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Archive for the ‘grieve’ Category

Mom & Dad: March 2006

Yesterday marked one year since Dad died. Actually Saturday felt more like it, since he died on a Saturday. Even this year my stomach and body were tight all Saturday as though he were dying all over again, until just about the same time he died, around 6:30 p.m. Then somehow I became relaxed.

Last year, I had stayed up most of the night to be with Dad so he wouldn’t be alone were he to die during the night. So I was really tired on his last day, as I had sat up until about 4:30 a.m. when I finally caved in and leaned forward on his bed and did a face plant and slept for 1½ hours. He awoke at 6 a.m., and as soon as he did I gave him some pharmaceuticals to relax him since he seemed to be miserable. He was done talking at this point. The meds relaxed him. He stopped putting his hand to his head every couple of minutes, which he had been doing even as he slept.

Time does heal wounds. I recall dreading going to Mass the day after Dad died. In fact, my brother and I left early. We just couldn’t take it.

A year later, my family and I looked forward to attending Mass together, which was the feast of Christ the King, which goes along so nicely with how I feel about my Dad. I couldn’t have picked a nicer or more caring man to be my Dad and mentor.

There are still reminders around Mom’s home of Dad, aside from pictures. Mom now sleeps in his hospital bed, the bed he died in. She has physically declined so appreciates the help getting in and out of bed that a hospital bed affords. She also hangs out mostly on Dad’s chair, a glorified lazyboy.

I can still smell Dad in our towels as I dry off after a shower, even a year later. Just last week, Mom had most of his clothes taken away and spread hers around to fill up his closet. It was very emotional for her to give away his suits. I think she would have liked to know who was going to wear them.

I have been going through family pictures for the last couple of weeks and have pulled out my favorites to scan into my computer before the quality degrades further. I have so many memories of good times with my family and friends, so going through pictures is enjoyable!

Yesterday we got up at 6 a.m. for 7:30 a.m. Mass. This was particularly hard on Mom. She almost couldn’t keep her balance first thing this morning, and I wasn’t much better since I had insomnia so had slept very little. We made our way through Mass. There was no singing or exchange of peace so it was recitation of prayers throughout. Our priest is one of my favorites and remembered Dad with warmth as the Mass intention right at the start of Mass.

We were sorry our priest couldn’t join us for a very delicious breakfast at the Hay Adams. It was yummy and Dad would have enjoyed it, and breakfast was his favorite meal! The Hay is a happy place to eat as it’s airy, cheerful, with white walls and lots of windows and white orchids. The service is excellent, which makes you feel so welcome.

Well, we got through this year without Dad. I had hoped I would be done grieving. I still miss him. I think you will always miss a parent you love after they go.

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June 21 was the first day of summer, my sister-in-law’s birthday and 7 months to the day since dad’s death. Memories of dad just keep cropping everywhere. I guess that’s to be expected since I knew him over 50 years, and I still grieve over him.

Somehow I got through father’s day without as much pain. But I started to anticipate father’s day at the start of June. I sent cards out to the fathers in our family and that helped blunt the pain. Fathers and mother’s days are both hard for me since we couldn’t have children, so those days hit that cord too. We got through father’s day since we were so busy cleaning and working on stuff around the house that we didn’t have time to go to church where all the dads would be acknowledged during Mass. Although if we had gone to church, as Father blessed the fathers, dad would be standing in my heart for my love and blessing.

I had some good memories about dad in the last week. Rodgers and I drove to Colorado from DC in a little over 2 days, an aggressive pace. It brought back memories of childhood trips with my family where we drove across the United States and stopped to visit neat parks along the way, and relatives who all spoiled us. How wonderful of mom and dad to take us along on those long trips, and to have the patience to deal with restless, screaming kids in the back seat. We often had picnic lunches by the water and I inevitably ended up in the water much to my parent’s chagrin since we would have to dig out dry clothes for me in an overpacked trunk. I also recall the wobbly picnic tables which dad often balanced. On more than one occasion we abandoned him when bees visited. There he would sit, just barely keeping the picnic table level so our food wouldn’t slide off.  He often smashed the attacking bees with a newspaper, and sometimes even with his bare hand, all the time balancing the rocky picnic table.

Rodgers celebrated a birthday recently and in his honor I made apple pie, his favorite. It was also dad’s favorite desert. On those trips across country, we would order lunch and dad would say, “I’ll just have apple pie and a cup of coffee.” When queried about ice cream, he never turned it down, so he was an “a la mode” man.  Interestingly enough he usually didn’t order it a la mode, but happily accepted it.

My cousin recently visited us from New England where dad grew up. Dad had a New England accent right until he died although he hadn’t lived there since graduating from law school in the early 1940s. My cousin has a New England accent and Dad’s similar enthusiasm for life and its many events. I love his sense of adventure as he drove his motorcycle all the way from New England to Colorado, some 2000+ miles each way! I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of our cousin, although I am not sure I’m up for such a long ride on a motorcycle. I really don’t like to battle the elements like that! Oh, and did I mention my cousin likes apple pie too, a la mode.

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Last weekend I attended our annual church retreat with 17 great women. Attendance was lower this year, but I felt that the right people showed up for each other. We had ferocious winds all weekend which reflected our spirits and emotions which were swirling as we reflected upon our lives as individuals, with God and with others.

There are a couple of sayings I particularly liked.

“We cannot do great things only small things with great love.” Mother Teresa

“Peace is something you make, are and give away…not something you can wish for.” Mother Teresa

Most of us aren’t the mover and shaker that Mother Teresa was, but we can do the small things in our everyday life with love for the person we’re with whether it’s a family member, a friend, a stranger, the nameless cashier at the grocery store… Isn’t nice to think that if we hold an attitude of love in our hearts that all things we do accumulate and make our hearts big and full of God’s love! I feel similarly about peace. Like so many things in our lives, we are looking for peace. You can replace many other words for peace that we are looking for, when actually we have just what we need inside us, and need to have the confidence to move ahead in our lives.

I still grieve around dad’s death, as of today 6 months and 6 days ago. Here are some words that comforted me during my retreat journey.

“Every tear I cry: You hold in Your Hand. You are not alone your grief…as He wipes our tears, He wipes his Own.” Casting Crowns

Here is another that I read which spoke to me from Everyone’s Way of the Cross by Clarence Enzler from Station 13, when Jesus is taken down from the cross.

I beg you Lord, help me accept the partings that must come—from friends who go away, my children leaving home, and most of all, my dear ones, when you shall call them to Yourself.

Then give me the grace to say: “As it has pleased you Lord, to take them home, I bow to your most holy will. And if by just one word I might restore their lives against your will I would not speak.” Grant them eternal joy.

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

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I thought of mom warmly during Mass on Mother’s Day. That is until I recalled that this was her first Mother’s day without dad. I remember the first mother’s day when dad wasn’t enough with it to remember to buy mom a card. He wasn’t driving, so we got him a card to sign for mom. He was so happy to do that and carried the card around and gave it to her. By the next mother’s day he was getting so weak that his signature took a while. I don’t remember if we had a card for him to give mom last mother’s day. But we might have: if we did my brother would remember since he’s the one who would have bought it for dad. By then it would take dad 5-10 minutes to sign anything since his hand shook and was so unsteady. We have saved our last birthday cards and anniversary cards that bear dad’s signature. In those last few cards, it was barely legible, but we knew who it was and that’s all that mattered. It was such a stark contrast to mom’s signature which is picture perfect, the work of art almost. None of us kids inherited her excellent penmanship.

Mother’s day is always a tough day for me since it’s a reminder that we could not bear children. I’m the age of a grandma and it still hurts since I won’t be a grandma either. I love children and the life they give you since they keep you feeling young and more balanced and WITHOUT children it’s too easy to fall into the trap of me me me.

I know there is a reason for my infertility, but I’m still not sure what it is. One thing is for sure: I could never have spent so much time 2000 miles away from home with my family in the last few years if we had had children. I feel convinced that there are other reasons for my inability to conceive. I do so love children and feel blessed that my nieces welcome me into their families as they are having their babies.

Another thing we couldn’t do is take off for all these outdoor art shows which is how Rodgers makes his living! One of us would have to engage in a “real job” one that produces steady cash flow and provides medical insurance. We can live more modestly without children and we pay our own medical benefits, which greatly reduces the amount of spare cash we have to buy “stuff”.  Stuff just isn’t important to us as we drive around a 1989 Camry and our Toyota art car has over 260,000 miles on it, and is still going strong!

I hope to be an author one of these days! That’s not exactly a great paying career move. I probably wouldn’t consider it if paying the bills was more important.

I like to think about what’s right in my life: since I overall I am grateful for my life. I have a happy marriage, am part of a loving family, am healthy for my age, eat fresh food every day and live in a beautiful spot where we have unobstructed views of the Kenosha Range of mountains with Pike’s Peak off in the distance, yet clearly visible most days.

It’s a shame that our human nature is often to be critical of what’s gone awry during the day. I stumble into that sometimes, especially when I have taken on too much and I’m in that hyperventilated mode! However, I make up for it every night as Rodgers and I share our dinner hour with conversation, music, fresh food, candlelight and no telephone calls. I end my day lying in bed and recounting the day, and thinking what went right. I also feel warmth, peace and loving thoughts about my family. It’s a great way to fall asleep.

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“How true Daddy’s words were when he said: all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

~Anne Frank~

This week I am visiting my mom and brother. The house still feels vacant without dad. It’s even worse this time as I am sleeping in mom and dad’s king size bed. Mom is too weak to sleep in their bed due to sciatica and we have company. Mom wants them to sleep in bedrooms next to each other. One of those is mine. I never thought I would be sleeping in my parents’ bed, especially this soon after losing dad.

Mom sleeps downstairs since she is too weak to climb upstairs often, especially when she is tired, like one is when climbing up to bed. She sleeps in dad’s hospital bed, and has adjusted to it and appreciates that it affords her the opportunity to sleep downstairs and still live in her home. It was an awful reality that must have hit her when I had that bed brought back up to our living room for her. The last time she was with her husband he was alive in that bed. The first time she saw him in death, he was in that bed where she now sleeps. I also have such a vivid memory of him in that bed up until the end, and then how gently they took him away for the last time.

Their bedroom still feels of dad. There is a pile of his clothes on the floor waiting to be given to someone. These are his favorite sweaters which he wore often. They are baby blue and bright red in color. I can still see him in the last pictures I took on “Duffy Christmas” in his pretty blue sweater, just barely hanging in there, but smiling and enjoying the attention and love especially from my brother. Somehow I can’t sleep on his side of the bed, not only since it’s further away from the bathroom. It’s almost to honor his presence that I just can’t go there. I struggle to breathe much of the time while I’m in my parent’s bed.

On their walls hang mostly religious pictures except for the counted cross stitch I gave them for their 50th wedding anniversary. It brings back memories of love, passion and a happy family gathering. I don’t remember their 60th as well since dad was so weak already by then. June 7 would have been their 63rd anniversary.

I am gradually getting through the milestones of mom and dad’s lives where we celebrated life together. This year as we grieve, they’ll be a little tougher to face, but I am hopeful that the joy they have represented to me will return.

Anne Frank was such a wise child. My father did put me on a number of right paths, and I had his guidance for so many years of my life, yet with his passion and caring temperament, I felt like I could be my own person. Other than telling me to pick up my room or clean up some mess or the other, he let me mold my own life. I did learn a lot by his great example of warmth, love and one who would always listen and give good council.

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Last  Sunday was a tough one to get through as I was thinking about Dad during many parts of Mass. There are at least three places where we recall the dead.  I haven’t gotten through a Mass without tears since he died now almost 5 months ago. One of my Notre Dame classmates tells me that this is part of the healing process. I hope so.

Father Jim had some great comments especially regarding the Gospel reading where Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him and forgives him for denying him 3 times the night before He was crucified.

That is a very extreme example of forgiveness but it is a reminder that we get huge relief and energy from forgiving others, and then we’re in a great position to let God’s love really shine within us and to share it with others.

This is where I thought of my dad. He must have been so forgiving since the love he held for all of us, including total strangers, was so evident in how he spoke, and in his soft, sparkling blue eyes. He said, “Ah… he is a one hell of a nice guy,” with such warmth and passion so often. Even while he was failing and had to be in the hospital and rehab, he was telling every nurse or aid that she or he was his favorite. “You’re the best,” and “I love you,” were common statements from dad. They all wanted to help dad however they could. And he always said “Thank-you,” even for the most trivial things. If there was an excuse to be grateful, he shared it.

Yet aren’t there times in our lives where we just don’t know which way to go? That’s a good time to ask God for some direction, but so often I find myself feeling anxious and hyper, and then I’m not much good to anyone.  Father Jim reminded us that at these times, it’s just good to ask God, “What’s next? I’m waiting for Your word.”

I am a little lost without my dad as he had such a deep influence on who I am. He was there for me ever since I can remember, even up to about 2 days before he died. He was bedridden at this point, an old man hardly in charge of his physical abilities. He wasn’t eating, yet he was still telling us he loved us. I know he was scared, and some of those last mornings he would waver between marveling that he was still with us, almost in disbelief that he was, since he knew he was very sick–even though he lived with the confusion that comes with dementia.

He had frequent choking fits from a combination of dryness and his inability to swallow. We would take turns helping him out, and as much as he suffered, he always thanked us. I wondered how he even had the energy to thank us, but somehow he did. He was a kind man right up to his death.

Yet I now see more glimpses of him as the man who pulled me out of the pool when I won swimming races, and even when I didn’t. This is the man who taught me to believe in myself and that anything was possible with God’s help. He instilled the “can do” attitude that I have on most days!

I had another wonderful gift this week: it was from Mom. I was telling her how I had no regrets about all the traveling I did when I was abroad in college for a year. She told me she had no regrets about the wonderful 62 years she shared with my Dad. She is so grateful for the rich life they shared, how much he loved her and how much they traveled and experienced the world! This message came right at the end of our phone call and I could hear a sense of peace in her tone of voice. This is part of her grieving and I wonder how long she had been waiting to share?

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We’re half way through April already! April is a month of birthdays in my life. Just yesterday my mother-in-law turned 88 and my husband’s godfather turned the big “90”! He is in good shape both physically and mentally, with a sense of humor and wit that keeps me on my toes and laughing. My mother-in-law is very tiny and her mind is deteriorating from dementia, but she is still very much with us.

I remember when my father turned 90. He was in a rehabilitation center working on building his strength up so he could move back home and walk again, albeit with the help of a walker. I made apple pies for everyone and we brought in sparkling apple cider to be more festive with something bubbly. He had a really great time, but was worn out at the end of the celebration, and wasn’t quite sure who the celebration was for. The presents and celebration in his honor just didn’t seem to make him realize it was for him.

But the good news is he did come home from rehab and I am grateful that we had him in our lives for another 18 months. He celebrated his 91st birthday last year, and was even more confused about whose birthday it was. I recall my brother and his wife had given him a birthday balloon as part of the festivities, which we put by his bed since he spent so much of his time there. As we put him to bed that night, he looked up at the birthday balloon and asked whose birthday it was.

On April 30 this year, dad would have turned 92, but he isn’t here to celebrate. I’m already dreading how I’m going to feel that day. Ever since I can remember, over 50 years, I have been celebrating a happy occasion that day. Death is so final.

I have decided to do something positive and possibly cathartic in his honor. I am going to write a book on grieving that is stories, and not full of theory, but just practical stories around death, love and grieving. If you would like to share yours, please let me know at ellen at thebisource dot com.

BTW look at what I almost stepped on while we were hiking in the Colorado mountains recently. It was the only floral beauty up in this area. We decided to take a snack break and went off the trail! It’s amazing what you find in nature, and it gives me such comfort to see spring this year!

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