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Posts Tagged ‘end’

Friendship

I’ve never been as depressed as I’ve been these past few weeks. But I told myself that at the end of this week, that would be over, that I’d get up and get on with my life. And lo and behold, I woke up Thursday morning not happy, per se, but not depressed anymore. The big hole of emptiness was gone.

Of course, life is never that easy…I woke up Friday morning with a horrible cold, so getting back to live (exercise, etc.) will have to wait a little longer. Blah.

We (me, dad, and mom’s brother) woke up in time for the sunrise on Wednesday, October 17th. Mom’s brother said a prayer of thanksgiving for mom’s life, and then we all went out onto the deck to scatter mom’s ashes. Dad wanted to keep some in the urn, and I still have some in a small metal heart here at home, so we didn’t scatter them all, but most are there off the side of the deck. It was a gorgeous sunrise. It’s a good place for mom’s ashes to be. It’s a good place for us to remember her being, even if she isn’t really there anymore.

And I took some pictures of the site before I left. Turns out there are some green beans growing there. Who knew? 🙂

It was so funny, when mom’s brother got into town and met us for dinner, he came into the bar where dad and I were waiting and sat down, then started talking…and then he looked at me and said, “And here I am, talking, when I’m just lookin’ at you and thinkin’ about how much you look like your mother.”

“Funny,” I said, “because that’s exactly what I was thinking about you.”

I’m sad that when my mom’s brother is gone, my mom’s stories are gone, too. No one will ever know her like he did. No one will ever know her like I did, either, sure, but he knew her as she was growing up. No one can replace that.

I have an old friend from writing class who has recently begun writing me letters. I always looked up to him as a sort of mentor. I mentioned in one of my responses that I’d been having trouble writing about mom, that it was still too soon for me. He said his mother passed away five years ago, and it was still too soon for him, too. That made me feel a little better. I wish I could write about everything that’s happened. So many of us have experienced loss, and I know that the only thing that can make any of us feel better is the understanding that we’re not alone. If I could write everything down, maybe I could help someone else like my friends have helped me.

And speaking of friends, and the title of this post, I have to say that my ex has been instrumental in getting me through the past few weeks. He was there for me in ways I never expected. If I ever had any doubts about whether or not he cared for me, or about how much he cared for me, they’ve all been erased. He let me take all of my sorrow, grief, and anger out on him, and he was nothing but supportive. I’m both amazed and grateful.

I switched therapists (not sure if I’ve said)…my most recent therapist always made me feel like I was just there as a paying client, like she didn’t really care about me, and that just wouldn’t do. I switched to an RPCV whom I met at a pot luck about a month ago. She’s an older lady, and she’s extremely kind. She’s also the first person who didn’t immediately say that my ex is a selfish asshole and that I should cease all contact with him. She actually helped me see that our relationship wasn’t as one-sided as both of us had thought, but that we gave in different ways: me, more of my material goods, and him, more of his quality time and attention. Neither is worth more. If anything, really, time and attention means more, right? But I’m glad there was finally a different perspective.

Life is a funny place. I think that I’m in a good position to move on and figure out new ways to make a difference in the world. Once this cold is gone, anyway. I’m lucky that my depression didn’t last any longer than it did. I know that not everyone is as lucky. I feel for those people, I honestly do. Real depression is no joke. But no one can save you from it but yourself.

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Ashes to Ashes

Well, here we are. Down at the beach to leave some of mom’s ashes in the place she loved the most.

Being depressed is no fun at all. Really, just none. I don’t want to see people. I don’t want to have to smile if I don’t feel like it. I don’t want to have to talk about mundane things. I just want to stay in bed and forget that there’s anything going on outside of the door of my bedroom. I’ve even been struggling to spend time with dad, and that’s never been the case (well, maybe when I was younger, but I blame that on hormones).

Mom’s brother is coming in tonight. We’re all going to dinner. Then we’re going to wake up early, before the neighbors, to say a little something and scatter some ashes. And then, I hope (REALLY hope) that I can get back to life. And even if I don’t feel like it, I’m only allowing myself to continue on this depression spiral for a few more days. Next week, I’m done with it, whether the rest of me wants to be or not.

It’s so pretty down here…just gorgeous weather. If it were any other time, I’d be renting a bike to go riding or walking on the beach. Honestly, the fact that I’m waking up and typing is a good thing, I think.

I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers during this time. It’s sad that this one event–mom’s passing–has made such an impact on my life, but it is as it is.

And it’s strange, but the person I feel the worst for is mom’s dog. I wonder if she still thinks mom is still coming home, if she still expects her to show up. I read all about cats when I got separated, and everyone seems to think cats have about a six-month memory…after that, they don’t remember you if you’re gone. I wonder about this dog. Mom was retired when she got her, so they spent a LOT of time together. I know the dog knew mom was sick. I don’t know if she knew mom passed. I do know she was depressed for a long time and that she does the best when she’s in an environment mom has never graced (such as dad’s new place in Florida). It’s interesting. And sad. At least I can logic my way through things. I don’t like the dog, but I do feel bad for her.

Anyway, tomorrow’s the big day. I’ll be glad when it’s over. I need to get back to taking care of myself instead of trying to take care of someone who has left us. I don’t have any regrets. I wish I’d done some things differently, but I couldn’t have…I’m only human. I did the best I could, I loved the best I could, and I’m honored that I got to help usher mom into the next phase of her existence. That doesn’t stop me from being sad, though.

I love you, mom. Last year at this time, I would have been preparing my meals for the week and cleaning house so I could get back to being with you. I’d told work that I would be working from your house for the duration of your illness. Turned out it was just a day. And I knew as soon as I arrived that morning. I could see it in your eyes. I’m sorry you had to suffer so. But I’m glad we had so long to say goodbye. I hope that the next time I come here to the beach, I will be happy that you will meet me and not so sad that I have to leave you.

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Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

When my previous therapist and I were talking about grief work, she suggested that I write you a letter. We both knew I wasn’t ready for that, so she told me to keep the idea in the back of my head and take advantage of it when it was time.

When I was talking to my new therapist about how I felt visiting your house these days, she asked if I’d written you a letter. I said no. Then I started crying and said I wasn’t ready. She just nodded.

As both of them told me I should write to you, I guess I should listen.

I suppose I’m finally ready.

It was triggered by something unexpected: a new CD. P!nk’s new album, The Truth About Love, was released yesterday, and I was listening to it in the car today while I was running errands and then heading to the gym. Song #9 is “Beam Me Up.” I started crying after the first verse and didn’t stop until I turned the car off at the gym. Then I listened to it on the way home and started crying again. I put it on the computer while I was settling in and just kept crying. (I’ll put the lyrics and a link to the song at the end here so you can hear it.)

I think this means that I’m not okay and that I still really, really, really miss you.

I’ve tried to be very Buddhist about this whole situation. I know that death is inevitable and that attachments lead to suffering. Sure. It’s true. I’ve also tried to shy away from all the “it’s just not fair” crap. But it’s not fair. I do feel robbed of decades of your love, your advice, your wisdom, your ear, your example. Your hugs. Our arguments. Holidays. Shopping. Celebrations. Shared loss. My life is proving to be so much like yours that I know you could help me walk along my own path. When I don’t know what to do these days, I don’t know to whom I should turn. Dad’s been doing a great job, but there are some things he just doesn’t want to hear. I know it’s hard for him.

There are also still some things I need to know that you never told me. Like, I know all about Richard. Well, I know a lot about Richard. But I don’t know how it finally ended, how you got over it…if you ever got over it. I remember finally meeting him at a funeral–was it Bibba’s?–and, when you pointed and said, “That’s Richard,” my going over to him and saying, “Richard? Hi! I’m Allison, Sallie’s daughter. I’ve heard SO much about you!” I think the expression on his face made your decade.

And more about your first marriage. You must have seen so much of it reflected in my own marriage. I don’t know why you were behind my marriage as strongly as you were. Maybe you just wanted to support me. Maybe you thought that having a man who loved me would be the only thing that mattered, even if that was about the only good quality he brought to the table. I remember asking you how you felt when you got divorced. I don’t remember exactly what you said, but I think it was along the lines of disappointed or like a failure. I said I felt free. You reacted almost like that made you sad.

And how to manage all of this crap. This past year and a half has been so hard on me, mom. I’m at a point where I really don’t feel like I can take anything else happening. I might literally crack. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am–and I know that I am; I get that from you–but I’m so tired of having to be strong. You were always so good at multitasking and juggling everything. I know it annoyed me sometimes because I never felt I had your full attention, but I understand now. And the way you handled your cancer was a model for all of us. You never complained about anything, never said you felt pain, even when I knew you did. I could use the lessons that you learned during that journey. I wish you could teach me how to suffer with grace.

It’s so hard for me to go back to your house. I’m honestly glad I don’t live there anymore. I don’t know how dad manages. All I see when I walk in is your illness and everything I could have done better. I see myself struggling to learn how to help you use the bathroom and hurting you, I’m sure, in the process. I see myself causing you pain when I tried to move you. I see myself being short or gruff when I was frustrated–not with you, but with the cancer and what it was doing to you. I see myself trying to hurry you when you had no energy for anything. I know that I’m only human and that I did the absolute best that I could, but I could have done better, mom. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the times I hurt you or made you uncomfortable or forced you to do things you didn’t want to do. I know those things don’t matter to you. But they matter to me.

I’m sorry.

People always say things like, “If I could only go back and have five minutes to say everything I need to say, I wouldn’t leave room for any regrets.” I don’t have that regret. I think the one blessing your disease gave to all of us was a chance to say everything. I said everything I needed to say multiple times, and your responses were always what I needed to hear. There was nothing left unsaid. So I don’t have much to add here in that respect. You know that I’m sorry for all of the trouble I caused, and you told me that it wasn’t the bad times that you remembered, but the good. You know that I love you, and I know you love me. I just wish you were here. I wish I had that one minute, “just to stare, happy just to be there, holding your face.”

I miss you, mom. I love you so much. I’m tired of the pain and heartbreak of grief. It feels just as acute right now as it did right after you passed. I’ve heard it never gets any easier. That sucks. The worst part of having a mother who was my best friend, who was such an amazing woman and role model, is how big of a void your passing leaves in my life.

I hope that one day your memory only calls up happiness and not this wrench in my heart. Like you wrote on my poster–that awesome gift you gave me as a going-away present for the Peace Corps with all of my friends’ pictures and space for them to sign their well-wishes. You wrote, down in the corner near a picture of us at the beach: “Honey, may you always think of me with a smile on your face and in your heart–I’ll love you forever and beyond. Mom.”

I miss you, mom. I’ll always love you forever and beyond, too.

-A

Beam Me Up Video

“There’s a whole ‘nother conversation going on
In a parallel universe
Where nothing breaks and nothing hurts
There’s a waltz playing frozen in time
Blades of grass on tiny bare feet
I look at you and you’re looking at me

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Just beam me up.

Saw a black bird soaring in the sky,
Barely a breath I caught one last sight
Tell me that was you, saying goodbye,
There are times I feel the shiver and cold,
It only happens when I’m on my own,
That’s how you tell me I’m not alone

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Just beam me up.

In my head, I see your baby blues
I hear your voice and I, I break in two and now there’s
One of me with you

So when I need you can I send you a sign
I’ll burn a candle and turn off the lights
I’ll pick a star and watch you shine

Just beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter,
I think, a minutes enough,
Beam me up
Beam me up
Beam me up
Could you beam me up.”

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16 Days

Only 16 more days until I turn 32. Even though that must seem young to some of you, it’s hard for me to believe I’ve gotten so old. I remember a time when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it to 18.

I’m still very worried about my birthday. I hope it’s not as sad as I’m expecting it to be. I don’t have any plans except to see a dance performance (seriously, you should all come…Ronnie West is the best dancer I’ve ever seen in person, and I know this show is going to be AMAZING…plus, you can wish me a happy birthday!), and then dad’s taking the boy and I out to dinner. It’ll be a very late dinner, which dad wasn’t really up for, but I really wanted to see Ronnie’s show. I’m glad we were able to work it out.

Things have been relatively stable for me. I haven’t lived so close to my best friend since I lived on Johnny’s street in Vilas. I’d forgotten how nice is it. I’m spending the majority of my evenings hanging out at the boy’s house. While my cats are a little sad about it, I’m glad to have the company. It also makes me feel more secure knowing that there’s someone who cares about me living so near, just in case I ever need any help or anything.

I’ve been doing a lot better with food. I actually haven’t binged on food in…it seems like it’s been a month or more? And I’ve corrected my diet over these past two weeks so that I’m getting back into a comfortable routine. I’ve also been much better about exercise. I’m trying to remember that it’s not about how I look, but how I feel. I feel so horribly out of shape. I’ve felt unmotivated and heavy, like it’s just too much effort to move. I do struggle to do the things I used to do, and I can’t do the things I used to do at the same level. People keep saying that it comes back quickly, but I don’t know about that. I just have to keep chugging away at whatever level I can. I’ve been trying to find more fun things to do so that I look forward to it. I got a deal on Shaun T’s dance video series…it’s hilarious having the dude who runs the Insanity program teach me how to disco. I also got a voucher for three private Pilates equipment sessions. I used to do that once a week…did that for years. I had my first session this week, and I felt equal parts blissed out and destroyed. I wish I could afford to continue with it. If I don’t end up going back to HEAT, I might be able to figure out a way to do it. I guess we’ll see.

I still miss mom. Sometimes conversations about death come up, and it’s hard for me to explain what it was like to be present to witness it. I think some people have an idealized version of what it might be like. It’s not pretty. And it leaves holes and scars.

It will be one year in October. Dad rearranged the beach schedule so that we’ll have the beach that week. We’re going to take her ashes.

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Six Months

Six months ago today, at around this time, I had just finished eating my lunch of black bean and kale soup and was curled up on my mom’s bed, resting beside her and holding her hand as she struggled along the last journey of her life. This would have been about the time we started debating about how much morphine we should be giving her. They said something like every four hours or when she had labored breathing, and honestly her breathing started sounding labored at around 10 in the morning and didn’t stop until she took her last breath. That made for some confusing instructions.

My boyfriend asked me last night about why six months mattered, if it made me feel different or just made the feelings I’ve been having already stronger. Honestly it’s just a milestone, a passage of time. We’ve made it six months. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. I still miss her and am still dealing with acute grief. I’m so glad that the door of communication is open with him, though. I don’t know what it is. I’ve talked with other people about mom before, but I’ve never felt lightened by it like I do when I share with him. Maybe it’s a deeper level of communication. Maybe it’s that he understands that there’s nothing he can say, so he doesn’t try. Maybe it’s that he’s one of those people who takes the weight of the world on his shoulders. He calls it “sponginess.” Maybe we just met at the right time.

I stopped seeing my therapist for a while. I haven’t been doing the grief work she asked me to do, and I haven’t even started the self-esteem workbook. I feel like it’s a waste if I’m not putting in the effort. And then she said she was pregnant with triplets, so she’s going to be out the last half of the year anyway. I like her and want to continue, but I feel like I need a break. I dread having to go in there every week and uncover these painful areas that I don’t even want to admit to myself right now. So I’m going to stop wasting the money and start saving my peace of mind. For now. I know I’m not done. I’ll go back when it feels like it’s time. Such is life. “I need my space!”

Anyway…I still miss you, mom. I know you’ve found your peace. I’m still hoping dad and I can find ours.

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I got to my parents’ house around 8 this morning. I slept in and missed my regular 6 a.m. workout; maybe I somehow knew I’d need my sleep. I blamed it on the fact that I woke up every two or three hours during the night. But whatever.

When I went in to see mom, I knew something had changed. I looked at her, and she looked back at me with this expression that was wholly innocent, sad, and exhausted. I just knew.

“You look like you’re about ready to go,” I said to her. “Are you?”

She smiled a little at me and nodded. And that was the last time.

I honestly believe that started her dying process. I told her again that I loved her, that I’d miss her, that we’d be okay, that it was okay to let go. She dropped back into her fog for a while, but her breaths were quick and shallow and her pulse was rapid. Around 10, I talked with my aunt and decided to call hospice. I knew they’d tell us to start the morphine, but I really didn’t want to. I was dreading losing what little of my mom I had left.

You see, mom has always hated drugs. She’s the only person I know who lived through the 60s and 70s and never did any drugs of any sort. Giving her morphine, sending her into an altered state that wasn’t of her choosing, was *not* high on my agenda. The point of hospice, though, is comfort, and we wanted mom to be comfortable. So we started the morphine on hospice advice around 10:45 a.m.

The hospice nurse called around 11:40 to say she was on her way and that we should give mom another dose if she was still having rapid breathing. So we did.

The nurse showed up soon after, and my aunt and I helped her clean mom up. The CNA arrived right as we finished. We left the CNA to give mom a small bath as we went to talk with dad about what was going to happen.

Mom’s hands and feet were already cold. As the day progressed, I was able to feel the cold move from her toes all the way up to mid-calf. From a scientific perspective, it was intriguing. The hospice nurse explained that mom’s rapid breathing was not because she couldn’t get air, but because her cardiovascular system was shutting down. It was trying to conserve the important parts, so it was leaving the hands and feet to concentrate on the brain, heart, and lungs.

The hours flew by. Every time I turned around, it seemed another had passed. I spent most of the day lying on the hospital bed right next to mom, my arm around her or on her shoulder.

The hospice nurse said no visitors but immediate family (“You’re not a visitor,” she said to me), but mom has always said she wanted her best friend there at the end, so welcomed her over around 2 p.m. My aunt and I took the chance to eat some lunch while she was with mom. When she said goodbye to mom, mom looked right at her. Mom knew who she was, and she was glad her best friend was there. She wasn’t able to smile with her mouth, but she definitely smiled with her eyes.

From about 3 p.m. on, it was a struggle. The nurse said to give mom morphine every three hours, then as needed between when her breath seemed labored. The problem was that her breath seemed very labored all the time. We gave her one dose around 3. When she wasn’t any better after 20-30 minutes, we gave her another. Then waited. Then another. Sometimes mom sounded like she was snoring, but her eyes were open. They darted side to side like she was reading something. Sometimes I’d be able to get her to focus on me, but it required effort.

I kept telling mom I loved her. That we’d be okay. That I’d take care of dad. That it was okay for her to rest. That it was okay for her to go home. That she was the best mom I could have ever asked for and that she’d always live on in our hearts. That I loved her. That I loved her. Over and over.

I keep mentioning my aunt, but you should know dad was there, too. He wasn’t able to stay in the room, but he was constantly in and out, telling mom he loved her, blessing her, telling her to rest. I know it was hard for him.

Is hard.

Will be hard.

Mom’s eyes finally fixed. Her breathing was quieter, and then she went into this period of intermittent breathing. She’d stop, and we’d think that was it, and then she’d take another labored breath. That must have gone on for almost an hour, it seemed.

I sat on her bed and held her hand until the end. There wasn’t a magical moment, though. I didn’t see her eyes widen or a smile or anything like that. It was just breathing one second, then not. My aunt took the oxygen off, then went to tell dad. This was around 6:35 p.m.

Seeing mom like that was strange. She’d looked so gaunt for so long that she didn’t look much different, but then she looked entirely different. It’s difficult to explain.

My aunt called hospice, and our hospice nurse came back out. That was really nice of her. I know there was an off-hours nurse on call, but we’ve grown close to ours. And she’s marvelous. She came and cleaned mom again, helped put up some supplies, and stayed with us until mom was taken away. Dad called the funeral director (a friend and Masonic brother), who came out as well. He had two big guys on call to come carry mom. They were very gentle with her and treated her with respect. I put mom in her “With God, All Things Are Possible” lung cancer shirt and gave her one of her little white toy poodles to take with her. Dad gave her another so she’d have two, representing her current poodle and the one previous. We walked with mom out to the van and watched as they took her away.

I’m condensing all of this, of course. It’s late, and today feels like it was a year long. I’ve cried a lot. I’ve also laughed some. I’m eternally grateful that I was able to spend this day by mom’s side and that I was holding her hand and looking into her eyes when she passed. I’m glad she wasn’t alone. And I’m glad I wasn’t alone, too! It was good to have my aunt sitting there with me.

We don’t have plans for a service yet. We will be sure to keep you all posted. We appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers.

Mom is at peace now…now it’s going to be a struggle for us to find ours without her. She was an amazing woman, and I’m both blessed and proud to be her daughter. I’m also both blessed and proud to have such an amazing dad, who has done such an incredible job caring for her this past year. Their love is something to envy.

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Another Good Site

Good morning!

I just wanted to share this site with all of you: http://www.amitabhahospice.org/public/helpful_info/signs_of_dying.php

Hopefully you’ll find it as helpful as I did. 🙂

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