Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anxiety - And What I Think I'm Supposed to Be Learning

In this post, I'm going to share a little bit about the anxiety I've been feeling, but first, I need to acknowledge that life has been generally happy and full around here.

For example, Spencer could hardly wait for his first basketball game last Saturday:

And when we dragged Eric to "Hobby Lobby" the other day, he actually found a hot chocolate mug that he liked very much. It is now sitting in our cupboard (and the photo doesn't do it justice).

We were also able to have a beautiful Spanish-speaking family over for Family Night.  It was fantastic.

Grace gave the lesson (and our friend Margaret translated), and then we all drew pictures of things we're thankful for.  I drew my new friends saying, "We are going to help you with your Spanish." (Because I've been practicing a little bit each day, and I SO appreciate the patience of those who don't mind that I make a ton of mistakes.)

Our Disney passes are still active for a few more months, so I took my children on a day trip to California Adventure when they were out of school Friday:

As I look at these photos and realize how many wonderful things I have in my life, I don't quite understand how I can feel anxiety. However, it's been heavy lately, and I've been fighting it.

Normally I feel "excited when I wake up" and "content when I go to sleep." That's kind of my mantra.  Not that everything has ever been perfect, but I love family life and the projects I'm working on, and each night when I think about my day, I usually can see that I've done my best and that things are moving forward.

However, for several days during this past week, I woke up with heavy anxiety and went to bed wondering what was wrong with me.

Eric noticed I wasn't "myself" and started asking lots of questions--trying to help me identify what I was so worried about. (He's great at that.)

He reminded me that we're all physically healthy and spiritually healthy.  We have everything we need, our home is in order, we have wonderful friends, and life is going really well.

I know that. And I appreciate that. So why was I so anxious?

I spent a couple of hours alone and analyzed myself. (Do you do that?)

And then I discovered that it comes right back to the fact that I'm losing my mom.

I hesitated to write about this--again--because I feel like I write about her so much, and goodness, can't I just accept that Alzheimer's is taking her away?

Can't I stop worrying and stop letting it affect me?

But I realized that when someone is going through a loss like this, it has to sit somewhere.  And it has to come out some way. The best solution I've come up with is to sit, read, pray, think, and write. Then I feel like I can keep going.

(And while I would prefer to keep it private, I keep receiving messages from readers who are also losing loved ones, and so I'm writing all of this publicly--with the hope that we will be strengthened as we go through this together.)

So here's my story from this past Thursday:

I'd made plans to go to our temple with my mom and dad--most likely for the last time.  Eric had planned to take care of our children so I could focus on my parents, but around 11:00, I received a call from my sister Lisa letting me know that it wasn't a good day for my mom.

"She has nothing to give today," Lisa said. "She can hardly stand up and she couldn't eat her breakfast by herself. Her head is hanging down, and she's basically been sleeping the whole day."

In light of that news, I opted to try for the temple another time and instead take Alia, Grace, Ethan, and Spencer with me to spend the evening with my parents like we usually do.

It turned out that Mom had had a bad reaction to a new medication--which made her much more sleepy than usual. She's doing a lot better now that we've stopped that medicine, but the hours I spent with her in that state keep replaying in my mind.

For the first hour, we sat in the living room together, and I rested my head on her arm.  Just letting her sleep.

Finally, it was time to start making dinner, so I brought her into the kitchen and tried to pat her cheeks and wake her up.  (Alia took these photos.)

When she did wake up, I fed her eggs and toast for dinner, and she ate all of it happily.  She just couldn't use the fork by herself anymore.  (Last week, she ate salad with her butter knife and used a spoon to eat pasta...)

Then her eyes LIT UP when I mentioned that we had ice cream for dessert.  (Oh, it was so cute.)

Alia brought out my mom's journal from a couple of years ago (she isn't able to write anymore), and I read the entries aloud.  Pure sweetness.

After dinner, the girls tried to teach my mom how to do the Macarena (which she used to love), and even though she couldn't remember any of it, I think she liked seeing us all dancing around the kitchen with her while Ethan was doing the dishes. (Thanks, Ethan!)

This is a screen shot of a video I took... Sorry if the "play" button on there is confusing.
 Then we did a photo shoot:

At bedtime, I handed her her toothbrush--which she usually could manage with no problem.  She used to scrub her teeth thoroughly and swish with water a few times until her teeth were sparkling. But this time, she slowly touched the toothbrush to her lips and then sat there frozen.  I brushed her teeth for her, and then she swallowed all the toothpaste because she didn't remember that she needed to spit into the bowl I was holding in front of her.

When there were quiet moments throughout the night, I put my face right in front of hers, kissed her on her cheeks, hugged her, and said, "I love you so much Mom. I love you so much."

She always said, "I love you, too." But then she started to study my face carefully--looking at my eyes and my nose and my chin--like she was trying to figure out who I was. Sometimes when we're together, she will call me by name, but three times now, I've asked her if she knows my name, and she doesn't even try to answer.

That part hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be--because I can see that she is not herself.

But to be perfectly honest, every time I pack my children in the car, kiss my dad goodbye, and start the drive home, I feel like my insides are crumbling.

I went on a walk the other day with a friend who lost her mom several years ago--when she was in her twenties and her mom was in her fifties.  Her mother had a stroke, and she was gone quickly.  Her "goodbye" was too short.

In many ways, I'm incredibly grateful for this long goodbye, but I just don't know if there's any way to make it easier.

Besides writing about it.  This makes it easier.

And the impression I keep getting from the Lord is that He wants me to build my faith.  He needs me to know with a certainty that families are forever.  He needs me to trust that this life isn't the end and that while our bodies will slow down and eventually die, our spirits never will.  He needs me to know that He has the power to heal me--from everything--and He needs me to depend on Him with everything I have.

The Lord has this beautiful ability to take our pain and turn it into something beautiful.  I feel Him doing that with me.  Sometimes I feel like I'm a failure if I feel anxiety, but I need to see those feelings as a catalyst for turning my heart more fully to the Lord.  I understand more now why He is called "The Prince of Peace" and "The Great Physician." And I have a deeper knowledge of how His power works in our daily lives and calms us when we need Him most.

If nothing else, I hope that sharing this process can help others know that the Lord is aware of each of us and is available to help us in our unique challenges. That is one thing I know for sure. When we step back and look at the whole of our lives, we can see how good they are and how beautiful they are. We can see that the Lord is blessing us in so many ways--even when life feels hard. He is amazing, and I will keep moving forward--trusting that He knows what He is doing.

Much love,


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  2. Thank you for sharing April. I lost my mom to breast cancer almost 8 years ago. Way too soon, she was only 63. After her surgery and rounds of chemo, it appeared that the cancer was gone. For the next year and a half, we enjoyed spending time together as a family, like always. When the cancer came back, it came back with a vengance, and we only had about two months with her before she passed away. During those two months, I was not able to spend near as much time with her as I would have liked, for several different reasons that were beyond my control at the time. She had a horrible reaction to the chemo this time, and ended up in the hospital. We thought she was getting better, well enough to come home, but then she went downhill so quickly that she was gone 4 days later. My children and their cousins did not get to enjoy time with their grandma, and never really got to say goodbye. I still look at those last few months with such sadness, sad that I could not take care of her as much as I would have liked to, sad that I could not help help or take away her pain, emotionally and physically. She was NOT ready to die, and wouldn't even really discuss it. It was not a subject she would let us talk about. She LOVED her family more than anything, and it was too hard for her to let go. She was honestly such an amazing grandma. She loved her children, but she adored her grandchildren. And they adored her. My younger brother only had two children at the time, a 5 year old and a 2 year old, who don't really remember her, especially the 2 year old. They have added 4 more beautiful children to their family, who I am sure got to know their grandma before they came to Earth. 3 great grandchildren have been born, and I know they knew her too. My children, and my twin brother's children were so lucky to have had her for as long as they did! The oldest (my daughter) was 19, and the youngest was 11. My kids were especially close to her, as we lived close by, and they have so many wonderful memories with their grandma!! My way of keeping my mom's memory alive, and honoring her, is by following her example. I adore my brother's children, and I adore my grandson. I try my best to be just like her, and love them with all my heart, and show them in word and deed. The greatest compliment I think I have ever received is when my niece, when she was about 11, said, "I know you are our Aunt, but you are more like our grandma. You do the things that Grandma Knecht would have done for us if she were here." I go on field trips with them, go to their sports games, help in their class at school, have lots of sleepovers and movie nights, celebrate birthdays and holidays with them, take them to the park, cook for them, play with them, and love them. And I will do the same with my new little grandson, and all the other grandchildren that come. Though it breaks my heart to have lost my mom so young and way to soon, trying to be like her brings me joy. I feel my nieces and nephews will know their grandma through me. And they bring me so much joy and happiness. Your mom is so blessed to have you for a daughter, and I know you have been so blessed to have her as your mom. I can't imagine how hard it is to watch her slip away. Keep up with the blogging, and sharing your story. Love you!

    1. I'm way late responding to this, but I have been thinking about it ever since you posted it. What beautiful memories you've shared. I love and admire you!

  3. Thank you, April. I learn so much from you.


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