Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pink Flamingos and Lewy Body Dementia

Creator of pink plastic lawn flamingo dies at 79
BOSTON (AP) — The creator of the pink plastic lawn flamingo, the ultimate symbol of American lawn kitsch, has died. Donald Featherstone was 79.
Featherstone’s wife, Nancy, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that her husband died Monday at an elder care facility in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, after a long battle with Lewy body dementia.

June 23, 2015. That was story that showed up in my Facebook newsfeed. I clicked to read it because pink flamingos are very symbolic to me. They mean "I made it safely."

So why would pink flamingo's mean that? I promised a while ago I would tell you and after seeing the creator of the pink flamingo passed away from the same disease that took Mikey I figured it would be a good time.

Before I do I think that the pink flamingo should officially become the symbol to raise awareness for Lewy Body Dementia. 

When Mikey was deployed in 2011 he went on missions between COB Adder and Camp Garry Owen. It took me a while to catch on to the quiet days when I wouldn't hear from him. He couldn't actually tell me when he was going or to where or his arrival information.

Early in the deployment he had sent a couple pictures. One was a poster of Wonder Woman that was on the wall of his chu (where he lived) at COB Adder. The other was a picture of a plastic pink flamingo outside of a building at Garry Owen.

I don't know much about what went on in Iraq. I do know that "being outside the wire" was more dangerous. Going from point A to point B was outside the wire. There was no communication and I could do some very serious worrying during those times. Our hours were also opposite so it would be even longer before I might hear from him.

When he arrived at Garry Owen he would send me a picture of the pink flamingo. That way when I woke up I would know without any information being given away.

When he would return to COB Adder he would send me a picture of Wonder Woman letting me know he had safely returned and was being watched over.

Wonder Woman and pink flamingo's have since kept special meaning to us. When we moved from Texas to Minnesota in January they also played a role. His mother had sent my mother two pink flamingos to put in the yard. This was quite a challenge to do in Minnesota in January! My brother made a pile of snow and there the flamingos sat waiting for his safe arrival. I wish I could have seen and heard him when mom pulled into the driveway and he saw him. She said he was so excited. I can only imagine.

I had taken the Wonder Woman magnet off our fridge in Texas and stuck it in my purse. When I arrived two days later she was placed on the fridge. We had both made it safely.

Before Mikey passed he told me that when he did to post the flamingo picture as his cover photo to let people know he had made it safely. I did. It is still his cover photo. This was posted on his wall. "Mikey's mission has been completed with valor. He has safely reached his final destination."

I still have the flamingos in the yard. I always will. Never thought I would be one of those people with pink plastic flamingos but I am and I'm proud of it!

Taken in early spring. They are now drowning in hostas and need to be slightly relocated. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Go Rest High

This is not the best recording but I'm so thankful to have it. It's not actually a video of anything, I just needed a way to get the song to here so put his picture up and then the music.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't be this guy.

I would give anything to have my husband back. He was THE one. A once in a lifetime love. It took me a few tries and then giving up completely before we found each other. I had to find myself and learn I didn't need someone in my life. To find my own personal strength. In the years before I met him I found that not having a man in my life did not make me less of a person. When God felt the time was right for both of us we met.

It will be 3 weeks this Sunday since he passed. Not even a full month. He still fills every moment of my thoughts. I still feel that I will wake up and he will be here. That none of this is real.

I still consider myself happily married. I wear my ring and his on my left hand. To clue anyone unknowing into what a ring on the the left ring finger means: MARRIED-NOT SINGLE. Also known as BACK OFF! I also plan on staying married until MY death and I meet my husband again.

What I do not want to hear is that someday I will change my mind. Or I shouldn't feel that way because I have so much to offer. Or I should be single and enjoy it.

Do not assume that I am weak and NEED a man in my life. Do not think I am easy prey because I just lost my husband. This disgusts me. It makes my grief deeper. It makes me angry. I did not need a man in my life when I got married. I simply loved him and WANTED him in my life.

Surely you big, tough, strong men know the difference between need and want? Need is a necessity. Want is something we can live without.

A man in my life is not necessary and I do not want one.

Am I making myself clear yet?

Why am I ranting? Because since my husband's passing on February 8 (today is February 26) FIVE men have felt it was okay to ask me about my status of being single (which I am not) or ask me out to lunch, dinner, coffee, etc. This is not okay.

The answer is a resounding NO NO NO!!!!

Beyond that, it was completely and totally inappropriate. How dare you?  Each and every one of them has now alienated a long standing friendship with me. And how dare you disrespect Mikey that way? Anyone that knows me knows that is the WRONG way to get on my good side. Have you not noticed how I will stand alone against an Army and fight. Literally.

You have no chance with me. I am not a conquest. Go away and hang your head in shame. Why would you even want to try to live up to what I had with Mikey? No one stands a chance to do that.

I have so many thoughts about these widow predators racing through my mind I can't even get them all out without sounding even more scattered.

Here is some advice though. If a woman that just lost the love of her life is in mourning (and no one knows how long that will last) do not hit on her in any way shape or form. Blatantly or by innuendo. Either way is wrong.
10 years later. 
This might be different for some women. But not me. Don't even begin to think it's okay. Notice the pictures over the years? Our love never lessened. In fact it grew with each day that passed.

Even in planning Mikey's passing and my future a man never entered the picture. I do have plans. I have a mission. No where in my plan includes another man to take care of. That plan also includes having his ashes turned into a diamond that will be worn on my left ring finger. He will always be near me. Always.

To the real gentlemen out there. Thank you for your kindness. For lending a hand when needed. For respecting both Mikey and myself. For not thinking I am weak because I need my dishwasher fixed. Thank you for getting doors, and carrying bags. Thank you for knowing a ring on my left ring finger means I am married.
Update: I am positive I did not misunderstand the intentions of any of those men. I have a great deal of male friends that have not crossed the line and I truly appreciate our friendships. I do know the difference from years of experience.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Who Am I?

Once upon a time I used to be a wife, a mother, a cook, a baker, a gardener and so much more.

Then dementia hit. 

Then I became a caregiver. 

Everything else stopped. Dementia took over every part of our lives. His life. My life. 

Anything that was done now had to be weighed against how it would affect dementia. 

I didn't mind though. The hours were long. The stress was high. I fought hard for his rights as a person that dementia had a grip on. When I thought I couldn't go on I somehow found the strength and determination to go just one more day. Then another, and another. 

Meals became simplified or non-existent depending on what dementia wanted that day or that moment. 

There was no more escaping to my woman cave to work on projects. Dementia made sure that as soon as I did get involved in something that it threw a wrench in. I finally just gave up. 

Being in the kitchen became a chore. Meals prepared that went uneaten because it's not what dementia wanted that day. 

Tasks like cleaning the house revolved around what dementia wanted that day. Dementia didn't like noises, lights or smells. 

Dementia doesn't reason so it refuses to argue. What dementia says goes. That meant smelly, messy ferrets or midnight runs to find seafood. Dementia doesn't make smart decisions. It was up to me to ensure safety when the decisions dementia made were bad. 

Dementia is afraid of showers. Dementia thinks it just had a bath. Dementia got mean. Very mean. Dementia just ate. Dementia hasn't eaten in days!

Dementia took over my sweet and gentle husband. I would get mad at dementia. Frustrated. I would yell at dementia. Then I would cry because dementia was living in my husband's body and he never deserved me yelling at him.

Dementia liked repetition. The same movie over and over and over and over.

Dementia doesn't have a sleep schedule.

Dementia wants what it wants NOW.

Dementia stole my husband and with it stole who I was.

Now dementia has left. It took my husband with it. There is an enormous empty deafening silence where it was. Dementia took my husband long before it left. Sometimes dementia would let him visit. Precious stolen moments. The emptiness now...it's too much.

I don't have a reason to jump. I can't find my desire because my desire was him. Dementia stole my identity too.

I won't allow dementia to keep my identity. I will find it again. Someday. One little piece at a time. Dementia has a strong grip. I try each day to find a piece. It hasn't happened yet. I have faith that someday, maybe even months from now that it will loosen it's grip on me.

Until then, be patient and kind. Don't tell me to suck it up. Telling me things like that might cause me to rip something off your face that you find valuable. Yeah, dementia has left some anger in it's wake.

For now just understand that I have forgotten how to live because dementia stole my life too. Know that each day I ask myself "Who am I?" Know that my grief is deep. Know that I am inside here fighting my way out.

Know I have a mission to complete. Promises made that won't go unresolved.

Know that just because I need space it doesn't mean I want you to stay away forever. I still need help because I'm not doing the best job with me right now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A forest for Mikey

People have asked what they could do. I didn't know at first. I know that Mikey loved the idea of his ashes being grown into a tree. That was one of his wishes. (That's a real thing.) I'm in the process of working on that. He really loved trees. Magnolia was his favorite. Sadly that is one tree I won't be able to grow up here. (There is more after the whole forest thing, sorry this is so long but keep reading.)

Then a friend posted this in his memorial guest book:  "Mikey, it is said an Oak tree symbolizes courage and power. I will plant one in my yard this weekend to honor you."

So some friends are planting an oak tree. I thought there might be something with this tree idea. I went to Arbor Day Foundation and started digging around. It turns out they have a way to plant trees in memorium. (I'll get to that soon.) Even better they are planting in a forest that Mikey always found very beautiful. Chippewa National Forest. There is no way to describe the beauty and massiveness of this national forest. Google it and look for images. It is also located very near to where we are in Minnesota.

The nice thing about planting a tree for him this way is you are helping a forest in need, it is tax deductible and you don't have to water and tend to the tree. The minimum donation is $10 but it plants 10 trees. First....

More about the forest from Arbor Day:

Established in 1908 as the first national forest east of the Mississippi River, Chippewa National Forest is located in the heart of northern Minnesota.

Its shared boundary with the Leech Lake Indian Reservation offers visitors the chance to experience Anishinabe culture and the rich history of the area including prehistoric times, the early logging era and Civilian Conservation Corps days. The forest’s large red and white pine trees make Chippewa one of the largest American Bald Eagle nesting sites in the continental United States.

The Need for Trees
In July 2012, a devastating storm with straight-line winds of 80 to 85 miles per hour tore through the forest, blowing down an estimated 95,000 of the 666,542-acre forest. About 12,000 of the acres affected were the heart of the forest’s pine tree country – stands of mature conifer trees were snapped off and uprooted.

Restoration of these majestic pine trees is critical to the wildlife that calls Chippewa National Forest home, including the American Bald Eagles that depend on the pine trees for their nesting habitat. The Ojibwa community at Leech Lake Indian Reservation has a special generations-old bond to these tree stands as well.

The generous support of the Arbor Day Foundation’s members and sponsors will help restore the forest from the damage caused by the devastating windstorm by planting hundreds of thousands of trees including red pine, white pine, white spruce and Jack pine in the Chippewa National Forest as part of the forest’s goal of 1 million trees planted.

Want to be a part of helping restore the forest and have a living memorial for Mikey too? The link will have the Chippewa National Forest pre-selected. All you have to do is complete it with the information you want. Trees For Mikey.

I go on his page about once a day to approve posts to his wall. Recently I was going through some of his unread messages to make sure none needed a response. I found this message.

He never once asked for anything for himself. Okay, maybe marbles but beyond that, the big picture, he always wanted others to have instead. So instead of, in addition to or however you want to honor his memory there are options. Basically, give to someone in need. Whether it be clothing or food. Help someone that is worse off than you. Yes, you might be in a bad spot but there is always someone in greater need. Always.

He also strongly believed in Matthew 6:2-4: So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

I would love to know in some form what people are doing. I think that can be done without bragging or telling what was done. Perhaps something along the lines of simply commenting, "It's been my honor."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Probably Wouldn't Be This Way

I probably wouldn't be this way. But I'm glad I am.

Because of Mikey I am a better person. He was so patient. I was so harsh. Over the years when my temper would fly he would calmly reword whatever it was I was upset about. He showed me that there were always two sides to everything. I still have a wicked temper. But after my initial outburst I can now analyze the issue and usually work through it much faster than before.

He taught me love. Not just loving him, that was easy. Loving mankind. So many people are what we feel undesirable to love. Those were the ones he loved more than any other. I may still not love as unconditionally as he did but I'm still better and that is because of him.

Strays. Human or animal. It didn't matter. If there was a need he did everything he could to make their life better even if there was no hope. I always thought I was a giving and generous person. I knew nothing about truly giving until I met him. He gave until it hurt. The coat he was wearing to someone that was shivering or the gloves off his hands to someone that had no choice but to stand outside for hours. We never amassed any amount of money because if we had something and someone else didn't then they got it. Yet we never went without. We were always blessed with whatever our need might have been.

Then there was singing. Oh his voice. He sang with his heart and never really thought he was a great singer. Perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps it was my love for him that made his voice sound like the most beautiful voice I had ever heard.

(If you want to hear him sing check the upper left column.)

Then there were others that he encouraged. "You don't have to sing well, you just need to sing loud!" He made everyone feel like a superstar. Including myself. I was always the shy one that stayed as far back as possible as I could. I could get on a stage and act because I was being someone else. But singing? That was ME on the stage that people were going to judge or hold their ears in pain. But I did it. Near the end I would get into bed with him and beam youtube karaoke to the TV and we would sing. It was harder and harder for him to sing and he would tell me "Sing just one more" after every song. So much that I usually couldn't speak afterwords from my throat being raw.

A song that I often sang was Probably Wouldn't Be This Way by LeAnn Rimes. After he was diagnosed I could no longer sing it. It became too real even though he hadn't passed. (This was the anticipatory grief.) He would ask me to sing it in our bedroom singing sessions. I would try. I couldn't. I would fall apart. He would hold me and tell me how sorry he was for putting me through this. My heart would hurt more. I would try to reassure him that I didn't blame him. Never had and never would. Still, he took all the blame on himself. My pain at his impending death would bring him to tears. I did my best to be strong around him. To smile. To sing. Like now though, the tears would still find a way to escape. Music was the usual culprit in making that happen.

He didn't want people to mourn his death. He wanted them to sing. So sing we did. People told me they felt they had never sang better than they did that night for his memory. I even found the courage to sing Boondocks which was our signature song. I sang it with Rick and Maurice and I got through it. They even threw in the part that Mikey had changed and to listen to original song without that part is so very odd. It made me feel good because it was what Mikey wanted.

Then there is this new word that I'm called. This word cuts through me. I've tried to find a different word. I found "dowager" and "relict." Fine. Call me a widow. But I don't feel like one. I feel that I am still a married woman. Married to Mikey. I know what the law says. I don't care. I have no interest in not being considered married. So if you must, but only if you must, refer to me as a widow. But try not to use that word around me. I have found it's an evil necessity for paperwork. I hate it.

Yes, I still talk to him. I have conversations because I know exactly what he would say to me. Perhaps it IS him speaking back to me. Perhaps it is just that I know him so well.

Yes, I think about him every moment of every day.
Yes, I still crawl into his bed and stay still to feel him near me. The animals do too.

Yes, I probably wouldn't be this way if I had never seen his face. But I am so very thankful that God let me borrow this angel for so many years. This earth angel that taught me so much about love and life.

Yes, I listen to him sing, over and over. I thank God I will always have his music.

Yes, someday I will be okay. Not today. Probably not tomorrow. I don't know when. I just know I have promises made to him that I will keep.

Probably Wouldn't Be This Way - Lyrics

Got a date a week from Friday with a preacher's son
Everybody says he's crazy
I'll have to see

I finally moved to Jackson when the summer came
I won't have to pay that boy to rake my leaves

I'm probably going on and on
It seems I'm doing more of that these days

I probably wouldn't be this way
I probably wouldn't hurt so bad
I never pictured every minute without you in it
Oh You left so fast
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes it's like I'm losing touch
Sometimes I feel that I'm so lucky to have had the chance to love this much
God gave me a moment's grace
'Cause if I'd never seen your face
I probably wouldn't be this way

Mama says that I just shouldn't speak to you
Susan says that I should just move on

You oughta see the way these people look at me
When they see me 'round here talking to this stone

Everybody thinks I've lost my mind
But I just take it day by day

I probably wouldn't be this way
I probably wouldn't hurt so bad
I never pictured every minute without you in it
Oh You left so fast
Sometimes I see you standing there
Sometimes I feel an angel's touch
Sometimes I feel that I'm so lucky to have had the chance to love this much
God gave me a moment's grace
'Cause if I'd never seen your face
I probably wouldn't be this way

Probably wouldn't be this way

Got A Date a week from Friday with a preacher's son
Everybody says I'm crazy

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mikey Howard Eulogy

Mikey was never one to put himself first. Even with a terminal illness, his pain was always secondary to his primary mission; taking care of the people he loved. He kept his sense of humor right up to his very last moments. He was loyal to a fault even in adversity. He would repeat a portion of the Soldiers Creed, “I will be loyal to those with whom I serve.” In fact in the eight years I served in the Army, Mikey was one of maybe two people that joined out of a sense of patriotism and a genuine desire to serve others. Mikey served everyone whether they were military or not. One of the very first things I noticed when we met was his kindness toward all mankind. He didn't care who you were or where you came from, if he felt someone was lonely and left out he would remedy that in a heart beat. There is no way to capture his total being in such a short time. Since Mikey was all about love and looking out for others I want to use some of his “profundities” as he called them as well as words his friends and family have said.

Feb 17, 2014: Apparently this thing I've got isn't just taking my memory, it's going to kill me too. As in worm food, stone cold, "Weekend at Bernie's", meeting my ancestors dead. That sucks for me, right? The prognosis is 2-7 years from onset and it's been 2 years so far. I'm in the process of dying and it looks like it's going to be sooner than I would have wanted or expected. I'm posting this on FB because there are some of you that I won't ever get to see again and others that I will never have the pleasure to meet. I want to thank you for your friendship and for the love and laughs you've given me. These are my last wishes for you : (1) Eat a big chocolate sundae. (2) Adopt an ugly cat. (3) Call your mom for no reason. (4) Don't stop singing when a car pulls up next to you (5) Take pride in your drive and determination to do well in your career but place much more value on love, family, and charity. (6) Join forces with PTSD/Substance Abuse - Soldiers Seeking Safety (7) Take care of Robin for me, please.
I love ya'll. Don't take anything too seriously, be good to yourself and everyone else and have an awesome life. I'm gonna go fishing.

Feb 23, 2014: Spend time with the oldest person you know, as much time as you can. Cherry pie filling is the best invention in history. Watch Bugs Bunny and Jimmy Stewart. Find a way to feed somebody that's hungry. Give money to an animal shelter but not if they have tarantulas. Tarantulas are creepy.

Feb 27, 2014: Dementia is awesome. You can look someone straight in the eye and say "Those green ducks are driving me crazy. They're chewing up my couch, always changing the channel without asking and barking at the sun all night. Can I borrow your shotgun?" and whoever you're talking to suddenly becomes a stutterer. Hehehehehehehe I have a fun disease.

March 2, 2014: Wisdom from the guy whose meds are kicking in : If you have any questions about anything at all then you need to get them to me as soon as you can because these new pills I'm taking are giving me the answers to absolutely anything and everything. Take advantage of my new-found brilliance before my prescription changes.
Wisdom ensues :
If you consider yourself to be "assertive and confident" but everyone else just thinks you're a jerk there's a better than average chance that you're an jerk. Sorry about that.
Diamonds are expensive but pearls are precious. I don't know why I made that distinction but it must be important. Maybe someone will explain it to me.
Eat every flounder you can find. Those critters have made a mockery of physiological bilateralism and are confusing. They deserve the fact that they're delicious.
It's acceptable to encourage obnoxious tourists to feed seagulls. (Bird poo is funny when you're not the one trying to get it out of your hair) Educate the nice people that are just visiting though. We like those guys.
If you make a donation to any animal shelter you will be a better person than you've ever been before. (Think about it, there's some cool profundity there...)
The next time a cashier is rude to you don't get your feelings hurt. Just say "Is it purple in here or is it just me? Seriously I need pennies." That's not productive or clever or funny but it has the potential to give somebody something to talk about when they get home. It's always nice to have something to talk about.

March 18, 2014: My confession : I haven't confronted anyone about this but I have to say that I have a low opinion of those of you that don't consider loyalty, duty, honor, friendship, and love to be a part of the core of yourself.

March 19, 2014: A new Mikey profundity. "A man that stands alone facing adversity without compromising and looks death in the eye without flinching is considered strong and is deeply respected. If that same man has someone by his side throughout all of his adversities and he can look death in the eye with the support of people that will love and support him to the end then he is a man to be envied." Now that I'm actually facing adversity and death I find that I would rather be envied than respected. I love you Robin.

March 21, 2014: Impending doom (insert dramatic music here) sucks but life without living sucks more. Stop and smell the roses. Compliment a clerk on her hair or nails. Learn to play guitar and write a song about dog gas. Take an epileptic friend to church and see if a revival breaks out. Send a trophy to every child you know that says how awesome they are. (Google it, trophies are not expensive.) If you go to a big church that doesn't need your money then use that 10% at the grocery store, you can pay your tithes at the shelter. If you're a racist like me then make a commitment not to pass that foolishness on to the next generation. Adopt something. Take a nap when you need one.

From Friends and family:
*Words are just so inadequate to try to express myself in this situation... The hole Mikey leaves is both unfathomably huge, and yet running over with fullness at the same time. Full of all of his essence, intensity, love, encouragement, hysterical stuff, wonder and courage and compassion and on and on... Even with such piercing rending grief, I am helpless but to jubilantly celebrate for his life and these magnificent reflections of him that will go on and on thru all of us who truly deeply love and adore him. And to get to hear and witness the way he loves you Robin and your shared breathtaking love... Has been a privilege that was unexpected and will have an eternal impact on my psych. It exists! It will live on. I am so much richer Robin for every moment we've spent, so joyful for the gift even as I mourn the shortness of the time. But I do love you both so deeply and truly...This is not how it ends...! We will see him again. And we will continue to share this special love and friendship until we do! Texas seems like a far away place to you now I know, but we are truly close together in spirit.  

*Mikey you were a true inspiration, to me you showed me how to be a soldier in the real army past training. you were the first NCO who truly showed me the army was a family. You welcomed me into your home as if i was your own...

*Through thick and thin, he knew how to make me smile. He was a battle buddy in arms. He loved his job, he was the go to medic in iraq.

*The harder the deployment got he made it easier. No worries and nothing negative to say. You could trust him with your life because not only did he know his job he loved it. After deployment he kept his smile and jokes. Top notch human.

*It was an honor serving you and your family.

*all good nothing bad because he was a Angel here on earth. He was fun, caring, and full of life. Mikey loves everyone, he never judges people he was everyone’s friend. He love putting a smile on everyone’s one face

*He was one of the greatest men I've ever known and I will never forget him.

*I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with you and Howard. Thank you for the honor of having served the two of you.

*Mikey, it is said an Oak tree symbolizes courage and power. I will plant one in my yard this weekend to honor you.

*Mikey, we will always be grateful for your service to our country, and we are even more grateful for your friendship, the way you loved people, the laughter and music you shared, that VOICE, your love for our dear Robin, and the way you made everyone feel like family! You were the coolest freedom fighting, gator wrestling, singing cowboy I've ever known! No one else will fill those shoes! We miss you, brother!

A message from his sister Carol.

For great warriors, when asked the question of one's greatest battle and to sum up the worst of War, it is a difficult thing. At the end of my brother's life when he wanted to leave a message for his children, he told me this about War. I think it is a good message for all children.
"In Iraq we were in a convoy traveling. Because of threats from those who would hurt or harm the troops, there was a rule enforced that civilian cars driven by the local people must not pass the troops without being cleared. It was an early morning convoy and a civilian car came up from behind. It began to pass the troops. The order was given to stop the car. Mikey was standing watch for the usual guard who had excused himself and Mikey was in the vehicle given the Shoot to Stop Order. He took careful aim at the passenger side which he could clearly see and had confirmed was unoccupied. The driver was pulled from the car. He did not understand the orders being yelled to him in the foreign language. His car was clean - no bombs- no weapons. In Iraq jobs are very hard to come by. It was a father trying to support his family. Being detained that morning could cost his family something precious that could not be recovered." My brother said, "..the fear in his eyes - the fear that I put into the eyes of an innocent man, who was trying to take care of the wife and the children he loved was the worst thing about War. This man was the father and provider for a family we were sent to help, and protect....that was the worst moment."
This was the worst and most haunting memory of my brother. First, do no harm. He was a healer... and he did all he could, with every breath he was given. His Mission Complete. Completed with Valor.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Mikey Howard Funeral Feb 14, 2015

HD video on entire service.

Condensed pictorial version of the service. (I do not know where the entire clip went, I'll investigate and fix the error as soon as I can.)

The songs that were chosen all have very special meaning. Home, the version you hear was one he watched over and over and sang just as often. We made it home honey. Promises fulfilled. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What Next?

Mikey and Little Bit

Life is such a disaster around me I just sit here and stare. Right now it's easier for me to leave the house than to sit here in it and figure out what to do first. I simply do not know.

Until January 30, 2014 our plan was to move to Ecuador. We had big plans. A little place in the country. Fruit trees, gardens, animals. It was years of planning that we put into this dream.

His diagnosis changed that instantly. We couldn't move so far away from family knowing he was terminally ill.

It then changed to Florida so he could be near his family. I searched homes every day looking for one that would work. His family would go check on things. I thought we had found one but Mikey hated it. It was out. This went on for months. It was frustrating.

Mikey would sit in his room and sing "Home." Just the chorus. Over and over. It broke my heart because I was doing everything I could to get him home.

In November 2014 he called me into the room. He said he didn't want to go to Florida. He wanted to go to his home where he was surrounded by love and so was I. He wanted to go home to Minnesota. I cried. Tears of happiness. I would follow him anywhere but to go home to where my family is brought me so much joy. They were his family too.

There weren't nearly as many homes where we were going as there were in the Florida area we were heading. I didn't have high hopes. I got online and there were three possibilities. I arranged for my Mom and Sister to go look. They took pictures. They loved it and so did we. A purchase agreement was made shortly after Thanksgiving.

Everything was going somewhat well. Mikey still sang "Home" every day. As we were going through the mortgage process we learned that for VA home mortgages they want to know every little detail of your life, past and present. It felt like an interrogation and was so completely frustrating. The same time I'm doing the mortgage I'm working on all of his VA paperwork, dealing with hospice care and taking are of him 24/7. Looking back I don't know how I did it except without a higher power.

On January 7, 2015 I found Mikey unconscious in the bathroom. I do not know how long he had been there. I thought he was asleep and the monitor didn't alert me to him getting up. He was cold and I thought he was gone. I yelled for Karen to get in there with him while I made phone calls. She did and I yelled again to get him covered up. He finally responded and I took a breath. I still didn't know what was wrong and hospice told me to call the fire department for a lift assist. I think 6 people arrived, maybe more. Whomever I called turned it into a 911 call. Wrong. They didn't seem too happy about it but I showed them him hospice papers and advanced directives.

Mikey started to respond more and I told the nurse to wait until the next day to come. I also knew at this point I had no time to waste in getting him home. I talked to the realtor and he arranged for us to do an early move-in agreement because the closing date was very near.

Friday, January 9 I went to transportation and scheduled our move. I figured it would still be a week or two out. She arranged for the packers to come Monday morning January 12! I went home and made arrangements for motel rooms and did my best to get as much ready as I could over the next two days. The entire next week was a blur.

Plane tickets were bought for Mikey and Karen who would be escorting him. Thank you Col Woodall for your help with that. The flight on January 20 was not without issues. Mikey's tremors caused his hat to come off and hit a woman. I'm sure not enough to even hurt her but she had a fit and demanded he be removed from the flight. She did not care what was wrong with him, he hit her with his hat! I will let you insert your own thoughts here. The airline who was supposed to be assisting with transfers did nothing and at one point even separated Mikey and Karen. Mikey should NEVER have been left unattended. He fell out of his chair, twice. People stood and watched as he lay on the floor and Karen struggled to get him back up. But they made it and there was family to pick them up and get them into the house safely.

The same time they got on the plane I took off driving with my sister as co-pilot. 4 cats in carriers that were not happy and verbalized their disdain. Two dogs, one of which was not doing well from the stress. Little Bit. This was all very hard on her. She ended up riding on Jenny's lap for most of the trip. She wouldn't use the bathroom. She wouldn't eat. She would lick ice.

We made it to Witchita the first day. We found a motel that didn't care about all the pets and let us stay. We quickly went to bed and woke up at 2 am to eat breakfast and get back on the road.

We pulled into our new home a little after 5pm January 21. Everyone was here and excited to see me and show me the house but first things first. I go down to where Mikey is and hug and kiss him and let him know I made it safely. It felt so good to touch him. It was a long 2 days worrying and traveling.

Our household goods were delivered Saturday January 24. It was cold standing out in the garage as they brought things in. The heavy things anyway. Most things I had them leave in the garage, the boxes that I could go through when I had time. So many things were broken and if they weren't broken they don't work in some form or another. I spent the next few days opening boxes and wondering what I am going to do with all these things. I am still very overwhelmed and we have not yet closed on the house.

Little Bit is getting sicker. I hold her often. I took her to the Doctor. She was in full renal failure. She was always sickly. Epilepsy, congestive heart failure, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. January 27 she crossed the bridge. She was going to meet Loki (November 2014.)

That afternoon we closed on the house. It was stressful. The closing agent came to us and was trying to explain each page as Mikey signed. I finally had to say just point to where he needs to sign and we'll go over the paperwork when I sign. Mikey was relieved because he was done after the first signature.

A bittersweet day for us.

On January 30, one year after Mikey was diagnosed, I noticed Noodie (our 19 year old cat) was not doing well. She had had feline dementia for a few years but was otherwise healthy. She was having problems moving, moving very slowly. Not eating.

February 2 Noodie laid in bed next to Mikey. She had quit urinating. They cuddled as they always did. Mikey covering her to keep her warm. She went to be with Loki and Little Bit.

February 3 I had a stark realization. I talked with everyone that had been caring for Mikey the last three days. NONE of us had done something that we do routinely because it hadn't needed to be done. Empty his urinal. There was none. Not a single drop to empty. I knew immediately what it was. Acute renal failure. I called hospice. The nurse came and Mikey said he had gone. His sense of time has been bad for a while. I counted back the days to the last time I had emptied it. It was Sunday morning. I called his family.

I prayed daily that something would happen. That his kidneys would start working again as quickly as they had shut down. Leading up to those days he had no problem at all with them. Surely this horrible disease and the way it jumped around could let loose of his kidneys and it would be alright.

As the days passed and he even realized he wasn't urinating he would drink more fluids because he thought he was dehydrated. Nothing. I had been told the more fluids he took in the faster he may pass because it has no where to go. The nurses checked his bladder daily. There was nothing there.

I knew now he was dying. This can't be happening so soon. This can't be real. His Mom and sister arrived on Friday February 6. My son was scheduled to arrive Sunday February 8. I told Mikey they were all on their way. The hospice nurses were amazed at his will to hang on. The day he passed is written about here.

Ten days later and I sit here and look around and don't know what to do. Pieces of random trivia come up and I want to run in there and quiz him and reality hits we can no longer share random trivia. No more story telling all night long. No more laying in his lap to watch movies while he played with my hair. No more anything.

The boxes are still piled up. Scattered.

His room is the cleanest in the house. Set up with many of the thing he loved to have near him. Including his Christmas tree with the Angel Owl that he wanted to be looking at him at all times. His caribou fur covering his bed. Daisies on his table. His roosters looking out over him from another part of the room.

There is so much to do and no where to begin. Then there is paperwork. Notifications. People are still finding out. Piles of mail. Thank you notes.

I am thankful that my family is feeding me. Cooking right now is too much. Cooking is to much of a memory with Mikey.

One thing is for certain. He kept his last promise made and got us home.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Ammonite.

This little Treasure is One of My Favorite Things in the Whole World!...
It's A beautiful Little

(This story was told to us the night before leaving Texas to come home to Minnesota.)

This sweet little guy is REALLY old (this one is about 280 million yrs); which is really cool, and really important. So much is often said about the wisdom that comes with age... And about many things getting better and more beautiful with age and the passage of time... This sweet little treasure for sure proves those statements to be true.
As you hold it up in the light you can see its graceful curve and you can see that its outer coating has changed over time to be kind of softly iridescent. It didn't start that way. It was already wonderful. But as it drifted toward the sea floor dying, it probably could never imagine that death would have no power to wipe away the truth and the glory of its existence. That it would forever continue to display God's amazing artistry. That it would become even more miraculous over the eons. I'm sure it didn't know that it would become a most amazing analogy for our lives... And that is one of the main reasons that I adore ammonites so very much. I love the mathematical curvature, the iridescence, the textures on the surface and its needs and habits that are so like ours. Because they are truly that near perfect analogy.
This little ammonite is like you Robin and Mikey. Miraculously both separately and eternally together at the same time. Its so sweet and beautiful in its expression of God's creative Love. It is a miracle in its existence. But looking deeper into its needs and its actual existence during its life, the story unfolds much more... It truly is so like our souls and our living experience. Life was difficult and dangerous and fraught with challenges and tests. But one thing that made the ammonite a special creature is that unlike its co-mariner the snail, who also were very interesting and nicely curled; it had the special gift of floatation. While the snails curved slowly around and around they did it off centered. And...glued to the bottom of the ocean floor. They had to watch the Ammonite float around, choosing with free will where it decided it wanted to be. How high, how deep, which direction it wanted to go, it went. With one BIG requirement. You see the ammonite coils in the same plane as it grows and goes through life’s changes. And it grows one chamber at a time, one after the other after the other after the other. No shortcuts. No detours. You can't skip one, go around a few to get past a bad couple of chambers to get to the really good big roomy chambers in the middle or the end. And the ammonites life’s anointing and freedom and success is a specialized little air chamber that runs through and connects every chamber from birth to death. They are able to control this chamber to allow themselves to float at different levels and to stay upright. If they loose control of the ability to keep themselves floating upright they cannot keep themselves growing in that perfect plane. And if they are injured or sick or get into a situation they didn't have the ability to maintain control of to achieve this feat...they will start to lose their balance, lose control...start to sink to the bottom. And if not able to correct this and get back into that perfect plane, they will float to the bottom and die stuck in the mud or be consumed by a predator. And my personal testimony is that that is sooo like our existence and our relationship with the Lord. We are born, we live and grow through one chapter at a time. No matter good or bad, successful or tragic or nondescript, we must grow through each one, one at a time. And if we have times where we get wounded, distracted or just choose to go off in a wrong direction, get lost and find ourselves getting out of that perfect plane of God's love and purpose, we start to drift and sink, struggle and die inside until or if we get back into that perfect plane with the Lord.

And so as it looks sweet, wonderful, beautiful the most wonderful thing of all is......what's locked inside. It turns out that this singley whole precious creature that is so representative of the sweet beauty of “Robin and Mikey” now has two perfect halves. And then it reveals its sweetest miracle.

 When you open it up and each hold half, there inside is the record of your journey. Two journeys that are melted into one and now recorded in time as one single journey that led to a miracle of Gods amazing Love... The picture of the journey of “Mikey and Robin”...

-- With tremendous love and celebration,

God and Ronda

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Fog

Everything and everyone around me sits in this thick fog that I have to cut through. Fake smiles covering overwhelming pain. Emotions that are all over the place. Never knowing exactly how I feel versus how I should feel. I don't know what to do next. Trips to the store for needs and the anxiety that hits me while I'm there to hurry and get back home so I am not away from him for too long and the reality that hits me that I no longer have to hurry back because he is no longer there.

Mikey took care of so much before he left and there was not much left to do but even those few things were so hard to figure out. They MUST be perfect. Misprints, errors, typos, rumors. He would have been so upset by them. They have upset me. My grammar brought him to the brink of insanity and he would frantically edit everything I wrote. My editor is no longer by my side shaking his head at my written words and questioning my meaning of saying something a certain way.

He was not only my husband. He was my best friend. My confidant. My heart. My love. When your heart is ripped from your chest and you are forced to continue, to breathe and to walk it is done in a fog. I'm told the sun will come out and the fog will slowly fade away. I've seen it happen for others. It's just so thick right now that I can't see in front of me.

The mission ahead seems impossible yet I know I have to find my way out of this fog and complete this one last mission in his name.

So many kind words from family and friends. I grab them. I read and reread them. I cry. I laugh. He was so beautiful inside and out. To try to capture his essence in just a few words is impossible. The stories that will cause side-splitting laughter or tears of joy and sadness. He was a story teller. There was not enough time to capture them. I will always regret that I didn't spend more time recording his "Stupid Mikey Stories." They are my treasures. We would spend hours in the evening sitting in bed holding hands and laughing while he told stories. I never cared if it was the fiftieth time I had heard the same one. I laughed or cried just as hard at each telling.

I am thankful for modern social media and the internet. It allows me to grab and keep forever the beauty that he was. I know it will help me cut my way through the fog as time passes.

1 Corinthians 13:13 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; 
but the greatest of these is love.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mikey Howard Obituary

Mikey Howard
(I am tired of the errors in his obituary so I am going to post it in it's entirety. I just feel that Mikey's life deserves fewer errors and omissions. Please still visit and sign the guest book.)

March 6, 1968 – February 8, 2015

            Mikey Howard, age 46 of Park Rapids, MN, formerly of Lynn Haven, FL peacefully passed from this life into eternal life at his home with his loved ones at his side.

            Mikey was born on March 6, 1968 in Lakeland , FL to George and Patricia (Rocher) Turner.
It was in Lynn Haven that he attended public school and grew into manhood.  In 1985, he entered the United States Army where he proudly served his country as a member of the 16th Infantry of the lst Division as a Specialist Class E-4.  Upon receiving his honorable discharge in 1988, he worked as a vocal entertainer and disc jockey.  Mikey reentered the Army in 2008 where he served as an army combat medic.  He was deployed to Iraq from July of 2009 to July of 2010 with Task Force ODIN and a second time from February of 2011 to December 2011 with CMC 215th BSB.  Shortly after returning home from his second deployment, Mikey began exhibiting the symptoms of Lewy body dementia; but, the army did not diagnose this terminal disease until January of 2014. His illness has helped bring to light the mistreatment of our wounded warriors.  He continued being based out of Fort Hood , Texas until retiring from the military on July 27, 2014 .  Mikey loved music and he loved to sing and bring joy to his many loved ones.  He was a voracious reader who enjoyed filling his mind with facts and knowledge.  Due to his deteriorating health, Mikey entered hospice care in September of 2014. Just recently he unselfishly moved with his wife, Robin to Park Rapids and bought a home so that she could be with her family at the time of his death.  Above all, Mikey cherished the time he spent with his soul mate, best friend and wife, Robin who he loved with all his heart, soul and mind.

            Mikey will be lovingly remembered by his precious wife for these past ten years, Robin (Alden) of Park Rapids;  his children: Christian, Abigail, Carley, Joshua, Sarah Jayne, Christina Michelle, Severin-Liam and step son Billy Barton;  his two grandsons: Jaxon and William; his mother and step-father, Patricia and Lewis Howell of Panama City, FL; his two sisters: Carol Turner and Ashley Thibodaux and brother, Kreed Howell all of Panama City, FL; as well as many nieces, nephews, other relatives and many, many friends.

            Mikey was preceded in death by his father, George Turner in 2005.

            Memorial services will be held 2 PM Saturday, February 14, 2015 at the Assembly of God Church in Park Rapids with the Reverend Art Wood and Rev. Tim Wilson officiating. The organist will be Kjersten Schmid and the song leader will be Trisha Glanzer. Visitation 1 hour prior to service.

The urn bearers will be: Ron Alden, Randy Alden, Joe Alden, Shannon Jay, Richard Watson and Maurice Eisenbarth.

The Star of the North Marine Corps League will be providing military honors.  To leave on line condolences or to view the memorial video honoring Mikey’s life, please visit www.jonespearson.com.

We encourage you to visit and sign the guestbook with a special memory or thought about Mikey. You can find it at: Mikey Howard Guestbook

Mikey's service will be Saturday, February 14 at 2:00 pm. Visitation will be one hour prior. It will be at the Park Rapids Assembly of God located at 208 Western Ave South, Park Rapids, MN 56470 (Half mile west of fair grounds off Hwy 34) There will be a luncheon following the service provided by the Park Rapids Assembly of God church.

If you need information on lodging please contact Jenny Alden and she can guide you. (see info below)
Hotels with rooms available are limited do to hockey tournaments and Valentine's Day but these are the hotel's and numbers that have some vacancy:
Be sure to mention when making reservations you are needing the Funeral/Bereavement rate.
C'mon Inn: 218-732-1471

Super 8: 218-732-9704
AmericInn: 218-732-1234 (At this hotel, tell them it's for Mikey Howard's funeral.)
If you have any questions contact me thru PM. ~Jenny

A tip for the day of the service: Mikey's favorite color is pink and his favorite flower was the daisy as well as sunflowers.

Floral arrangements are to be delivered to the Park Rapids Assembly of God church as there will be nothing held at the funeral home. 

Saturday after the service: Akeley VFW from 6 pm to 8 pm. Sideline Entertainment (Love you guys so much!) will then be at the Park Rapids American Legion set up (back room) and ready for you to do karaoke and continue honoring Mikey's memory by doing what he loved to do the most and that is singing!

There will be another night at a later date to be determined that is more planned out. These are both impromptu get togethers by his friends doing exactly what Mikey would have wanted them to do and that is to sing and have fun.. ~R

Waiting for death.

This post is about the last hours I spent with Mikey before he passed. I wrote it using my phone as I waited and finished my thoughts later. I can't speak with my mouth right now without crying. I need to write to heal. This is the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life. 

It is raw, unedited and real. We have been open about our journey, this post doesn't mean the journey is over. It simply means that Mikey is as rest and no longer tortured by pain and memories. The journey will continue. 

2:00 a.m. I haven't been able to sleep with Mikey in a long time. Tonight I have positioned myself somewhat under him. I feel every tremor and hear every labored breath he takes. I'm here because I'm scared. I'm here because there is nothing else I can do. I'm here to make sure he feels my presence in his last moments.
I should try to rest. I do close my eyes. Then there is a tremor that goes through his entire body, a sharp intake of breath and a release. Then I freeze. I wait. I wait for what seems like forever to see if he takes another breath. I'm afraid he won't. I'm even more afraid that he will. I don't ever want to lose him. I can't bear the pain he is in with each breath he takes.
Moving into day 8 of acute renal failure.
4:40 a.m. I dozed off for a while. His sister Carol was on medication duty so I could. I woke with a start at 4:11 though. I checked the med schedule and went ahead and did his next dose. Now it consists of squeezing a drop or two at a time into his mouth and letting it absorb before continuing. It takes a while. Just as I finished his eyes flew open and looked directly at me. He wasn't there. I don't know how to fully explain that but his eyes were empty, devoid of color and life. It scared the hell out of me.
I catch myself holding my breath waiting for him to take his next and wondering if he doesn't take his next breath will I ever breathe again.
2:00 p.m. Breaths are further apart, he has stopped responding. There is a moan after each breath. This is so painful. I pray for God to please take him to stop his suffering. Then I get scared and ask for one more breath. 
Billy arrived shortly after 2. Billy is my son. Billy told him it was okay to go, that he was here and I would be taken care of. Older brother Ron told him the same. I crawled back into the bed with him. I tucked myself into him and under him. His body was more relaxed, not as paralyzed as it had been. 
Billy was joking with him about throwing a football. 
I felt Mikey relax even more. 
I called for Mom Pat. Mikey was still breathing but we could get no vital sign readings. I called for the family to come in and asked Pastor to pray. 
I felt him leave during the prayer. 
No. NO. NO!!! 
Not my heart. He was my heart. I ran. I collapsed. I screamed. I begged. Just one more breath. Just one more. 

Time of death is uncertain. It sort of stopped. There were things to be done. Everything was in place. Everyone had a job to do. I had to call hospice. That was my only job. I didn't have to say the words. His beautiful nurse heard my voice and simply said, "I'm so sorry, I'll be there right away." 

I still don't believe it. I can't get myself to go back to him. I'm only dreaming, if I don't look it won't be real. I can't bear this pain. I cannot! 

Jenny had the hard task. Making the calls to everyone. 

Carol, Mikey's sister helped get Mikey ready for the family along with the hospice nurse. 

My son and brothers had to help the funeral director get Mikey ready to leave. That had to be hard. 

I don't remember details. I remember seeing the hearse pull into the yard and being so angry and my brother grabbing me. I went between our garages. I sat on the cold ground and cried. I hit the garage and screamed some more. 

I had to decide if I wanted to see Mikey being taken out. I had to decide if I wanted to see him once more. I had to decide if I wanted his face covered in this horrible body bag that would forever hide him from me and I could never ever see him again or touch him or feel him. 

I CAN'T DECIDE!!! I don't know what to do. Why are all these people talking to me. Why are they asking me questions. WHY???!!!

Mikey was ready for me to go back in. I sat down on the end of the bed. He released a breathe. I lunged at him. We had made a horrible mistake! He was ALIVE!! Get Away! Let me get to him. The nurse stopped me and told me it was normal. That he was gone. I cried with the same pain once again. I wanted so bad to be wrong.

That wasn't Mikey there. It doesn't even look like Mikey. Mikey is beautiful and full of life. That wasn't him. But wait, I can't let him go. I can't. I have to. They are taking him away. I can't watch. JUST LEAVE! GO AWAY!! GET AWAY FROM ME!

What do I do now? 

Jenny is done making calls. It's time to make the public announcement. I thought we had reached everyone. I didn't realize my baby brother hadn't had a chance to call his children because he was so busy helping them get Mikey ready and out of the house. 

There was an order. Everything was planned. Everyone had a job. I didn't know a wrench had been thrown in. I am so sorry for those that should have gotten a call first and saw it on Facebook. Know it wasn't intentional. Haley and Hunter-please be mad at me and not your Dad. He was very busy doing work and helping Uncle Mikey. I didn't know. I didn't know he was dialing and did not know I had made the public announcement. 

The nurse helped figure out time of death to be 2:57pm. I am sure it was before that but time stopped and everything went blurry. 

When I thought all the calls had been made I wrote this statement out that had been written before he passed. Everything was planned. A plan makes things better. Plans don't always go as planned. 

I hate that we knew so many that deserved a call. It simply wasn't possible. I hate that people are still finding out and being crushed by his death. Mikey and I knew it was imminent. I didn't know it would be so soon after him getting me home. I thought I had a little more time. I did know he was much sicker than anyone but those closest to him thought. I know it was hard to imagine such a wonderful, funny person who would still jump on facebook to crack a joke could be dying. 

I still can't believe it. I still think I will wake up and this will all have been a dream. 

I need to sleep. That's okay. I can sleep. What scares me is waking up and this being real.