WITH A HEAVY HEART by Dede Ranahan

This is an unanticipated post. 

Three-and-a-half years ago, I lost my son, Pat.  Those of you who are reading Sooner Than Tomorrow - A Mother's Diary, are coming to know Pat in what turned out to be the last year of his life. I'm so grateful to whatever grace it was that allowed me to capture his last year, much of it in his own words.

This evening, the wounds, inflicted three-and-a-half years ago, are open again. My 43-year-old nephew is in the hospital as I write. His doctors give him 24-72 hours to live.

I ask to talk with Michael on the phone. Speaking is difficult for him and he's in a good deal of pain. What do you say to someone who has 72 hours to live?

"I love you, Michael. I will never, ever forget you. I'm so sorry. I love you."

With his humor intact he replies, "Well, the good news is, I won't ever have to eat another one of your omelets."

My omelets? I don't make omelets because I know I don't know how to make omelets. I don't remember but I must have made the only omelet I ever made for Michael. Poor Michael.

Michael's dad, my brother, can hardly speak to me on the phone. He's crying. Michael's mom is crying. Karen, Michael's wife, is crying.

My daughter, Marisa, sends a text. She says, "This was read to me today at the end of my yoga class and I thought it especially timely. "

“Dear Human:
You've got it all wrong.
You didn't come here to master unconditional love.
This is where you came from and where you'll return.
You came here to learn personal love.
Universal love.
Messy love.
Sweaty Love.
Crazy love.
Broken love.
Whole love.
Infused with divinity.
Lived through the grace of stumbling.
Demonstrated through the beauty of... messing up.
You didn't come here to be perfect, you already are.
You came here to be gorgeously human. Flawed and fabulous.
And rising again into remembering.
But unconditional love? Stop telling that story.
Love in truth doesn't need any adjectives.
It doesn't require modifiers.
It doesn't require the condition of perfection.
It only asks you to show up.
And do your best.
That you stay present and feel fully.
That you shine and fly and laugh and cry and hurt and heal and fall
and get back up and play and work and live and die as YOU.
It's enough.
It's Plenty.”

Courtney A. Walsh

One more time, Michael. "I love you. Goodnight. Sleep well."

Photo credit: Pierre-Thomas Ziadeh flickr

Photo credit: Pierre-Thomas Ziadeh

THANKSGIVINGS PAST - by Judy Waldo Bracken

We lived in Hobbs, New Mexico. It was Thanksgiving Day, cool and crisp outside. The two males in my life at the time — a blond 29-month-old toddler, and a tall, handsome 31-year-old man — filled my home with love. I was hugely pregnant and ready to pop, due in 9 days.

Cameron, my first son, had been born 10 days early, so it was entirely possible that I’d have a Thanksgiving baby. And I'd been having some of those familiar “birthing” twinges all day long. Questions filled my mind. If I ate a big meal would it interfere with the delivery? Would I have to have an enema or something unpleasant like that? My mother was supposed to visit in three days to stay with Cameron. What would we do with him if the birth happened sooner? 

We decided to go on as if all was normal, cooking a delicious turkey dinner and taking a walk afterwards. We put Cameron to bed and relaxed for a bit before settling in ourselves. And guess what? As soon as I laid down, I began having strong contractions at regular intervals. We waited about 45 minutes, and as the intensity increased, we decided to go to the hospital. After a few quick calls, arrangements were made with a neighbor to take Cameron and we rushed off.

When we arrived around 11:30 p.m., I was taken right away into the delivery room. Our regular doctor showed up, but he was not feeling well. Apparently, he'd eaten something earlier that day that didn’t agree with him. He had to keep leaving the room; thank goodness we had a capable nurse assisting. In no time at all, right after 1 a.m. my second child was born. A healthy 6 1/2 pound baby boy, delivered mostly by the nurse. He wasn’t born on Thanksgiving, but Ryland’s birthday now falls on or around that holiday every year. 

Ryland grew up, becoming a top student, an athlete, and an Eagle Scout. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed friends and computers. Seven years ago, while a senior in college, he had his first psychotic break and has struggled with serious mental illness ever since.

This year, for Thanksgiving, Ryland was in a locked care facility. His dad passed away three years ago from an aggressive cancer. His younger brother and I enjoyed Thanksgiving lunch at the facility with him and some other families. For his birthday, we took him on a picnic — his first outing in months. Thanksgiving, this year, was much different from Thanksgiving 29 years ago.

I’m so thankful that Ryland is getting the care he needs—thankful that he is still here and we can be together.

Judy, Ryland, and Stewart Thanksgiving Day 2017

Judy, Ryland, and Stewart
Thanksgiving Day 2017


Oh, what a difference a year can make! 

My son, Ryan, has just realized a long held dream and vision for himself. He's enrolled in a job training program at the Marc Center and will be participating in employment enclaves earning $10.00 an hour. Ryan experienced his first psychiatric break in 2006 and was not well enough to work for over 10 years.

Just one year ago, Ryan was in crisis, experiencing psychosis, and needed to be hospitalized. Earlier in the day, he'd been served with an immediate eviction notice and was facing homelessness. He was frightened and refusing to leave his home.

Ryan's treatment team petitioned to amend his court ordered treatment. A judge signed the petition for involuntary treatment and a pick up order was sent to the Glendale Police Department. At approximately 6 p.m. on November 10, 2016, a swat team surrounded my son's house and began what would end up as a six hour negotiation. As a last resort, officers broke out the windows of the house and threw in tear gas and smoke bombs. Ryan huddled under his blankets on his bed and stayed in the house for 20 more minutes. Finally, the swat team forced entry and shot Ryan with beanbag guns In order to remove him from his home. 

Ryan spent the next 4 four months as an inpatient at a psychiatric hospital. The psychiatrist suggested we put Ryan on the big gun of psychiatric medications, Clozaril, because no other medication had worked. The medication is working and Ryan continues to improve. He's had minor setbacks over the last year but always gets right back on track. 

I look back over the last ten years and know how hopeless it once seemed. I see how far Ryan's come and it's nothing short of miraculous. If I've learned anything, it's to take one day at a time and celebrate each victory. Never give up. Never ever lose hope. Ryan's story isn't over and neither is yours.

Oh, what a difference a year can make!

Watch Christi's tribute to her son. Click on  Ryan Weeks The Overcomer



MY HOLIDAY STORY by Mary Barksdale

I grew up with large Thanksgiving and Christmas family get togethers and celebrations. So many happy childhood memories from these gatherings.

As time passed, things changed. As time passed, so did our family members. Some to death and others to the lives they were living. My adult holidays evolved into care-giver events. In the 1960s. my brother was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Our holiday traditions depended on whether he was well enough to come home or whether we needed to be where he was. Later, my father's Alzheimer's disease dictated how we would celebrate the holidays.

In 2003, I got to see all three of my sons together for the first time in too many years. The eldest, being career Navy, could not get home often. Then, on January 2, 2004, my middle son, who had a serious mental illness, killed two police officers he believed were aliens.

The last few years Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent with my mother, who had dementia, in her assisted living facility. She passed away in September at age 103 1/2. (She wouldn't want you to forget the 1/2.) 

On Thursday, I'll spend the first holiday, ever, all by myself.

Mary's boys: Will, Farron, and Phillip

Mary's boys: Will, Farron, and Phillip

Read Mary's October 26, 2016 post: "Losing Farron."