Monthly Archives: July 2022

Of Braids and Grace

She was my little girl.

On school mornings, I would comb her brown hair into two pigtails before school, and she always had an opinion. She would feel them gingerly, then hold up her thumb and forefinger and measure from her ear to the braid, then carefully holding the space between her fingers, check the distance from her other ear to the other braid to see if they were the same distance apart. Because I knew that this was going to happen, I would try hard to make sure that they were as even as possible. If they weren’t, she would tug and tug at the one that wasn’t right so that it would be a bit more compliant. I would secretly look at the result and think that the offending braid wasn’t actually moved that much, but it was the principle of the thing! At least she felt better about it.

There came a time, as a fifth grader that she wanted to go to New York City with her Grandpa and Grandma Yoder and decided that she would learn to comb her own hair. She didn’t want to have something as simple as needing someone to comb her hair to prevent her from having an adventure, and though she knew her Grandma would do it, she did not want to have to rely on anyone. And so, she learned.

The years passed. My girlie grew up. She graduated from high school, went to Bible school, went to Bangladesh, and from there set out to travel the world, taking any excuse to go on yet another excursion, independent, brave, and strong. She became an RN, and took a job as a hospice nurse which she has held for over 11 years. She made friends that were loyal, loved the many children in her life, bought land, built a house, loved her church and neighborhood and family with intent and abandon. She grieved the losses of things that mattered to her, and she laid aside her dreams of marriage and children without rancor or bitterness or resentment, though she sometimes cried when choosing what she knew was right over compromise.

She is still my girlie, though she is an adult.

These last weeks have been hard for her. There was the sudden diagnosis of breast cancer, and almost as suddenly, a double mastectomy. She had never been hospitalized, much less had even minor surgery, and the anesthesia and pain meds had a debilitating effect upon her. When she finally got awake enough to realize that she was the only patient left in recovery and that the nurses were staying late because of her, she forced herself to sit up, and then instructed those responsible to get her dressed and get her out of there. She came home nauseated and teary and in so much pain. Somehow the hospital messed up and didn’t get her prescriptions called in as they said they would and there was an anguished gap in some much needed meds. But we made it with some desperate, pleading prayers (with the help of some close, professional friends). The next five days were pretty much as expected but then came the nagging pain in the leg, then the shortness of breath, and then the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in the leg and pulmonary emboli in both lungs. This time she got admitted to the hospital, and spent two long days trying to find answers, solutions and resolution. It was a holiday weekend, and although her caregivers tried hard, the hospital was understaffed, orders got overlooked and the days were long. It was a huge relief to her to finally come home on Tuesday night to her house, her cat and the familiar.

One of the things that she is not allowed to do is comb her hair. It is hard for her to accept. Her bout with Covid caused her hair to thin, and just when it seemed like things were starting to replenish a bit, she got hit with this surgery and it’s falling out at an alarming rate. There is really nothing she can do about it, and even if there was, she couldn’t do it for herself.

So once again, this Mama is combing her girlie’s hair. I pull the brush as gently as I can through the thin tresses and then I braid it in one lone braid down the back. She never moves to measure distance, but I look at the braid and it isn’t straight. I wonder what she’s thinking. I resist the urge to try to tug it a bit to the right and say, “I don’t know, Deborie-girl. It’s not very straight . . . “

“I know,” she says, matter of factly. And then, as she has said a hundred times over these last two weeks, “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Thank you, Mama.” My eyes burn with sudden tears because I know that behind those quiet words is another decision. It does matter. I know it does. But she has decided that anything someone does for her is going to be considered a gift, and she is not going to complain. I pick up the brush and carry it to the bathroom and put it away. I think about courage and strength and love and hard decisions. I think about how hard this could be for us all, including Deborah, if she gave in to the preferences that sit firmly in her OCD’d brain and thank God for Grace extended – to us through her, and to her, through the One who gave her to us in the first place.

You know, It’s a pretty special thing to be able to comb my girlie’s hair. I am glad for this opportunity. I’m so thankful that I can walk this journey with an adult daughter, and have the opportunity to help in any way that I can, even if I don’t always get it right. And I’m glad that she isn’t measuring the distance from her braid to her ear. I would really come up short.

For this, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.

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July 4, 2022

  Almost every year for the past 25 years or more, on this particular day, Shady Acres has had a big picnic with friends from church, family, neighborhood and even from afar, gathering to eat, play, and fellowship. There was always the Jones Express, activities for the children as well as the adults, relays and water games and it was hot, with flies and other things that bothered, but it all seemed to be worth it!

Life happens, and the last seven years have taken a toll on Certain Man and Delaware Grammy. There have been so many things to come into consideration and we realize that we aren’t as young as we once were. (Fancy that!) Also, The June days of these last years have held deaths and funerals and health crises and so many unexpected schedule challenges.

This year is no different. We had hoped to have the annual picnic this year until Middle Daughter’s cancer diagnosis and we realized that surgery was going to complicate more than just her life. It was with a great deal of relief, actually, that we realized that the Certain Man and Delaware Grammy were on the same page in their thinking. There was to be no Fourth of July Picnic at Shady Acres this year.

However, I had planned to have a quiet day, and maybe Middle Daughter would have recovered enough from her bilateral mastectomy that she could join us for an afternoon cookout as a family. If not, we could go over to Ambleside Cottage and at least be together as a local family.

Instead, I’m heading for the hospital this morning. Deborah was admitted yesterday with blood clots in both lungs and one in her left leg. She is doing pretty well. She is discouraged, and there has been a lot of pain. Please pray for our girlie. Our Heavenly Father is not surprised by this, and He walks with us. It makes even my darkest valley a place to walk with courage and confidence, and I am so grateful. But it’s hard to see our children suffer (something that has happened to us a lot in the past two years) and if He wasn’t with me? I do not like to even think about it.

So say a prayer for us, but especially for our Deborah Girl. We are so grateful for the love, support and prayers that have been so freely given to us. We need the prayers of those we love and who love us. 

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