Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Date Night!

Last Friday night, Branden took me out on a date! We got all dressed up and headed out to City Lights, the official start of the holidays in downtown Dallas. We watched the (cheesy, scripted, but still fun) unveiling of the Neiman Marcus lights and windows first. The windows this year, I must say, are very cool. They actually have a tube running all through them that kids can climb through and be a part of the display! That part is only open select hours on the weekends until Christmas week, but the display itself is on most of the time - and if you're in the area, you must check it out! It's all about alternate sources of energy as imagined by kids - everything from dance energy to energy being squeezed out of grapes by monkeys! Kids are great. :o)

After checking out the Neiman Marcus to-do, we headed down to the new Main Street Garden park, right across the street from our loft building, and watched the lighting of the official downtown Christmas tree. The park is not quite finished yet, but it's officially open to the public now, and we're excited to have such a good park right across the street from us!

After all the City Lights fun, Branden took me out to dinner at Dallas Fish Market!
This is the kind of restaurant we hardly ever get to go to, so it was a really nice treat! We both started with the Main Lobster Corn Chowder. For our main courses, I had the New Bedford Mass. Scallops (delish!), and Branden had the Black Truffle Wrapped Chilean Sea Bass. We shared sides of sauteed spinach and butternut squash risotto with cambazola. It was all fantastically delicious, and a very special evening. We finished out the night by picking up some ice cream at 7-11 and heading home to watch Star Trek on DVD.

In baby news, we have a check-up with our midwife this afternoon. So far everything seems to be going well. I'm getting bigger, as I should be, and Ben's kicks are getting stronger. I even felt a couple last night from outside my belly - which means hopefully it won't be too much longer before Branden will be able to feel them as well!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

He is Gone

Yesterday we held the interment service at DFW National Cemetery to finally lay Wayne to rest. He was cremated, and his ashes now have a home in a memorial wall amongst fellow veterans.

The service was simple, beautiful, and very touching. It included a formal flag folding by two uniformed Army soldiers - Howe and Moore were their names, it seemed important to me to remember that. They then presented the flag to Wayne's son, Clay. He was very touched by that move. (This was the same flag that was draped over Wayne's casket at the funeral). Taps was played. Branden and I each had a reading, then we headed over to the memorial wall where my mom said a prayer over the ashes, and then they were placed in the wall and sealed.

Here's the poem I read, titled "He is Gone."

You can shed tears that he is gone,
Or you can smile because he lived,
You can close your eyes and pray that he will come back,
Or you can open your eyes and see all that he has left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him
Or you can be full of the love that you shared,
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him and only that he is gone
Or you can cherish his memory and let it live on,
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and
turn your back,
Or you can do what he would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins, 1959

Kenneth Wayne Holster, January 27, 1943-October 31, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009


After a very long and difficult week, I am beginning to slowly surface.

Here's a recap of the last week.

Thursday the 29th (was that really just a week ago?), I got a message from my mom that the end was near for Wayne. After breaking down at work, I had some wonderful coworkers who came to my aid immediately. One of them offered to drive me to my parents' house, since Branden was already on his way to class.

I arrived around 4:00 that afternoon. I was able to talk to Wayne a bit that evening, and he responded a little with smiles and squeezing my hand. At 8:00 on Thursday evening, hospice began 24-hour care - providing a nurse to stay with Wayne around the clock. The end was near.

I stayed the night at my parents' house and Friday I spent the day with my mom. We got lunch at Taco Bell and stopped at the grocery store for some food, since we knew the house would shortly be filling with people.

Friday evening, my aunt and uncle arrived from Norman. My Aunt Julie is my mom's sister. They were there for the long haul. They went to a hotel nearby that evening after visiting with us for a while. I again slept on the spare bed in the back of my parents' living room that night.

Around 3:00 AM on Saturday morning, I woke up for my usual middle of the night bathroom break. As I used the bathroom adjoining Wayne's room, I could hear the fluid on his lungs with every breath. I briefly stopped in to look at him before going back to bed. I knew it couldn't possibly be much longer with him in that condition. It took me almost two hours to fall back asleep.

At 6:00 AM, I thought I heard my name being called out. I was so out of it that when I didn't hear it again, I assumed it was a dream, and laid back down. Minutes later, the hospice nurse came in to wake me up. He said my mom had asked for me. I knew what that must mean as I walked back to Wayne's room. I remember checking the clock in the kitchen as I walked past. It read 6:12 AM.

When I entered the room, my mom was standing next to the bed, holding Wayne's hand. His face was drawn and white. It took me a second to take in the fact that he was no longer breathing. I caught my mom's eye, and I knew. He was finally gone. Six months of suffering with lung cancer, and it was over.

We stayed there with him like that for a while, just the three of us and the nurse. When the time felt right (I think it must've only been 10 or 15 minutes), I began calling family. I called Julie at the hotel. I called my stepbrother Clay. I hated telling them that Wayne had passed, but I did it because it needed to be done. I called Wayne's brother Doug, who would pass along the information to the other brothers. Then I called Branden, who headed our way even though he had barely slept at all the night before.

Family gathered and paid respects to Wayne before the funeral home came. The Chaplain from hospice showed up, and helped us talk about Wayne and share stories. When the funeral home showed up, the Chaplain led us all in prayer around Wayne's body. Then we each told him goodbye in turn and left the room. When it was my turn, I kissed him on the forehead and said to him "I will always love you." Then they took him away.

Saturday passed in a haze. Slowly family began to leave, until it was just me, Branden, my aunt and uncle left with my mom. My mom's other sister showed up that afternoon, and stayed the night at my mom's house. I went home that night, and it felt good to sleep in my own bed again.

Sunday I went back to Arlington, and went with my the family to the funeral home to make arrangements. They were impressed with how much my mom already had prepared. She said that's what you do when you have six months to get ready for something like this. We ate lunch at El Chico after visiting the funeral home. My mom's youngest sister left that evening with plans to drive my grandparents down for the services on Thursday.

Monday I again went back to my parents' house, just to hang out. It felt good to be there - like that's where I was supposed to be. Thank goodness for my understanding boss and my company's excellent bereavement leave - I got the entire week off, and will only have to use one vacation day.

Tuesday I decided to stay home. Branden was off work for three days, and we really needed a day to do things around the house. I took my one-hour glucose test, which consisted of drinking a special neon-orange glucose drink and then having my blood drawn at the Birth Center an hour later. My results came back on the low side, but the midwife isn't worried, so I'll just take the test again at 28 weeks. Branden and I also voted, and got some other stuff done that day.

Wednesday Branden and I got ready and headed to my parents' house around mid-morning. When we got there, my mom had already received the call that we could go to the funeral home for a private viewing. We went - just the four of us now, as my uncle had driven back to Oklahoma to pick up my two cousins.

Wednesday evening was the viewing, and I was impressed by many things. So many flowers were delivered! It was a beautiful outporing of love. And so many people showed up. I personally had my three closest girlfriends, my second mom, and four coworkers show up to the viewing. It made me feel so loved and supported. My work also sent a huge, beautiful floral spray - another wonderful show of support. We got through the viewing, and when Branden was finished with class, he came to pick me up at my parents' house. It was after 11 before we got home that night.

Thursday (yesterday) was the funeral. It was every bit as difficult and emotional as I thought it would be. The service was beautiful, other than a couple of glitches from the sound system, and we got through those. I cried rivers. My mom finally let out some of her tears. My friend Ashley's aunt and uncle officiated, and they did an absolutely beautiful job. I am so very thankful to both of them for their help.

After the service, we went back to my parents' house for lunch. Wayne's friends from the lake parks (where he served as gate attendant in his retirement) already had a huge spread set out by the time we got there. There were tons of people who showed up to eat. The house was full, and it felt like a nice way to say goodbye. Slowly people trickled out. Branden went to class. Finally, it was again just me, my mom, my aunt, uncle and cousins. They left in the early evening hours, and I spent a couple of hours watching TV with my mom and packing up food to take home while Branden was in class. Finally, around 8:45, I left too. I left because my mom wanted and needed to be alone. I'm thinking of her today, but I know she needs her time. I know it's okay and even healthy for her to cry and grieve, and I'm letting her do that. She knows I'm only a phone call away.

Today I'm feeling okay. Not great, not all better, but okay. I feel like I got out a lot of the tears and emotion that had been building up yesterday. I know there will be more from time to time, and I know I have only begun to miss my father. But with only one step left in the process (a private family ceremony at the National Cemetery once he's been cremated), I am ready to begin healing.

I know this has been a long post, and if you have read this far, I'm impressed! I think this started out as a blog post and turned into a therapeutic way for me to write about the events of the past week and also keep a record of it for the future. I will add one more thing before I close out this post - and that is that I have been feeling little baby movements this past week, and it is incredible! I can't wait until they're stronger, so Branden can feel them too! It really has illustrated the circle of life thing for me. My baby boy awoke to me right around the same time Wayne left this earth. Seems more than just coincidence to me...

Our Baby!

Lots of baby news to share before I post a big, emotional recap of the last week. I'll try to make this one short and sweet.

Monday, October 26 - our big (and likely only) ultrasound! Here are pics of our little baby BOY!

As you can tell from that second shot (the money shot!), he's definitely a boy! Branden and I are both overjoyed!

Secondly, our baby boy has a name! His name will be...

Benjamin James

And lastly, our crib was delivered on Tuesday, and Branden was anxious to go ahead and put it together.

He had it completed in about an hour! Here's the finished product. Now all we need is a mattress and bedding.

That's all the news for now! Stay tuned for (hopefully more frequent) updates.