Friday, July 30, 2010

Where am I?

On Wednesday, I flew from Japan back to Nashville, Tennessee to join my siblings for Dad's funeral. It was an extra long day for me--airplane door to airplane door it took 23 hours due to a couple of delays and missed flights. This is most confusing to my body clock since I was only in Japan for 6 days! As I write it is 5 p.m. in Japan, but 3 a.m. in Tennessee, and I'm not sure whether I should be sleeping or eating!

Today the three of us Brooks kids met with the Pastor who will officiate at Dad's service, and then spent time with the funeral director. It was good to be able to do those visits together, and we see how much the three of us need each other to help process and think through things. I am grateful that God provided funds to allow me to be here for this time. There will be cousins and extended family flying in Friday, and we have visitations on Friday evening and Saturday morning before the 10 a.m. funeral at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

Tonight we were going through photos looking for some special ones to be displayed at the visitation. We discovered photos of our grandparents and great grandparents that we had never seen before. Dad is the top left, with his sisters next to him, his mother and brother in front. I would guess that he was an early teen. This is actually the happiest I've seen all of these people in one photo!

We also uncovered a few boxes of pictures that we kids had wondered about--Dad must have packed them up over the past years as he replaced them with newer ones. And then there were the photos of our own families, sent to "Grandma and Grandpa." As with most people, photos are abundant up until about 2005, when we have to go into digital files to get the rest.

Our Dad grew up in a very poor family, and there were few photos of him that we had run across until tonight. Apparently as his siblings have died, their kids had forwarded photos to him from family collections, and we found family photos we had never seen before.


This is labeled as Dad's high school graduation photo, taken in January, 1950.

Its too bad that we're going to need to box these up again and come back to them later. We'll try to scan some of them, but there really isn't time for us to do a proper distribution of them on this trip. In a way, it points out to me the transient nature of our life...we don't even have a home to take these "home" to.

A week from today I'll be back in Japan...but for now, maybe I should try to get some sleep...

First thoughts on Japan

Driving to Tokorozawa from the Tokyo airport last week, we took a "back road" that is frequented by many wishing to bypass traffic and tolls. It being our first day in a vehicle, reminded us of how narrow the roads can be!


Of course we have to adjust to driving on the left side of the road again. This road runs parallel to a river, through rice fields.

To keep it from being used by large trucks, there are posts like these two in several places along the route. I was very proud of Stan's ability to easily maneuver the car between them on his first drive back. The posts have a variety of paint colors on them from vehicle scrapes.


We stopped at a famous fast food restaurant for lunch that day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also, if you followed our stay in the States last year, you'll have remembered that we became Route 66 fans.


The other day while driving past this Chinese restaurant, I saw it there on the wall.


It almost feels like "home!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saying Goodbye "in person" thanks to technology

My dad, Reuben Brooks, passed away at 1:45 a.m. Dallas time, Saturday morning the 24th. Stan and I were able to "be there" along with my sister in California thanks to a combination of tokbox.com video conferencing and skype voice conferencing.

Please be praying for us as we make plans for me to fly back to Nashville for a funeral at the end of this coming week.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Home, without a home

I flew back to Japan yesterday with Stan and our sons. My Dad is nearing death, but the timing is uncertain, and so we went ahead with our scheduled return.

It was so good to get back...there are many things we've realized we missed.
  • Some are small--we headed to the cold drink machine at the airport for Polcari Sweat and Lemon Water...
  • Some are "atmospheric" like the customer-service orientation of nearly everyone we've encountered, whether at the baggage shipping counter, the car rental counter, restaurants, etc.
  • Some just make us feel comfortable, like the fixtures for the shower--they all work the same here. (I was tempted to start taking photos of shower fixtures at each place we stayed in the States last summer, because not one was alike.)

Its also a tough time to return. The heat and humidity are both in the 90's right now and its hard to maintain a positive spirit in the midst of it. The rental options have shrunk and we are again wondering how long until we find a place--and do we keep looking for what we think would work well for our ministry (location, size, rental fee) or settle for the best of whats out there, even if it doesn't meet any of those criteria? And I know that sometime in the next week to a month I'll be needing to fly back to the States for a funeral.

We worked hard this past week to get to this point--We couldn't have done it without the wonderful friends from the Koinonia Class at Cornerstone Bible Church who helped us get our apartment cleaned and furniture distributed. We took one evening to head down to Costa Mesa to have dinner as a family of six before we said goodbye to A. Our oldest daughter moved the same time we did to a friend's home nearby, and then drove me to the airport so Stan, the boys and a driver could take the van full of our 9 pieces of checked luggage, plus 4 carry-on's and a Tennessee Dulcimer that was made just for Stan.

And now we're being blessed by staying at the home of friends who are in the States for the month. My task oriented, risk adverse side wants to get out tomorrow to look at what is on the rental market...my exhausted body says we should probably sleep.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The blessings of a godly heritage

On Monday our family flew to Dallas to see my Dad, Reuben Brooks. Our oldest daughter hadn't seen him in about 5 years, and the rest of us needed one more visit with him.


Monday night we went straight from the airport to his assisted living facility, and had a great time visiting with him. Part of that talk was Dad sharing with our kids what he has been praying for them related to a marriage partner. Our sons aren't quite thinking that direction, but the topic is much more relevant our daughters. It was a very precious time, and we got some of it on video.

On Tuesday, our whole clan descended on the assisted living facility. We met first with the hospice staff that is assigned to Dad. All of his care givers have been believers, which has made Dad's interaction with them so comforting. After lunch we got the group together for photos...the ones below are the "unofficial" ones.


Our family is on the right side of this photo--J-ph is in the center, Stan, J-n, A and B. My sister is seated on the left. My brother and his family are left of J-ph and on the floor.



Dad and his grandkids. Its the first time we've been together since a family reunion in 2004. Our children enjoyed getting to know their cousins better, and meeting the youngest one for the first time.

My Dad and Mom were both people who loved God, were called into ministry at a young age, and served God their whole lives. Each one of us is involved in ministry, either professionally or as laypeople.


This is the bookend photo--Dad with his oldest and youngest grandchild. They are 20 years apart.

We thank God for this opportunity to be with Dad. It meant a great deal to each one of our children. We were blessed to see our boys hugging Dad, and enjoyed watching him give our girls advice about marriage (no we don't have any announcements--just a relevant topic for them at their ages). It was precious to hear him pray for each one, and a joy to be able to sing the blessing of Numbers 6:24-26 on him.

Dad was pretty strong for that visit. And now that he's said his goodbyes, it appears that he's about ready to meet the Lord he loves so much. We have been maintaining a Caring Bridge website for Dad so if you want to follow what is happening in more detail, please go there.

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The last week...

...has been most eventful in our family. On Monday, my sister and cousin flew my Dad from Nashville to Dallas, where we have moved him into an assisted living facility near my brother's family. The transition has gone relatively well, and we are very thankful for all who helped it happen. It is hard for all of us to see his abilities and even his physical appearance changing so quickly.


Wednesday was one of Dad's grandson's birthday, and Brent's family gathered with friends over at the assisted living facility for a birthday celebration so Dad could join in.

While I wasn't part of the physical move, I've been handling some communication aspects of this from afar. This included creating a Caring Bridge website for my Dad. If you're interested, you can go to www.caringbridge.com/visit/reubenbrooks

Our family will be flying to Dallas on Monday for a two-night stay where we can spend time together with my Dad, my sister and my brother's family--it will be the family reunion we had hoped for but didn't think would happen. It now seems very necessary.

Stan and one of our sons flew back to California on Thursday night after a two week trip to various places on the East Coast.


Last Sunday, July 4, they were with my cousin Bev and her husband Dan in Virginia. They spent the evening celebrating Independence Day near the Washington Monument in D.C.

Meanwhile, back in California--
  • the Lord has opened up a place for our oldest daughter to live when we depart for Japan!
  • we've started sorting and planning for moving out of our apartment by the 17th.
  • the van we've been using refused to start... just as I was ready to head out and pick Stan up at the airport on Thursday night. So far the diagnostics don't show the problem. (Stan ended up renting a car to get home that night!)
If you pray for us, please keep us before the Father daily!
  • Each one of us handles the transition stress differently. We essentially have Thursday and Friday of this coming week to do our packing, Saturday to move and clean.
  • Pray for health--I don't know if its stress-related and/or what is going around, but there are family members who are not feeling well now. With two coming off a trip, and all of us heading on another one this week, we know the immune system is weaker.
  • Pray for our entrance into Japan. We know the church family is looking forward to our arrival. We are somewhat preoccupied with logistics of getting our car out of storage, and finding housing. (We are very thankful to be able to spend a few weeks at the home of friends who are out of the country when we first get to Japan.)

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Changes


Over the next few days, we are moving my Dad to an assisted living community in McKinney, TX -- near to my brother and his family. This has been a difficult decision for us, since he's lived in Nashville for the last quarter of his life. However, none of us children are able to relocate to be with him, and it is clear that he has just a short time left with us.

Dad has been very involved in his church, leading Sunday Schools, on committees, and for a season after Mom died, he was their Parish Visitor. He has many loving friends there--he's pictured in the center here (two weeks ago) with several men from his Friday morning men's support group. Many of these friends have filled the gaps for us during the years we've been apart.

Dad has become a hospice patient, and as a family we are very thankful for their gracious and loving care for him. We are excited about the level of care he will get in Dallas as well, and know that being near six of his ten grandchildren will be very special.

We are trying to figure out if we can squeeze a family trip to Dallas with the other four grandchildren before our departure for Japan. Pray with us for clarity.

The one thing we all wish we knew was "how much time is left" with Dad. We do know that we are thankful for the opportunity to care for him these final weeks, and we all appreciate your prayers for us during the process and for the details.