Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Champagne and Chocolate: May 18th, 1-5pm

It's hard to believe it's been three months since Mom left for her celebration in Heaven. I have to be honest. The past few months for me have been mixed with emotion. People say that's completely normal. Just when I think I am "ok" and life seems to be back to "normal" some little moment, memory, song, a remark, etc...can trigger me to cry.

In fact, I was at my annual doctor appointment last Friday and just the mere question "How are you? Has anything changed?" brought me to tears. My doctor was quick to supply a kleenex and I embarrassedly told her I wasn't sure what overcame me. But as soon as she found out what I had been "up to" she too got tears in her eyes. I think (1) she has never in the 20+ years of knowing me, through the births of all 3 of my kids and life's obstacles, has ever seen me cry, (2) she related to my "moment" because she too had lost someone she loved, and (3) was taken back to see me so emotional because she said she knows how focused and tough I am.

So there you have it. I am human.

There have been a lot of great moments in the past 3 months too; like discovering that beautiful brand smacking new 1957 Flintridge "California" china that Mom and Dad received for a wedding gift — and she never used! What I wouldn't have given to hear the story behind it? Finding out that Mom was a Republican early on due to the signed Nixon photo and Nixon bumper stickers and buttons we found, and then I guess a Democrat based on the signed Carter photo. The cleaning out of her home has been a "doozy".

Her generation grew up in the great depression so I think it was in her DNA to save EVERYTHING! When I say everything I mean it. We found her W2 from the secret service before she was even married (circa early 1950's), her "VZD" monogramed suitcase that she packed with everything she owned — including letters her girlfriend's wrote to wish her luck in her new life as she drove across the Golden Gate Bridge (pre-marraige).

It has been a time capsule explosion for sure. God love her. She had lots of passions and projects that she was working on.

I digress back to the real reason I wanted to post this blog story in the first place. Since we have finally unearthed some great photos of Mom's life and I have created something I want to give people in Mom's memory — I wanted to share with you the date of Mom's Life Celebration.

We will host an open house to come by, say "hi", see people from the past, share a fun "vintage Virginia memory" or just sip on champagne and graze on chocolate with me as I continue to fill my Wonder Box.

I know she will be there with us loving every moment.

This photo of Mom was the one she sent in to the San Mateo Times back in 1957 announcing my Dad and her engagement.

Date: Sunday, May 18th, 2014
Time: 1-5pm (open house)
Address: 818 Knoll Drive, San Carlos, CA 94070
*Please no gifts, no flowers, no anything. Just your presence is a gift!

Betsy, Shawn, Ty, Chase, Blake, Bob and Linda

Monday, February 3, 2014

Vintage Virginia 2003

I could not resist sharing this story with you all.

We went to Skylawn this past Saturday to officially say good-bye to Mom. Could she have chosen a more beautiful day?

She had wanted a super private burial since she did not want more than the immediate family to shed any tears. She was laid to rest next to my father overlooking the canyon view and the pacific ocean.

My Brother and Sister-in-Law had found a beautifully written cursive letter Mom wrote to her future Mother-in-Law right after my Father and her had gotten engaged. It described how in love she was, how excited she was to get married, even detailing the china pattern she was choosing; "A Perfect Rose".

The boys all carried her champagne pink casket to the site. Penny, her minister, had personally chosen and read the perfect poem in memory of Mom:

When I die
Don’t cry
Just laugh

Laugh at all the plans I laid
The mistakes I made
Let our laughter
Lilt ever after
Laugh at the games we played
The days that fade
Just laugh

When I die
Don’t cry
Just sing

Sing anything
Yell it loud
Alone or in a crowd
Bust out a tune
I’ll hear you croon
Don’t worry ’bout a thing
Just sing

When I die
Don’t cry
Just dance

Wear your sweats or your fancy pants
Jump and sway
Break it down or do ballet
Shake what your mama gave you
Remember how I love you
Spin in a trance
Just dance

Cry if you must
Cry but don’t lose trust
Cry while you laugh and sing and dance
Cry a little if you must
Then laugh and sing and dance
You must

My Brother also had a surprise at the end. Or should I say Mom had left another surprise for us. Mom had written my Brother and I a lettter. It was dated "May 2003". Again in her perfect handwriting, it described what a "Wonderful life" she was given. It spoke of her "Wonderful marriage". She said her and my father were "chosen" from god to be our parents. It ended with how blessed she was to be a Grandmother.

I have to hand it to her. She was prepared. She was loved. And she had loved. It made me realize how spiritual she really was. And how happy of a person she was irregardless of all the ups and downs she was handed in life. She truly saw her life through rose colored glasses.

We ended the day at her favorite restaurant. The Miramar. We made a reservation under "Virginia". We ordered the best bottle of champagne on their menu and it arrived at the table. Guess what year it was?

Vintage 2003.

Yes, that's right. After just having listened to her love penned in 2003, she was right there with us again, serving up a bottle of Dom Perignon.

The surprises just keep coming.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Mom left for heaven yesterday morning. I actually think she was already there by the time she took her last breath. A few weeks back when you might remember she said to me "Help me". My response was "I can't help you. It's between you and God". I thought about that a lot. I decided that wasn't exactly true. I could help her. It was my honor and duty as a good daughter to hold her hand and give it over to god when she was ready. So, that is what I did.

I had promised her I would help her get her favorite outfit on, her best jewelry, a scarf and sun glasses and I'd kiss her goodbye as she drove off back over the Golden Gate bridge into the sunset. The opposite way she came when she first arrived over sixty years ago looking to find love, a family and ultimate happiness.

Tuesday night I went over to see her. This time it was different. She was non responsive but still trying to move her arms. Before I left I got the strong desire to finally pick out her clothes that she would be buried in.

Wednesday my cell phone rang before I could call and check in. I saw the call back number and knew it was the caregiver's number. I knew what that meant. I had never received a phone call from her at this time. She told me Mom's breathing was rapid and I had better come over.

I called my Brother and knew it was time to stand vigil. They say hearing is the last sense to leave the body. We honored that theory and tried to respect what we said in her presence but I also knew she had already begun her journey to heaven by the look in her face and lifeless reaction to my holding her hand. At one point Wednesday night when I decided I needed to get a little sleep I actually crawled into Mom's hospital bed and put my hand on her chest so I knew she was still with me. At that point of the night her breathing became very shallow.

Around 6:30 am, the time the caregiver needed to give her some morphine, I knew we were close. Ironically the weekly hospice Aide who had been saying "I probably won't be back" every week was arriving again. I had never met her. She said "hello" but was all about her job; clean Mom up and prepare her for her last hours. As she rushed out of the house probably to attend to another patient (I am not sure how they do this for a profession) I asked her how much time she thought Mom still had? Her response was "maybe until this afternoon or tomorrow". I just nodded and thanked her.

By this time it was 9:00. This is the time Mom would normally be enjoying her cup of black coffee and a danish. I went back in her room to a look at her, and she looked different. Not more than a few minutes later she took her last breaths and was finally on her way to her surprise party in Heaven.

I had tried to prepare myself for this moment, but honestly there is no way to know how it will really feel. On one hand I was finally relieved. It was as if I too took my last breath of carrying this heavy burden. On the other hand I already missed her and I knew my life moving forward would be different. Different in a way I will not discover for some time.

Shawn and my Brother arrived shortly after. They both could not believe she allowed me to see her die. After all those years of being so overprotective, she had finally allowed me to see something really sad and tramatic. They thought it was her way of finally handing over the "control" perhaps?

Shawn called Ty. She was sad but her first response was to know that I was ok. He then personally went to Blake's school and told him. He also processed it all in his own unique way. Chase was the one I was worried about.

A few nights earlier I had finally brought Mom's purse to my house to go through. I found a few very significant things in it. One was a hand written note in her gorgeous cursive on a random envelope about a caregiver she did not see eye to eye with. Another was a Birthday card handwritten to her from a friend at the courthouse that said "Love is greater than candles. And love is what you have". I also found a small thank you card from Chase's Birthday back in March. It read:

"Dear Grandma Virginia. Thank you so much for the money I got for my birthday. I'm going to use it on food probably and if you want, I'll get you something. Hopefully the party at my house was fun and you always are so nice. I want you to know that if you ever are in trouble or need me for something, call me!! Love You!" --- Chase (and his phone number)

I had probably found more than 50 random notes, scrap pieces of paper, cards...etc...throughout her purse with handwritten phone numbers of me, my Brother, Shawn, Linda, Ty and now even Chase. It was clear she was trying to manage her memory without anyone really knowing.

When I arrived home yesterday Chase arrived shortly after. Normally his first words would have been "What are we eating?" but this time he dropped his bags at the door and came straight over to give me the biggest hug I had gotten from him since childhood and he said "I don't know how you did it". That meant more to me than anything.

We decided the best way to end such a sad day was to head over to Half Moon Bay. This was Mom's favorite place to "do lunch". We watched her sunset. It was her first night in heaven. It was spectacular!

As the sun went down it reminded me of her taking her last breaths. Chase turned and said "the sun will rise again tomorrow and we will all be ok". He was right. At that moment, for the first time in over a year, I felt happy. Happy to know Mom was healthy again. Happy to know her next journey was starting and one day we would be together again. Her Wonder Box was finally full!

Thank you everyone for reading our journey and providing me the best therapy I could have ever received. The messages, notes, texts, cards and special ways of telling me you were thinking of me and my family or sharing your own journey was more than I could ever expect. I am finally "on the other side" now, so I will let you know how it all goes. XO

Monday, January 20, 2014


Believe it or not Mom is still with us. I think we all underestimated how strong she really is. Every week the Hospice Aide visits her and tells us and the caregivers "She only has a few days—I will most likely not see you next week". Shawn has always said "she has no idea who she is dealing with. This is Virginia you know!" I guess he's right.

-Today she is on day 5 of NO WATER (we are using swobs to keep her mouth moist)
-She made it 31 days with just a few teaspoons full of water every day (no food)
-And we are at day 56 (of being given "hours/days/weeks" to live)

All these stats could really make for an interesting info-graphic on pinterest, but chances are, most people would not find death that entertaining. Actually I am not finding it that entertaining either. In fact, I am OVER IT to be blunt. I do not mean any disrespect when I say this. This blog is all about the truth of the journey and I feel like I have a ticket to Siberia and the flight keeps getting cancelled. I keep packing and showing up at the airport every day and I never board the plane.

Today after virtually many days of complete non responsiveness — I took her hand and placed it on my heart. At the same time I placed my hand on her heart. I said "Mom, feel our hearts beating. This is the love we will forever share. Go. Be free. Drive. Dance. Eat. Laugh. Travel to heaven today and enjoy your next journey". Out of complete solitude she arched her back and loudly belted out "My heart is beating!". Yes it is. Thanks for sharing Mom...

No matter how many blogs and research I read on the subject, we are seeing something that very little people ever see. I hope the plane arrives soon.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Today is my Dad's Birthday. My brother pointed this out to me last week. Honestly I never really even paid any attention to it since Daddy had passed away when I was four. Mom never pointed it out either when we were growing up I'm sure for fear of making us sad. As you all know now, she would have never wanted us to be sad. Looking back last January when Mom had her first ER visit — that night when she was very confused, she did clear as day turn to my Brother and I and tell us "You know, it's Daddy's Birthday next week". So clearly he continues to be top of mind for her.

I mention this because now Mom is on day 27, that's right 27 days with only taking in 2-6 spoon full's of water a day. She has had a few more amazing spikes of conversation but as of yesterday is now silent. The hospice team says she is very close.

We have been encouraging her all weekend to join Daddy for his Birthday celebration in heaven today since she loves a good party. I'm certain he will have a Boston Baseball game on t.v., a chocolate cake and plenty of highballs to go around. But clearly she is not buying it.

Saturday morning the caretaker brushed her teeth, combed out her hair and told her "Virginia, I helped you look beautiful for your husband". Mom's response with her eyes completely shut "My husband is deceased". Yes, that's right. No response from her in 24 hours and then she belts that out.

Last week she gave us some true moments of bliss amongst a forrest of fog. Thursday when I arrived I decided to finally tell her about the blog. I had held back telling her for fear of a forehead wrinkle which is worst then the stink eye. Surprisingly she responded by an over exaggerated wink and said "I think we have a good book". That meant a lot to me. I had been carrying a bit of guilt about sharing such personal moments and details about her journey. I left that night thinking maybe that was the one last thing we needed to share.

Friday I thought she was reciting a Dr. Seuss book. It was almost like her brain could only formulate these very creative rhymes. In between all these obtuse sentences she told the caregiver "you have ingenuity". She repeated that three times. How can you not formulate real world sentences one second and then clearly say something so complex the next?

Mom struggled, lifted up both arms and reached out to grab my face (since she can't see me) and said something that was both rhythmic and very articulate "Super-sizing with you is the best thing I can do". That was the best compliment she could have ever given me.

I cried.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Stink Eye

Another week has passed. Even the caregiver who comes every Thursday and leaves again every Saturday says in her thick accent "I don't know. I just don't know Betsy. I have had numerous people die but I have never seen anyone like her". I hug Flora every Saturday, say goodbye, thank you and have a nice life — only to see her again every Thursday.

There is honestly no great fluffy story to tell this week simply because this isn't fun anymore. Mom sleeps most of the day and has very few clear moments. When she does, they are often insightful and sometimes humorous. She still laughs when Veronica, the other care giver, yells at her every morning to make sure she is still with us.

Saturday was tough. She awoke a few times to speak and very clearly said "Help me" numerous times. It really broke my heart. I finally responded by saying "I can't help you Mom. This is between you and God". Her eyebrows raised. Then she opened her eyes and looked at me and said "How do I get out of here?" It didn't take but a moment to very calmly and truthfully say "There is only one way out Mom". She looked at me for a while. I know she knew what that meant so she decided to give me the stink eye.

Tomorrow will be exactly one year to the day that her journey began with the first ER visit and my epiphany and first blog story about "The Silver Lining" — January 7th, 2013. The Hospice Aid says Mom only has a few more days.

What would you all do if you knew you only had a few days to live? I use to say I'd travel and see places I only dreamt of seeing but now I know my answer would be to be surrounded by all the people I love. But I definitely would have one last pina colada for the road...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Will to Live

I have to admit, I had been putting off another blog post thinking that there would be one last amazing story. But I should have known better. This is Mom we are talking about; a survivor, a widow, a miracle. This is a woman every week who never missed a hair appointment in order to get her hair done in that perfect bouffant style —half can of hairspray for the extra hold.

Fortunately we got through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Blake's Birthday without any major events. There have been small peaks and lots of valley's. The valley's consist of shut eyes, little discernible talking, shallow breaths and lots of hand holding. The peaks have brought more miraculous memories and words. Christmas Eve was a valley. I decided for my kids sake since I missed the family get together on Thanksgiving, I needed to attend our annual Christmas Eve celebration where we all take a part and sing the twelve days of Christmas. Christmas day I made my daily morning call to check in on her, and her care giver said to rush over because she was talking again. My family was just about ready to go downstairs and see what Santa brought — but Shawn and the kids heard my conversation with the care giver and selflessly said "Go! We'll wait for you". And so, I was able to have another amazing memory to fill my wonderbox that morning. It was the best gift I could have ever wished for. Mom very clearly told me "I love you more than you know".

Honestly I considered the title for my post "Groundhog's Day". Like Bill Murray, I feel  like I have been stuck in one place and every day is exactly the same. Every night before I shut my eyes I say the lord's prayer and finish it off by asking god to escort my Mom to heaven. Then every day I wake up realizing I did not receive a phone call during the night about her passing and realize I have another day to live in this depressing but magical state of life.

Everyone has asked if I have given her permission to die. I not only have given her permission but I go there multiple times a day to help plan her exit. Not because I want her to go but because she needs to go. She has not eaten in more than two weeks. She is so weak. My Brother and Sister-in Law were both saying yesterday that the opposite has happened; now her mind is sharp when she is present and her poor little body, physically just can't keep going. Just yesterday during another peak she said "I have had an amazing life. I just thought I had longer to enjoy it". She asked us "What would Fonie do?"

Here is what we have said to her, hoping one of these statements will help her to feel at peace:
-"There is a party waiting for you in heaven. There is a table full of food. Lot's of chocolate. All the cocktails you can order. And everyone you love is there. Daddy, Aunt Fon, your Mom, Aunt Bun, Jenny, Char..."
-Let's get on your favorite outfit, your jewelry, your sun glasses and scarf and I'll send you off in your convertible with the top down"
-"You are the best Mom anyone could ever wish for. You are beautiful, strong and have taught us everything we need in life to be ok without you. You have done your job! An amazing job".
-"We will meet again. One day you will have a party waiting for us in heaven".
-"I'm ok. I will be ok"

I have come to the conclusion, this is not my story. That is why I created this blog in the first place. This is her story. Her life. Her journey. I am just the story teller. Trying to make sense of something that I honestly have no control over. That my friends, is the lesson here. Who am I to tell her when she needs to go? It is clear she has the will to live. She will be alive down to the last breath. Obviously she wants to see 2014. Who wouldn't? She knows how wonderful life is. She is not quite ready to see yet how wonderful life after life is too.

Maybe it's time to make another hair appointment for her? The story continues.