The Goodbye: Part 3

The Goodbye: Part 3

On Saturday morning, I got the call that we were moving to the hospice facility. I immediately began packing a duffle because we were all in. My mom, sister, and I would be sleeping in my dad’s room and living there till the end. If there’s anything we’ve learned over the years, you do NOT leave one of your own in their time of need. We’d been there with dogs and cats as they crossed the rainbow bridge, my mom and I stayed in hospice with my Mema just 2 years prior. It’s just what we did and it’s what I’ll continue to do for the rest of my life.

The hospice facility had two sides of rooms. While all were beautiful, only one side backs up to Kennesaw Mountain, one of Dad’s favorite spots in our town. We were told all mountain side rooms were taken, so the parking lot side was our option. However, I believe God gives you what you need. And He did that day. Sadly, in this place, you know why a room becomes available. But we were thankful that Room 10, overlooking the mountain, became our home. It had a porch, French doors, two beautiful rocking chairs, and was next door to the patio area where we welcomed visitors. It was the perfect set up for the worst situation.

When we arrived, Dad was in an enormous amount of pain from his transfer. He was behind in medication and it was going to take a few doses to get him comfortable. One thing I have always loved about my Dad was his kindness and respect for everyone. Once his pain subsided, he asked for his nurse again. When she came in, he extended his hand…

Hi, I’m sorry. I think we got off to a rocky start. I’m Scott, what was your name?

I could tell that she had never heard such an apology. Especially coming from someone who was also coming to terms with their final days on Earth.

Susan,” she said with a smile. “It’s so nice to meet you.

The next two days were spent getting acquainted with the facility. Our friends and family visited and participated in a meal train so that we never had to leave for food. It was the sweetest gesture and the company gave us the laughs we needed to get through the next hour. On Sunday night, I was asleep in the recliner next to Dad’s bed and the nurses came in to clean him up. I wish this was a happy moment, but I woke to the sounds of his discomfort, wishing it would stop. I held his hand and we both cried because of his pain. I wanted to take it away for him, but I couldn’t. As the nurses left, I got an alert on my phone. A shooter in Las Vegas took the lives and injured many at a country music festival. We turned the tv on and Dad whispered “can you believe it?

I replied no, shaking my head. It was awful.

Then I heard Dad sing softly “Do you believe in magic?

Again, here he was lifting the mood. Trying to cheer others up when he was the one going through the worst. He’d been in so much pain again, but put it aside to bring comfort to us as we all sat watching the breaking news unfold. My hero.

Monday brought more guests sporadically, so it was nice to have quiet moments of reflection on the porch. Dad used the last bits of strength he had for first pumps anytime someone asked about our beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. The weather was amazing, it was the first weekend that the temperatures dipped to a beautiful 60* and the breeze was perfect. With the French doors open, I would watch Dad sleep and study his methodical moves of his hands. Always placing one gently on his chest, the other on his lap. Every so often they would trade places and he’d be asleep again. I knew we were getting close by the increase in long naps. I hated we were there, I wished it all away, but then I’d look at him and pray it wouldn’t last long. That was his only request to the palliative care doctor at the hospital. He just didn’t want it drawn out.

That night was quiet, not a lot of nurse interruptions. No nighttime visitors. Mom, Kelsey and I talked about everything we could think of. We cried about our future and the unknown, laughed discussing our favorite stories, and even ignored our situation altogether with gossip sessions from social media. It was all we could do to get ourselves to sleep.

If only we had known that it was our last night with Dad.

The Goodbye: Part 2

The Goodbye: Part 2

The next day, my alarm rang out and my eyes tried to convince my brain to keep them closed. I could feel the pure exhaustion and heaviness in my eyelids. I instantly hoped it was all just a nightmare as I scrolled through my phone through a swollen filter. A “Happy Anniversary” text was a welcome distraction from my husband, but just one scroll confirmed the reality of the situation. This September 28th was already proving to be very different than our wedding just 4 years prior.

Attempting to work from home, I logged on with some coffee. I’d work as long as I could, then head to the hospital. But with one text from my mom, that coffee became a second thought.

Your dad has made a decision, I think you should come now. He’s stopping everything…

I tried catching my breath, I knew what that meant. Dad elected no surgery, he’d given everything his best shot. Dialysis didn’t make him feel great, so he was stopping instantly. Why prolong the infection and waste the time in isolation that could be spent with others? It took no time to get out the door, going on autopilot as I drove the 30 minutes to the hospital and joined my family. We agreed with his decision, but that didn’t make supporting it any easier.

Dad was his usual self, not letting on that he’d just made the first step towards our worst fear. He had seen my earlier post on Facebook, the video of his speech at my wedding, dedicating my anniversary to him. Outside of family, no one, let alone social media, was even aware of the happenings in the last 24 hours. So when he requested to hear the comments, he knew they were genuine and enjoyed hearing the high accolades that were written. Most included the word EPIC and they were so right.

At that time, a coworker of Mom and Dad’s, Mike, walked into the room. We were all taken by surprise. Their employer knew Dad was in the hospital, but not the seriousness and the decisions that were just made. Mike said he didn’t know why, but felt he was needed this morning and what a blessing it was that he listened to God’s direction. We broke the news to him, we prayed together, and he helped Mom with telling the office the news so the stress was removed from her. Dad requested lunchtime visitors and to spread the word. And that began the steady stream of love that came through the step-down unit doors for the next couple of days.

I watched as groups of coworkers and friends took turns to laugh with Dad and listen to his words of advice. I snapped a picture of his smile as he told the young guys from his office to not take life so seriously and enjoy the days in the office, someday they’ll miss it. Just as he had since he’d been out sick for mainly all of 2017. We let anyone who wanted a chance to come in and visit. While it was easy to give everyone their time, in reflection that was a much harder decision than we thought. While Dad was in his prime with others, we were losing our own precious moments. Ours were shared with doctors and nurses and often with his energy tank running on fumes.

My alone time came on Friday morning. Until this moment, I had only truly cried in the waiting room, trying to be strong for Dad. We had been waiting for a nurse to come in for a bath and shave and I broke down sitting beside him.

I hope you know how much I love you,” I sobbed.

Dad, reaching to hold my hand, “Of course I do. Do you know how much I love you?

I nodded yes.

But you don’t, Kara. I couldn’t ask for a better daughter. You make me so proud. The way you treat your family and your friends. One of the greatest prides of my life.

With a lump building in my throat, I squeaked out, “I learned it all from you.”

Well, we could compliment each other all day, but we’ve got things to do, don’t we?

I wasn’t surprised with Dad’s response directing away from the sensitive conversation. He assumed we’d have more opportunities to talk, and so did I. He knew more visitors would be coming and he wanted to feel clean and as put together as possible. And just like that, our moment was over. That was the last full conversation I had with him.

That’s a hard thing to realize now, that someone else got the sharp and witty that should’ve belonged to my mom, my sister, and me. But the smile on his face when another person walked in was worth it. I’m not sure if I had to do it all over that I’d do it the same, but for Dad in that moment, we did the right thing. And I hope in reading this, maybe a few of those people will share their private words with us someday. Just so I can have another piece of him. I’ll always wish for more words.

That same night, while touring our chosen hospice facility, Dad was given a pain medication that didn’t sit well with him. It should not have been administered and unfortunately, it stole his clear state of mind and replaced it with confusion or pain and very few words, there was no alternative for the rest of his palliative care. We got word that we’d be moving the next day. Mom, Kelsey, and I buckled down and tried to prepare ourselves for what was certain to be the worst time of our lives.

The Goodbye: Part 1

The Goodbye: Part 1

September 27, I received a phone call that changed my life. A phone call that, deep down, I knew was coming. I just didn’t know it would be so soon.

It was a regular Wednesday at work and quiet. After lunch, my phone boasted mom’s name as it vibrated on my desk. She was hesitant, but always asked how I was before any conversation, and then…

“Your dad’s been taken to the ER. He wasn’t responding to the dialysis nurses.”

I don’t remember a lot after that except that I told mom and my boss that I’d head to Kennestone ER so he wasn’t alone. That gave mom a little time to tie up her workday. I made the 45 minute drive from Atlanta, talking to God the whole time. “Lord, only you know what’s about to happen. I don’t know that I’m ready.”

I parked, got to Dad, and he didn’t even remember why he was there. I helped him try to put together the pieces as he came out of his fog. Taken to dialysis, hooked up to treatment, woke up at the hospital. I hoped this wasn’t about to be a long hospital stay since his hyperbaric dr told us he was doing great just the week before. Doctors came in and out, examining, asking questions that thankfully I was there to answer since Dad was still fuzzy.

When we were alone, I took notice of my dad. Just watching him. We always told him how cute he was and this day was no exception. I wondered how I got so lucky to call him my dad. He was so funny, thoughtful, kind, and SMART. I hated he was going through this, but I was thankful I was there for him. He’d been through hell that whole summer, but he was fighting as hard as he could.

Mom found us just about the time that his vascular team came in. Here it came…

“Mr. Frost, there’s a pretty bad infection in your amputation. we could do surgery and remove more, but we need to think about your quality of life. If untreated, this infection will be terminal… I would not blame you if you decided you’ve been through enough. You really have. You can let us know your decision within the next day.”

No words. I had no words. I could only make eye contact with my mom. Then I felt the tears stinging and involuntarily streaming down my face and everything turned to slow motion. Was this real? Was I dreaming? I watched Dad reach for Mom’s hand and they let us know we were being admitted in a few minutes.

The rest of the day was a blur as my dad told us he’d think about his options overnight. Though, again, I knew deep down what his decision would be. I’d watched as he went from an independent man hoping for a kidney to his life turning upside down and unaware if he’d ever walk again within 5 months. Looking back now, We hadn’t had many wins, so deciding to go out on his own terms would be the last bit of control he had. I called our family to let them know of the day’s happenings, I remember thinking I’m too young to make these kinds of calls about my parents. But there I was.

Unable to sleep, I laid in bed all night wondering what the next day would bring…

The Rainbow Connection

The Rainbow Connection

You know those beach trips that are good for the soul? That are so needed in so many ways? I love those because there’s something about everyday that you soak in and keep with you. It’s not just a vacation, it’s a recharge. Last year, in the midst of Dad’s battle, Adam and I were able to get in a day and a half at the beach and I remember saying “I so needed this” through a large exhale while staring at the water. Feeling so small next to that ocean, yet so peaceful. Little did I know that in exactly one week from that moment, Dad would be admitted to hospice. That small press of the mental reset button would be what pushed me through the worst time in my life. Since December, we’ve had a departure date of August 25th in the planner for this year’s vacation to Miramar Beach, FL and Adam, my mom, my sister, and I have all been running on fumes to get there, counting down the days via text message when we knew of one of us having a rough day.

However, we also knew this trip brought a different element. On one hand, gratitude for the opportunity to refill the tank. But on the other, a sadness and exhaustion that feels too permanent to be erased in the salty air. A walk on the eggshells of emotion stood between us and sandy toes. This would be the first vacation without our Captain. He was our best event planner…

“Tuesday – we putt-putt, Thursday – pizza in our suits and night swimming”

And we went along with it because he’s never failed us, every trip was special and he made it that way. How would we fare without him?Well…it’s a week later and I’m proud to say we made it through. I think we all feel rested, we’re definitely more tan than when we arrived, and while sadness still lingers, we can find comfort in another peaceful goodbye.

We discovered that sticking to an itinerary is not really our strong suit. We’d decide on breakfast at one of our favorite spots…and that’s the day waking up would feel impossible. Renting a movie would be thrown out to the group, agreed upon…and then no one’s eyes would stay open long enough to even pick the film. We flew by the seat of our swimsuits. We welcomed the sunny days and rainy days equally. Clear skies provided the fun and the clouds gave the ok to take time for quiet reflection in the condo. However, we did stick to one plan, the most important plan of the trip. We brought Dad to his second resting place.

Thursday, August 30th, we woke with the sun and watched as Dad became one with the waves. Knowing this was where we spent our last family vacation together in 2014 combined with dad’s love of the ocean gave us peace. It was tearful, but beautiful as a storm slowly rolled in. It felt poetic and appropriate, no one enjoyed watching lightening over the water more than my dad. The thought of him being present for every future vacation fills my heart with comfort.

When we packed up and were ready to get on the road this morning, we all took one last look at the ocean from our balcony. None of us really wanting to leave. Knowing it was partly due to the week being over, but mostly because a piece of Dad would be left behind. We took a selfie with the ocean behind us and then turned around to find a surprise that left us in awe. I know the science behind it, but in this instance, I know the spirit behind it. Through tear-filled eyes, I watched as a subtle rainbow crept closer to shore with each passing second. This week was the summation of sunny rays and downpours, rip tides and gentle breezes. This week was a rainbow. A mix of emotions, experiences, and colors, but always special. Dad gave us a rainbow of memories in life and today he sent one to let us know that life’s salty and sweet would always be there, but so would he. Just when we needed him.

So Kermit, I think we’ve found it…The rainbow connection. The memories, my dad, and me.

Frank Sinatra & a Swimsuit

Frank Sinatra & a Swimsuit

You know those days where Facebook memories pop up from years ago and you just think to yourself “why was I like that?” I think we all have those moments, but the beauty of that is we can now appreciate seeing our younger selves trying to figure out who we were going to be. But if you think back to those younger days, it was scary to be yourself, even before social media. It’s always hard to have the confidence to live the way you want and not feel like some sort of judgement is going to come your way. The answer to that fear? My girl Taylor Swift says it best….just Shake It Off!

A special memory popped up this weekend and coincidentally reminded of the importance of being yourself. In July of 2011, our family took an awesome vacation to Cancun, Mexico. It was at an amazing Riu Resort with fun things happening everyday. Games, sports, entertainment, 24/7 soft serve ice cream. You name it, it was happening. I remember them asking if I wanted to play games and I always declined nicely. It was easy to play it off while reading my book, I was content in my bubble. But deep down I thought if I was bad at these activities, these strangers were going to ridicule me to tears. Better safe than sorry!

The last night of vacation, we went down to the lounge to watch the karaoke show. My dad sat down and said “I’m in!” I was shocked, he’d already signed up. He was going to sing in front of all of these strangers?? My huge love for music came from my parents, but I’m not putting it on display in front of all of these people who have the capability of booing me back to the United States. But my dad did. And this memory is the result….

He was amazing! I remember having so much pride in that moment, who was this guy with nerves of steel?? MY dad. The crowd loved him because he was having fun! And now he could say he performed a Frank Sinatra song in Cancun and everyone loved “Mr. USA”! What an experience to carry in your back pocket. The best part? He didn’t even care that they loved it! He sat down next to me and said “woo, I do love that song!” Even if that crowd hated it, I still would’ve been so proud and it’s still something he conquered. Which led me to think, what had I now missed out on? What memories could I have made that I let pass me by because I was scared of what others would think? I might have crushed it during volleyball in the pool, but I didn’t even give myself the opportunity to find out. Even if I was terrible, at least I would’ve tried.

Fast forward to this weekend, Facebook showed me this video right when I needed it most. I grew up with the mindset that in some instances I will always be lesser than compared to other girls. I think that’s a normal circumstance for teenage girls, nothing crippling, just the norm. When it came to summertime and bathing suit shopping, no one wanted to see me in a 2 piece. No matter how cute or the style, if I’m covered enough then it’ll save me the judgement of someone thinking I wasn’t good enough to be wearing it. Through the years, I’ve looked at cute styles in magazines and online, but the fear always got the best of me. But I’m thankful, because this past year of growth plus the physical changes discussed in my last post have given me the confidence to be me, to recognize what I want for myself, and…to order that 2 piece swimsuit! I tried it on as soon as it was delivered and much to my surprise, I actually liked it on! But why did I still feel the urge to return it? Knowing our beach vacation is coming up, I was allowing the fear to come crawling back in. Surely I can’t wear this…

And that’s when dad’s karaoke video popped up. Reminding me that this is MY life. Want to sing New York, New York in another country in front of strangers? Do it! Want to wear a 2 piece swimsuit? Do it! Want to start a blog and share your life? Do it! Want to win the lottery and adopt all the cats? Well…Keep trying! Find what decisions make you happy and do them. Those that love the real you, who know your heart, and aren’t your friends because it’s convenient, will support you. And the others who won’t? Their judgement just proves they’re living in fear of criticism themselves.

So, what are you scared to do? What opportunity has you fearful to fail? Just go for it!

…As for me? Me and my new swimsuit will see you at the pool! 🙂

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

Ch-ch-ch-changes

#TransformationTuesday. That’s what the kids are calling it, right? 🙂 Lately, the fam and I have been doing some transforming of our own and it wasn’t until I did a side by side recently that I really noticed how far I’ve come.

June 2018 on the left, June 2017 on the right. Crazy, isn’t it? I think the craziest thing is I’m not even mad at that girl on the right. That girl wearing the Frost Strong shirt and smiling in the hospital waiting room? I needed her, here’s why…

That girl did A LOT (minus sleeping) for her family. That version of me took care of her dad. That meant feeding him, physically cutting up food and fed him when he was too tired. Repositioned him when he was too weak to pull himself up. Helped nurses when there wasn’t enough staff on the floor. That girl worked her butt off so that her new job wasn’t at risk. That girl made sure her mom was getting rest and took turns sleeping in a chair bed or waiting room couch. She took care of the family pets if anyone else stayed late at the hospital. And yeah, that girl stress ate and didn’t leave time for healthy meals for herself. But that girl was strong when she had to be and that girl’s strength is what led me to where I am now.

So far I’m 35 pounds down and looking to continue. Thanks to that girl’s belief in herself, I’m able to accomplish so much a year later. Using her positivity and perseverance, I now know what it takes to keep pushing through to get the job done. Setbacks will happen, but we just keep moving forward the next day. It’s ok to have them. The 2017 me learned who is really important in life and that’s who you make the time for. Don’t sweat the small stuff, in the big picture it won’t matter. She gave the time to what really mattered.

And in the end, I’m thrilled for the weight loss, but I’m more excited about all that I’ve gained.

Another Trip Around the Sun

Another Trip Around the Sun

Summer is officially here! And that is news to no one…because the month of June brought the HEAT this year! People are sweating going to their mailbox (at least I hope that’s not just me) and daydreaming of their planned vacations. June just might be my favorite month. It’s hazy, lazy, and slow. It’s pool days and ice cream nights. It’s car windows down, the music turned up. Sunglasses on, shoes off. It’s my birthday and…Father’s Day. Yep. I love June, but would I love it this year?

With my birthday on the 16th and Father’s Day on the 17th this year, I didn’t exactly know how to prepare myself. I’m still not sure I know, nor do I think it’s really possible to ever be ready for a guessing game of emotions. It would be a never-ending game of Clue….

Player 1: “Kara, uncontrollable sobs, in the kitchen, with birthday cake.”

Player 2: “Nahhh…I got Kara, no motivation to do anything, in her bed, probably still with cake.”

(Listen…Cake is important, people. Buy a cake and my family will come. Cake can be had, happy or sad.)

Anyway, let’s all agree that turning 31 is not the most exciting age in the first place. So, with this realization in addition to the fact that it’s my first birthday without my dad, would it still be good? When anyone asks “did you have a good birthday?”, could I answer yes and actually mean it? Will any birthday be good from here on out? Thankfully, I can tell you the answer is yes. It was good in a new way, I don’t think it will ever be the same as years 1-30. But, what I do know is I have an amazing family and husband who made sure it was the right amount of fun mixed with the perfect amount of laid back. With a Braves game, a massage, way too much shopping, and, duh, CAKE… my cup runneth over from their love and excitement to make it a positive in a year of “meh”. They succeeded and I cannot thank them enough for knowing that I needed it.

So, in their honor, I wanted to recreate that positivity for Father’s Day. I didn’t want to undo their hard work of smiles on Saturday by crying on Sunday. I know Dad wouldn’t want that either. Adam and I hiked up Kennesaw Mountain so I could talk to him at his bench. As I approached the top, I wanted to cry. The tears were stinging under my sunglasses. I wanted to be spending this day WITH him. And just in time, the sun began shining, dedicating its own ray like a spotlight to his bench as I spotted it. It’s now covered with wildflowers and a beautiful, clear view of our town. And in that moment, I knew I was already spending the day with him. He said hey in his own ways all day on Sunday and I wore his hat while we had a family pool day before the rain came in.

When I think about the weekend, a text conversation with Dad comes to mind from last year…in June. We were all stressed, none of us really knew what we were up against and for how long. So as my birthday approached and I learned of an Apple Watch bought for me, I begged for it to be taken back. I didn’t want it, I didn’t want to enjoy anything to do with me while one of my own was in more pain everyday. I texted Dad saying it was a nice gesture, but I just wanted it returned.

His response? “We’re always going to celebrate you…no matter what”.

WOW. What an unselfish love I was given in his dark times. A bigger lesson was taught than I was ready for in that moment. But I get that lesson now.

To Celebrate. Celebrate your people, make them feel that love. If they’re at their lowest, lift them up. Celebrate the people who aren’t here anymore. Finding new ways without them hurts, but it also heals. Celebrate the hard days, because you made it through them stronger. Celebrate the good days, because why the hell wouldn’t you?

So, do I LOVE June? You’re darn right I do.  Hello 31, I’m thankful for another trip around the sun.

kara pool hat