In the Midst of Our Sadness, We Find Joy

December 18, 2018 (by Angela)

For us, 2018 has truly been a mixed bag. One might say it’s been a prime example of the ups and downs of life. We had an amazing trip to visit family in Japan in January, but I came home sick – so sick that it took me weeks to get well.  Mom was squared away (we thought) with enough assistance in her home from good caregivers that Jim and I could leave Tennessee for Texas to get warm for a bit. Our months in Middle Tennessee had been cold and wet; we had to break ice on the RV to even move. Mother Nature wasn’t done with us yet. She decided to send lots of rain to Texas in February; it rained all but about 4 days.

He and I intended to go farther west, but the potential of a contract on the East Coast along with a gut feeling that we needed to head back east sent us the other way. It was a good thing because life happens no matter what. In the same week in early March, we learned that Jim’s sister had unexpectedly died, and my Mom went into the hospital. Needless to say, Jim and I got back home as fast as we could.

Mom’s hospital stay led to a change from living at home to assisted living. She was really happy the first month , but she continued to decline. Jim and I didn’t stray too far from Middle Tennessee during the time Mom was in assisted living because I needed to be close enough to come back to check on her and take care of things related to her and the house. Jim had gotten the East Coast contract and was flying every week for work. He and I did make a point to visit other family and also make it to our friends’ wedding in Neosho, Missouri, though. I’m so glad that we did!

Of course, we had to make time for check ups for us and maintenance on our vehicles and the RV. That was done along the way, too, with a return to Savannah, Tennessee. Then, with August came the wonderful addition of a new grandchild, and I was able to be there to help. I also had to continue helping Mom because she was going down so fast. It required more hospital stays and a change from a regular assisted living facility to a memory care assisted living facility. Then, the very next day after we moved the RV to a campground close to Mom, she broke out in shingles. This illness sent her spiraling down both mentally and physically; she never regained the ground. Before the end of September, after more time in the hospital and upon recommendation of multiple doctors, Mom entered skilled nursing care on a permanent basis. There were still tons of things to do, learn about, see to, and take care of on her behalf in addition to making sure she had what she needed and was being cared for well. Luckily, the facility we chose is only 15 or so minutes from where my brother lives.

When we thought Mom was settled and in good hands, I took a quick trip to join Jim in New England. While it was a nice break away, I still had to address issues related to Mom each day of the trip. A few weeks later, with things regarding Mom a little more settled, Jim and I moved to Decatur, Alabama, to visit with my Dad and step-mom. We’d not had much time for that this year. A week and a half later, our dear, old dog Chewie got sick. We did all we could do for him – taking him to the vet 2 and 3 times a week for blood work and exams, meds, special food, etc.. We thought he was going to get well. In fact, we were so encouraged by his improvement that we let him stay with a caregiver long enough for us to make a quick trip to Illinois to have an early Thanksgiving with the family there. Then, on the Wednesday afternoon after Thanksgiving, he got really bad. A couple of hours later, we made the decision to let him rest. He was fighting a battle to stay with us the Vet said he couldn’t win, so our beloved dog eased over the Rainbow Bridge. We are still heartbroken. Jim wrote a tribute to our dear fur baby.

Jim and I made our first ever move in the RV without Chewie when we came to Pensacola 10 days ago. It was a sad day. I still have moments of tears, as does Jim. Once set up in Pensacola, we called to wish Jim’s step-dad happy birthday, only to learn that he had gone in the hospital that day. While he is very sick, he is at least home now and on a treatment regime that has worked for him before. We are hopeful for a good recovery. With regard to Mom, I’m confident she is well cared for where she is. I did enough pop-in visits at different times of day and days of the week to feel good in that. Mom is near my brother, and I do call to check on her often. Unfortunately, the last few times I visited her before the move south, though she talked and was pleasant, she didn’t know who I was. In that regard, my Mom is already gone.

The year 2018 was not a totally terrible year. Jim and I got to visit and have fun with family; we were able to be available to help family and welcome the newest addition to our family. He and I shared in the joy of our friends’ wedding, and we had some wonderful walks and adventures with our traveling buddy, Chewie. He and I were able to visit several places that were new and exciting. Jim has had good, steady work, and overall, we’ve been in pretty good health all year. Yet, 2018 has been a year of loss and sadness, too – more so than most of the years we’ve been together.

It was with the weight of so many sad things on us that Jim and I intentionally went out looking for cheer this past Saturday. Over the course of the year, there had been lots of joy here and there, yet we needed something more. We were blessed because we did find joy in this Christmas season despite the sadness that has surrounded us. First, it had been a while since he and I could get out and play without a worry of things to be done or knowing others needed our help, so having a whole day together without that burden of responsibility was awesome. Saturday, we found a great place to have brunch, and then we went exploring without a plan. It took us on what turned out to be a private Hop On, Hop Off tour of Pensacola. Afterwards, we ran a few errands, went home to take a quick nap, and then Jim and I were off on another adventure.

Not knowing exactly what it was, I had purchased tickets for Pensacola’s Winterfest’s Performance Tour. I’m so glad that I did. It was unlike anything we’d done, and before the first of the 17 performances was finished, Jim and I were laughing harder than we’ve laughed in a long time. Not only was the tour unique, entertaining, and funny, it also included some reminders of the reason for the season of Christmas. I needed all of that, especially the reminder of the reason for this season.

I’m not going to tell you too much about the experience in case you want to give it a try next year, but below are some pictures from the event.

After our festive outing, we went in search of seafood. My sweetheart loves his fresh seafood, and there is no way we can be right here on the Gulf of Mexico without letting him indulge. As you can see below, that is exactly what he did Saturday night, and I had a very happy and full hubby. That made me happy, too.

Jimmy getting seafood

Fresh seafood!

Did all of our heartache disappear forever after our fun-filled day. No, but time does heal, and when we open our hearts to the joy that is around us, especially at Christmas time, then the miracle of healing will come to us even faster. We can find joy even in the midst of sadness.

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