This week has been, quite literally, a blur.
I spent almost 48 hours straight in a fever induced delirium not really knowing or caring my location.
Most of my week can be summed up in those moments of confusion.
I like to try to organize things in my house, things in my barn, things in my purse.
I like to organize my thoughts into words and organize those words into stories with meaning
Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense and you have to go with it. Sometimes you just have to let the house go, and the barn go (except for basic animal care) and my purse is always a mess.
And sometimes, life gives you a fever so that you are forced to just let the mess go inside your head.
My journal entry this week is written differently in style in an effort to reflect my thoughts as I slipped back and forth between consciousness and fever induced sleep.
July 13, 2018
Ninety something degrees in Georgia. I’m not sure how hot it is and I don’t care enough to find out. I am falling into the car for a long trip back to Virginia after spending some amazing quality time with Nan. I have had to cut my time too short, not been able to complete everything I wanted to accomplish and been unable to risk telling my grandma goodbye after promising her I would be back. Since I came down suddenly with a fever after visiting with her on Tuesday evening, I can’t take the risk of having something infectious that she can catch. It’s sweltering outside but I am shaking and can’t get warm. I cover myself with a blanket and instantly drop off to sleep. Not once do I get out of the car or do more than wake up for a moment to try to get comfortable for the six-hour drive home.
Back in the mountains of Virginia it is cooler and I am freezing. I grab a few things from the car and fall into bed. I don’t know what time it is. I don’t care. I am burning up with a fever. No other symptoms at this point. Just a tremendous headache and a fever. I shiver and shake and sleep. Losing all of Wednesday and most of Thursday, I finally start pushing fluids when I am conscious enough on Thursday afternoon. I wake for a short while but soon give myself over to sleep once again. The fever is kicking my butt, but with Tylenol, I can get the fever down for a while. Having not eaten since Tuesday evening I decide on a handful of frozen blueberries. Wrong choice. Whether nerves or the fact that whatever I had was affecting my digestive system too, the blueberries go straight through me. Literally. I later try a piece of toast. It goes down but I can only force myself to eat half of it. I just have no appetite.
Sometime Thursday night or Friday in the wee hours of the morning I wake and think I might be nauseous. I tell myself it is my imagination and try to go back to sleep. I get up to go to the bathroom and come back to bed only to realize that I am going to be sick. I find myself dry heaving having not eaten only a couple yogurts, a handful of blueberries and a half a piece of toast since Tuesday. The violence of my revolted stomach gives way to a measure of peacefulness and again, I sleep.
I awake later in the morning on Friday, again lying on a bed of sheets and blankets drenched in my sweat but thinking to myself that I feel better. I am trying to sort out what has been real and what has been a dream about the last few days.
The baby birds nesting in my hair and the delightful shivers that sent down my spine, that was a dream. The warble of the parenting pair of Carolina Wrens outside my window and the sounds of their hungry babies, that’s reality.
The darkness that crept into my delirium taking shape and moving slowly across the landscape of my mind, was part dream and part reality. This month is Josh’s birthday and rather than move in during consciousness, the deep sense of loss that swells during the months of his birth and his death moved in while I was lost in a deep sleep. The dark shape that walked across the landscape of our yard, witnessed by both Mike and I during one of my awake moments, was also reality. The large bear had returned and made its way confidently from the edge of the tall pine grove, across the fence line, crossing over the fence and making her way to the back forty once again.
Dogs. Dogs were in my dreams but they must become a reality. I have to get well enough to find some livestock guardian dogs and I must find a way to be stable enough to give them the time and attention they need to get them settled, but how do I do that? I need to be in Georgia with my grandma and I need to be in Staunton with my grand babies. I can’t be training and acclimating livestock guardian dogs to their new territory if I am not at home. Analia has a birthday party soon. All the grands will be there and in one month we will have a new grandbaby to welcome into the world. I have to get better.
Am I a dying? It’s July and the green leaves are fluttering off the huge old Maples in the yard. In my delirious state I must have wondered dozens of times if it would not be ironic if “young and heathy” I would be the one to see our loved ones on the other side before Grandma. She and I had talked about the gathering of our family all together in one time and place. She asked me if I thought Jesus gathered all of us together in one place. It took her a long time to get the question out and I had to struggle hard to hear and understand what she was saying. I told her that I did believe that. I assured her that it would seem like just a moment in time for those who have gone on. It only seems long to those of us who remain.
My time with Grandma was so intense. Was I so connected to her that I was getting a taste of what she was feeling and what she was experiencing? Had I not even told some of those closest to me that I would never want to have dementia but that I wish there was some way that I could get inside the minds of dementia patients and understand how their minds are working? Wouldn’t it be amazing if one could get inside and unlock the keys that would set all of those with dementia free? Was I losing my mind too? I have been so forgetful lately and made mistakes I don’t usually make. Mistakes that could have cause great harm to myself or others were it not for what I believe was Supernatural Intervention.
Was that one of my cows in the neighbor’s meadow? It must be, but how could they have gotten through multiple fences to get over there? It must be a deer but it couldn’t be a deer because it was too big. It had to be a cow. No, it couldn’t be a cow. A deer. I am sure now. One of the biggest buck’s I have ever seen positioned in such a manner that from my bedroom window as I lay on my bed, he looks like he is staring right at me. Is he trying to tell me something?
No. He’s gone.
It’s Friday. I’ve lost two full days but I am determined that I am going to be better. I get up and eat a piece of toast. Well, I manage to choke down half and then decide to just concentrate on fluids. I do feel better. I am communicating. I am on the porch sitting and watching the birds and even taking some photos. No baby birds nesting in my hair like I dreamed, but I can hear them chirping inside the bird house just a few feet away from where I sit. Their parents keep bringing in food for them to eat.
I watch my cows through the kitchen window. I binge watch a few programs on TV. Rarely do I watch anything. I wash some clothes but by late afternoon the fever has returned and I am sleeping again. Mike has joined me on the sofa. I have no clue what time of day or night it is. I sleep part of the night on the couch and then move to the bedroom.
Saturday morning, I feel better. I feel a lot better. I am planning an easy day but hoping to accomplish something when Mike comes in from checking the cows and tells me that the fence (electric netting) we have used to create addition space for the momma cows has come down and that small group has escaped to the back forty with the rest of the herd. This time it’s not a dream, the cows really did get out of their fence but are in fact still safely contained within permanent perimeter fencing. The calves are big enough now that I wouldn’t worry about the escape except for the fact that the very pregnant, milk fever prone, Princess is with them. Mike says he’s going up on the Kubota to find them and asks if I want to go along.
Weak from not having eaten in so long, I still want to go. I dress, grab a water bottle and my camera. I must be better because I grab my camera. There have been no words and few pictures all week and my mind craves pictures, words, stories.
I am back. The need to create means I am back.
My naughty cows are doing what they have done for me time and time again, bringing me back from an abyss of darkness whether that darkness was grief, illness, loneliness, depression, confusion, or anxiety.
We ride and find the cattle with heads up looking as we approach. I shake a small bucket of feed to entice them and the whole herd begins to follow the Kubota as we slowly make our way back down from the farthest corner of the back forty. I look behind us at the beauty of those trusting faces following along. My soul is instantly filled with peace.
I hear Grandma’s weak and shaking voice whispering out words and I recognize she is quoting the beloved Scripture she has spent hours memorizing but what is she saying. I lean closely so I can understand and feel her breath against my cheek. I smooth back her beautiful white hair, much longer than she typically keeps it, but it suits her. I recognize the well-known verses commonly used to comfort those who are hurting.
“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
I swallow a lump in my throat, hold her hand gently and find the strength to join her.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Nan’s voice is still faint and I can’t hear every word but I can tell she is not missing a word. I use the strength of my voice to help her along but falter at the next part as my heart breaks in a million pieces.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”
She is calm. Big, silent tears are streaming down my face. With all my strength I reach inside myself and find my voice again.
Together we continue:
“I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
Nan’s voice is very weak now and knowing how the passage ends I draw my own comfort for Nan and from Nan in the final verses. My voice is steady and strong now and together we finish:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
I left Nan resting peacefully on Tuesday night, her heart and lungs still amazingly strong but her mind growing weaker and her soul growing weary.
As the Jerseys followed me trustingly over the hills and through the valley back to home, it was easy to understand what was real about the past week: all of it. Every muddled, messed up, fever induced, crazy thought that swept through my head. Every emotion from deep anxiety to perfect peace. Every sight, sound and smell from the confines of an adult memory care facility to the rolling hills of the back forty of our Blue Ridge Mountain home. All of it was real. It might be not easily organized, categorized, or defined and maybe a whole lot messy, but it was real and it was meaningful.
It’s what I was given.