A Tremendous Year.

A Tremendous Year.

Like most Moms my “year”  is set with school, it runs August-August.  The beginning of my year is filled with back to school, Halloween, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the beginning of the calendar New Year.  Then the mad crush of reorganizing (my kids don’t call me MoMica for nothing!) and a push towards Spring Break.  You get the picture, you’re likely the same as me.  
This school year has been marked with something else.  A tremendous year, for so many reason.  The start of High School, a Dasher (DSHA) in the house makes my heart happy, one on the cusp of double digits, my youngest steam rolling towards his First Communion.  The seemingly endless search for our land, so we can build our dream house continues, with hope of finding what we have in mind.  Big changes with my husband and brother in laws company.  So much excitement!  So much to look forward too! We were on the brink of the best year ever, until we were not.

Out of nowhere I was on my knees, where I would remain for months.   I didn’t know it at the time, but I would spend  the next 5 months on my knees.

I’ll start at the beginning; late September I was woken from a deep sleep in the early morning by my ringing phone (a middle of the night call in the months to come I would grow to hate).  This call coming in from my Mom in North Carolina, whispering into the phone “I do not have a Mommy or a Daddy anymore”.  My Nanna was gone.  I had gone to bed believing this 95 1/2 year old woman would outlive me, and I woke up to a world slightly darker for she had left it.

The photo is the only photo ever taken of all my my Nanna’s grandchildren in the same place. That was her gift to us, in her death she slowed us all down and gathered us from all over the world to be together, if only for a brief, shining moment to celebrate her life, and legacy.[/caption]I returned from her funeral just in time for Halloween.  It was good to be back.  My house filled with young life and anticipation for the fun, festive months ahead, I felt my heart lighten and I began to see the joy in life again.   While her death was sad I was able to accept it, as she was close to 100, and had lived a good life.

Then, with all the force that nature can muster my legs were kicked out from underneath me and I was once again on my knees.  A middle of the night call from an old friend from my days working in the Senators office in North Carolina called.   Her voice shaken,  small, and broken.  Not the bold Meredith I had once known.  She called to tell me her son was dead.  And she said it just like that, “Devon is dead.  And so are the other two kids in the car.”  A drunk driver hit them with such force that the 3 young teenagers were dead on impact.

Enough! I found myself angry, that was enough! I sat in the dark, holding my phone that I wished I had not answered and felt rage.  Three kids? Why? What’s the point of just snuffing out life like that? I prayed for it to be over, I couldn’t fathom more death, I just wanted it to end.

But it wasn’t over, not by a long shot. My daughters freshman year of high school became unforgettable in the worst way imaginable.  Within days of each other two late night calls.  Not one, but two suicides.  A mother of teenagers had taken her own life and the child of an acquaintance of mine had died by his own hand.  Young life the victims of suicide.  Not a choice.  No more a choice than cancer.
With my heart heavy from so much loss I often caught myself staring at my children, begging God to not make my child suffer from such a disease, or any disease.  I felt fear, through and through bone chilling fear.

Thanksgiving was suddenly upon us and my husband and I came to the sad realization that it was likely his ailing Father’s last Thanksgiving.  His Parkinson’s had begun to take over and what it had not affected Diabetes and Alzheimer’s ravaged.  I began to pray for mercy.  He was suffering so much, he just needed mercy.

Early December brought more sadness, we got a call saying he needed comfort care.  The description that was given to us on December 8, my birthday, prompted my husband and mother in law to start the process of Hospice for him.  We were told he had 6 – 9 months left.

I got to know the staff at the assisted living very well.  I responded to every call, no matter what I was doing, no matter what time of the day. I did not want my Father in Law, a man who was so good to me, a man that would have died for me to die alone.

Christmas and New Years came and went, they were beautiful and magical.
As January began we received word that the husband of a Dasher alumni, a friend, the step-father of Isabella’s friend had finally given in to his battle with cancer.  Almost numb to the constant news of death I quietly said “seven” to myself.  Seven deaths in less than 4 months.   I prayed that this would end it, but feared there was more to come, at least one more.
With nothing to do but soldier on I went about my life.   I would visit my Father in Law every night, tucking him into bed.  I would hold his nebulizer over his mouth and nose, he hated having it strapped too him, and we would talk.  Sometimes I would weave a crazy tale for him based on where his mind was.  Sometimes he was right with me and we would talk about current events.  An early January Saturday night he was with me.  We had about 45 minutes together and we reminisced about our life together, I reminded him of the time he rescued me, asking him if he remembered and he nodded yes.  I was holding his nebulizer for him and this time, instead of fighting me, he just reached up and held my hand.  I told him I loved him, and we sat like that as he drifted off to sleep.
Monday, January 7 was an evening filled with another dreaded phone call, one laced with fear and terror as I heard words like “malignant” and “cancer” and “needs to be removed” and the topic of this conversation was my Ava.  I heard the doctor, but could not process what she was saying, I just kept thinking for the second time in her short life I heard these words and I was once again on my knees.  Within minutes of that phone call I arrived at the assisted living to see to see my father in law, I gathered myself up and refused to let my mind wonder to those dark places.  I went right to his room, wanting him to be with me, wanting a repeat of Saturday night, but he was off in a far away place. I kept telling him I was there, and he needed to come back, for just a minute, that I needed him.  That night was a battle and I felt physically and emotionally exhausted.  I finally knelt in front of him, holding his hands, looking at him, begging him to hear me.  “I need to go home.  I need to see Ava, I need to put my hands on her and touch her face.  Please, just let me help you.”  I told him exactly what the doctor said, holding back tears as I told him I didn’t believe I was strong enough to watch my child get sick, and he looked directly at me, even though he had gone blind, I knew he was looking at me, “She will be ok” he said, then he quieted, held my hand again and drifted off to sleep.  I got up to leave and he suddenly shot up and scooted to the edge of his chair and said “He’s here, I have to go” he reached out his arms and looked at something so convincingly I turned to see what he was looking at as I grabbed him and yelled “John! Stop!” And called for help.
Tuesday, January 8 I attended the funeral of my fellow Dasher’s husband, and held Isabella’s face when she came to me in tears and said “Grandpa is going to die”. I told her yes, he is.  That his time is very limited and she needs to prepare herself.
Late that evening we also received notice that another friend of Isabella’s lost her father.  Another long battle with cancer, he finally succumbed.  I had lost count.  I sat down on the sofa and felt tears on my cheeks.  How much more death was a family to endure, why are (2) 14 year old girls now without a Father, why did a young boy take his own life?  Why had a parent found herself so desperate that she left behind children? Why did my seemingly healthy grandmother suddenly die? Why a car accident so vicious I learned bodies could not even be identified, dental records had to be pulled to do so.  Why?
3:07am.  Wednesday January 9.  The phone rang.  Another middle of the night call. My Father in Law was gone.  His suffering over.   The Parkinson’s had won. Ugly fighter that it is, it ravaged his body, leaving just a little for Diabetes and Alzheimer’s to have their cruel fun with.
My husband started the phone calls, to his siblings, his Mom and I stood there, helpless.  For a person like me the worst feeling in the world.
The next day Ava had her surgical appointment and I felt Grandpa’s presence.  The doctor said in all likelihood this was nothing to worry about.  He explained what the referring doctor said in terms easier for non-doctors to understand.  Basically, take the cyst out now, because it doesn’t need to be there, and we don’t want it to become a melanoma later in life.  Of course we will have to wait for official biopsy results, but I realized Grandpa had proven he would do anything for those he loves.  That he heard me on that Monday night, and that he gave himself to save her.
As a person of Faith, but not strong Faith I suddenly found myself on my knees once again.  But this time to thank my Father in Law.  For giving me the opportunity to be with him in his final days.  For loving all of us enough that he gave himself up to save my girl. And for showing me God.  It was sitting in the doctors office, listening to every word he said that I realized Grandpa heard me Monday.
I was given a tremendous gift in this tremendous year of loss.  I was able to comfort a dying man, who, once again, as he always did, gave of himself to comfort me.  He showed me the way to undeniable Faith, I realized that Monday night when I grabbed him to stop him from falling, his arms outstretched I had stopped him from waking through the gates of Heaven, that he was ready.  He gave himself to save my girl.  That he was truly an incredible man, and even in death he gave me so much.
So, in the aftermath of so much loss, even as I receive word of the death of a family friend,  and a fellow Dashers murder I remind myself that death is a part of life.
I am grateful for taking this journey and I learned that I am stronger than I realized.  I believe there will be a day when I am reunited with those that I have lost, until then I carry them with me, in my heart, in my soul, in my thoughts, and in my prayers.

Ali Schweitzer

Hi! I’m Ali (pronounced alley). I’m 40 (something) – live in Oconomowoc with my husband of over more than 15 years, 3 kids, 1 “senior citizen” cat, Gus, and a 2 year old Jack Russel, Tubbs. We lead, as everyone does, a hectic life of carpools, sports, social activities and much coveted downtime! My oldest starts High School in the fall (I am not certain how that happened as she was really only just born!)

As a private caterer/event planner I am known for over the top crazy themed parties for kids and adults and I am thrilled to be joining The Lake Country Mom to share all things party, tips and tricks, and quick and easy recipes. I keep threatening to start a blog, and this may push me to actually do it, when I do I’ll be sure and let you know! Until then you can find me here!

We love you, Lake Country!

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