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Category Archives: grieving

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…

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It’s strange-our last night at the ocean, I got the only negative comment that I’ve received (on my blog) since I shared my hurtful journey with my mom and brother. For just a moment it stung…but then, I could tell that I was much stronger, because I knew in my heart, that I was at peace with my decision. (And also at peace with God.) I have no regrets, and I know (beyond a shadow of a doubt) that I was going to die, if I kept on as I was.

Isn’t it interesting that so many times in our lives, others try and tell us how to live? But they are not here, dealing with the things we’ve dealt with. They have no idea what life is like for us. And yet they think they have all the answers. I am learning that people like that are poisonous. They have no compassion, no ability to empathize.

Isn’t it amazing the power that words have? And the people who use them as weapons, like to pierce you with their daggers. And yet, as my husband says-they are just words. But that is not to say that they do not hurt. They certainly do. And hateful people are well aware of what they are doing. How very empty and angry their lives must be. They are the tragic ones.

Now that I am home, I am determined to stay at peace. Even though I am back to my full time career (it seems) of packing and unpacking things. Moving in and out of our coffeehouse, moving my daughter out of her room, moving my mother in and out of assisted living, and constantly packing and unpacking for various other reasons. (A couple of years ago our house flooded in a construction accident, and we still haven’t fully recovered from that.)  There is so much work needed on our home. Right now the decks are torn down, but not replaced. (Please…don’t anyone walk out a glass sliding door, from the top floor. It might be your last hurrah! LOL!)

For now, I’m unpacking… Laughing about the sand that is still in my shoes, from walking on the beach… Finding a pretty container for the shells that we collected…Trying to find a place for all the things that are in the suitcases and boxes in my living room…Delighted to be back in my own bed.

I am going to start a scrapbook of my life from this moment on, because I believe that the best is yet to be. I will capture some of the moments-not necessarily in photographs, but in cut-outs, menus, and memories. I truly feel like my life has just begun-(in the sense of true happiness and the freedom to be me.)

The writer of the hateful message was wrong.  I am not a victim-I am a victor.  It is not wrong to grieve your past, and to feel the pain of hurtful words and actions. It is not wrong to mourn what never was, and never will be.  It is a way to understand and to heal.  It is a process, and it has to be dealt with, or it will forever haunt me. I write about it as part of my healing. And make no mistake, I am grieving. But I am also looking forward (with anticipation) to life, love, and joy. There will be many moments no doubt, when I will glance in the rearview mirror, but I will not stay there.  I will move on, with faith and hope in my heart.  And I will become the person God meant me to be, and even because of my sorrow, I will be a more compassionate  and loving person.

That peace dwells within me. The peace that only God can give. As the song says, “The world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away.”

Yes, people will always have their opinions-their cruel words, their lack of compassion and understanding. But that will never shake the peace that comes from within. I am becoming my own person. I am learning to trust the peace that I have found with God–“your God” as this person kept calling Him, so I know that she, sadly, does not know His wonderful love and mercy.  Yes, He is my God and my Beloved.  I trust His voice, and His peace.

    I Like this quote I dislike this quoteTo be at one with God is to be at peace … peace is to be found only within, and unless one finds it there, he will never find it at all. Peace lies not in the external world. It lies within one’s own soul.

 Ralph Waldo Trine

There is no greater gift than to have peace within…To be able to say (no matter what the circumstance), “It is well with my soul…”

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

A few nights ago, I ran across a song that ministered to exactly what I was feeling, and I used it in a blog post. Then I went to a friend’s blog, who very recently lost her husband, and she had used the same song. Maybe God is trying to tell those of us who don’t understand His ways, that someday we will see Him face to face, and it will be worth it all.

I want to believe that–I really do. Deep in my heart I cling to that truth, though there are days that the pain and agony of living is just too much to bear.

My mother’s dementia is getting worse, and there have been a couple of episodes lately that I will write about when I feel stronger. It’s all out in the open now, and others are well aware of it at the nursing home.  I just can’t fully talk about it right now. It’s too painful.

But tonight I was talking to her on the phone, and everything was completely normal, though she was frustrated and depressed, with being in the nursing home for rehab so long.

Suddenly she related something that had happened today, and how no one would believe her. She said that she argued with the CNA about it, and then everyone started asking her questions. They wanted to know if she knew where she was. (It was certainly NOT believable, but I knew that I needed to reassure her, and be her friend when she could find no other ally.) It doesn’t do much good to harshly confront someone suffering like this. You have to reorient them gently, because it’s too disconcerting to have everyone tell you that what you fully believe is true, isn’t. She believed with all her heart that it was true, and she was desperately trying to get someone, anyone, to believe that she wasn’t crazy. (It clearly couldn’t have happened, and I was once again confronted with how very serious this is becoming.)

As I listened to her, I felt that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, and that dizzy feeling in my head, and my eyes filled with tears. (This can’t be happening again, I thought, but somehow knew that it was going to continue, again and again.)  I calmly tried to understand the things that she was saying, and tried to reassure her that she wasn’t crazy.

We talked a little more, and I told her that I would visit tomorrow, and to call if she needed me. (I had just been with her last night, and she was very lucid.) She’s had great difficulty with the phone lately, but sometimes she remembers how to answer it. Cell phones are so complicated for the elderly. They don’t have regular phones in the room. Isn’t that weird???

After I hung up, I wanted to throw myself on the floor and wail loudly, but I didn’t have the strength.  So I ran downstairs to tell my husband, Rob, who really never knows what to say to me at a time like this, for truthfully, what is there to say? (Only God can comfort me lately, and even He’s not always successful.)

I have suffered painful losses in the last few years-both of my dads (my birth dad, and my stepfather from the age of 7.) They died close in time to each other. In a way, I died then too. I laid down my life, as I knew it, to care for my mom. I was obsessive about it. I thought that I had to keep her alive. I was sure that I alone would be to blame, if she died or got really sick, or injured. And so I never slowed down, trying to be everything that she needed, and do everything that she needed.

And even though I did the best I could, I couldn’t stop this from happening. My counselor said that I needed to understand that I couldn’t give her mortality. Still, I tried to make things okay. But I can’t make them okay anymore. I don’t have the answers, and it’s all spinning out of control. I’m not just losing her-I’m losing her in a frightening way. She goes in and out, and I’m clinging to what’s left of her on any given day. I have watched her scream out in physical pain in the ER for 6 hours straight, after breaking her hip, and yet she has been so strong emotionally, through all that she has suffered. (Too strong in a way.) I know that she grieves for all her losses (her husband most of all), and yet she goes on with determination. But she is very, very frustrated now. She has been away from home too long, and she feels so confined in her wheelchair, and she keeps trying to get up, when they’ve told her it’s not time yet–not without supervision. And we’re all afraid that she will fall again. But she can’t understand. Sometimes she is just being stubborn, but many times now, I think she doesn’t remember what they’ve said, and she just doesn’t know the dangers. She is walking some in therapy with her walker, but they don’t allow her to walk in her room right now. It’s too soon. She is angry about being there so long, she is worn out, and disgusted with the way her body and mind are betraying her.

I can’t control this. Like so many things over these last 3 years, I’ve had to realize that I can’t make it all work out. I can’t fix this. I desperately wish I could.

I try to trust the Lord with the outcome, but I am fearful and exhausted. Every day it’s a different crisis, and every day I wonder how much more I can take.  (And how much more she can take.)

And so lately, I sing this song in my head, and try to remind myself that even though I don’t understand His ways, they are so much higher than my ways, and I have to trust Him. I have to let go now, and let Him work this out. It’s so hard to let go, because I have taken care of her like my child. I have bonded deeply with her, and if I could, I would protect her from every danger and threat. I would hold her, and never let her go. But I can’t.

I’m grieving already–life is so hard. Please God comfort me. Comfort her. Help us make the decisions that we need to make for her best care. Guide us. Let us feel your presence in this dark hour…

Please read 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…

This poem will sound like I’m worse off than I am. Actually I wrote this some time ago when I must have felt as equally sad. I take heart in the fact that I can’t remember now what had me feeling that low.

Actually, I went out to dinner tonight with my husband, and we are going to spend the rest of the evening in our new matching cozy chairs, reading and enjoying hot chocolate, while scented candles burn and the fireplace flickers. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? 🙂

But I am adding this poem to let you know that I have felt this way this past week, and apparently long before. The kind of attacks I’ve been through for a solid week, without intervention from the one man (the owner of the site) who could have stopped it all, can leave you feeling depleted and disillusioned. But I will never be sorry for the ministry I had to hurting people there, nor will I forget the healing I received as well.

Last night I went back to the site where all the drama and cruelty occurred, (to retrieve some poems I had written, but not copied) and saw that I have quickly been replaced. But somehow I know from the sweet notes you’ve written me, that we will not soon forget the time we shared our hearts, our struggles, and our grief. After I retrieved my poems, I deleted my account, and I am hoping that today really will be the end of all the cruelty, and bad memories. I will hold onto the memory of the love those of us who were grieving had for each other, and the encouragement we gave one another, and the prayers we prayed. Although we were all hurting, we found time to reach out to each other, and our burdens were lifted, if only for a little while. But the friendships are lasting, and I will hold each one of you in my heart forever.

Please pray for my physical and emotional healing, as I try to recover from this horrible experience.

This will give you some idea of the sorrow:

                   Tonight

Tonight I’ve had enough.
I’m tired of being brave.
I struggle to breathe,
Because life has made me weary.
It didn’t just happen today…
It’s been a gradual decline.
Too long without a teardrop-
So tonight I’m crying.
Tonight I feel alone.
Broken in heart and spirit.
Searching for the scattered pieces-
To glue them back together.
And I have lost the will to care
Where I misplaced my laughter,
In a closet of lost longing-
So tonight I’m crying.
Tonight I’ve given up-
At least for today.
Tomorrow can decide itself
If a day’s worth waking up to.
My whole soul aches,
And deep inside the darkness
I am full of searing sadness.
So tonight I’m crying.

Tonight I’m disillusioned
At all that life is not.
Tired of chasing rainbows
And running into whirlwinds.
Angry at all that I have lost
That cannot be regained.
A silent scream within me roars-
So tonight I’m crying.

Tonight my heart’s encased in ice,
Yet somehow, slowly melting
And my eyes stare into nothingness,
But my feet keep moving.
And everyday no one sees
That the mirror has cracked,
And the glass has shattered-
So tonight I’m crying.

Tonight there’s nothing left
Of a soul that cries for justice,
In a world that will not listen
When the way is just too rough.
Trampled on the roadway
Of superficial living-
People rush right by me,
So tonight I’m crying.

Can anyone hear me?
                                              Lonnette   (Lonnie)

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…