Skip navigation

Category Archives: grief

Lest you think that all I do is sit around and cry, I would like to reassure you that it is only a small part of my existence. I actually have not cried very much, considering the terrible sadness in my heart. But I do feel the sharp pains of anxiety fairly often.

The best cure for that is to make plans, to force myself to move and get involved in living, when often it’s the last thing I really want to do. I think for the last couple of weeks, I have grieved deeply for the loss of my mom as I once knew her. But I have decided that is a very necessary part of this process. There is no way I could have been so close to her, and not grieved the loss of our relationship, even though it was very painful for me at times.  So I have determined to grieve when I need to, simply because that is inevitable, and I can’t rush the different phases.  I have been almost immobile (physically and mentally) for about a week, but I am working through that, and starting to feel some energy once again. After having been so very sick, as well as so very stressed, perhaps my body is calling the shots, and leaving me with no choice but to be still. I am learning to listen to its wisdom.

But in between the grieving, I will continue to live my life, and try to look to the future with hope and expectation. Making plans is a faith statement that life will go on, and that there is a reason and a purpose to all of it. I read a sign the other day in a shop that said, “Hold Onto Your Dreams–They Are Your True Wealth.”

I am a big believer in dreams, and in turning those dreams into reality, with God’s help. When we lose our dreams, we lose everything. A dream is our assurance that tomorrow can be better than today. So I dream…

I try to keep writing as much as I can, because it brings such a release from sorrow and heartache. If I can get it down on paper, I have processed it enough to feel some relief. And when I am happy, the joy has to spill over through my keyboard or pen. And isn’t that what life is made of anyway…sadness and happiness…sorrow and joy?

Only those who have deeply felt sorrow can truly feel joy. And aren’t love and hate just centimeters apart? There’s not really such a great divide in our emotions–just a block or two. They just feel like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and sometimes I am so weary of it.

I am doing much better with my Collectibles booth at the indoor flea market. I have had more time to devote to it lately, and sales are up. (Of course, prices are down for that to happen. Grin.) Oh well…a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right?

Seriously, I have decided to add some jewelry to my inventory. That means purchasing locked jewelry cases, as theft is a huge risk in a flea market. Don’t you just hate thieves? Grrrrrr….

So, I’ve purchased 2 medium-sized countertop locking jewelry cases, and also some lovely black velvet display pieces, so that the shine of the jewelry will really “pop.” The cases were ordered via the Internet, and are hopefully on their way. I thought that I  might sell Sorrelli jewelry in one, and Vintage and Fine Jewelry in the other. Lord knows if it will sell, but one lady there is having quite a bit of success with Sorrelli. Sorrelli said there are no additional openings for dealers in this area of the country, so my inventory will have to come from auctions, or other sites that sell Sorrelli. Sometimes I win an auction at a very good price on Ebay, so we will see how that goes.  It will fit right in with my Victorian feel–teacups, teapots, beautiful glassware, and lovely small treasures. (Yes, I know…I’m truly trying to get the “flea market mentality” and forcing myself to throw in some “junk” here and there, as long as it doesn’t ruin the ambience I’ve got going. LOL!) I had been in antique malls for so many years, so it’s difficult for me to grasp the trash to treasure concept, but I am making the effort. You sure can’t sell items at antique mall prices in a flea market, but this is the best place to be right now in our small town, as the owner does advertise and has a year round clientele, not just a tourist season one. So that helps. It seems that when he gets the people in there, I am able to make sales. Think there could be some correlation? (Smile.)

I have also been packing (at a snail’s pace) for another getaway to the ocean. We are going back to the area we visited for Christmas. It is only a 2 1/2 hour drive, and we had a house right on the beach. This time we have rented one where the ocean almost comes up under the house.  (I say this bravely, though it is my husband who is thrilled about that part. I just hope I don’t get seasick. Well, there’s always Dramamine I guess.)  I will write and let you know how it goes while I am there. We are planning to go now at the end of March, then again in September, and also at Christmas. (I’ve never gotten Rob to get away this much ever.) I know he really likes the fact that he doesn’t have to drive so far, or that we don’t have to fly.

And somewhere in there, we are also going to Portland, Oregon. He has an adoption seminar he has to attend, and we are hoping to spend some extra days there, as we have heard that the mountains and the coast are very beautiful. However, he is usually exhausted after those meetings, so I don’t know how good we’ll actually feel after that. (But we will hope for the best.)

I almost never got to travel with him before anywhere, as there was first Chelsea to care for, and then my mom. Once in a while a friend kept Chelsea while we went to the mountains, but that was at the most, once a year. So there is something wonderful to be said about the freedom we now have for the first time in our lives. We are so not used to it. And it seems that it is important to separate yourself from home at times. Just a change of scene can be therapeutic.

So that’s all for tonight. I think you could say that I am feeling a little brighter, and a lot more hopeful. I will try desperately to hang onto that feeling for as long as I can.

Yes, it’s a positive thing to be dreaming and making plans…

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…

Writing to a friend tonight, about the grief that he is experiencing over the recent loss of his loving mother, I pondered the experience of grief, and what it means. This is what I wrote:

“Grief is both universal and solitary. No one has the exact same loss, or the exact same way of dealing with grief, and yet there are parts that can be shared and understood.

When you are grieving, every emotion is normal and understandable. Perhaps it is the closest feeling to insanity there is. (And complicated by a sometimes too calm demeanor in public.)

But it is true…until you have been there, don’t try to tell me you understand, because there is no real understanding, apart from losing one that you love so dearly, or even one who was an important part of your life. There is no finality like the finality of death, and there is no solution to it–no fixing it. It is done, and until we meet in heaven, there is no bandage for the hole in our heart, and the ache in our soul. (Only the hope of being reunited.)

But when there are others who know…who have experienced that pain…there is a fellowship of understanding, that becomes a bond. Hearts ache in familiar ways, and tears fall from unbearable sorrow. And there is the aloneness that only the bereaved can grasp. The feeling that the world is not the same, and will never be again.

There is no way to ever prepare for it, because even when we have done our best, we cannot comprehend the loudness of their absence. It is there at the table, and there in the chair, and on their side of the bed. It is everywhere, and in the most unexpected places as well.

(An envelope with their name on it, a Christmas decoration that was their favorite, a pair of shoes hidden under the bed, a medicine bottle,  a robe left hanging on the door,  a pair of glasses on the desk,  or the scent of  their cologne.) And then there are the places, where their presence cannot be denied, and the remembrances that go with those places. And what about the songs, that are as alive with their memory, as their spoken words were?

Grief is a journey, a process both cruel, and cathartic. And in the end, it is the only road to healing, though never to complete recovery. Loss is not something you “get over”.  It can only be journeyed through, and you will be forever changed by that journey…”

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

As many of you know, I was a Moderator on a Grief Board for quite awhile, and the one thing I am sure of, is that we all feel deeply the loss of loved ones and friends. Many will disagree with this, but I feel that regardless of who we lost, we should never try to compare our grief. We are simply heartbroken, and that is universal.

I’ve been reading the blog of a sensitive, wonderful writer, who is writing a book about the death of his wife, Jenny, from breast cancer. He is telling the story as he felt it then, and I have been very moved by his writing. I can so relate to the heartache of watching a loved one suffer. His website is: http://thepriceoflove.net/2007/08/09/prologue/

You will cry, but you will know that what you are reading is honest, and poignant.

Since experiencing the illness, and subsequent death of my dad, in a horrible way in the hospital, I can tell you that when you have faced death, nothing will ever matter as much. No hurt can ever be as deep, no mourning or sense of loss over anything else, as painful…until you experience another loss of someone you love. You learn quickly what is important, and what is not. Sometimes you still forget that small things don’t matter, but mostly you remember, because you can’t help but think that if you have actually survived your worst nightmare, nothing can devastate you as much. And devastation is the only word for watching death rob you of your loved one.

One day when I walked into my dad’s hospital room, I found him as I always did-yellow, swollen, gasping for breath on a respirator, and unresponsive. But this day was different. I was looking into the face of death. I cannot explain it to you, unless you have have experienced it yourself. If you have, then you know what I’m describing. In fact, it was so different from the other days, that when my mom came into the room, she immediately sensed it also. We tried to talk to him as we always did, but what we were looking at was frightening, and we knew it, and she ran from the room saying, “I can’t do this today.” I followed close behind, leaving my poor precious husband to look at the face of death alone, as he prayed.

As much as I prayed for my dad’s healing, I had an understanding inside that he was going to die. And looking at him that day, I realized that I would not want him to continue to suffer that way. I have always been a strong pro-life individual, and definitely against assisted suicide or euthanasia, but I can tell you that when it is someone you love, watching them suffer will test those beliefs. It will test your faith in God, and in life, because you hurt so badly, that you can’t make sense of any of it. You feel angry, depressed, grief-stricken, shocked, crazy, and every other emotion, because in your deepest imaginations, you never realized that life could be so cruel.

I remember when our family was given 24 hours to consider whether to take him off life support. We decided that if there was any chance that he could survive, we would give him the chance to fight for his life, for he was indeed a fighter. My mom had been on life support previously, and wasn’t expected to live either, so we knew that miracles did happen. But it was so painful to endure, for him and for us. He did take a turn for the better, right before he died, and that gave us a momentary false hope.

Somehow I think my knowing that he was going to die was a protection. It was just a little time to try to get used to the idea, because I never dreamed that he would go first. He had retired to take care of my mom, who had been at death’s door several times. Then he had ongoing shortness of breath, and it was discovered that he needed a triple bypass. He came through the surgery well, but got pneumonia, staph and serratia–all hospital acquired infections. Also, they sent him home too soon after the surgery, and his potassium dropped so low that even the doctors were astounded. He fell once at home, and then passed out on the floor of his bedroom. We called 911, and they took him out on a stretcher, and that was the last time he would ever be home. They had him in ICU for awhile, and then later sent him to physical therapy. He could not even sit up in the bed. He could not eat. He was incontinent, and so very, very sick. But he got up (with their help) and went where they told him to every day. And they let him die, despite our pleas. And we had to watch. And I had to watch my mom go through watching him get worse, with each passing day. He ended up in Critical Care for over 2 weeks on life support.

He came off the respirator for about a day or so, (it took him a couple of days to even start to wake up, because he was so sedated) and he managed to weakly mouth the words “I Love You” to my mom. It was all that she got, but we will always be eternally grateful. He took a turn for the worse after that, and had to go back on the ventilator. And not long after, he died.

I remember earlier when our family was given 24 hours to consider whether to take him off life support. We decided that if there was any chance that he could survive, we would give him the chance to fight for his life, for he was indeed a fighter. My mom had been on life support previously, and wasn’t expected to live, so we knew that miracles did happen. But it was so painful to endure, for him and for us. He did take a turn for the better, right before he died, and that gave us a momentary false hope. It was the last cruel trick of death.

One morning I called, as I always did, to see how he made it through the night, and the nurse said, “Are you coming today?” And I explained that we would be there in the afternoon as usual. (My mom was not well, and mornings were really rough for her, so we always went to the hospital in the afternoon.) Sadly, there was nothing we could do, but be there–but we wanted to do that faithfully. She never missed a day, as sick as she was. I sensed some hesitation on the part of the nurse, and I said, “We can come sooner if you think we should.”

What she said next shocked me completely. She said, “I don’t think he’ll make it through the day.”

I guess that all the days of watching him die, still didn’t prepare us for his actual death. All I could think was how to break it to my mom in a way that she would understand that we needed to go immediately, but also taking care not to give her a heart attack. I called her and said that Sam had a very bad night, and that the nurse said we needed to come sooner than we had planned.

I called my brother, and he got off work, and met us at the hospital.

Standing there by his bed, the tears were spilling down my cheeks, and I said, “I love you, Sam.” (He was my step-dad since I was 7, and I called him Sam.) He gave me away at my wedding, even though my biological dad attended. He was my dad.

I kept thinking that I knew he was going to die today, and wondering if my mother grasped that. Just like each day previously, there was no response from him. We couldn’t even touch him without wearing gloves because of the staph infection, and we felt so cheated. Of course, we would hold his hand, or touch his arm, but it was so impersonal with the gloves. It was maddening to have to be afraid of catching something, when we just wanted to throw our arms around him, and kiss his face over and over again. But we were not able to even do that.

So after awhile, we left. We took my mom home, and she said that she wouldn’t be able to go back again that day, and she was going to lie down. She was so exhausted. We all were.

It seems so strange, and I’ve never told anyone but my husband, but I stopped in a store at the mall to get a black jacket for my dad’s funeral. I was leaving the store, when I got a call from my brother. He said that after he left, he had a feeling to go back–like my dad was calling him. So he did. He was in the room with Sam, when suddenly the machines went crazy, and they rushed him out. A nurse told him that his organs were shutting down. We debated over the phone whether to go get my mom, but decided that it would be too much for her.  So, I drove straight to the hspital. About halfway there, I got another call from my brother, and with anguish he said, “He’s gone.”

I had to pull over, because I was crying so hard that I couldn’t see the road. My brother was crying also.

I raced into the hospital, and found him in one of those “family rooms” where they give you bad news. We hugged each other and cried. A nurse stopped in, to ask us if we wanted to see him, after they had bathed him. We said we would ask my mom, and do whatever she wanted. My brother’s son was there, and his wife joined him, and my husband also came to the hospital. Through our tears, we decided to all go together to tell our mom. The ride to her house in the van seemed like an eternity.

(I will tell the rest tomorrow as this is getting too long for one post.)

But I can tell you that what we had planned was not at all the way it worked out. (You will not believe what happened.)

Saying goodbye was the saddest thing that I have ever experienced, and I was sure that my heart would break right there in his hospital room…

Whenever there is controversy, it is always interesting to see who supports you, and comes to your defense. Often the ones that you thought would stand up for you, don’t. And the ones you never expected would, do. It’s an eyeopener for sure.

I have to say that I am going through one of those times in life when I am just plain weary. Weary of cruel people, weary of fighting, weary of people who hurt others for no reason. Just weary.

I am emotionally very, very low, watching my mom go through her physical and mental decline. I’ve never really had much chance to grieve the loss of both of my fathers.  (My birth dad, and my step-dad since I was 7 years old, died close in time to each other.) I had a lot more contact with my step-dad, (day in and day out), and he gave me away at my second wedding, though my bio dad attended. I miss him so much. He always had answers for things that needed fixing, and there are surely so many things that need fixing now. My whole life feels broken in two.

I have had to hit the floor running, without a break, through his long, heartbreaking illness in the hospital (from complications of triple bypass) and my mom’s declining state. There are days that I feel that I have forgotten to breathe. And others that I breathe too fast. My heart hurts, both from the challenges I am facing, and from the mean remarks that I have received in the past few days from people that I cared about.

That brings us back to friends. It seems that as women, we so often hurt each other. Men are rarely as vicious. Women compete with each other, are jealous of each other, and are sometimes just plain mean to each other. If we dissolved our marriages over the things we dissolve our friendships over, no one would be married for long. At least in a marriage, we learn to try and work things out, and continue on.

But there are times in other relationships that it just isn’t possible. Too much has been said, too many painful things have occurred, and we cannot continue.

I remember a friend I had many years ago. I loved everything about her! I loved the way she decorated her home, and how she brought out in me all the femininity that was longing for expression. I found myself, through her unique style. I used to say, “….that is so you.” And she would answer, “No-it is so you.” (And it was.) I developed my own unique style. I found myself also in the pages of the older Victoria magazine. Lace thrown here and there, roses, candles, teapots and teacups,  and lots of girly things. Bless his heart, my husband has tolerated it well. (He finds it sexy.) LOL!

But one day something happened to our friendship. It’s funny, it happened on a trip with another woman. Have you ever noticed with little girls that when there are three, they tend to end up two against one? It happened with us, and it led to another hurtful confrontation through our church, and she was involved in an outright betrayal (lies) that nearly destroyed me. I did not want to have another close female friend after that for a long time, because it was just so painful. Devastatingly painful. After the sordid scene, I remember lying in bed for days, and crying and not being able to sleep. I was not as strong then as I am now. I had not yet experienced life at its cruelest, though few things have ever hurt me as badly as that whole scenario. (Because I was partaking of His sufferings, I also felt the strong presence of my Lord, as I do now.)

Try as I would, things could never be mended. In a way, I didn’t want to lose her. I was longing for the friendship that we once had, but realizing that it could never be again. (Too many hurtful words, too many hurtful actions.) Being a Christian, I knew that I would have to find a way to forgive. And I eventually did. But it didn’t happen overnight. I hurt for a long, long time.

 I try now to focus on the good things that she brought into my life, instead of the ending of our relationship. That is what I will try to do now with the ugly situation I find myself in. I do not regret my role as Moderator in this grief group, and for two years, I pray that I showed compassion and love to grieving people who desperately needed, (as Dr. Phil says), “a soft place to fall.” Because of the hurt that has occurred, (and the attacks that are still going on), that season in my life has ended. I simply cannot continue. I have had at least one there accuse me of  just quitting. Perhaps so, but I cannot be a part of something that has a wrong spirit. How could I ever feel the same in my position there again? My life is so complicated right now with my mom’s condition, my daughter, and my own very bad health, that I think I would be hurting myself, and contributing further to the stress in my life (which is already overwhelming). I simply cannot go on there. Like the friendship I just recounted, there are some painful situations that cannot be mended, and I feel this is one of them. In time, I will be able to forgive completely, because I don’t want to become as sick and angry as my attackers. I wish them the best. Forgiveness, like most things in life, is a process. Forgiveness is not simply sweeping something under the rug, as if it never happened. First you have to identify the hurt, acknowledge that it hurt terribly, and then day by day try to come to terms with it, until finally you can release it. It is definitely a process, not an overnight occurrence.

I pray that I am getting stronger. My heart has hurt (a continuous ache) for several days, and I have cried a few tears, and have been nauseated, but I have not given in to complete depression. I feel that I followed my heart, which was to help someone, spoke up when I saw her cruelly mistreated, and stood up to the attacks that soon followed against me. I will no longer try to defend myself. (There are none so blind as those who will not see.) Nothing else I can say to them would make a difference at this point. I did answer their hurtful accusations, because this time I was strong enough to stand up for myself. I don’t regret that part. It felt right, honest, and Godly.

I will process my hurt here, in my blog. A place where I can pour out my heart, never knowing who is or is not reading my thoughts. That part is insignificant to a degree. The important thing is to get the thoughts out. That is how I will heal. We all need to be understood, or heard in some way. As a writer, I cannot hold my feelings in. This is the healthy way for me to process grief. Write it out.

If anyone is hurting, I will be here for you. I understand, and I will never be cruel to you, and that makes us comrades on this painful journey of life…

While this is typically a song for a couple, I think it captures true friendship as well. If only we all had such a dedicated friend.

My friend also has a blog, and she often writes about her 20 year old son, who was found dead, floating in a river. There are young people who were there the night it happened, and they know things. Things they refuse to reveal. And it is so frustrating for her to know that they know. Can you imagine? I can’t.

We often chat back and forth about various things she writes. She is a wonderful writer. And tonight, I was trying to express what it’s like for me, learning to live without my loved ones. (I am not trying to compare my losses with the loss of a child. But we understand that. They say that the loss of a child is the most devastating loss anyone can ever experience. I was the Moderator on a Grief Board for awhile, and when I visited the Child Loss Board, I could see that this is so profoundly true. There is no consoling a parent who has lost a child. The void is forever present-every moment of every day.)

But what we do have in common is loss and grief, and anger and frustration. These are some of the thoughts I wrote to her tonight.

“Learning to live without our loved ones is such a sorrowful task. We do go on, at least we go through the motions. We know it’s not fair to others to not even try, and so we try. But there is a hole the size of Texas in our hearts and soul.

Grasping for some way to get my dad into our Christmas celebration, I bought a red golf club bag ornament. He was an avid golfer. (My brother even drug in his golf bag, and placed it by the casket at visitation.) I placed the ornament on the counter, with the other decorations surrounding the food. But looking at it, I can’t honestly say it made me feel better. It tugged at my heart so much, I fought removing it at times. (My family is not one to light candles for departed ones, or to go through other rituals.) I would be inclined to be more ritualistic, left to my own designs. (Not “spooky religious”, but ceremonial.) But it seems my family chooses mostly, not to mention my dad very much. I find that I am the one who brings him up the most, though my mom will talk of him a little, now and then.
And so we go through the motions, pretending that life is like it once was. But it isn’t. When I am alone, or writing, I feel the true loss. I feel the sharp pain that takes my breath away. I feel the stress and emptiness of life without him, and even still, the unbelief that he is really gone. But where would he have been for so long? Sadly, I have to admit he’s never coming back, and it hurts like hell. And if it was just that, it would be enough. But this (and other) losses have left me not trusting life. Not trusting who’ll be here tomorrow. Not trusting anything, really. I do not want to give in to fear, but I think I have certainly given in to paranoia (at times.) Maybe it’s because death is an enemy that I don’t know how to fight. I feel I can’t win, and his bony cold fingers will always take what (and who) they want. I know that Jesus defeated death, but I guess I don’t understand then, why people still have to die. A person can recover from most anything, but death. How do you ever recover from death? You simply don’t; you simply can’t.
I too, have some unforgiveness that sometimes haunts me. Against the hospital, against some nurses and doctors. And I want the outcome to be different, because I know they had the power to make it different, and they didn’t. That is where my anger comes from. They let my dad die. No, they killed him. (From carelessness, neglect, and a failure to recognize how sick he truly was, until it was too late.) It simply wasn’t supposed to end that way. If I really thought it was his time, I think I could deal with it better. But I guess I haven’t accepted that it was his time to go.
Linda, I can’t imagine losing a child, and to lose a special friend and companion like Owen…there are no words. I understand your feeling angry, and frustrated. I think for you, if you just knew WHAT happened, it would help immensely. I know it wouldn’t change the outcome, but it would answer some questions. For now it’s “the more you know, the less you understand.” (Just like the song said.) You deserve to know. I can only imagine my own frustration, and my desire to shake the truth out of anyone who might know it. I guess I would go insane if I thought they knew, but they wouldn’t tell. I’m sure you have felt crazy at times.
I can only say that to go on at all is courageous, and yet I know you wouldn’t want to be called that. I just think you are. Because you loved Owen so deeply. That is so apparent. I pray some day there will be answers…”

No matter who we have lost, we have to learn to live without them, and how do we do that?…

This is the time of year when our thoughts always turn to our loved ones, as we remember Christmases past, with longing in our hearts for days gone by. I can remember Christmas when my grandparents were alive, and how one uncle would always arrive at midnight, bringing in all kinds of gifts that made me believe there really was a Santa Clause. How he got the perfect gift for everyone, I’ll never know, but it was worth the wait. (I think he worked, and then did all his shopping on Christmas Eve.) Finally, my grandparents got too old to stay up until midnight, and we had to start without him sometimes. That was Uncle Jack, and I miss him still. He died at 48 years old-far too young to leave this earth.

And of course, my grandparents raised me until I was seven, and my mom and I moved to Atlanta from Macon, Georgia. Leaving them was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and I thought my little heart would break. My mama (grandmother) was my security, and my papa always brought me chewing gum. (My mom and dad divorced when I was 2, and we went to live with my grandparents for awhile.) My mom says she needed to get me to herself, or I would never have realized that she was my mom. I guess that’s true, because to this day, I call her Betty. They all called her that in the household, and no one taught me any different, so I called her that also. But my grandparents have been gone for quite awhile, and a great deal of my sunshine went with them.

 I never really got to know my real dad, Lonnie, like I would have liked to, but he’s gone now too. I visited him every Christmas and summer from about 10 on (after I contacted him and said I wanted to know him.)  I was in touch with him from about 2 until 6, then I didn’t see him until about 10, but he always sent me a birthday and Christmas present. (Before he died, I thanked him for all the gifts and cards he sent me, and he said he wished he could have been there more for me. I said that I knew he did, and that I loved him. There should have been so much more to say…but there wasn’t.) When I contacted him at 10, he had just remarried, and I spent most of the time with my stepmother, because he worked. For awhile he was a radio DJ, and he sent me all kinds of records, and also tapes of his shows. Later, I went on to work in radio myself, as a DJ, and I also created my own radio show, Love Notes, (teaching, with music that was related) which was on a Christian station (91.1 FM)  for 9 years. I’d love to do radio again. So I guess I got that talent, and a nervous giggle from him. I always thought there would be so much more…but there wasn’t….

And then, my step-dad (from 7 years of age), Sam, died recently. I guess it’s been about 2 1/2 years now, and it seems like an eternity. I always said if the world broke, he could fix it. But it’s broken now, and he’s gone too…

I wonder who will be here next Christmas? I guess none of us can know, and so we live our lives, loving those who are left, and holding them close, because we know what it’s like without our  loved ones. If you are grieving this Christmas, I’m thinking of you also. You are not alone. If you need a place to talk, go to webhealing.com. I’m the Moderator on the Main Board, and they have a Child Loss Board, and a Sibling Board, and it is a wonderful place to find encouragement, and there’s always someone to listen. I’m thinking of all the dear people there who have lost loved ones also, and are hurting so badly. 

So I take this time today, before all the family gathers on Christmas, to think of those who are no longer with us, and to say “Merry Christmas”” in Heaven. I love you, and I miss you always…