and he knows it. And that's fine by me.
The first ones I saw were Jim and Miss Ora, Johnny's parents. She was to my right, kneeling on the path putting out seedlings. Jim was standing further down the path laughing. I do not recall hearing anything, not from them, but the joy on his face made me smile. I remember thinking, "Johnny is going to be so excited when he gets here. He is going to be so excited to see them!"
And he will be. For they looked so healthy, so peaceful. Like the Garden we were in. I felt the breeze lift my hair off my face and I remember curling my toes inward and feeling the softness of the graveled path. There was no sun, no bright light, but it was daytime and everything looked fresh and clean. The colors were vibrant and full. Then I saw him. My dad.
My father died in July of '04, a slow lingering death of cancer. But here? Here he looked younger and healthier than I've ever known him to be. I don't remember him being that young. He was watering an awesome stand of flowers that rivaled anything I've ever seen. I remember how the water sparkled and how happy daddy looked to be there watering those flowers. To be where he was.
I was also conscious of a Being to my right, just outside my peripheral vision. I was also aware of a great void behind me, not so much a darkness but a void nonetheless. There was not a single time that I wanted to turn and look behind. Not a single time that I wanted to see who, or what, stood beside me. Not a single time that I wanted to do anything more than soak in what was in front of me, to rest in the knowledge that I was there, that I was in His Garden, that I had been found worthy.
Even with John's mother closest to me, it was my father that I wanted to run to, to wrap my arms around him, to have him return the hug. Just as I poised to move, I heard, without spoken words, "Nancy, it's not your time. You have to go back." And just like that I was back in an earthly body, with tubes, and wires, and the scared faces of those I love here in this world. I did not feel sick. I did not feel any different, at that moment, than I had when I left Johnny to go with the nurse into the procedure room. I didn't know anything more than I needed to share with them what I had seen, where I had been, and what waits for us.
About a year later, while cleaning out some papers I came across some scribblings and partial sentences on copier paper. A cold chill crossed my heart as I realized what I was holding. Fighting tears, I read "I saw ddy" and "are yu a nurs or a angel". John confirmed that when I roused I was trying to talk to them, to tell them what I saw, where I had been. Not being able to talk, they had given me paper to write on. This was what I wrote.
"I saw ddy". I really and truly saw him. I was there. I was given the chance to see what awaits His children. The peace, the beauty, the calm were more than I have ever experienced and I've seen some awesome sights in my lifetime. To recognize those I loved reassures me. To know that dying held no pain soothes me. Regardless of what the body goes through, He comforts the soul and we feel no pain. The body does, for living is painful, but when it is our time there will be no pain.
And there is a time. For each of us. For me, it wasn't April 21, 2006. There is still a reason, a purpose for my time on earth. As long as there is breath in my body, I shall look to see what He has in store for me and watch for the opportunity to say, "There is a place. A place more wondrous than you can imagine, a place you don't want to miss." Being there? That was the easy part. Waking up? Waking up is when the nightmares began, when the days got long, and the nights were longer. Thankfully, I was kept so heavily medicated I was unaware of just how sick I was to become. But the memory of the Garden remained real, and today it still continues to provide comfort and brings calmness to my soul.
There were many that surrounded me during those 77 days and the following recovery period with their love, their support, and heartfelt prayers. Later I'll share with you about some of them, but for now rest assured that upon your passing from this earthly world, if you walk with the King, you will see what I saw and you will be just as fascinated at what He has prepared for His own. You will literally tingle with excitement. ~to be continued
I met Jenny and her family for a Thanksgiving meal this afternoon and Miss Elle was sporting the cutest turkey bow on her headband. Her big brother, Ian, remains infatuated with her and she with him. She watches him and was cooing at him when Jen snapped this shot. I truly hope your day has had many moments to remind you of your many blessings. Happy Thanksgiving!
And while Shelby had a handful of grandad's hair,
Alexa was hanging on to her dad!
You're gonna really love these men.
For those of you new, or fairly new, to this spot there is a 77-day span in my life that I lost as a result of an outpatient procedure that went horribly wrong. Pretty much everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Pretty much everything afterwards that could go right, happened. God placed some miracle workers called doctors in the right spots at the right moments. We shall forever be grateful to Drs. Catherine Thomas and William Hayes. You'll read more about them as the story unfolds. It took a year and a half for me to recover, to go up and down stairs, to write, to be able to complete sentences without searching for words, to shower and dress alone, to walk without stumbling. Only those closest to me know how devastated we were, how it changed our lives, how it brought us to His arms.
This is my story. Come with me, let me tell you what happened when I was taken to The Garden, allowed to see what He has prepared for us, and how it has changed my life here on Earth. Some of you have heard me talk of this, some of you haven't. I love sharing it, love talking about it, love knowing it actually happened and that we cannot begin to know the absolute beauty and peace that awaits His children. Those that strive to be with Him, to spend Eternity with Him. This is my story.
For almost a year, I experienced severe pain that radiated between my shoulder blades. The kind of pain that makes you want to stretch and work it out. The kind that borders on making you wonder if you're having a heart attack. It seemed to happen between the hours of 4 and 5 in the morning, several times a month. By February of 2006 they began to take place during the day, always sudden, always extremely painful. Tests were run; I was taken off the HRT I had been on for almost fifteen years; and still there was the pain. I was admitted to a local hospital and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and treated for such. The pain continued. Our internist had exhausted all tests and set up an appointment to see another specialist for a last resort test called an ERCP. Maybe this would show what the cause was, would possibly provide a reason for the pain. We never met him, never met Dr. McGlaughlin. His office called the very next week with an appointment to do the procedure. Long story short, I set my classroom up for a substitute for that Friday, April 21st never ever thinking I would not return.
It was a beautiful morning. April 21st began with sunshine and the coolness of early spring. John took the day off to go with me as there would be light sedation and I anticipated a nice slumber period. We planned to stop off at Pelham on the way home and eat at a Cracker Barrel there. I remember laughing, talking, sharing, and making plans for retirement. We had our life mapped out and we were excited with the ideas that flowed that morning as we traveled to St. Vincent's. Got there easily, checked in, and proceeded to the second floor to sign in to the GI Waiting area. It seemed to take longer than normal for them to call my name and when they did, I glanced down the hall and saw Tim Buck hurriedly walking toward us. Carrying flowers. Tim Buck. In February, I had been given the sweet honor of welcoming his younger daughter into my second grade class. Tim works in Birmingham and had taken the time to grab flowers and come to meet us in the waiting area. A few hugs, well wishes, and I followed the nurse through the door. I would not walk back out.
John says he sat. And sat and sat. Tim finally had to leave, so John waited. And waited. He remembers sensing an urgency in the department but he had no reason to believe it had to do with him. With me. He was approached by two nurses flanking a hospital administrator. She was kind, very apologetic, and informed him there had been an accident and that I had been taken to ICU. He says he told them he didn't know where that was and he remembers her being kind, but very serious. They walked with him and remained with him as the seriousness of the situation was explained. He was on unfamiliar ground, but would become very familiar with that hospital over the next seventy seven days and the long, long nights.
We'll leave John as he is taken to ICU and let me back up a few hours. I was taken to a changing room and put on the designated gown, placing my clothing in a locker. Following the attendant into the procedure room, we spoke of how I had been there for previous tests and upon meeting the nurse that would be with me, she mentioned recognizing my name and I remember feeling reassured knowing she wasn't a total stranger. (Isn't it nice that when we stumble upon those really dark moments in life, God always sends someone.) I was hooked up to an IV and telling me she was injecting the sedation into the IV line, she stroked my hair. The last words I heard her say were, "Nighty night, Mrs. Hood." The next words I heard were not of an earthly nature ~ and so it began (to be cont'd)
Got a call center in Pakistan.
This was sent to Mr. Rand who is the Executive Director of AARP. It is a must read regardless of your age. I verified this with Snopes.com. Click here to read the author's thoughts. On another note, John and I did NOT renew our membership for many of the same reasons listed within her letter.
Dear Mr. Rand:
Recently you sent us a letter encouraging us to renew our lapsed membership in AARP by the requested date. I know it is not what you were looking for, but this is the most honest response I can give you. Our gap in coverage is merely a microscopic symptom of the real problem, a deepening lack of faith.
While we have proudly maintained our membership for several years and have long admired the AARP goals and principles, regrettably, we can no longer endorse it's abdication of our values. Your letter specifically stated that we can count on AARP to speak up for our rights, yet the voice we hear is not ours. Your offer of being kept up to date on important issues through DIVIDED WE FAIL presents neither an impartial view nor the one we have come to embrace. We do believe that when two parties agree all the time on everything presented to them, one is probably not necessary.. But, when the opinions and long term goals are diametrically opposed, the divorce is imminent. This is the philosophy which spawned our 200 years of government.
Once upon a time, we looked forward to being part of the senior demographic. We also looked to AARP to provide certain benefits and give our voice a power we could not possibly hope to achieve on our own. AARP gave us a sense of belonging which we no longer enjoy.. The Socialist politics practiced by the Obama administration and empowered by AARP serves only to raise the blood pressure my medical insurance strives to contain. Clearly a conflict of interest there!
We do not understand the AARP posture, feel greatly betrayed by the guiding forces whom we expected to map out our senior years and leave your ranks with a great sense of regret. We mitigate that disappointment with the relief of knowing that we are not contributing to the problem anymore by renewing our membership. There are numerous other organizations which offer discounts without threatening our way of life or offending our sensibilities.
This Presidential Administration scares the living daylights out of us. Not just for ourselves, but for our proud and bloodstained heritage, but even more importantly for our children and grandchildren. Washington has rendered Soylent Green a prophetic cautionary tale rather than a nonfiction scare tactic. I have never in my life endorsed any militant or radical groups, yet now I find myself listening to them. I don't have to agree with them to appreciate the fear which birthed their existence. Their borderline insanity presents little more than a balance to the voice of the Socialist mindset in power. Perhaps I became American by a great stroke of luck in some cosmic uterine lottery, but in my adulthood I CHOOSE to embrace it and nurture the freedoms it represents as well as the responsibilities it requires.
Your website generously offers us the opportunity to receive all communication in Spanish. ARE YOU KIDDING??? Someone has broken into our 'house', invaded our home without our invitation or consent. The President has insisted we keep the perpetrator in comfort and learn the prep's language so we can communicate our reluctant welcome to them.
I DON'T choose to welcome them.
I DON'T choose to support them.
I DON'T choose to educate them.
I DON'T choose to medicate them, pay for their food or clothing.
American home invaders get arrested.
Please explain to me why foreign lawbreakers can enjoy privileges on American soil that Americans do not get?
Why do some immigrants have to play the game to be welcomed and others only have to break & enter to be welcomed?
We travel for a living. Walt hauls horses all over this great country, averaging over 10,000 miles a month when he is out there. He meets more people than a politician on caffeine overdose. Of all the many good folks he enjoyed on this last 10,000 miles, this trip yielded only ONE supporter of the current administration. One of us is out of touch with mainstream America. Since our poll is conducted without funding, I have more faith in it than one which is power driven.
We have decided to forward this to everyone on our mailing list, and will encourage them to do the same. With several hundred in my address book, I have every faith that the eventual exponential factor will make a credible statement to you.
I am disappointed as hell.
I am scared as hell.
I am MAD as hell, and I'm NOT going to take it anymore!
Walt & Cyndy Miller, Farms Equine Transport
**our beautiful daughters, Jenny, Leslie and Stacey ~ such inspirations to me, such sweet parts of our life
**our precious grandbabies, Austin, Ian, Alaina, Noah, and baby Elle ~ the ones that remind me how sweet and adorable their mommies were when they were small
**my Lord and Saviour ~ always there, always loving, always forgiving, always helping me to be a better mother, wife, person
**John ~ the man that has always believed in me more than I've believed in myself
**Brett, Brandon ~ the Christian men that love and adore our daughters and grandbabies
**hot showers, soft beds, safety within four walls ~ things we often overlook but miss when we don't have them
**girlfriends, Nelson ~ those that bring delight and laughter to my days just by being with them and near them
Not in any order other than when I typed the title this was what came into my heart. I am so thankful for the blessings of my life, even those little bitty ones that creep into my days and make life richer. We are truly a blessed nation, a blessed people, and these are a few of my loves and blessings.
While going through the Thanksgiving menu in my mind today, I knew I wanted to make a macaroni and cheese casserole. John is not a fan, but Jenny and Brandon are ~ and I could make a meal of it. I love the homemade recipe and need to ask the Maddox's which they prefer. The Hood is not going to care one way or the other. Which do you prefer? There's a poll over in the upper right hand corner and I'd love for you to vote and tell me your favorite way to eat mac 'n cheese.
It's about time for the Tide to meet the MSU Bulldogs in Starkville. Our oldest daughter, Stacey, and her husband are graduates of MSU so a win over them will be bittersweet, but still sweet! I ran over to McAlisters for sandwiches and chips and we've settled in with full tummies and fresh pound cake with coffee to watch the game! (Don't you just love a man that makes you coffee?!) (Not to mention how great it makes the home smell!)
So ~ who are you watching on the teli and what did you have for dinner?!
If you've checked out my list Blog Dressing, you found several new sites! I would have a different background each week if it weren't so time consuming. By the time I finally choose one, then play around with fonts and colors, and wonder AGAIN if I want to stay with a three column layout, I find I've spent way too much time trying to decide.
If you change your layout, leave me a comment!
Because I love photographs, here's a favorite one this week!
and another. I just love the way our sweet 'laina is staring at her older brother's costume. I miss those babies.
Note to Jenny & Stacey ~ I thought of the two of you when I saw this and how sweet for the grandbabies to get involved. Have Brandon and Brett bring you in some limbs and I bet you can get precut leaves at Hobby Lobby or Michaels! I can see Ian and Austin getting Alaina and Noah excited about this. And maybe instead of trying to print, the little ones can draw pictures :)
How cute is this! I've seen this idea before but wanted to showcase this particular one since I'm a fan of her blog! You can click on either photo or click here to be taken to her site. I've chosen to have you taken directly to this post BUT if you click on her header you'll be able to read all the other inspirational ideas this young mother has! You rock, Jamie, and I'm thankful I found your site. I always learn something new each time I visit.
A nice man took this snapshot of us happy with the win (well three of us were), and hungry for Italian ~ which, by the way, is found in the back of Elks Plaza. It's a small place, a bit noisy, but the food is good and there's a lot of it!Sunday was spent wandering around some of the outlet malls, doing more walking than buying, more laughing than talking, and wondering where the next meal would be. Glenda's birthday was Sunday, so she got to choose. Steak! Salad! Bacon wrapped shrimp! (I just love food.)
Monday we drove to Cades Cove, hoping to see some wildlife, but Hurricane Ida was on her way, bringing overcast skies, cooler temps, and I guess the animals were settling in for the storm. The only animals we saw were turkeys. No deer, no bears, not even a raccoon.
As we left the homestead parking lot, Nelson had the nifty idea of taking a "trail less traveled". We weren't in my cute little car, so I just sat quietly and wondered how much longer dinner would be and where would we be eating. Little did I know those were silly thoughts.
Finally, finally our one way dirt road brought us to Hwy 129, where we found ourselves on the Tail of the Dragon which apparently is a name for miles of twisting, turning curves, hills, and drop offs. Seated in the back of Nelson's small Corolla I began to feel a bit squeamish
and was tickled to get out and stretch a bit once we got on the Foothills Parkway. Those eight backwoods miles put us way on the other side of Townsend, almost two hours from Gatlinburg and the dinner I had planned at Bennett's BarBQue! By the time I saw city lights, all I wanted was a hot shower and some reheated spaghetti, which I got, not in that order.