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Category Archives: death

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just spend a week or two grieving for a loss, and then it would be done? No more sharp knives in the heart, no more waking up in the middle of the night, no more memories to constantly invade an otherwise routine day. But it seems like grief is the gift that keeps on giving. Attachments are made in this life, and love just naturally occurs. Severing that bond feels anything but natural.

My birth dad died several years ago, and his funeral was on New Years Eve. I had  never really cared for the holiday day before that, and I will never forget flying into our small town airport, having been through a tearful day of “good-byes”, as well as “hellos” to those I had not seen in a long time.  I knew that all I had hoped for in my relationship with my dad, would now never come to pass. We had known each other only on the surface, but had both longed for so much more. Distance and busy lives separated us, and sad to say, we let it. (You always think you’ll have more time.)

Not long after his death (about 5 months) my stepfather died. He had been in my life since I was age 7. Our relationship had been stormy initially, but developed into one of  the greatest miracles of my life. After I was married, and through the future years, we grew closer. He wasn’t one to have long heart to heart talks, but he often said “I love you” for no reason at all (other than the fact that he did.) The day that we found out that he needed triple bypass surgery, instead of being able to correct the problem with a stent, I cried in my car like he was already gone. My husband couldn’t understand why I  took it so hard that he would need the heart surgery, but there was a “knowing” in my spirit. I didn’t feel good about it, and I couldn’t stop crying. (Of course, I didn’t cry in front of him.) He came through the triple bypass fine, but succumbed to hospital acquired infections including pneumonia, staph, and serratia. We watched him dying through many long weeks of gasping for breath on a respirator in the ICU and CCU, and it was like a daily nightmare. Seeing him like that was so painful and heartbreaking, and even though I desperately wanted to have faith for him to live, it was apparent that minus a miracle, he wasn’t going to make it. When he died, we spent some moments as a family in his hospital room, that was eerily silent. No machines whirring, no beeps, no gasping for breath. Just a strange, stark silence.

He looked so big lying there. He was 6’4″, and I couldn’t imagine life without him. When the doctor had told us that he didn’t think Sam would make it, my mother said, (as we walked down the hospital corridor) “What am I gonna do?”

What were any of us going to do? He had represented strength to us, and a knowledge of so many things. He knew the answer to almost every question we had, and as long as Sam was around, every problem had a solution.

But once he was gone, life was brutal for my mom and me. Every day brought new discoveries of things that Sam had taken care of, that now we had to struggle with. Things like dragging the huge trashcan to the curb, wrestling to get groceries in the house after a full day of errands, a myriad of  doctor’s  appointments for my mom, bills and paperwork, house maintenance, applying for home insurance when their former insurance company left town (and being turned down by the first one, because there were too many things wrong with the aging house.)

Sometimes it seemed like all we did was fight to keep our heads above water.  I cried from exhaustion when alone at times, but mostly I just gritted my teeth, and forced my body to function when it was way past its ability. No one will ever know the toll those days took on us. I tried to compensate for what my mom couldn’t do, struggled to make sure that all her medications were filled on time, and taken properly, and was continually concerned about her diabetes, and her unpredictable episodes of low blood sugar that often scared the life out of me, until I could bring her around. Days were spent worrying about her, and nights were spent tossing and turning, with a cell phone always on and by my bed, waiting to proclaim the next catastrophe. This went on for 3 1/2 long years, and I could tell that my physical health and emotional health were declining rapidly. It felt like I was drowning, and I was trying to keep her head above water, while mine was going under for the third time. (I had lost both of my dads in the span of  5 months, and really had no chance to grieve, because there was always another crisis to get through. But no one seemed to see or care what I was dealing with. It was enough to break anyone, and there is no shame in that.)

I cried out to people around me, though honestly our family had gotten so small, there was really no one to cry out to. No one that could physically make a difference, except my brother. His total contribution had been to buy the groceries and eat them, on his lunch break every day. I never felt like I could ask him to do more, or that he would be willing to. My uncle, who lived in Atlanta, was a good sounding board, and seemed to “get” how terribly difficult this was becoming for me. He never made me feel guilty for feeling like I was about to collapse, and even though he is my mom’s brother, he advised me to do what I had to do to get out of the situation, if necessary, to protect my health.

My cousin Jack (who was more like a brother, as we had been raised together until I was 7) also wrote me one letter saying that I could only do what I was able to do. But several times after that, I talked with him, and he seemed to be reluctant to even have an opinion. When things got so bad, before my estrangement with my mom, I wrote him an email and left a couple of messages (reaching out once again), but I never got a reply. (This hurt, as we had been fairly close because of our childhood together.) To this day, I’ve never heard from him.  I changed my phone numbers so my “family” couldn’t torment me anymore, but he has always had my email address, if he wanted to reach me. He was in town for Christmas, but I was gone.  However, I doubt that he will ever contact me again. His loyalties are with my mom and brother.  It seems like this whole situation is fraught with collateral damage that couldn’t be avoided.

And I guess that is what I want to address in this post. Bereavement can cause such stress and strife in families, and the loss of my stepfather is what ultimately led to the estrangement between my mom and me. The stress of her care all falling on me, the responsibility for her happiness and well-being, the pressure to try and do the things that he had done for her, while still having to manage my own family and life, along with my mom’s increasing physical and mental problems, was just too much for our relationship.

There was some troubling history there already, though I had tried to ignore it for so long. But the more overwhelmed and tired I became (with almost no help, and the increase daily in serious problems–a broken right foot, a broken left leg, a broken right hip, and increasing dementia) then the more stressful the whole thing became. She became more and more belligerent  and rebellious. She refused to use her walker consistently, and kept falling over and over again, until I was at my wit’s end.  Now it was horribly affecting my health and well-being also. I spent half my life, it seemed, in the emergency room. Then she called me horrible names after all that I had done for her, and that was the last straw for me. As soon as I got her settled in a wonderful assisted living, my brother took her out against all medical advice, with his eye on inheriting the house. (If she had stayed in assisted living, her house would have needed to be sold, to finance her living arrangements, and he was adamantly against that. I just wanted her properly taken care of and supervised.) So I have not seen either of  them since before Thanksgiving 2008.

As you can see, there is a fallout from death. If you have not experienced it, consider yourself fortunate. It changes the family dynamic–it brings out greed in some people, and causes others to have to bear tremendous burdens alone. Many marriages are strained because of the resulting changes, and people’s lives are in the balance. Everyone can understand the pressures when a widow or widower is left to raise a child (or children) alone, but few people understand the effect that a very sick, obstinate, demanding, angry (and often just plain mean) elder, with increasing dementia can have on a primary caregiver.  For me, the problems were overwhelming, as I predict they will also eventually be for my brother, though he has help during the day (thank the Lord) when he works. I suspect that he does not have to attend every doctor appointment as I did. I had no help at all. 

Sadly, I found myself driving by the house tonight, under the cover of darkness, hoping to get a glimpse of my mother. But all I could see through the open door was my brother, standing at the sink.  I am grieving, because I will likely never see my mother again. I cared for her (and loved her) with everything in me, and tried so hard to keep her alive for the past 3 1/2 years. At times I thought maybe I would die before she did. (I take 9 medications, have diabetes and high blood pressure, and many other chronic medical problems.) Many days are a struggle for me to get through.  I gave up all my friends and social contacts, and really had little time for my daughter and husband. (Even less for myself.)

Many just do not realize how the loss of a family member changes SO much, and not just for the spouse, but for others also. And especially for those left to care for an aging, ailing parent (or small children) alone. I felt overwhelmed every day of my life.

I wish I could say that I felt numb now, or that I never think  of her or miss her. But I can’t.  She is usually the first thing on my mind every morning when I wake up, but then I remember her hateful words, and the despicable comments from my brother. That is when I pray for God to take this pain from my heart, and to help me to forgive.  I still love my mother, but I don’t feel anything for my brother.  I think indifference is much worse than hatred. At least there’s some passion and feeling in hatred.

Forgiveness is just like grieving, I guess. It doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process. Wounds take time to heal, and anyone who says differently has never suffered heartbreak at the hands of  others. But if God says that forgiveness is possible, then I will trust that He is right.

So I guess I just needed to get that out tonight. All in all, my life is a lot better now, though my physical health is still a problem.  I still suffer from a sleep disorder. My heart will probably ache for the rest of my life over how this turned out, but God can also heal broken hearts. There is a limit to what a person can endure, and my death would not have enhanced my mom’s remaining time here on earth. 

I know that my brother is getting a dose of reality, though she will never likely emotionally abuse him, as she did me (all my life.) When you feel loved unconditionally (as he is by my mom) things are certainly easier to tolerate. But she never loved me like that, no matter how hard I tried to please her,  and I’ll never understand why.

This song is for those who have lost someone that you loved, through death or otherwise…

I guess I am getting the cart before the horse in my story now, but today was so painful for me, that I must write about it while it is fresh. I say it was painful, but it was also joyful. I guess you could call it a bittersweet day.

When I arrived at the nursing home today, my mom was sitting on her bed, eating peanut butter crackers. She smiled a happy grin when she saw me, and said that she didn’t think I would be visiting today, but she was so glad to see me. (Right off this was sad, because I told her yesterday that I would come this afternoon, but she had forgotten entirely.)

“I have some surprises!”, I said with a mischievous grin. I ran to the car to get my gifts. There were ordinary things like Kleenex, deodorant, chap-stick, wet wipes, and a new electric toothbrush, and somewhat exciting things like a new inexpensive watch (with an expandable wrist band that is still a little large on her thin wrist), 3 new gowns, and a robe. One of the gowns was black, with a pink high-heel on the front. Underneath the shoe it said, “GLAMOROUS.”  We giggled, and  I said, “Well if you can’t wear them on your feet anymore, you can at least wear them on your gown.” (She is forever asking that I bring her shoes with heels, in spite of the fact that she has broken her foot, leg, and hip lately.) I keep saying “no”, but she keeps pressing me. I guess girls will be girls–no matter the age.

After looking at the treasures, I wheeled her over to the retirement living area, where there is a very nice atrium, with beautiful plants and lots of tables. The contrast between this part of the facility, and the nursing home part, is night and day. (We are so thankful that we have this place to run away to.)

I fixed our little picnic, complete with a white tablecloth, and a battery operated rose that lights up and changes colors, when you place it in water. I knew she would be fascinated with it.  We shared strawberries and bananas with whipped cream, and wholegrain crackers with pineapple cream cheese. It was delightful! She ate every bite on her plate. She loves any escape from the nursing home food.

We talked and visited for awhile, and then searched the phone book for a local urologist–a true bonding experience. LOL! We are hoping to find the reason for her frequent incontinence, and hopefully some help for it. Unfortunately, the medicines that help with bladder spasms cannot be used if you have glaucoma. She has glaucoma and  macular  degeneration. We are praying that perhaps there is a drug that will not adversely affect her eyes. I want to give her hope.

Now for the sad part. After visiting with my mom for several hours this afternoon, I realized that she didn’t remember anything about our talk a couple of days ago, concerning the choices we have to make about her living arrangements. I was devastated. I have been told by the staff that she doesn’t retain information, and yet I had not experienced it as poignantly as today. The relief we felt the other night (after finally  being able to discuss the options with her), evaporated this afternoon in the hall, as I pushed her wheelchair by our favorite male nurse. She greeted him, and happily called out, “I’m going home in about 3 weeks.”(Chalk up another break in my already broken heart.)

All the time we spent making sure that she understood the options was for nothing.  She understood it perfectly at the time, and made appropriate intelligent remarks, and that is what is so maddening about dementia. (She seems to retain the things we wish she wouldn’t, and forget the things we wish she would remember.) The mind is incredibly complicated when something goes wrong.

As I left the nursing home this evening, I was in a mindless place. I truly walked in a daze through the parking lot, trying to understand and grasp what I had just experienced.  As I talked with my husband from my car, I broke down. I wondered how much worse this memory loss was going to get, and how quickly it would progress. How long would she remember me? Tears filled my eyes, and I cried with occasional loud sobs. It was just too much. It is almost worse than a death, because it is a slow, painful, agonizing process, as you watch the person you love evaporate bit by bit.

On the way home, I had to go by Walmart, and pick up some of my many meds from the pharmacy. Feeling as I did, I wasn’t at all in the mood to be sociable. I was still fighting back the tears.

But an adorable, chubby-cheeked little girl walked up to her mother, who was standing in line in front of me. Her face was captivating, and she seemed filled with all the wonder and excitement of living that I have lost. I asked how old she was, and she proudly held up 4 fingers. I was surprised, because she was quite tall. Her mother shared that her 5th birthday was Saturday, and then the little girl asked her mother to show her (by counting on her fingers), just how many days that would be.

“How exciting to have a birthday so soon! That will be so much fun”, I said. (I was actually feeling a little thrill just watching her delighted face, that could not hide her sheer bliss.)

I was reminded that life goes on, in spite of where we are in it. Old people die (and sometimes young), and babies are born, and the rest of us are somewhere in between. And for all the bitterness that life can bring at times, it is also filled with simple beauty. And all the tragedies that it affords, cannot take away the inspiring moments.

I know that God made it this way, to give us a reason to go on living–to give us hope. In my better moments, I treasure this truth…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

Lately, I have been overwhelmed with the pain that so many people experience in their lives. I cannot seem to get away from it, and in a strange way I am drawn to their experiences, trying to see if there is a commonality between those of us who suffer.  It seems that the ones who have faith inevitably go through a “faith crisis” when death, tragedy, illness, or unbearable pain arrives. I have heard that people can endure almost anything if they understand the reason for it–if it makes sense. But when it makes no sense, and no matter how we try to make the pieces fit, they won’t–we’re left with a feeling of betrayal.

Most of us amazingly survive anything short of the death of a loved one. Ah yes, that is the one that trips us up so badly. That is the one that we cannot resolve, or make better. That is the pain that rips our flesh, breaks our heart, and brings us to our knees. And yet ultimately, we survive that one also. But it changes us. We now know that life can deal a blow that completely knocks the breath out of us, and forever we are left gasping for air. We still react to pleasant things, but our smile is not quite as sincere at times, or our laughter as hearty.  Death robs us of something deep within. Perhaps it is the innocence of believing in happy endings. Yes, that must be it.

The human spirit is very strong.  But death is a thief that snatches the ones who are our history-a part of our story. Its icy cold fingers take away the “they lived happily ever after” part. (The story wasn’t supposed to end this way.) Evil seems to have won, and we are left numb and shocked, full of questions, and accusations–even against God. The knife in our heart keeps twisting, and we struggle to awaken from the nightmare of reality.

Until death touches our lives in a close way, we still believe in happy endings. Death is the cruelest part of living–not necessarily for the dying, but for those left behind. We have no solution for it, we have no pain reliever for it (other than the very slow passage of time.) Applying time to death may lessen the intensity of the pain, but it never eradicates it. For there will always be the abandoned chair at the table, the empty side of the bed, and the silence of their absence. Time cannot erase these things, nor the vacant sadness in the survivors’ eyes.

But in time, we drop our fist and run into God’s arms, because without Him, how can we bear this unbearable misery? Only His arms are big enough to soothe a broken heart. Only His shoulders are wide enough to bear this burden of grief. Only in His embrace do we find even momentary peace, and renewed strength for the journey ahead. When we are exhausted, and completely weary, He will carry us…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

As we drove in the van to tell my mom that my step-dad had died, my heart was absolutely broken. I wondered if her heart could take the news, and I was so glad that we were going to tell her in person, for no other way could even be an option. She had previously suffered a heart attack, and I knew that this shock would be precarious to her health, so we wanted to be there for her. I was in shock myself from the events of the day, and felt like I was in another world, where things happened and I was watching from afar, with no say in the outcome, and no way to change the devastating results.

I will never forget that I was the first one in the door. My mom had said that she was exhausted after her morning visit to the hospital. (We had gone early at the request of a nurse, who told me on the phone, that she didn’t think my dad would make it through the day. My mom knew that he had gotten worse, but she didn’t know about that comment. I just made sure that I got her there sooner than we normally went, in case the nurse’s feeling was right. I felt as I stood by his bedside, that this would be the last time I would ever see him alive, and the pain was unbearable, as the tears spilled from my eyes, and ran down my cheeks. I cried for him, I cried for my mom, I cried for our family, and I cried for the great loss I was personally experiencing. But I did not cry out loud, as I would later, because I was trying not to further upset my mother.)

As I entered her house, much to my surprise, I did not find her napping, but sitting at the kitchen table. With an absolutely desperate look on her face she said, “Lonnette, Sam died.”

How can I ever tell you all the feelings that welled up in me at that moment? I could not understand how she could possibly know this, as all the nurses had been informed that we were going to tell her in person, and that we would ask her if she wanted to see him, before they moved him from the room. They knew how important it was to us, to tell her in person. (So I was fairly sure that they were not to blame.) So who was?

It turns out that the Organ Donor people had called her to ask if she would be willing to donate his organs. Can you imagine? Getting a call like that, when you did not even know he was dead? I was so mad, that it was a wonder I didn’t have a heart attack. I wanted to punch someone, and even now as I write this, I have to fight the urge to scream with rage.  (Please know that I think organ donation is wonderful, but to approach someone about getting their loved ones organs, before they have even been told he was dead, was a royal mix-up.) How could something like this happen? It was cruel and heartless. It was inexcusable.

My mom was finally able to explain that the woman on the other end of the phone was horrified, when she learned that my mother had not yet been informed of Sam’s death. She told her to call the hospital immediately. (Imagine my mom trying to deal with the fact that he died, and being told that way.)

Once we somehow partially recovered from the shock of that situation, we asked my mom if she wanted to see my dad before they moved him. We told her that it was entirely up to her, and that we would do whatever she wanted. She decided that she wanted to see him. So we set off for the hospital immediately.

When we got to the Critical Care Unit, the nurses there had apparently heard what had happened, and expressed dismay and sorrow. We understood that it wasn’t their fault. There had been a terrible mistake in communication somehow.

We all went into the room together-my mom, my husband, my brother, his wife, his son, my daughter, and myself.

I began to cry immediately upon seeing him. Huge sobs of anguish found their way to the surface, and my husband gently whispered in my ear, to remember that Sam wasn’t there anymore. He held me tightly as I cried. My mom was in total shock, as she sat in a chair next to his bed. They had lowered the bed from the height it had previously been.

(During his hospitalization, and while he was still responsive, earlier in the whole scenario, I had made him a gift basket, with some golfing magazines, and some other small gifts, along with a little adorable stuffed bulldog. The magazines were never touched, because he was just too sick to read them, though he loved golf, but the little bulldog became a mascot of sorts, representing his tenacious fight to live. As he was moved from room to room, the little bulldog would always mysteriously end up right by his side. Once in Critical Care, my mom and I came in, and like so many nights at that point, my dad was heavily sedated, and not aware of our presence that we could tell, though we always talked to him lovingly, just in case he could hear us. There on his shoulder, a nurse had placed the little bulldog. It looked like a flea on a giant, as my dad was 6’4″. Even lying down in a hospital bed, he was amazingly tall, and had an overwhelming presence.

So as we entered the room, after his death, once again a nurse had placed the little bulldog on the bed beside him. My mother was in complete shock, as I mentioned, but she immediately grabbed the little dog, and hung onto it for dear life. She could not cry; she could only stare in disbelief at her beloved husband of 44 years. My brother’s face had tears rolling down it, and my daughter was distraught, as we all were. My husband was trying to console me. But I could not control my sobs of grief, and I did not try. I wept for all that he had meant to me since I was 7 years old. Sam often would tell me he loved me, as the three of us watched TV, when I visited their home, as an adult. I must have thanked him over and over, in recent years, for the wonderful care that he gave my mom. He retired to take care of her. She is an insulin dependent diabetic, with many other health problems. He was the one I ran to when I had a problem, (not so much emotionally), but to get advice, and for him to fix things. I used to say that if the world broke, Sam could fix it. And now it was broken beyond repair, and he would not be here to help.

One of the things that I noticed, as I walked into the room, was the peacefulness. There were no machines clicking, no respirator noises, no blood pressure beeps. Just quietness, except for the sounds of sorrow.

As painful as it was, to be gathered with my immediate family around my dad’s death bed, I am so glad that we made the decision to be there one last time together. Never again in the mad dash of informing relatives, making funeral arrangements, ordering flowers, etc., was there ever a chance to grieve quite like that again. It was always too public, and there were so many times when we needed to be strong for each other. So in those moments by his bed, I grieved, and felt a pain that was raw and guttural, in its depth.The sounds that came from my throat were literal wails. It was only later that I wondered how it sounded to those outside the door. But in that moment I could care less, and I couldn’t have stopped crying if I was ordered to.

I cried at other times, in my room, and in the presence of my husband, but it was never like that day. In fact, my husband and I are ordained ministers, so we did the funeral, and we sang the songs, only by God’s grace. At the visitation, I shook hands, greeted, and hugged everyone, as I stood by the casket, and directed them to my mother, who was also greeting people nearby. My brother drug in my dad’s golf clubs, and placed them by the coffin, at the visitation. It was the right thing to do.

When the extended family (not immediate) first gathered at my mom’s house, the night before the visitation, I remember being so frustrated, because there was laughter coming from the kitchen, and I wondered how anyone could laugh at a time like this. Didn’t they realize that Sam was gone, and was never coming back? I could not stand the sounds of it, and so I had to leave. (I was exhausted from several weeks of his illness, surgery, and hospitalization. I was also emotionally and physically drained, from caring for and worrying about my mom, and from now trying to deal with his death. My mom was resting in her bedroom, so I knew that she was away from the laughter.

The funeral was wonderful. Even the funeral directors said it was the best funeral they had ever witnessed, and since they see at least one every day, we were pleased. (I believe the reason that they said that, was because it was so personal. Everyone who spoke knew my Sam well, and therefore everything came from the heart. My brother spoke of how his dad had “loved him back home” after many years of a wandering, wild lifestyle. My stepbrother told how my parents had taken him, and his brothers, into our home for awhile, to try and give them a better life. It didn’t seem to work initially as there were too many adjustments, but later he got a chance to come back, and it made a huge difference in his life. Today he is a lawyer, and so is my husband, so I guess we’re well legally represented. Sam came from a family of 9, so one of his sisters spoke for the family, and shared what a wonderful person and brother he was. His co-worker and golfing buddy shared his memories of Sam, on behalf of his friends. I told my memories of him, as the biggest man that I had ever seen in my life, at that time. He wore a size 13 shoe. I spoke of his many talents, and told of my love for him, and of my mom and dad’s love for each other. My husband and I sang “Precious Memories”, “Amazing Grace”, and a beautiful song at the end of the funeral, “There’s A Light At The End of the Darkness.” (Thank God for that!) My husband told everyone how to be sure that we would all get to see Sam again in heaven–by accepting Jesus, and inviting Him into our hearts. It was a moving and beautiful service, and Sam deserved a wonderful send off.

So here I am-almost 3 years later, remembering his death, and holding onto the love I will always have for him. There is a light at the end of the darkness…

Please see other articles that I have written here:

http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/109497/lonnette_harrell.html

It is the night before Thanksgiving, and I took my mom out to dinner, as I do at least once a week. Then we did a little Christmas shopping for her great grandchildren. She was off balance most of the night. She told me before we left for dinner, that she had fallen three times last week. Twice she had to call my brother to come pick her up off the floor, because her arms cannot support the weight of the rest of her body, in order to raise herself up. The other time she was struggling with a package that the mailman had pushed too tightly into the mailbox. As she fought with the package, it won, and she fell into the nearby street, on her bottom. (“Help I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up”) But God has angels everywhere it seems. A nice woman who lived nearby (that she did not know) appeared, and helped her up. It just so happens that this lady worked in a nursing home, and knew the proper way to lift my mom up, without getting hurt. (My widowed mom still lives in her own home by her wishes.)

My mom always tries to hide it from me when she falls. We once had an argument about this. She had relatives visiting her, and she fell, but no one told me. I even asked, when I saw a bruise on her arm, but she lied about it. When I did find out, it made me mad because I am her primary caregiver, and I need to know if she has taken a fall. But what can I do? She has a mind of her own, and says she doesn’t want to worry me. I think at times she would rather eat worms than use her walker. That is so frustrating to me, because if she takes a bad fall, she could be incapacitated for a long time. Life would then get even harder for her…and me. But the good thing is, I have learned that I am not in control of all this. I have to trust God, or I will go crazy with worry.

If you have lost a parent due to aging, then you know the pain of watching them slip away, little by little. My dad died a little over 2 years ago, after a triple bypass. He came through the surgery fine, but went through a horrible time from complications of pneumonia, staph, and serratia. It was a nightmare. He wasn’t supposed to die like that. So many people have a triple bypass, and it changes their life, for the better. But not my dad. (He’s actually my step-dad since I was seven years old.) At first, we didn’t get along, but the older I got, the more we loved each other. After I married and moved out, we became very close over the years, and his death was the saddest moment of my life so far. When I walked into his room, and stood with my family by the bed after he died, I literally wailed. I could not believe this man that could fix the world if it broke, could not fix this.  He was gone. He had retired to take care of my insulin dependent mom, who has so many health problems, and I did not know how I could make it without him. I hope I have made him proud by the way I have cared for her, and tried to be there for her. I will never stop missing him.

So now I have to watch my mom go through the ravages of aging. Thin skin that bruises at the slightest bump, always cold and needing a jacket, off balance continually, slowly losing her eyesight in one eye, and having a great deal of trouble remembering things. I try to cover over that part for her sake, because it embarrasses her when she can’t think properly. She was a very smart woman, who worked all of her life until retirement. The only friends she had were through her work, and she never really nurtured those friendships, so when she retired, she really had no one. So other than a little bit of family, I’m it for her. And my brother, of course, who comes for lunch every day that he works at a nearby Home Depot. He does her grocery shopping, because I have a torn rotator cuff (shoulder problem), but I do all the other errands-doctor’s appointments (between the two of us, we have a different doctor for every body part-lol), shopping, post office, pharmacy, etc. (We also do a fair amount of grocery shopping anyway.)

I was having trouble living one life, and now I’m living two. I will be there for her always, but I am overwhelmed at times with all there is to do. But I am more overwhelmed watching her go downhill. But that is something I cannot change, and I guess I have to accept it, and enjoy the time we have. She says continually that she doesn’t want to live to be much older, so I guess I have to remember that if anything happens.

(To read my article on “Old Age and Happiness” go here): http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/404850/old_age_and_happiness_attitude_is_everything.html

There have been at least two times that I thought she was dying, and stood by her hospital bedside, trying to prepare myself for her death, but somehow she pulled through to everyone’s surprise. Losing my dad has been terribly hard on her. They were married 44 years, and loved each other very much. 

It seems that I am always grumpy when I come home from our days together, because the stress of it all wears me down. Holding onto her so tightly everywhere we go, wondering if her blood sugar will go low again, watching over her every move, and just trying to listen to all the complaints that a woman in her condition has. The child has become the parent, and it is exhausting. It is just too much some days, and I think I bring it all home, and snarl at my husband at times, when I don’t mean to. If you have ever been a caregiver, then you understand what I mean. I am so patient and kind to my mom, but I often take out my frustrations on my husband. I wish I wouldn’t do that, and I am working on it. I love him very much.

Okay, that was my vent for tonight. This day is always an especially difficult one. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we are going out to eat. I cooked last year, but just don’t feel like it this time. After dinner, we will go to a movie.

We will miss my dad. Our little gathering is dwindling. This year it will be me, my husband, our 18 year old daughter, my mother, and my brother and his son.

I have many happy memories of Thanksgivings past, and I hope that tomorrow will be nice as well. (I never know when it will be the last one for my mom.) But I guess there are no guarantees for any of us. The secret is to cherish the moments. They say that happiness does not occur in whole days, but in moments. It’s the moments that matter…