Tag Archives: cancer

Expiration Dates 

“Can you use two red peppers and a Vidalia onion?” our neighbor asked me with a tear in the corner of her eye. 

On the last Tuesday of May, I was headed out to get tags for our van. I stopped to chat with Louise. Steve was home on hospice. They didn’t know if it would be weeks, months, or a year. She asked Dave to burn off a pile of branches. We offered our washing machine while she was waiting for hers to be serviced. It was a quick conversation. 

On the following Sunday, she called to tell us he had passed away. 

On Thursday, I attended his visitation. Saw his military photos. Saw the folded flag. He always wore his Vietnam veteran hat. He brought us food from all the VFW picnics. All the bake sales. So many biscuits and hot dogs and cookies. But he never once talked about what he saw. Only told us that he hated when people set off fireworks on our street, because it reminded him of too many things. 

He had the kids’ birthdays memorized. Never missed a chance to buy them gifts. He and Louise visited on holidays bearing bags and boxes of treats. Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July. Goodies ended up on our door when sales were too great to pass up. Backpacks, clothes, coloring books, fruit snacks, and the craziest character socks I’ve ever seen. So many tokens of friendship. 

We sent homemade jellies and jams. Made fresh bread. We knew his favorite beef jerky and her favorite word search books. We were chastised any time we tried to give them gifts. “You spend that money on your kids! Not on us!” So I started giving them photos of the kids. It was our compromise. 

When Steve was first diagnosed with his cancer, I started texting photos. He was upset he had missed bringing their Easter gifts. I tried to tell him we did not expect gifts from a person going through chemo. The last text I received from him was less coherent than the dozens before it. I sent photos the day he died. Not sure if he saw them. 

A couple days after he died, Louise came to visit. Held Lewis for the first time. The whirlwind was over and she was left with an empty house. Full of his stuff. Where does a person even start? She started with the crisper. “These were his peppers. I don’t even like peppers. I hope you can use them.” Cancer can take a person so quickly, that even the fresh produce from the meal he requested hasn’t reached its expiration date. 

And no one knows when it’s all going to happen. Hospice makes guesses. Doctors make guesses. In the end, it happens in a living room while all the neighborhood dogs bark. 

She came with bubbles and playdoh and chalk and bibs. I remind her that we just want to see her, we don’t need gifts, but that’s not how she shows love. Arms heavy with goodies and produce. That’s how she operates. While she tells me his best friend now has cancer and got into the med trial Steve couldn’t get into. Her husband’s surgeries and radiation and chemo didn’t work. But they’re working for someone else. It’s all so arbitrary. This cancer. 

Steven Lynn Ross, 70, Carthage, MO, passed away Saturday, June 3, 2017 at his home after a lengthy illness. Steven was born September 26, 1946, in Topeka, Kansas, a son of the late Charles L. Ross and Doris L. Rowe Ross. He was a graduate of Topeka West High School, Class of 1964, and received his BA degree in Education from Emporia State College, Emporia, KS. Steven was a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam Conflict, serving with the 27th Artillery attached to the 101st Airborne. He married Margaret L. Stevenson on September 25, 1970, in Emporia; she survives. Steven was a teacher for 7 years before moving to Carthage, where he and his wife operated the 7-Eleven Convenience Store at the corner of River and Fairview, from 1977 – 1997. In 2001, he went to work for the Carthage Wal-Mart Store as a cashier and Customer Service Manager from 2001 – 2017. He was a member of the Carthage VFW Lodge, Carthage Knights of Pythias, and the Vietnam War Veterans Association and was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Carthage. 
Additional survivors include a son, Scott L. Ross, Hannibal, MO; a sister, Marcia Ross, Ft. Collins, CO; three brothers, Gary (Linda) Ross, St. Louis, MO, Richard Ross, Topeka, KS and Mark (Julie) Ross, Overland Park, KS.

The body has been cremated. Visitation will be held from 6:00 – 7:00 PM, Thursday, June 8 at Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut, Carthage, MO 64836. Private family inurnment will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts are suggested to Carthage VFW Post 2590 in care of Knell Mortuary, 308 W. Chestnut Street, Carthage, MO 64836. Online condolences may be expressed through http://www.knellmortuary.com. Arrangements are under the direction and personal care of Knell Mortuary.

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Five Minute Friday | Time [and my thoughts on Alan Rickman]

Ready, set, go…

I fell in love with Colonel Brandon when I was 12 years old. As soon as I finished watching the Dashwood Sisters’ story unfold on the big screen, I checked out Sense and Sensibility from the library. I wondered if Alan Rickman was anything like Austen’s brainchild. And he was. As a preteen, I couldn’t understand Marianne’s inability to see Colonel Brandon from the beginning. He was everything I thought I wanted in a future husband. It doesn’t surprise me that I married Dave. I never thought love would be sex and roses and vacations. I desired for love to be sacrifice. I wanted a man who poured himself out for others. Gave his time and sweat. Dave’s dad unexpectedly died a few weeks after our engagement dinner. My fiance put his college on hold, in order to take care of his mom during their crisis. He did dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and checked her homework when she was getting weary and blurry-eyed. And he worked full-time. When she lost a second husband in a decade, this time with months of notice and preparations, Dave was there again. Mowing the lawn, doing home repair, cooking, and helping with his stepdad’s care. Dave hated the word stepdad, because he said Bob was more than that. “Bob loves my mom, my wife, and my kids as his own. He’s not my stepdad. He’s one of my best friends.” And when cancer took Bob from us, I watched my husband. My own Colonel Brandon. The one who does for others. Alan Rickman was an actor. A phenomenal one. And cancer took him, too. But I watch Sense and Sensibility with my breath caught in my chest. I marvel at how beautifully he portrays Brandon. Of all Austen’s men, the Colonel is one of my favorites. And when Mr. Rickman reads Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, I am transported to a 12-year-old Lyndse. Hoping she gets to marry a man who reads to her. And a couple decades later, she did. My love reads to me. My love has one of his degrees in English Literature. My love cares for others when things are falling apart and storms are raging and all hope seems lost. Austen wrote the man. Alan brought him to life. And I get my own little piece in my real life world. The one that’s filled with cancer and heartache and true love. Austen lived in that world, too. It’s why she was able to make a girl in 1995 fall in love with an ideal. RIP Alan Rickman. You will be greatly missed.

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Time’s up…join me at katemotaung.com for five minutes of raw, unedited, from-the-heart writing.

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I Bet Jesus Was Sad About Joseph

“Why do all the good dads die?” I mumbled it after Dave came into the bedroom to tell me that our friend’s dad had died during a surgery that was meant to save his life. We go to his memorial service on Friday. His heart failed. It had been failing for two decades.

Sunday will be the 11th anniversary of Mike’s death. Dave’s dad died after one heart attack. And I still remember our second Christmas without him. I don’t actually remember the first. I was numb. And so many people brought meat and cheese trays. I put bags and bags of party platters into the freezer. No one knows what to do when a woman is unexpectedly widowed.

I did laundry and dusted and helped write an obituary. And Dave sobbed on my shoulders so many times that I started carrying a dish towel. I looked like a grandma during the Dust Bowl. So much sadness, wearing my future mom-in-law’s apron. And I don’t remember much else.

We went to the midnight service at a local church and the pastor preached about how difficult Christmas is when you lose someone you love. Perfect. Because we really needed to be told that our life was difficult at that candlelight ceremony. Not even two weeks after Mike’s death. “You’re an idiot.” My thoughts toward that poor clergyman. He was right. But my heart was on a continuum with apathetic at one end and overfeeling everything at the other. Each day was a surprise.

That second Christmas was heartbreaking. And I can still feel the pain. Enough time had passed to make the ache unbearable. I had just graduated college, and Mike wasn’t there. He was supposed to be there, but he was dead.

“Everyone dies, Lyndse. Everyone.” I knew Dave was right. Bright and early Thanksgiving morning. “I can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving and their dad is dead. I wish mine was dead instead.”

I don’t understand how we go about decorating and baking and wassailing when Mike and Bob and Randy are dead. This holiday season that’s about new life. And life for everyone who wants it. But there are heads of tables that are empty this year. Or they’re seating first-born sons or beautiful granddaughters or a strange plant sent to the funeral home.

This is our first Christmas without Bob. And I will remember every detail of this season. Because several months have passed. I’m no longer numb. I’m aware that he won’t be here. We’ve survived his birthday, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, Linda’s birthday, Elizabeth’s birthday, Graham’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Adelaide’s birthday. And every Sunday. So many firsts. So many times he should’ve been here. The sting of death doesn’t dull with time. Only songwriters who have never lost anyone pen those words.

But this is our first Christmas without him. Last year, he was on hospice dying in the living room. We were celebrating this tiny baby in a manger, while my children’s only papa was weaker than a newborn.

I’ve lost two dads, who were barely mine to even claim, in two opposite ways. The sudden and the horrifically prolonged. They are both ghastly. Each in their own way.

My second mom is a widow again at Christmas. I wish my own mom was a widow. And even though Dave is right, that everyone is dying, I want the good dads alive. Death wasn’t the original plan. And I’m often at a loss about how to reconcile it all. Knowing Mike and Bob and Randy are all safe. It doesn’t take that heartbreak away.

I don’t know if Alissa gets a numb or engraved-in-her-mind Christmas this year. Her loss is unique to her. But I know that Jesus lost his earthly dad, too. Jesus knows how we feel. I bet Jesus was sad about Joseph. And Joseph was missed. And remembered. And there were festivals and banquets and recitation of prophecy, and he wasn’t there. And Jesus knew that He needed to march to that cross to save his own earthly father. The man who loved his mother and siblings and worked to care for her and protect her. 

And all the good dads die, because everyone dies.

So I’m extra thankful this year that we’re still not fatherless this December. Emmanuel, God with us. He went from creator of the universe to a baby to a man who lost his own dad to a man who saved his own dad and everyone who wanted it. And Mike and Bob and Randy and Kess and Kevin wanted it and received it and that makes this Christmas bearable.

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A Tale Of Two Gait Belts

“We’re going to count to three, and then stand? Are you ready? Put your arms around my neck.” I wasn’t talking to my 3-year-old with hypotonia. We were moving my dad-in-law from his hospice bed to a lift chair. My first experience with a gait belt. Helping a man almost twice my weight. A man who was losing his battle with stage 4 brain cancer. At the time, I couldn’t help but think of our little Adelaide. We practice safe transfers. Safe lifting. Safe carrying. But she is getting bigger. Gained 7 pounds since her birthday. Would she need a gait belt? She and her Papa Bob were both in diapers. Using wheelchairs. Having seizures, not able to drink from cups, entire muscle groups not cooperating…

Photo - Gait Belt Article

Finish reading over on the Firefly Friends blog.

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Mom Confession: An Envious Heart

I battle with being envious. I would say I struggle with it, but I think battle is a better word choice. Because I literally feel like I am wrestling and punching envy in the face. Every day.

It’s embarrassing. And the people closest to me see it in my body language, sarcasm, and text messages.

It’s not that I covet what others have. I don’t want them to lose what they have. I just want us both to have it. Which is still infantile. I compare myself to most people around me and wonder why my hand of cards is full of whatever cards are undesirable. I just realized I don’t know anything about cards. This analogy didn’t work out…like a lot of things in my life right now.

I read an article the other day where a dad said he had never, not even once, wondered what his kid would’ve been like without a disability. He said that he just embraced it from day one and makes the best of every moment. Well, he’s a saint. Because I think about it everyday. I wonder what Adelaide would’ve been like without a genetic abnormality…if that’s even what happened. We honestly have zero clues about what caused Adelaide’s disabilities. But I don’t make the most of it. And I find myself envious, just for a moment, of a man who can live his life never wondering. And I keep envy in check when I hear people talk about their ‘perfect’ babies. But it’s not easy.

I am envious when I see people with passive, compliant children. I don’t want everyone to have strong-willed kids who stretch you to your breaking point everyday. I just wonder how I ended up with two strong-willed kids. Two-thirds of my children. Some people have double the number of children I have, and all their children listen and obey and smile at strangers. Not mine. Two of them are acting like escapees from a chain gang, while the other is trying to eat her poop. It’s exhausting. And parents of compliant kids seem to be having more fun with life.

I get envious when people make money. Because I can’t. I’ve tried. A lot. And I fail. I’ve closed two businesses in less than 4 years. And I can’t even sell stuff in local groups. Or at consignment sales. I have wasted so much time trying to make money. And end up losing us money. So I sometimes envy women who can list the stuff they would throw in the trash and people throw themselves at the opportunity to buy it. Or they are successful in business and are able to provide for their families. If I even wanted to go back to my career-before-kids, I wouldn’t make money. I was a special education teacher. I would spend my entire paycheck on daycare for Adelaide. And there are zero daycares that would even take Graham and Bess.

Don’t even start on blogs or books or articles. This seems to be my biggest envy trap. I can’t make money with my writing. I’ve been turned down three times as many times as I’ve been published. And unless I’m writing something controversial, people don’t read my writing. Other bloggers can write about how they wash their dishes and get 27 comments and a book deal. I share my heart and get weird private messages about how I don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t know my own opinions and feelings? I tried affiliate links for a season. I lost half my readers and made $6.50. So I bought goodies for our sponsor kids. I can’t make money and I can’t grow a community…whatever that means. I’ve tried to emulate the successful mommy bloggers, and it doesn’t work for me.

I also envy people with awesome dads. Because my ‘dad’ is an imprisoned sex offender and the only man who was like a dad to me died of cancer. And Dave’s dad died of a heart attack. I don’t want everyone to have bad dads or dead dads. I just hate being in this camp. It’s one of the worst camps. Because everyone wants a dad. It’s completely normal. And I don’t have one.

I envy people who know their purpose. Their God-sized dream. The reason they wake up in the morning and give it their all. I don’t. I wake up wondering how I’m going to get through the day and do everything Adelaide needs done. And I tried to read a stack of ‘find your purpose’ books, which sent me into a dark place. I envy those people who are passionate about their goals and dreams. I don’t even have any.

When I shared all of this with Dave, in the Wal-Mart parking lot, he took my hand and told me that he didn’t have any answers. Except something his dad used to say. That we don’t compare ourselves to others when we are fearing God. When we fear man, we focus on others. Fearing God means realizing that God is holy and perfect and omniscient and omnipotent. It shifts our focus.

When I look to God and confess, “I want what I don’t have and I don’t understand why I don’t have it.” He shows me all that He has already given me. Salvation and relationship. It doesn’t erase my natural inclination to be envious. Always thinking, “What am I doing wrong? Why don’t I have this and that and them?” The focus is still on me.

A couple weeks back, my pastor quoted Numbers 6:24-26.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you, The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

I jotted down in my notes: the juxtaposition of turning His face when Jesus was on the cross absorbing all the wrath.

God had to turn His face from His Son, so that He could look on me now. And I’m envious of the people around me, because I stopped looking into His face. I ceased fearing Him the way He deserves. A completely Holy God who wants fellowship with me. This frazzled woman, who feels broken and rejected and lonely. Whose kids are so high-maintenance. Whose words don’t go very far. Whose purpose seems foggy. He holds my face and says, “Stop looking around so much. Just look to me.” The answer to an envious heart isn’t trying to rid myself of envy. The answer is in changing my gaze. Eye contact and heart connection with the One I should be fearing.

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