Category Archives: Sorrow and loss

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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Five years later …

or nearly so, I am still sorting through my late husband’s things.

I should be past overpowering sadness by now.

I suppose I am, mostly.

But being a writer and photographer hinders that absolution.

Just when I begin to ascertain peace in my life, words intervene; I write about him and tear those nearly closed wounds open again.

It is as though he died this day, this moment, this hour.

Sadness seeps through the crevices the words carve.

Normal humans move forward, live their lives, make something of themselves from the shattered remains.

I want that, too.

But I’m a writer.

I’m a photographer.

I keep tearing those wounds, just as they’re healing, open.

I love writing about everything and photographing God’s perfect beauty; but it has a price.

I pay dearly through my words for they rip open wounds I’ve desperately attempted to close.

I bleed, painfully, and use photography to heal me.

Each image I capture stitches the brokenness and, simultaneously, pours remembrance on not quite yet healed hurts.

If one is not an artist of some kind, time will ease your pain.

For the rest of us, those with creative pieces in our soul, time simply laughs.

When the words, melodies and images are in our head and heart, there is little time can do.

What it can do is soon undone by what we are.

Sadness is my destiny, peace my hope.

And yet I write.

I photograph.

My hope is great.

My healing never really comes.

I have to ask myself if I would be willing to sacrifice my writing and photography for peace.

No, I answer.

I can live without peace.

To live without words and images would truly and altruistically destroy me.

That which brings me sadness will fuel my hope.

I am a writer and photographer.

Therein lies my hope.

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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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Going to work tomorrow …

is a chore.

I wonder, sometimes, if I can be a nurse for next twenty years, until I can retire.  I have a  hard time envisioning it.  A hard time seeing myself there.

For twenty more years past the twenty-five that I’ve already given.

Seeing the harshness of humanity, the sickness, the sorrow, the depravity … the death.

It is difficult for me when all I dream of is traveling and taking photographs.

I want, first and foremost, to see my own country, and then Ireland and then all of Europe; Germany in the springtime.

I have dreams.

I have aspirations.

I am too soft-hearted to be a nurse … to see the suffering, to feel the suffering, to hold the suffering unto myself.

I bring it home with me.  I dream of it.  I cry for those who cry.

I sometimes think I don’t have the strength or the courage to do what I do and yet, I cannot turn my back on those who cry on my shoulder.

I feel overwhelmed, at times.  I feel inadequate at others.  I am only me, but still, I am called to be more than I feel I can be.

I pray with them.

I don’t know what else to do.

My life experiences, many of them troubled and harsh, give me an insight into the suffering that these people who lean on me need.

I hope I am enough.

I fear that I cannot measure up.

I want to encourage them and know, that somehow, through my own discouragement, I can help them.

I continue to pray that I can be a part of the answers they seek.

I see the fear, sorrow and uncertainty in their eyes.  I know their pain, I have been through the fire and I can relate.

But I’m not sure I can continue to face that every single day.

Not sure I have the strength to carry the burdens of those I seek to encourage.

No certain that I even want to.

And yet, I cannot abandon them for their tears touch me so deeply.  I succumb to their sorrows and find myself weeping in the wee hours of the morning for that which I cannot alter.

I have told myself many times that, in my heart I am photographer and while that is true, also,  in my heart, I am a nurse.

And I know now, that no matter where I go, or what I photograph, the love for humanity will always take precedence.

I will always, whether a recognized photographer or not, be a nurse.

It is the burden I bear.

And I bear it with confidence that I, in some small way, can bridge the chasm.

I want, whether through photography or nursing, to make a difference …

If I can’t, then I, on all sides, have failed.

I don’t want to be a failure.

A young praying mantis sits in the sun of early summer

A young praying mantis sits in the sun of early summer

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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