Category Archives: death of a loved one

It’s been a while …

since my last blog post. 

Since last time, satan has reared his ugly head and life has given me a bonified black eye, busted lip, bruised rib, and all around beating.

My mom, who I depend on way more than a nearly 50-year old (ok, 47 in two weeks, but still) woman should, has been ill.

In the hospital, taken by an ambulance, ill.

My dad, who leans heavily on my mom, has been beside himself.

My dearest friend has been given (by mere mortals) six months to live.

It has been a trying month.

First off, my mom is home, well and feeling quite herself. 

My dad, an Air Force Veteran (whom we should all be applauding today for his service to the USAF) is better because my mom is feeling better.

It brings a surprising revelation to light.

While this would distress and hurt me beyond comprehension, I have this hope they would die, in their sleep, at the same time.

As awful as this may sound to some, I’d rather mourn them both at the same time than try to handle one without the other.

I can’t frankly speak for my sister, but wonder if she wouldn’t agree.

If that isn’t possible, I hope my dad, my hero and advocate goes first, because I cannot fathom him without my mom.

Mom would miss dad terribly, but she’s strong, and would survive.

Maybe I’m more crazy than I imagined, but I can handle Mom’s tears more easily than Dad’s.

I honestly don’t know how I would deal with him if he had to live without her.

As for my dearest friend, who is battling cancer, I advised her, as I do everyone, to live every day as if it’s the very last one.

Nobody, but nobody has the promise to live further than the moment they are in.

I know where I’m going when I’m gone from this world, so dying doesn’t scare me.

Living, however, without the people who love and understand me, gives me pause.

If that sounds selfish, it’s because it is. 

I thought I’d grow old and watch, with my husband I dearly loved, grandchildren playing in the yard.

Then, I came home one day, and out of the clear, blue sky, found him as dead as Moses.

No warning. No goodbye.  Just gone.

There’s no promise of life, to any of us, past the single moment we find ourselves living in.

If one doesn’t intend to live life as it happens, they forfeit their right to complain when it’s over, or nearly over.

You can quote me on that.

Right now, in this moment, is all I am certain of.

It is all any of us can be certain of.

This moment.

This breath.

This heartbeat.

Each day, if it doesn’t mean something, is wasted.

I say this to family, friends, former friends that I miss with an intensity that embarassess me, and though I can’t think of any specifically, my enemies.

I don’t think I have any absolute enemies.  If I do, they’ve been mighty quiet about it, and I forgive them anyway, knocking out the one leg they, were they real, had to stand on.

That’s good, though, in my way of thinking.  Who, when they have life to contend with, need enemies to muddy up the mess further.

And yet, as I often do, digress.

Now is the only thing that matters.

Grab on or be left behind.

Those are, in actuality, the only two choices.

As Shakespeare said (though he may have meant it differently as words in his day were perplexing, they pretty much say the same thing). To be or not to be … that is the question.

I choose to be, even when it hurts, is painful, annoying, hurtful, betraying or joyous.

I choose to give it everything I have, be whatever I can be and love, even those who don’t love me, unconditionally. 

Be it joyous, angry, confused, happy, sad, contemplative or any number of emotionally relevant states, with bright lights, awesome auroras, sleepless nights and flying debris; I’m there, every day, all the way.

I know who I am and if I die before morning, I know where I’ll find myself.

I love you all, even when you’re unloveable, just as you do me.

We, though we are all in the image of God, are, intrinsically human.

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I can’t remember …

the sound of his voice.

Many nights, his stories of New York, Europe, anthropology, mathematics, design, engineering, and attending UNC at Chapel Hill, lulled me to sleep.

It didn’t matter, really, what he spoke of, only that he spoke.

His voice was so distinct.

Deep.

Mysterious.

Mesmerizing.

Intoxicating.

But now, as I come upon the fifth anniversary of his death, I am totally discombulated and completely out of rhythm because I can’t remember it.

His voice.

I can’t remember it.

I’ve cried and prayed and prayed and cried.

To no avail.

I’ve never, before him, found anyone who could rationalize my irrational behavior and be cool and composed with tantrums and flying debris.

One would think that, after all he endured, I would, at the very least,  remember the sound of his voice.

I remember other voices.

Ones of those who found me, after him and feigned tolerance only to, in the end, find me intolerable.

He truly was the only perfect man and it was my privilege to know him.

He remains, to this day, the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.

I still wonder why he picked me.

But he did and although perplexing, I’m a much better person for it.

How tortuous to hear other, less substantial voices in my head when I can’t remember his.

I’m sorry, my dear one. 

I truly do miss you terribly.

Especially in Autumn; most especially in October.

If you look down tonight, you will see our moon. 

I wept when I saw it … I couldn’t help it.

I will love and miss you until time ceases.

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Death is imminent …

it is something that every one of us will, at some time, face.

I am saddened this night because someone dear to my heart passed away.

I have tried to rationalize it and understand it, but death is death.

My heart is heavy for many reasons.

I know, because of my own loss, what his wife is feeling right now.

She is devastated and reeling from the blow that she is now alone.

I don’t completely understand what his daughters are going through because God has performed miracle after miracle upon my own father, but my imagination runs wild.

I have, on many occasions, although it tears me into pieces, told my  mother that if she and Daddy couldn’t go at the same time, I would want  him to go first because the thought of dealing with him without her is beyond my comprehension.

I don’t want to lose either of them, but I, we, live in the real world where people die and are buried and life either ceases with their death, or we move on.

Life is what it is, when it is, as it is.

Walking on the mountain tops or soaring above them is a wondrous thing, but in reality, we are often in the foxholes, valleys and dark places.

How we deal with these times defines us.

Do we encourage or enable?

Are we a rock or shifting sand?

These are the moments that Jesus calls us to, the times that He relies on us to uphold His people.

I am unworthy on every level imaginable, but I know, without doubt or reservation, what it feels like to lose a husband.

And I know what it feels like to be comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I am, according to what is “out there”, the minority, but I don ‘t care.

I know what I know, feel what I feel, experience what I experience, learn as I go, live as it comes and believe on the fantastic.

Life is a gamble and nobody, but nobody will leave this world alive.

The photo of my late husband included in this post was taken two weeks to the day after he was buried.

An image in my head could be discounted, but a photograph is, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words.

Beyond the Grave

Beyond the Grave

When God gives one a heart of compassion …

it is understood that it will get broken.

There is no way around it.

I am still learning this.

I find that is is both  an honor and a privilege to watch the end of life come to pass.

It isn’t easy nor can it be considered pleasant, but it is a part of life that not everyone gets to see.

The living years is what most of us look for, find pleasure in and hope to be a part of.

But to be present when a spirit leaves this world is nothing short of amazing.

The last breath.

The last heartbeat.

The last moment.

I cannot help but cry for it is, in it’s way, very sad … and yet, when there was suffering, it is also a comfort.

I try, in my weak way, to console the ones left behind, but at that particular moment, there really are no words to say.

I can only be there, in the background, in the edges of the moment, to hold a hand or wrap my arm around those who need the contact.

I’m not, by nature, a hugger or toucher.

It doesn’t really come naturally to me as it does to true nurturers … and yet, I find myself being pulled into the emotion.

It is difficult, but I cannot turn them away.

Not in their moment of need.

Maybe I am weak. But if I can offer some bit of strength in their moment of weakness, then my strength has been made manifest.

I can do, for this moment, what I have learned through experience to do.  Not book experience, or clinical experience, but life experience.

I understand loss, especially unexpected loss that blindsides you and leaves you reeling from words left unsaid.

It is what it is and there are no do-overs.

It is enough to know that you loved someone while they lived in a way that they knew, unconditionally, that they were loved.

It is enough.

Move forward as you can, but whatever the cost, move forward.

To remain where you are, in grief and sorrow is the last thing in the world the one you lost would want.

Don”t be afraid to live.

If you aren’t afraid to live, then when your time comes, you won’t be afraid to die.

It is a circle.

Don’t break it.

James Taylor sang …

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain …” he saw sunny days that he thought would never end.

I feel that way sometimes.

Like the sun will last forever and the foreboding darkness of an impending storm will elude me and deprive me of the comfort that only such an awe-inspiring event of God-created nature can bring.

I found myself today in the company of a family who was waiting for their mother to die.

I have spent an hour or so with them every day for the past couple of weeks and have come to know them, to care about them, to love them.

I’ve seen photographs of their children and grandchildren, of weddings and birthday parties.

I’ve seen faces with smiles that don’t quite reach the eyes because there was worry there.

A sadness.

A knowing.

A sorrow for what was to come.

I didn’t want to go into that room today.  I wanted to be a coward and take the coward’s way out and simply say that they were unavailable.

It would have been a lie, though, even if only to myself.

One that would settle smoothly at the time and then plague me in the wee hours as I remembered the fear, sorrow and sense of hopelessness on the faces that I was trying so hard to comfort.

So I went into the room I didn’t want to go in, sat with people I had come to know and love and waited with them while their mother took her last breath.

It was humbling to be accepted into this place of sorrow and grief as though I was one of them.

I have sat with them, held their hands, cried with them, prayed with them and now, I mourn for them.

It was obvious, when I went to visit them today, that the time was limited.  While I didn’t want to bring negative connotations to an already tense situation, I advised them to call any other family members who should be there to come to be with them.

Maybe I overstepped my bounds.  No, there is no maybe about it, I did overstep them.  But in my nearly thirty years as a nurse, I haven’t always played by the rules.

Sometimes I play by the heart, which often breaks the rules.

But over the years, I have seen death enough to know what it looks like.

I couldn’t live with the knowledge that there were ones that I had met and bonded with before that weren’t there now when the moment they had been dreading, avoiding, rationalizing, but knew was impending, had come.

I felt like a traitor.  Like someone who had come only to say that this is it.

The last hoorah.

The final moments of a life well lived.

I stood in the corner while the family stood around the bed, each one with their hand on the one they loved so dearly, as she took her last breath and left this world.

Before she did, she opened her eyes, something she hadn’t done in days, and looked directly at each one present; saying goodbye, farewell, move on, don’t cry.

Silent tears ran down my face as I watched them watch her as her soul departed from her ravaged body.

I remembered thinking how I wish my Jim had someone with him when he died.  And then I remember how much of a loner he was.  Even with me, he was alone.  I wonder now if he was glad that he was alone when he died.  Glad that he didn’t have to see the fear and sorrow on a face that would wish him to go on when he couldn’t, or maybe simply didn’t want to.

I don’t mourn him anymore.  I think of him and of the life we shared, but I have let him go.  He is a dear and well-loved memory, but not an anchor to weigh me down.  That can bring good to no-one.  And I believe it would sadden him if he thought that his death had broken my spirit.

I slipped out of the room, unnoticed, by the family.  There was nothing else I do, nothing else I could offer; no words I could say to comfort them in that moment.

Trying to do so would be futile and would, I feared, break the trust that they had placed in me to understand them in their moment of weakness.

I had given them my heart, which was now breaking for each one of them.  My tears won’t help them anymore than their own will.

I hope for them, this night, peace in the knowledge that they not only loved, with such passion, their mother, sister, grandmother, wife … but that she knew, with every ounce of her being, that they did.

I like to think that knowing that you gave everything you had to someone you loved is enough to sustain them at their last moments.

I will cry myself to sleep tonight for a family I didn’t know just two weeks ago, a family now broken and irrevocably changed.

I will photograph the living and mourn the dead.  This is the life, while I may not have chosen willingly, was given to me to live.

If my heart shatters a bit in order to bring comfort to another, then it was pain well spent.

I will live it the best I am able, deal with it when I can, falter when I can’t and then remember, while trying to remind others, that even when it doesn’t seem so, life goes on.

There isn’t, really, any more anyone can do other than the best they can.

And then, you move on, for if you don’t move forward, there isn’t any hope and hope is, and will always be, one of the most wonderful things life has to offer.

Without hope, there isn’t anything left.  So hope.  Seek happiness in the face of sorrow.  Find beauty in the midst of sorrow and disaster and know, beyond all else that hope is a good thing … and no good thing, as long as there are people who remember what was, never really dies.

Love is the most powerful of emotions

Love is the most powerful of emotions

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soulful eyes

When hatefulness spews forth …

I am nearly always sorry afterward.  Nearly.  My closest friends and my sister know my moods and how my mind works.  They understand that there are times when I am not feeling myself and I try, with everything I have, to pick a fight.  If someone decides to fight back, knowing that in the grand scheme, it is irrelevant, but crucial to my psyche, then all is good.  When I am left to my own design, I deal with the the only way I know how.  The way that works best for me.  I throw things.

Yep.  I throw things that shatter and break.  Tonight it was a Bone-China cup.  A wonderful sound does Bone-China make when it shatters into a hundred pieces.  It seems that, as that glass shatters, so does all the hatefulness and stress that is, at the moment, overtaking my body and mind.  When my husband was living, he became adept at dodging flying objects.  I hit him once and, after the first pump-knot, he learned that I aimed to hit.  We laughed about it, even though, at the moment of impact, it wasn’t funny.  Fulfilling and comforting to me, but not funny.  Not at the moment.  I hurt him, physically, and shocked him otherwise.  I was sorry, but not enough to promise to never do it again. I did it again, a few times, but he had learned to gauge my moods and knew when flying objects would be part of his world.  He would never fight back with me though.  And so, the outbursts to my sister and friends continued, escalating after his death, and  now back to normal outburst frequency.  It amazes me sometimes that they don’t just tell me to get lost.  I am so very blessed.

It is a rare thing for me to get so stressed that I resort to that.  If the truth be known, when I stopped at my sisters house last evening, it was to provoke a fight.  She knows better than anyone that sometimes, I just need to have it out with somebody and is, usually, a willing sparring partner.   She wasn’t home, though, and I couldn’t find enough hatefulness in my heart to take it out on my niece and brother.  So I turned to my friends.  They must feel so special to get a message a couple of times a year that tell them just how badly they have pissed me off.  I know, were I to receive such a message, I would just cry; maybe for days.  But they know how my mind works.  They understand the need for release and none of them, so far, have held it against me.  I have, however, had to offer an apology or two when I forgot my boundaries.  I don’t forget my boundaries as much as I ignore them.  But I never, ever want to hurt anyone’s feelings intentionally, although, on occasion, I do without meaning to. For that, I really am sorry.

I used to apologize for myself all the time, but in the last few years, I have decided that I am who I am.  And who I will be is yet to be determined because I haven’t crossed that bridge yet.  My friends know me, my family understands me and I am at peace, for the most part, with myself; what else on earth could anyone ask for?

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Proverbs 27: 5-6 ~ Better is open rebuke than hidden love.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Officially now, into the New Year …

my heart is full of dreams, hopes and fantastical wishes.  My imaginings are more vivid than they have ever been and I feel that surely, I am closer than I was before to reaching that which stirs me.  Even as these pleasing thoughts fill my head and pump through the blood in my veins, filling every cell in my body, I realize, rather disillusioned, that they didn’t reach every cell.

In the background, a chill passes across the recall in my mind and I am, momentarily taken  back to last year.  It was a hard year.  A year full of sickness, injury, tragedy, death and loss.  Not just mine, but the people I know personally; my family and friends as well as those I simply ran across on any given day. I found myself in unusual circumstances and, much of it, even with my annoying (I’m often told) optimism which goes a long way in making me who I am, was hard.

It was harder on others I know, the brokenness they had to face, the loss  –  a dad who lost a brother, an aunt who lost a husband, a daughter who lost a daddy a granddaughter who lost a grandfather; all the same man.  And a friend who lost someone beloved to them, someone inspirational.  Friends, good ones, are irreplaceable.

Multiple people, my mother included, seriously injured themselves in a fall and I, myself injured myself moderately from two separate falls.  Patients come into the office I work and they are hobbling in on canes, crutches; with black eyes and busted ribs.  I fell on the curb.  I fell down the steps.  I tripped on a rug.  I slipped in water.  I got my feet caught in a cord on the floor.  I tripped over a Basset hound.  I find it a bit incredulous that I know so many people who had falls last year.

I’m not going to dwell, though.  I just thought it worth remembering, one last time, how many things God helped me through last  year and to remind myself that He’s the same as He was.

Now, back to more pleasing imaginings.

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