just died unexpectedly. Slowly, and unintentionally, I have thought of things that my mother will never get to see that I wanted her there for… or at least be able to call her up to tell her. I’ve compiled a short list of moments that I wish she could be there for.

  1. Graduating from grad school.
  2. Seeing my children grow up and all their moments (Kindergarten, prom, high school graduation, getting married).
  3. Seeing my future children.
  4. Reading the book I will (eventually) publish.
  5. She never got to spend Christmas with my kids (she lived 5 hours away).
  6. Phone calls. Mom was a talker, so getting caught on the phone with her could be a nightmare if you were busy.
  7. There will be no new pictures of her, but at least I have a lot of older ones.

Of course this list is incomplete, but if I try to list more we’re going to be here for a while and I’m not up for crying now. I won’t sit here and say don’t take your loved ones for granted. I read a ton of articles just like this one over the years, but I never thought it was something I would have to deal with. My mom was strong. She was a survivor. I took those things for granted and assumed she’d survive anything.

Our loved ones are not invulnerable. Don’t skip the phone call next time they ring.

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Unexpected Goodbyes

No one expects to say goodbye to a loved one permanently. One minute you’re talking to them and the next minute they’re just gone. You never know when you are a phone call away from devastating news. So Wednesday when I get a phone call from an unfamiliar number I never expected my brother to be on the other side saying words that didn’t make any sense. The words Mom, heart attack, and hospital didn’t form a coherent sentence in my mind. Mom was fine, she had just talked to grandma a day or two ago. I said okay, keep me posted.

She died on the table three times and had to be brought back, but she was in bad shape. She had been without oxygen for over an hour. The doctors didn’t think she was going to make it. I got home in time to help my grandmother pack. She and grandpa went on down to the hospital which was 300 miles away. Not sure what was going to happen, I arranged childcare for my kids and followed the next day. The sight of my mother laying there as she was…wires and tubes coming from her as if she was a science experiment, it shocked me – which isn’t easy to do.

I stayed at the hospital until late. Finally I went to my mom’s house where my husband and I were staying with my sister. Fitfully, we slept for three hours before going back to the hospital. The next day was no better. Seeing my mother laying there… it felt impossible. I held it together for the most part. The first time I lost it was when she had a seizure. She opened her eyes and “looked” right at me. I couldn’t take it.

The doctors weren’t confident in her survival, but they were trying everything they knew to do. We all prayed. First we prayed for her to recover. When the unlikelihood of that settled upon us we began praying for a miracle, and for her to at least make it until my youngest sister could fly in from Germany. She stabilized for most of Friday, but there was no improvement. After my husband and I realized we were no longer making coherent sentences we went back to the house to again sleep fitfully. The next morning we get a call…mom had taken a turn for the worse and they couldn’t stabilize her blood pressure or heart rate.

The doctors and nurses started preparing us then. When mom’s rate drop so low it barely registered we knew it was time. The nurse said she would turn the monitor off after it reached a certain point, to save us from that fixation. It’s good that she did, because I was fixated on that number. Any time it fluctuated I would instantly become anxious. I begged for her to stay long enough for my sister to see her one more time.

Around 2 o’clock she passed away on her own. My sister was still on the plane.

Nothing in the world can prepare you for that. Nothing in the world can make you able to handle watching your mother die in front of you. I sat there for two and a half days watching her pass away. Nothing in the world will ever make that okay, but at least I was there. At least I could see her one more time, but then I remember that was the last time.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent too young. She was only 47.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a child. My grandparents are in their 60’s.

Nothing can prepare you for the unexpected goodbye.

 

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It Comes With the Territory

When you’re a Librarian people tend to think you do one thing…mostly read books, or one of the following:

Thanks Google, once again spot on.

Thanks Google, once again spot on.

While I do a little bit of all of those and more, there is one thing people don’t usually think of when considering what Librarians do every day. We form relationships. We form bonds over good books and bad books. We get to know people, they get to know us, and then we get attached.

The downside to this? When a patron we’re close to passes away we take it hard.

Late this afternoon one of my regular patrons came in and asked if I knew Ms. L from down the road. Ms. L was a tough broad. She was loud and boisterous, and a ton of fun. She read a lot (a Librarians dream), and read whatever you handed her, but she would tell you if she didn’t like it. Ms. L had been battling cancer for years. She’d hit remission, but then it came back. I had noticed a decline in visits, and the last one was a couple of months ago. She went to visit her sister a couple states away.

Her doctor hadn’t given her long…but I didn’t realize it would be so soon. As soon as this patron asked if I knew her I had a sinking feeling. She said she died Monday, and that Ms. L’s husband wanted to make sure all her books came back. I told her Ms. L’s record was clear so she checked out her own books and left. I sat down and blinked back the tears. I get really attached to some patrons. Not all, and I mean they move away all the time, but for ones who you really liked and had formed a bond with…to have her die and there is no way for you to really say goodbye, well…damn, what do you do?

My boss got back from lunch and as I told her I just couldn’t blink them back anymore. So I cried for a minute before regaining my composure. Other patrons have died this year, some old age, some from accidents, but Ms. L was special to me and I know I was to her.

The last time I saw her we hugged and she felt so small…smaller than she should have. Maybe part of me knew, but didn’t want to admit what was coming. It’s hard to think about it without crying.

I suppose it comes with the territory though. Any time you get close to someone they could be gone in an instant.

I can’t go on much longer because I can only blink back so many tears. Ms. L, I’m going to miss the hell out of you. You were such a bright spot in my days at the library. I’m going to think about you often. Damn you cancer…you took a good one.

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17 years make a difference

The other evening I was in a children’s ministry leadership meeting (surprise! I joined that). One of my friends/one of the two heads of children’s ministry dropped a statistic that stuck with me. She said, “The majority of what any child feels about God is learned before they start school at age 5.”

That really hit a place in me and took me back to one of the few memories that I have/can handle remembering from my childhood. We didn’t have any sort of religious/Christian influence as small kids. We didn’t go to church, no one prayed, etc. I don’t think I even knew who/what God was until after I was 5. If anything God and Jesus Christ were just words, usually used as an expletive or something. It wasn’t that no one around me believed in Him, He just wasn’t part of our lives. My first, I suppose you can say encounter, with God happened around or after I was 8 years old. (Those years are a little foggy).

After my sisters’ father died our mother met a guy. He was renting our basement as a workshop to blow glass in. I liked to sit down there and watch him work. The melting glass was so beautiful, and he would let me play his djembe. For those of you who don’t know that’s a drum.

This is a djemba, but not the one I played.

This is a djembe, but not the one I played. Thanks Google.

Somewhere there is a picture of me playing it, but I have no idea where it is. At some point they started dating and instead of staying in the basement he start staying upstairs. It didn’t take long before the violence started, but he had my mother so dependent and scared she wouldn’t leave. A short list of things he did to us include but is not limited to:

Holding mom down and cutting her hair off, tying her down and pouring hot coffee on her (she still has scars), throwing me into walls, holding a knife against me, keeping me outside to clean grass off the road, and when I threatened to call the cops he picked me up by the neck, slammed me into the wall a foot off the ground, covered my nose and mouth to where I couldn’t breathe and said if I ever threatened to call the cops again he would kill me.

He was a warm fuzzy kinda guy, not. What does he have to do with my first encounter with God? He was the first person to take us to church. As we stood there in the back pews, surround by people singing hymns, my mother’s bruises and scars covered with clothes and make-up, I looked up at this man’s face, this man I considered to be more a monster than human, I looked at the pastor – a man ignorant to the demon in his church, I looked at the crucified Jesus statue behind him – the supposedly all seeing eyes of a loving God, and finally I looked up to the brightly lit ceiling and said to myself, if this is God, if these are Christians, and if this is what God allows, I want nothing to do with Him.

I finished singing the hymns without heart or passion. I couldn’t tell you what the sermon was because I was daydreaming of a life without the devil sitting beside me. When my step-father shaved I swear he wore the face of what I thought the devil looked like. I look back on that memory and I think how sad it was that at 8 or 9 years old I had such a negative view of life that I could turn my back on God.

Now I’m 25. The bruises and scars have faded from my skin, the demon that is my stepfather lives in a state several thousand miles from me and my family, and I have come to terms with what happened to me as a child. Occasionally I still have nightmares, but I work through them. If you follow my blog or know me in real life you know I’m a Christian now. I know it’s not His fault this monster sunk his talons into us, but He did offer more healing than therapy ever did.

And now I can breathe.

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