Thursday, September 29, 2011

John Newman Williams

About three days after my last blog post, my father-in-law died.  He had been on hospice for only 11 days.  When we originally heard that he had made the decision to go into hospice care, we thought that he had about 4-6 weeks left.  Let me rephrase that, we thought that we had 4-6 weeks left with him.  As each day progressed and each time we saw him, we realized that we had less time.  Hospice came to the house the first time on a Wednesday afternoon.  The next time I saw John, which was the following Friday and Saturday, I thought that we'd be lucky to have 2 weeks with him.

The following weekend, Jared and I visited on a Friday afternoon, September 16th.  We had been bowling that afternoon and were planning to stay for dinner with my in-laws.  John wasn't really up for eating and spent most of the time we were there sleeping or talking with Jared.  He looked pretty bad.  He was kind of jaundiced and breathing very heavily.  So, Jared, Marie, and I ate dinner, had a nice time, and watched the Boise State football game.

The next day was Jared's brother's birthday.  The whole family gathered for lunch, presents, and cake.  John had been resting during lunch/cake and about half of the presents.  He gathered the energy to come into the living room when James opened the gift from his mom and dad.  It was an LSU cooler; something they had seen at Home Depot weeks before.  James was pleasantly surprised.  We all sang "Happy Birthday."  And then slowly, everyone started doing their own thing.  A few left the room to clean up; a few left the room because there were just too many of us in the room; and a few left the room for another birthday party at someone else's house.

I was sitting with James' wife, Beth, outside on the porch.  We were chatting about life and all the craziness it brings.  I noticed that John, who was sitting in his chair by the back window, was trying very hard-by himself- to get out of his chair to go back to the bedroom to lie down.  This was becoming a near-impossible task for him to do on his own.  I quickly walked inside and asked Jared's uncle for some help.  We assisted John out of the chair and back to the bedroom.

He settled himself in his bed and started talking with James.  At this point, I realized that we didn't have have as much time as we thought we did.  There were a lot of tears that day, not just mine.  I really did think that we had a few days left with John, at best.  I began advising our friends and family who had been planning to visit John the following week and weekend that they should just wait... wait until the funeral service.

On Sunday evening, I called Jared's mom to see how the previous night had been.  After speaking with Jared's other uncle, my worst fears were confirmed.  A doctor and the hospice nurse had been by on Sunday afternoon.  They both suspected that John had just a few days left to live. 

Jared hadn't heard this latest news, yet, when I arrived home from youth group.  I was waiting for a better time to tell him, not that there's ever a "good" time to tell someone that their dad is going to die soon.  Finally, a phone call from Jared's best friend allowed for a pause in the TV show that we had been watching.  Chris was asking when would be a good time to come and see John.  I knew that I needed to intervene in the conversation at that moment and tell Jared the news.

After Jared hung up with Chris, I told him what I had heard from his uncle.  We both sat, kind of stunned, kind of crying, kind of helpless for a few minutes.  Eventually, Jared called Chris back and told him that he and his wife, Skye, should just wait until there were plans for services.

We went to bed quite solemnly that night.  And just as I was drifting off to sleep, right after Jared had put his phone down, it rang.  At 10:40pm on September 18th, Jared's dad died.  Marie called to give us the news.

As much as I love you all, the rest of the details of that night are reserved for family and for those who were present.  What I will tell you is that it was one of the saddest things I've ever witnessed and experienced, while also being one of the most peaceful things I've ever been a part of.  John had been in so much pain and had been so ready not to be in pain anymore, that he died peacefully in his bed.  We were all so reluctant to let him go when he was alive, but once he died, we knew that it was exactly the right thing.

At his funeral service, the service of resurrection, a dear friend of the family, Carole, had this to say about John: "John had cancer, but the cancer never had John."  And the night that he died, he didn't have cancer anymore. 

John Newman Williams is someone who I will always strive to be more like.  He lived an amazingly joyful life, even when he was in pain.  He raised a wonderful family that cares deeply for their God, their church, and their family.  I pray that John's love and spirit would live on in Jared and I and our family.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life & Death

Last week, we found out that my father-in-law decided to go on hospice.  After four and a half years of fighting prostate cancer, he decided he was finished fighting.  He has been in some kind of rather severe pain for a while now.  The hospice folks have been super amazing so far, even going so far as to bringing meds by at 11pm one night.

Obviously, this has been very difficult on all of us, but we are hanging in there.

The title of "Life & Death" comes to me now, because Jared and I are now in the phase of life where everyone is having babies.  We got through the "everyone's getting married" phase about a year ago, and are now in the "everyone's pregnant" phase.  Seriously, I think if we counted, it'd be somewhere between 15 and 20 people who we know that are pregnant.  It's a strange paradox to be looking so forward to all the new life that will be entering our world from October to April, while sitting next to a man who won't be with us in a few months.

I find myself gazing into the future months with anxious anticipation, all the while praying that God would slow time right now.  It is a strange place to find myself.

Here's a photo of Jared and his dad from last summer.

John & Jared
John & Jared, July 2010
 John is one of the kindest people you will ever meet in your life.  He would do anything for you.  He is the best listener and adviser.  He cares for every person he encounters whether he's known them his whole life or only for a moment. 

People have been responding to the family with many memories of John and his overwhelming love.  One of my fondest memories of John is from the first time I met Jared's parents.  John and I deheaded shrimp for about 45 minutes on the driveway of his house in the warm Louisiana sun.  He was impressed (I guess) that his son's girlfriend was interested in deheading shrimp with him.  I explained that as I child I used to watch my great uncle (Uncle J.R.) skin and gut live catfish at my grandparents' lake house in Texas.  Deheading shrimp was fun for me.

It was the first time that I really got to know John.  He told me that he grew up on a dairy farm in south Louisiana.  He told me stories about Jared and his other children when they were kids.  In all of the stories that he told, he conveyed how much he loved his family and his flock.  Being a pastor for 35+ years can really make you love people or hate them.  And John has always chosen to love people.

I am so lucky to be one of those people whom he has chosen to love.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

We traveled to Dallas over Labor Day weekend.  It was very fun, but insanely busy.  Our schedule looked a little something like this...

8am- Leave house
4pm- Arrive Dallas
7:30pm- Snuffer's with Carrie

9am- Ham & Eggs with the Wrights in Lewisville, followed by hanging at their house until about lunch time
12:30pm- would have been lunch with Sarah, but she and her hubs fell sick that morning
3pm- Pool time with the Valentas
7pm- Chuy's & Bowling with the Regans (Scores to come...)

10:30am- Cafe Brazil with Michelle & her sister
12:30pm- Texadelphia with the Nowlins & Nancy
3:30pm- Begin trek to Cowboys Stadium for LSU v. Oregon game
7pm- Kick off

11am- First UMC, Duncanville
12:30pm- Lunch (can't remember the name of the Mexian restaurant) with the Johnstons
2:45- Back to the house for pool time with the Jacobies, the Somos, and Afton
7pm- Pei Wei with the Somos

6am- Rise and shine
7am- Depart for Shreveport
10:15am- Jared's Fantasy Football Draft with college friends
3pm- Depart for BR

Needless to say, there were only 2 meals that we didn't have some plans with other folks.  It was completely insane and very enjoyable.  I ended up getting sick- just a head cold- on Monday morning.  I am starting to feel better, though.

I took some photos of a few things... I wish I had taken more, but my brain was fried from all the amazing food, fun, and lack of sleep!

Quite possibly the best breakfast tacos I've ever eaten...

Breakfast tacos

Jared's "short stack" of pancakes... they leave out the minor detail that it's a short stack of pancakes bigger than your head.

Short stack

Jess & Andy got "biscuit and gravy," as in one biscuit.  Again, they fail to mention that the biscuit is the size of half a loaf of bread.
Biscuit and gravy

Bowling with the Regans!

Our awesome glow-in-the-dark bowling bracelets...
Awesome bracelets

Both of the Regans!

View of the field from our seats.
Our view

View of the field from the suite we were escorted to about 30 minutes before LSU opened a can on Oregon.
Our 2nd view

Enjoying the game from an amazing suite with delicious food and fellow LSU fans!

One of the "mariachis" who sang "Margaritaville" to us at lunch on Sunday with the Johnstons.
Mariachi 2

The other "mariachi."  I really wish they had been wearing traditional mariachi attire.

It was such a fun weekend!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Some Scores

Jared and I have been bowling for the past three weeks!  Since our summer had been so busy, it has felt rare that we bowl for three weeks in a row.  But we've gotten back into some kind of routine.

So here are the scores from our first two outings.  I am going to include our scores from Labor Day weekend in a post on our trip to Dallas, so stay tuned for that.

August 19, 2011
Circle Bowl, Baton Rouge LA

JRW- 100
ASW- 188

JRW- 146
ASW- 176

JRW- 122
ASW- 111

JRW- 121
ASW- 148

August 26, 2011
Circle Bowl, Baton Rouge LA

ASW- 118
JRW- 129

ASW- 158
JRW- 150

ASW- 188
JRW- 140

ASW- 92
JRW- 160

So, we have this joke about bowling and consistency.  Basically, in my opinion, if you are a consistent bowler, then there's a chance that you can be a really great bowler, even if your scores are low.  For example, if you line up the same way, approach the lane the same way, and release the ball the same way every time your roll, then you're most likely going to score consistently each game.  Other factors come into play, though, like how tired you are, how heavy of a ball you're using, and if you're warm or cold.  For example, I would say that 80% of the time, Jared and I say, "First game doesn't count," because we are "cold."

All that being said, we have both been rather inconsistent in our bowling lately, as evidenced by our scores!  It's rare for me to roll a 176 and 92 all in the same hour, but I did it!  So, Inconsistency is often anthropomorphized in our trips to the lanes!  She's a cranky bitch, who shows up uninvited.  We aren't her biggest fans, and we'd rather she go away forever.  But, she's usually around for at least a game.

Inconsistency is usually my date to the lanes, but as you can see from these scores, she's been showing up with Jared more often lately.  And honestly, I'd rather she show up with Jared than with me :)

Jared and I are quite competitive: we are both the youngest child in our families of origin, and we learned very early on in our relationship that we should always be each other's partner in Spades.  That being said, when we do bowl against each other, Jared hates to lose.  We sometimes end up in an argument of some kind after we bowl because of how competitive we are.

Often I will say, "I just want to do my best each time," and I also have the goal of breaking 200 someday.  And Jared says, "I just want to do my best, too; but I want my best to be better than you!"  So you can see how sharing the hobby of bowling is wonderful and potentially dangerous for our relationship.  Overall, though, we have gotten much better about supporting each other in our efforts at the lanes.  We really do enjoy going together, and we've learned how not to let the other's success or failure completely determine how we will do as individuals.

For example, I used to be very sensitive to Jared not doing well.  I was so distraught that he was no longer having fun that I would start doing poorly- obviously not on purpose, but because I was so distracted by his feelings of frustration and anger.

Needless to say, we don't have as many arguments as we used to.  One of the best things about us having those arguments is that we would talk through them on the long drive home.  We have learned how to communicate while we are bowling so that we don't accidentally psych each other out or take frustrations personally.

It's been such an amazing thing for our relationship!  One of the many additional reasons to love bowling: open lines of communication with the spouse!