Friday, August 4, 2017

Norma Gay Joyner - "Momma Gay"

My blog tends to lag behind when I have to write a really difficult post. 
 It is just too hard and raw in the moment to write and I need to sit a few weeks (or months) before I can put anything into words.  
This is my third post to write about a loss of one of my grandparents.  
( You can read about Bull here, and Pepa here
 I know to most people it seems crazy to even have all four of your grandparents be married over 50 years, live over 90 years and not lose any until well into your 30s. 
But, that also makes it so hard.  
I learn to appreciate them all so much in all different stages of my life.  
I learn so much and am so thankful for every year spent with each of them.

My sweet, precious Momma Gay went to be with Jesus on July 30th, 2017.  
For months Momma Gay's health was in the ebb and flow of better and worse.  Ever since her stroke, Momma Gay has had some weakness and has had physical therapy for strength on and off.  After Pepa died, she started to get a little weaker and about 6 months ago she started having some intense bouts of dizziness and high blood pressure.  She had a couple hospital stays where she got even weaker.  She stayed a couple times in a physical therapy rehab facility in order to gain her strength.  She went back home some with lots of help and care from Mom, Aunt Jan, Uncle Ben and her sweet neighbor that was hired to care for her, Juanita. 

 Here are a few pics of the kids with either Honey or I visiting Momma Gay in the rehab facility or at home over the last couple months. She always loved visitors and every time we talked to her or at the end of a visit, she would tell us again "Come see me sometime" with smile and a hug.

Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay

Finally, she had to have a procedure to put a stent in around her kidney and after that stay in the rehab center, they made the tough decision not to bring her back home but to take her to an assisted living facility.  
A few of us worked hard one weekend to make Momma Gay's new home as cozy and familiar as possible and it ended up being such a sweet place for her to spend a few of her last days.  
She made sweet friends and went to activities every day. She was brave and social and moved around so much more than she had in months.  
It was one of my favorite things to receive a "daily report" of what Momma Gay did each day. 
 It usually went something like: 
"she ate breakfast with some new friends, exercise at 9:30 in the lobby and going to Bingo at 1:00."
  It made my day.

Momma Gay

Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay

Only about a month after moving into Brookdale, she got very sick again.  
High fever, nausea, dizziness. 
 She was taken to the hospital and initally diagnosed with pnemonia.  Her breathing was labored and an initial X ray showed what looked like fluid in her lungs.  
About 24 hours later after a CT and echo of her lungs and heart, we visited with the pulmonologist and discovered that she had cancer all in her lungs.  Tumors everywhere and that there was nothing to be done, this was the end.  It came as a real shock to be honest.  She had breast cancer when she was 70 and had a double mastectomy.  It had been 20 years and no thought of cancer even entered our mind.  We thought it was pneumonia.  
From that moment on, we started saying our goodbyes.  Every cousin came in town, visited her in the hospital.  She was semi-coherent and for every one of us and knew we were there.  But, she was mostly unresponsive her last week in the hospital.  Her breathing was so labored and her oxygen level so low.  We called in hospice and they told us there was really no reason to even do the paperwork to transfer her because they didn't think she would make the transfer home.  
So we stayed in the hospital.

Oh, but she was so strong.  Her heart was crazy strong.  That estimate of minutes and hours went on for five days.  She stayed with us.  Mom and Aunt Jan and Uncle Ben stayed around the clock for days.  I came up with Dylan and Amy pretty much every day since my big kids were in VBS.   We brought lunch, sat with her, talked with her, held her hand and kissed her face.  
Mom says what felt like endless hours, now seems like a breath.  Those days sitting with her brother and sister by her mom's side just waiting.

Timing is always so interesting to think about.  Timing is NEVER by accident.  God has his delicate and intricate hand in every breath.  In every second.  I saw it so much throughout this.  She would be fine and then get sick right after mom returned from Cayman.  Then she was well enough for Jan to go to Creede, then sick again, but well enough again for mom to go to Africa.  
Her body began its final slow down after all the trips of the summer had ended for Mom and Jan.  They didn't need to be anywhere but by her side.

This is crazy, but I have to write about this.  
Momma Gay went into the hospital this last time on a Sunday.  By Tuesday we knew about her final cancer diagnosis, had made the decision to put her on hospice and were told she wouldn't make it through the night.  
But she made it through Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday....5 more nights.  And on Sunday we had made plans to have a family swim celebration at mom and dad's house for mine and Matt's birthdays.  We decided to still have the get together since it is very difficult to find a time we can all be there.  We all came in the afternoon and swam and dad grilled out for dinner.  
Mom was torn all week about whether or not to come.  She hadn't left the hospital hardly at all in a week.  But, even on Sunday after Momma Gay surprising us all week long, the nurses just shook their heads and said "Who knows!?  She could do this a whole other week!?"  
Her oxygen intake and breaths per minute and heartrate had changed very little.  
Mom made the decision to come home, take a small breather, eat a real meal and be refreshed to celebrate life instead of anticipate death for a just a little while.  
She was home about 3 hours.  
I could tell by the end of dinner she was anxious to get back.  As soon as we finished eating, she was packing up clothes to go back.  We would help dad clean everything up and come see her tomorrow.  As she was getting into her car my Uncle Ben called and said something about Momma Gay's breathing had changed and she should probably start heading that way.  
She sped to the hospital as fast as she could.  
It takes about 8 minutes to get there.  
As she was exiting the high way, Aunt Jan called her and was saying "Hold on Mom, Carol's coming" over the phone.  
Mom parked and sprinted into the hospital room.  
She said as she got off the elevator she could hear Ben and Jan crying.  
She thought she had missed it.  
But when she ran in, said "I'm here mom, I am here" and laid her head on Momma Gay's chest and she had one last breath and one tear roll down her face. 
Aunt Jan said right before she came, there were 2 other tears.  
One for each of them.  
The tears were shocking. 
She had not had an eye open or made any sign of coherence in days.  
There is something about being there for that holy moment when an earthly temple is exchanged for the glory of heaven. 
I am so glad she made it back.  
How precious of the Lord.

The days that followed were hard.   We had to move everything we had just moved a month earlier out of her assisted living room and back to her house.  A funeral to plan, preparations to be made.   The days after a death are packed and surreal.

We had Momma Gay's funeral on the next Friday.  
Her only request in her "funeral file" was that her kids and grandkids do it "if they want to."  
So like her.  
Simple, humble, thoughtful, always thinking of others before herself.  
There's nothing we wouldn't do for her.  Amy read a verse, Brooke read a poem that Mom, Jan and Ben adapted for Momma Gay, I said a prayer and led a hymn and Bart did the eulogy.  
It was beautiful and simple and perfect.  
At the reception after the funeral, there were pictures, albums, memories and of course, a grand display of her Christmas trees.  
I am kicking myself I don't have a picture of this.  
Momma Gay has made each grandkid a costume jewelry, broken glass, framed, light-up Christmas tree (you can see mine here) and we set them all up on easels and displayed them in all their glory.  
It was a masterpiece to see.  
She would have LOVED it.

We stood together in the same columbarium at the church where we stood for Pepa what seems like a few short months ago and placed her ashes inside with his...their "apartment" together.
Momma Gay Momma Gay Momma Gay Untitled 

 In the weeks that have followed there have been multiple days and weeks of cleaning out her house. Aunt Jan and Ben and Mom have spent hours organizing, cataloging, donating and passing out all of Momma Gay and Pepa's belongings. 
Even in their tiny house of 1300 square feet and over 50 years of memories there is SO much to go through. It was the running joke for YEARS that if we ever wanted anything when they died, Momma Gay would "put our name on it." 
 For real. 
There were stickers with peoples names on them on the back of her belongings. 
Pictures, furniture, kitchen items. 
One thing I had my name on was her patio furniture. 
 I LOVE this vintage glider and table and chair she had. 
It was in pretty bad shape. 
Amy actually walked in the backyard and said "Now, What does Lindsay want out here???"
 But, after Ben did some refinishing and painting, it looks perfect on my front porch. 
And I love gliding in it and reading or watching my kids ride bikes, drive cars, and just be front yard people. 
And I love that it was Momma Gay's. 
Momma Gay Momma Gay 
 I found Kinley carrying around a purse Momma Gay gave her for her birthday or Christmas one time and it had this note in it and I just love that it is in her handwriting. 
The simplicity of life and the thoughtfulness and love she had for our family is the exact memory I always want to keep of her and emulate in my life. 
 This pretty much sums it up.
Sweet Momma Gay,
we love and miss you more than words can say.
We are excited to "Come see you" again in heaven one day.
If there are lazy boys in heaven, I know you and Pepa are keeping one warm for us.

No comments: