Dec 14, 2012

Basket of Blessings

Winter storms have been pelting the Pacific Northwest with wind and rains, but my heart is filled with the gratitude of the season, and the many blessings amidst so many challenges.

So, I am updating a previous post with new thoughts and for all of you who are from the Eagle River, Alaska even newer update on my brother and his long journey through intense medical challenges.

So, 'Big Al', thanks for your nice letter and I am so happy that my blog has been able to connect you and my brother's current medical condition. I have received a lot of letters over the past 6 months, where people wrote me and said "I came across your blog and..." regarding this and it is so delightful to know that my little 'quilting blog' has been able to serve a greater purpose in the world bringing people and information together. That is exactly why I began it in 2006, but I never dreamed it (or I) would transition to where we are today.

My 'miracle' brother was able to get a day pass from his current specialty hospital to go to his daughter's home in Portland for Thanksgiving Day! He was able to meet a new little granddaughter for the very, very first time in all of these many, many months since her birth. He had been in a medically induced coma in Anchorage, Alaska when his son and daughter-in-law had brought her up from Texas to meet her Alaskan grandparents in June.

Oh, such a past six months this has been! All of us flying in from different areas of Alaska or Oregon or Texas just to be near him as we all prayed for a miracle. Six months, three states, and four hospitals brother is walking with the aid of a walker, making up and down long hallways in the specialty care hospital in Hillsboro.

He is aware, bright, positive, and focused on bringing mind, body, and spirit back to full and abundant health. And now, with his family, feeling so much to be thankful for, and watching his grandchildren laugh and play.

His doctor even thought that he might be ready to go home to his daughter's home where his wife is now staying in another week or two...but they ended shortening that time period...and he is there now! Another amazing miracle of miracles.

I have been so fortunate to have been a part of all of his  journey, to have been able to be with him in Eagle River, Anchorage, Seattle, and Portland during all of these months and to see his progress..minute by minute, day by day.

I have been blessed to be able to manage driving on I-5 through massive gridlock, crazy drivers (I'm sure they say the same thing about me!) one to two days a week for the past 4 plus months as I picked up my SIL to bring her to see my brother, and then later to join her in a lunch and running of her errands.

A SIL who lived 1,200 miles away for the past 40 years is now a friend, as well as a relative. And I continue to ask for blessings for her as she seeks a kidney transplant. She is getting so much weaker now from the constant dialysis. She hopes to begin an immune-suppressing regime through dialysis, soon, to wipe out her own immune system so that she will be more open to accepting an O+ kidney as the high antibodies type that she needs has yet to be found.

Now, my heart is so full and so grateful, and I am even more focused on my own almost 97 year old mother-in-law, Dorothy, as she is now in full hospice care with advanced bone cancer. I am fortunate to be able to spend as much as three hours a day.....up from my previous one hour that I 'thought' was all I could fit in...with her just keeping her company and distracted by my she puts it..."chatterbox" ways ;) 

I am definitely a distraction, if nothing else ;) and while my own hospice gifts have always wanted to focused on looking at one's own life and the things we were able to do and to share with others, each of us chooses our own way to spend our final time and that is how it should be. So, I am bucking up and sharing her life as she chooses to live it, by keeping her company during her countless hours of 'The Price is Right' or 'Let's Make a Deal' and I am doing just fact, better than I thought I would!   I have learned that this world, and this life, is so crazy, anyway .....why I should I even think to make light of TV shows that simply mirror our own projected zaniness! We can appear to be one crazy world of strange people even at our best..can't we?

This MIL have had 40 years of our own changes and transformations and I think now, she truly realizes that I can love her, and stand up for her and her rights, unconditionally. And it has been just that.  Placing a loved one in an adult care home is almost as challenging as caring for my own mother in our childhood home on an island in Alaska. Not nearly as hard, physically or emotionally, but harder to make her, and our wishes understood. It is just far too easy for other to medicate and often over medicate the elderly when they perceive the need. Often their perceptions are off key as they do not truly know or understand our family members, as we do with our close and long term relationships.

My own mother, sweet and tiny thing that she is, is going deeper and deeper into that last stage and my heart is so dearly joined with hers across the miles. She and I have been through so very much together in the past 10 years. She lived with me, here in Oregon, for almost a year battling cancer and survivedd her five year milestone only to face the horrific challenges of Alzheimer's disease. And I have lived with her and my father, many months combined into many, many years during the first 5 years as the Alzheimer's began its slow stripping away of all that she knew herself to be, as I helped both of them through so many illnesses with so much love. I am so grateful to have been there for both of them, helping my dad face my mother's illness, and then his own, as he prepared for his own transition and passed in August of 2010.

And now the bond between my little mama and I, is so beyond the physical that I can literally sense everything she would say to me if she could. And she wants me here, doing the work that I am doing, in her place for her son and her DIL, and for my own married into family with my MIL, as well. Bless you, sweet mama for being so dear, and so close all of this heart time. I hear you, sense, you and connect fully with all that we still share.

I have learned such an incredibly, amazing, unbelievable amount about relationships, about the depth of love, and care giving, and had opportunities for spiritual growth that I would never have otherwise had.And no, I am not nearly done yet. So much more to learn, to experience, to go through. But I know I can do it, now more than ever.

I attended the funeral recently of a dear friend of 40 year's mother. A lovely, lovely woman who never spoke one word of gossip, or harm in her entire life... and I just felt so blessed to know that goodness still walks in purity in this world as I shared her passing with her dear family. Please hold my friend, Patti, and her family in your thoughts as her son is not progressing from his life threatening car accident in April.

That is a challenge I can only never hope to experience and my heart is full of prayers for her and their family for continued love and strength. Let them learn to forgive the elderly man who drove through the marked and flashing lights lights of the pedestrian crosswalk to hit this young man full on and toss and break his young body and once bright mind, so badly. I pray that somewhere inside, the elderly man will choose to now finally give up his driving license, and can forgive himself, as I know they will someday be able to do for him, as well.

Life can be so hard and so challenging sometimes but I as you know from reading here, somehow, I still sew, still quilt, still donate to my special charities and causes with my handiwork.  It can be all done, you just adjust everything......especially your expectations of yourself and others! And sometimes, that is just what we need to learn!

So much to learn with every new experience about just how much each of us is truly capable of if our hearts and hand are open to life's opportunities for growth.

And now...yes, I am very, very, very tired. My constant and severe sleep deprivation has now shown me in a lot of ways, just how Alzheimer's feels and in some ways how it works. I now have two commuter travel mugs as one is always in a place I did not mean to leave it!  And yes, I keep getting those phone calls from others or I am making them..did I leave my coffee cup there? Did I leave my coat up there?  I can only hope that mine is this acute sleep deprivation! But boy, do I now know how A.D. patients feel in their own early stages!

I see a newly covered little meditation stool in the sacred healing space of my sewing loft. Time to just sit for a spell, count my blessings and watch the winter storms cleansing breath as it sheds the last of the falling leaves and allows for the entry of December and a new time of growth and abundance.

A time for peacefulness, for prayer through contemplation and meditation and yes.....even by needle and thread.... as I share my own spirit through the healing journey of the process of working with the loveliness of cloth and the beautiful serenity that creativity inspires.

I am so blessed to be able to still take time for myself and my own joys of being, and doing, as I love to do. May you be so blessed as well!

And now here in Oregon, as I have gone through another yet transition of saying goodbye to one laptop that has gone over the 'computer rainbow bridge' and trying to learn another system and all of its upgraded by technology changes....I am behind on my emails forgive me!

And of course, our state has made the news as that desperate young man did so much harm up in Portland's Clackamas Town Center shopping mall on Tuesday.

Please keep the 2 people and their families, and the one young 15 year old girl, who was badly injured, in all of your thoughts and prayers. I am also sending positive and healing thought to the 10,000 total number of people in that mall. I know that the impact of this tragic event will haunt many for a very long time.

We have so many markers, so many triggers, so many challenges. But this season, over so many others is a time for the deepest of reflection, the most meaning filled contemplation and hopefully, understanding.

So, I have to also be grateful that we chose to go shopping in Portland on Monday, and not on Tuesday, when so much happened and so much chaos ensued. May this be the calm after the storm and may we all feel the abundance of blessings that are ours even during an intensified period of challenges.

shown at top:
The discovery of a little 'orphan' block led to this simple but very sweet little cover for my meditation stool. I sit herere, and just breathe quietly. I allow love and peace to flow inside, and out, and through me and throughout and about me to all that is, and that I am a part of. I feel such gratitude in just being able to sit, to have the goodness of the gift of the block, and to be able to redo my faded cover with a simple one that I quickly tied on with corner ribbons!

Michele Bilyeu blogs at With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska and all of her AAQI Quilting. Sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join in the Liberated Quilting Challenge and make or donate small art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI)
Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!


stitchinpenny said...

Love truly flows throughout your life. Hopefully good things come for your brother and sister in law and they continue to be in my prayers along with the rest of your family.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful post as always. You lift me up just reading here. Thankyou.

*karendianne. said...

You put the real importance and meaning of our journey here down on "paper" in a way few can. I have so much admiration and respect for your beautiful way of reflecting/processing the tragic along with the gifts. You are such a healer, M! Thank you for taking the time to share the depths...

Unknown said...

The way you live your life is truly an inspiration to me & so many others. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing.

Wendz said...

Michelle, how blessed you are to be able to show such grace and peace despite being battered by lifes twists and turns; an example to myself and others that we all need to hope and have faith. Wishing you the opportunity to regain your much needed sleep and energy.

Lynne said...

And you make time for such beautiful, long, thought-provoking posts!

Paula, the quilter said...

You are so very centered. Bless you.

Diane Wild said...

Your posts are so healing for me. Thank you for your insightful words. I've been struggling with Roger's absence of late. But, I have so much to be thankful for. Thank you, again and bless you.

Michele Bilyeu said...

Bless you all and thank you for your kind and generous comments. Just so you know, I am fully human and not always centered. That's why I get sent over to sit on the little stool..a lot ;)

There is so much pain, so much hard, hard loss, so many challenges..over and over for all of us.

I just really, really try to see why they are happening..what it is that I am needing to learn, what part of my own human self is being mirrored back to me for healing.

jenclair said...

Blessings to you and your mother as she faces her final days.
She has had a long battle, but has been fortunate in her daughter.

bohemiannie! art said...

You really have been through so much. It's the gratitude for what's right that has lifted you up. I'm grateful I found your blog today.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for being so sharing of your life and your stories. This blog and these stories mean so much to me.

quiltmom anna said...

My dear Michele,
I don't even know how to convey the powerful emotion that this post evokes. The tears fall down my cheeks as I contemplate your words- There is much to be thankful for each day- even on those dark days when our loved ones are faced with insurmountable ( or so it seems) challenges. I am glad to hear of your brother's progress- so joyeous that he can be with his family and the new baby.
when I lost a friend to cancer a few years ago, one of the gifts she gave me was the value of time spent just being and doing with a loved one. It wasn't so important what we did, it was that we were together enjoying each other's company. I miss my friend and our times together. Your piece reminded me of that gift.
May your loved ones enjoy a wonderful festive season. May you find some time to contemplate and stitch. Know that you are a talented lady who does much to enrich the lives of others. It is one of your special gifts given with so much love and caring. Your mama and MIL can feel your love as do your sister in law and brother. That loving thoughtfulness is a great treasure.
Sending a big hug and warm wishes,