Posts Tagged With: grief

That Fuzzy-Eyed, Staring at Nothing Buzz That Happens

You know that fuzzy-eyed, staring at nothing buzz you feel when you’re running about a week behind on your sleep?

Yeah, that one.

I’ve felt that for a few days now. Seems like a less than stellar way to begin a year. I’m betting I could sleep for three days in a row and still not feel rested. Not that there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades of putting that idea to the test.

wonder woman

To the invisible jet!…Dang it!

I’d be thrilled to get eight or nine hours of sleep at this point. Two nights in a row of eight hours worth of shut-eye and I’d be a new woman. Heck, I’d be Wonder Woman.

It’s not post-holiday letdown, or shopping burnout. Hardly. This year I experienced exactly the opposite of what normally occurs at Christmas, which turned out weirdly good. And, no, I didn’t overindulge with New Year revelry nonsense.

I think, more than likely, I owe this numb brain sensation to more than sleep deprivation. I’m pretty certain I’m in denial about a few things.

Saturday marks one year since my best friend Kathy passed away. All through December she’s hovered in the background of each day. It was a month of “lasts.” Of course, at the time I didn’t really  know they were all lasts. The last time we had a normal day together, the last time I had a conversation with her, her last words to me, last texts exchanged, last soda run, my last “see ya’ later,” her last month of life.

Add in that I did this lousy job at grieving during the year. I did a way better job at denial. I was always in denial, even when we talked about her funeral plans over the years. It was always something in the future. Now it’s all something in the past.

Have I mentioned how much I hate that?

I think I’ve expected some sense of closure by now and it hasn’t happened. But then, I haven’t really done any “work” to make that happen. It’s been a year of life happening to me, not me actively living life.

Abnormally normal, actually. That’s how the year’s gone. Have I mentioned that Kathy used to tell me that she’d keep her battles against an incurable cancer over the weird life I live? Yeah. She said things like that to, what, make me feel better about my life. Or maybe to feel better about hers.

dart boardIt’s been a helluva year in a couple of other ways as well. Which I won’t bore you with or share publicly. Just take my word for it. Crap hit the fan and has stunk up the place. Still digging out. Not sure the smell will ever go away. Sorry for the vagueness. Imagine some things you’d never want to deal with that doesn’t involve death and you’d probably hit the dart close to center.

It’s been an amazing year in some phenomenally great ways, too. Ways that seem to prove that the universe works on some sort of cosmic yin and yang, balancing between good and evil, positive and negative, ridiculous and, yes, sublime. Take my word for it, imagine some of the best stuff ever that could happen that doesn’t involve money and you’d maybe come close to how wonderful life felt at times this year.

Odd, huh?

Throw in a side trip, too.

Throw in a side trip, too.

A yo-yo on a string. That’s me. Spinning, spinning, spinning, hard bounce at the bottom, more spinning, spinning, spinning, abrupt halt at the top. Repeat.

Maybe it’s like that for everyone.

Or maybe, I’m just lucky that way. (Sleep-deprived, brain fuzz, and off-kilter, remember?)

Happy.

New.

Year.

 

 

 

Advertisements
Categories: Death, Family, Friendship | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Best Advice I’ve Gotten In the Past Year? “Practice Radical Self-Care”

Great recs found here.

Great recs found here.

The best advice I got during the past twelve months wasn’t directed at me. And it arrived through an unlikely source, a Goodreads question and answer session.

I don’t usually follow or sign up for these sorts of things. I think the author’s work normally speaks for itself. But I made an exception this one time.  When Anne Lamott, the author of “Help! Thanks! Wow!” among other hilarious, heartfelt and honest books, accepted a stint on the Featured Author Chat over at Goodreads, I jumped on board eager to pick up some writerly advice and a few laughs.

The directness in Anne’s writing reminds me of my best friend who passed away early this year. They both have a no-holds-barred approach to communication. Say it like it is. Don’t worry about offending anyone. Speak truth. Let it all fall where it ought to.

Feels like I get an infusion of new oxygen in my blood after reading Anne’s books. I figured I’d more than enjoy reading what she has to say in a different medium.

Little did I know how helpful it would be.

Sure, she answered queries about writing and about her personal life. But then, a surprise question and an even more surprising answer came through.

In response to a reader’s question about how to deal with depression and discouragement, Anne Lamott’s answer jumped out at me as if it’d been highlighted with fluorescent green marker.

“Depressed and discouraged is really hard, and plenty to deal with. My response, if it was me, was to practice radical self-care, by being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself, exactly as I would be with a friend. Love and gentleness are always the answer. “ – Anne Lamott, from a Goodreads discussion 12/12/13

“Practice radical self-care.”

I’ve said that to myself over and over ever since I read it. Even more so since a funeral and burial and the ensuing grief that’s hovered all year.

So we’ve all heard that “self-care” part of the equation over the years, right? But “radical?” And how do you care for yourself in a radical way?

I turn to my usual sources. I like the third Merriam-Webster definition of radical.

“Radical: very different from the usual or traditional : extreme.”

So I’ve looked at how I normally care for myself and I attempt to do the opposite, or at least a ninety degree shift.

Sounds difficult. But I’ve given it a try anyway.

So how do I “practice radical self-care”?

  • Letting myself ignore all my lists occasionally and the usual side of guilt they’re served with
  • I say “not right now” instead of “sure, anytime, anything”
  • Simply sitting and letting my mind go blank, often
  • Crying when the tears want to leak out
  • Laughing even if it goes against all reason or feels wrong
  • Planning something unprecedented, like getting a manicure, or a spur of the moment trip
  • Saying “No”
  • Reminding MSH that I’m not depressed, just grieving
  • Practicing my depression treatment steps, just in case
  • Accepting that sorrow and faith can coexist in the same brain
  • Journaling, several times a day if necessary, letting words carry some of the weight
  • Napping, earlier bedtimes, later wake times
  • Talking about how I’m feeling

The other part of what Anne said, I’d applied in situations involving others, but rarely with myself.

“Being exquisitely kind and gentle and patient with myself.

The key word there: “exquisitely,” as in “acutely perceptive, discriminating, intense.”

Kind, patient and gentle with myself. How could I go wrong? That was easier the first month or two after my friend died. But then I hit some preconceived notion of “times up” on the grieving thing and stopped being so easy on myself.
Photo by Kettie Olsen

Photo by Kettie Olsen

So I try again and again. And I remind myself again, as Anne said, “Love and gentleness are always the answer.”

I get radical. I care for myself. Practice exquisite patience and gentleness. I apply the concepts of love and kindness to myself. Kind of extreme ideas for me.

It’s a daily, sometimes hourly process working through depression, discouragement and grief.

I owe big thanks for such unusually worded advice from someone who’s been there to someone still wandering the path toward a new normal.

*~~*~~*

Categories: Cancer, Death, Hope | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There is No Measure for Sorrow

Mom used to do this thing that I found a bit creepy. But then, I was quite young and had half a lifetime yet to live before I’d begin a journey of understanding.  It’s been half a lifetime at this point and I think I’m starting to understand her behavior.

The first thing Mom looked at when the afternoon newspaper arrived, oddly wasn’t the comics, which I went for. Nope. Mom looked up the obituaries. First thing. Every day.

Bizarre.

That’s what I thought at the time.

What more is there to say?

What more is there to say?

I know now that she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to express condolence to someone she might know who could use the support and love. An old classmate, a church friend, a distant relative, a former neighbor, parents of her friends.

My second older brother died before he’d reached a year.  The support and love Mom received after Brian passed away must have been invaluable. She saw the value of others reaching out to comfort her. It stuck with her, this desire to give strength and support to the broken-hearted.

"Hennes Grave" by Picasa.

“Hennes Grave” by Picasa.

You’d expect I’d naturally have picked up her empathy and kindness, since not long after that, I was born. Born into grief, born to lift and cheer, born being needed, born to fill an unfillable space.

It took a while.

I went through a phase when my own babies were tiny where I scanned the obits briefly, looking for children that had died. I think it served as a kind of mental inoculation or talisman against the possibility that my own little ones might wander into print in such a horrible way. Strange thinking, I know. We do odd things as mothers to protect our brood.

Then I passed through a phase where I’d skip that page of the newspaper as quickly as possible, as if not acknowledging it made it unreal, an un-possibility.

If only.

I simply don’t read a print newspaper anymore. Solved that problem, didn’t I?

Hardly.

I’ve been to far too many funerals in the past ten years. And not just older people either. Babies, young men, mothers, fathers, young adults, college students, children, teens. Disease or accident, anticipated or sudden, self-inflicted or battled, tragedies every one.

Oddly, older people dying doesn’t carry the same tragic heft and horror for many of us. Although the loss feels every bit as painful, I would think, for those closest to the departed. But who am I to say?

There is no measure for grief, loss or sorrow.

I’ve been at crowded standing room only funerals and those with barely anyone in a tiny room. I’ve felt comforted and I’ve felt bereft. I’ve been strangers to the grieving and close friends with the heartbroken. I’ve been one whose heart went missing when the death occurred. And, I’ve held my own tears in check for later as I offered a hug and spoke what little one can say.

Photo: "Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)" by Natalie Maynor

Photo: “Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)” by Natalie Maynor

Obituaries, along with the newspapers they used to appear in, are dying their own slow death. For whatever reason fewer and fewer obituaries get published. Facebook and other social media now serve, rather inadequately, as death announcement venues. I’m not so sure I’d want the notice of my death to run squeezed between a “stay calm” meme and a “you won’t believe what this cat and dog did” video. Lacks dignity and appropriateness wouldn’t you say?

But then, whose to say what’s appropriate nowadays?

We celebrate births and weddings. We mail out invitations and announcements and ask others to join us in our happiness. The only other significant major life event, death, has been left to dangle precipitously like so much bad press we want to avoid reading, let alone acknowledge.

I hope we figure out a better way to help the grieving. I hope we don’t simply hold our breath waiting for their response to our queries of “How are you?” to become “Oh, I’m fine.” I hope we don’t believe that pat answer. I hope we pray for them, handle with care and know that all is not well, not for a very long time.

Mortality reaches us all eventually, no matter how we try to dodge it. How we cope, how we grieve, how we celebrate a life, how we avoid its ending. It’s all part and parcel of the whole life experience.

I, for one, want to help ease whatever pain I can. After all, I was born to it.

 

~~~~~

“My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies.” ~ Bill Paxton

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Still Crazy After All These Months

Seven months today.

I thought by now I’d feel better, be on the upswing.

But no. If anything the cycle of grief leaves me reeling from an upside down outside loop (is that even possible?) and rockets into this cavernous roiling flame-filled pit of wild emotion I don’t even recognize. Anger, tears, blame, sorrow, regret; those words only skim the surface some days.

Sounds stupidly dramatic.

Kathy would say, “Oh, get over yourself woman.” Then we’d drive over to Freddie’s for their super skinny fries and epic fry sauce and a concrete mixer with caramel and nuts and fudge and two days worth of calories in one sitdown whine fest.

What an awesome listener. The world needs more listeners like her. What an honest, straightforward tell it like it really is talker. We need more of that, too.

If I were to follow her example when someone asks how I’m doing I would NOT say, “Oh, I’m fine!” Instead I’d say, “I’m a wreck!”

I miss her like crazy. I miss us. Our friendship. Our uniquely bizarre mix of humor, life’s experience and often wordless communication created five years of something beyond special.

Now, months later, there’s still this gaping hole of her absence. And I keep tripping and falling into it. Hurts every time. I just can’t seem to navigate away from the edge, yet.

Maybe someday. Maybe at the one year point. Y’think? I don’t know.

She’d be mad at me if I left this post hanging on a negative note. She’d be mad at me for the whole post, honestly. Oh well, she’ll have to come haunt me to shut me up. So there.

Here’s where I insert the jokes.

But just to be safe, (I don’t really want her haunting me) here’s a few fairly good, clean George Carlin one liners. (Hint: it helps to say them out loud in your best comedian voice, with a nice pause at the end for a rim shot, pa da, pum! )

  • If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?
  • Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?
  • Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
  • How do they get the deer to cross at that yellow road sign?
  • Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra?
  • Is it true that cannibals don’t eat clowns because they taste funny?
  • If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

Alright already, I’ll stop now.

Laughter? Really?

I’ve found salvation and solace in laughter the past few months. It’s cathartic. It’s healing. It’s like medicine, without the weird side effects.

I’m fine. Really. Most of the time I am. I just have these moments that last a day or two or three. It helps to write it out loud, kinda gets it out of my system.

I’ll sign off today the same way I used to tell her goodbye. The same way I said goodbye for the last time.

“Love ya, Kathy. See ya later.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The title for today’s post is a take off on a song by Paul Simon, “Still Crazy After All These Years.” It speaks to me on so many different levels. You can listen to it here.

 

 

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can Nothing Feel Like Something?

The pass I’d given myself to wallow, read, sleep, and grieve, expired its “use by” date about a month ago.

“I’m sorry ma’am, that coupon isn’t valid anymore.”

Somehow things suddenly kicked into high gear a couple of weeks ago and my mind and body filled up the space and time I rent from the life library. I went back to the gym, put away my pile of “to read” books, started a new volunteer project, began cooking dinners, even made bread, and made headway with the  stuffpiles that inhabit every room in the house.

photo by Sarang

photo by Sarang

In other words, my life shifted into a new normal. At least I thought so.

Two nights ago, MSH said something completely innocent and ordinary, and with his words the doorknob to my emotional storeroom clicked.

The door opened.

The air changed not in a physical sense, but just as clearly as the temperature and smell in a house changes when a door gets left open in midwinter, I knew something was different.

Can nothing feel like something?

Yes. Without argument. Absolutely yes.

I felt the loss of my best friend as raw and new as January. Instantly.

That emotional door allowed an onslaught of emptiness and loss to escape. I could no more push it away than a person can shove the cold air back outside and slam the door on it. The cold inhabits the room. It takes time and effort to reheat the inside air.

Two days, almost three, and I’ve felt lost again, unable to force away limbo and hurt and sorrow.

It’s not like I’m constantly thinking about her. Not at all. It’s more like her absence inhabits me. How does an emptiness fill something? I have no idea. I just know that’s what it feels like.

There’s a mental numbness involved as well. I find myself not engaging in conversations, barely following the words, the back and forth of it. My body’s in the room, but my mind, my focus, simply isn’t anywhere.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki

What do I do about it?

I don’t know. Keep breathing. Keep moving. Do.

Or maybe I need to not do anything. Maybe I give myself over to the feeling of loss, all over again. Sit in my porch swing and stare, again. Cry randomly, again. Pray more than normal, again. Muster up energy to respond to texts and emails, again. Sleep way too much, again. Stand around aimlessly and unproductive, again.

I’m guessing this sensation will go away eventually. I’m expecting that writing about it, out loud, here, might help.

It might come back again, too. I think grief does these looping things. It’s not a linear, stage by stage processing of the loss, but a kind of wandering path of varying emotions or lack of them. Occasionally the paths cross, I wander on to a different one without even realizing I’ve changed direction.

Don’t get me wrong.

I don’t feel hopeless.

That isn’t it at all. I just feel lost. Lost. Lost. Lost. Or empty. Very empty. Very very empty. As if I’ve been poured out on the sand and absorbed.

Wow. That sounds horrible. It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but then it isn’t really great either.

I’m fine. Really.

It’s just…grief.

This thing:

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something to which a bond was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions.” ~Wikipedia

Sounds complicated.

Multifaceted response?

Dimensions?

Ten dollar words to describe and define sadness, sorrow, emptiness, hurt, and the left-behind perspective.

It’s today’s normal for me. And apparently yesterday and the day before. Maybe tomorrow and the next. We’ll see. Like a lifeboat on the ocean I’ll just drift about and see where the current takes me.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best imitation of a normal person when I’m in public.

There’s this last thought, which I like because it feels hopeful, and it acknowledges that there’s a process in play that I can give myself over to.

“Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” ~ Emily Dickinson

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

photo by Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What I Miss About You

photo by Richard Croft [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

photo by Richard Croft

Dear Kathy,

So apparently there’s no texting allowed in heaven or I’d have heard from you by now. Dang it.

I figured maybe, just maybe, you’d get a split second or two to do some reading, since you love to read. So I thought if I wrote out some thoughts I’d had lately, you’d get the message somehow. Call me naïve, or silly or weird, I don’t care.

Also, you’ve been on my mind more than ever, imagine that. I find myself thinking of things I need to tell you about, and then remember you aren’t close by to just drop in and have a chat with. So I’ve been kind of keeping a mental list of things to talk with you about. Maybe you won’t mind if I drop you a letter once in a while to sort of make sure I’m staying connected with you somehow.

For my first letter to you I’ve come up with a list.

It’s a list of just some of the things I’ve missed about you since you left almost a month ago:

  • How insistent you are about being on time, and others being on time, too. Like a contract, you always say.
  • Seeing your face light up when you think about, talk about or get a text or a call from your husband.
  • How you always say, “love you” when I leave, and how I know you mean it.
  • Hearing about your wild and crazy daycare adventures.
  • Being completely comfortable in my skin with I’m with you. No need to weigh my words, or be careful about what I say or do.
  • Finding you sitting in “your spot” on the third floor at the Mayo, when I wander up from parking the van. That smile I get when you see me finally come around the corner.
  • How you don’t like it when we end up wearing the same color shirt to go somewhere together.
  • Getting a text from you asking “what ya doing?” and knowing it means I get to spend time with you.
  • Talking about books and movies and kids and husbands and life and death and religion and politics.
  • How you watch the clock for Sonic Happy Hour to roll around.
  • Eating pita bread and hummus while we talk nonstop, then being too full to eat our Fatoosh salad or Kabob.
  • Picking up a conversation with no glitches or strangeness after two or three or even four weeks of not seeing each other.
  • How you aren’t afraid or hesitant to ask for what you need or for what you want.
  • Finally being over a cough or cold so I cold come hang out again.
  • Having you help me make sense of the latest weird development in my strange life and how you say it makes your life seem normal by comparison.
  • Taking photos of your blooming bushes or my wildflowers to show you, or having you point out the cactus in bloom when we drive.
  • Feeling at home in THE CHAIR in your room and talking about nothing and everything.
  • Getting fries from McDonald’s and a Frosty from Wendy’s.
  • How vigilant you are when babysitting your daughter’s stuffed animals and dolls.
  • Saying it like you see it, no sugar added.
  • Just being together whenever and wherever.
  • Feeling like one of the cool “in” people when I’m with you.
  • Knowing I have someone who totally gets me without having to lay it out in detail.

So that’s all I can think of at the moment to tell you about. Except, I’m feeling pretty lucky to have you for a friend. You’re one of a kind, in case I forgot to tell you. Oh, and I love you and miss you like you can’t believe.

I’m guessing you’re busy being all angelic and stuff. I get that. So don’t worry about trying to get in touch.

Mostly I feel like you’re right here in my heart anyway. I can hear your voice in my head, telling me to crank the tunes, open the sunroof and enjoy my Diet Coke. I’m trying to do just that, cuz you’d want me to. But, it’s not just the same without you in the passenger seat.

256px-Mail_Boxes_Bruny_Island

photo by Reinhard Dietrich

Try to stay out of trouble up there.

I miss you.

Your bestie,

Kami

Categories: Cancer, Death, Friendship, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Good Grief and other Nonsense

My internal weather.

My internal weather.

“The only education in grief that any of us ever gets is a crash course. Until Caroline had died I had belonged to that other world, the place of innocence, and linear expectations, where I thought grief was a simple, wrenching realm of sadness and longing that gradually receded. What that definition left out was the body blow that loss inflicts, as well as the temporary madness, and a range of less straightforward emotions shocking in their intensity.” ~Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home

I read this book by Gail Caldwell a while back. Before I’d met my best friend. It was an interesting read back then. I even quoted it several times in this blog post last year.

Now I’m rereading the book as a roadmap, trying to find my way out of this jungle I’m lost in.

I had no idea I’d feel this way. I thought I’d feel sad, of course, after Kathy’s Myeloma wrenched her from life. But this isn’t anything like any sadness or depression I’ve ever felt.

There’s real, tangible physical pain. No one ever told me about that. People don’t discuss grief actually, so when would I have learned this?

And I have only one channel in my head that comes in clear enough to see or hear, the Kathy Channel. Twenty-four hours a day it plays. That bluish light that a TV screen throws out haunting the recesses of my head day and night. Oh sure, I hear and see other things. I go about my day at one-quarter speed, doing dishes, moving laundry about, showing up at places I said I’d be at.

But the background buzz, hum, light, music and weather consists of Kathy. She’d find that funny and pathetic at the same time. Glad I could humor her, sorry if I’m letting her down.

I can’t find a remote to change the emotional channel I’m stuck on.  And it takes more energy than I have to look for it and figure out the buttons if I stumbled onto it.

Insert exhaustion photo here. Picture whatever fits for you, I can’t think that hard today.

I feel successful when I get dressed. When I eat. When I carry on a conversation without saying her name or referring to her somehow.

Please don’t ask me to go to the grocery store. It takes hundreds of steps to get to the dairy section, and more energy than I have to lift the gallon of milk into the cart. And then seeming miles away the produce section waits, the logic of its order lost on me. And the loudspeaker blaring, do loudspeakers do anything else but blare? Obviously the overnight restocking crew cranks the music up and no one ever turns it down. How am I supposed to think through this grocery list with so many bad songs from the eighties and nineties blasting away at my every thought? And heaven forbid I should see someone I know. I dig up my cheerful face, drag out my pretend untired voice, pull my shoulders back to give the illusion of standing up.

I attempt all the right responses.

“Fine. Great. Tough. Getting through. Life. Goes On. Thanks. Sure. Uh huh. See ya around.”

Then I cave in on myself. I want to curl up in the shopping cart and sleep, right there beside the salad dressings and croutons and bacon bits. Pull some cereal boxes over my head like a bad blanket.

But that would indicate some kind of madness or lack of sanity or a grip slipped. So instead, I stare at the grocery list and find something on it that tells me what I should do next, if I can go home yet.

All this from a mere five-year friendship.

I can’t begin to fathom a twenty-five year marriage with half of the duo gone. It’d be like a body with no skin, all raw, exposed nerves and internal parts on fire with rage, salt encrusted, oozing.

Someone should do something to fix this. This can’t be right. Aren’t there rules or laws that make this kind of pain illegal or impossible?

Categories: Cancer, Death, Mental Health, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Disturbance in the Force

Did you feel it?

I’m sure I did. My heart did this fluttery, skipping a beat, then a rushing to catch up weird sensation earlier this week. Like a balloon deflating there was suddenly no energy in the room.

My cousin, Darrin Olsen, almost thirty-three years old, passed away.

Darrin lights up a room when he walks in. He’s one of those people everyone is so happy to have show up. The vibe around him is upbeat and pulsing with life and excitement.

Whether he’s telling a joke, goofing off in front of a camera, or playing Ultimate Frisbee, he is all in, one hundred percent going for it. Talk about infectious laughter and smiles! Just saying the name Darrin puts a smile on the face of anyone who knows him.

Clearing skies over Morgan, Utah

(Photo credit: coty creighton)

I’d like to think he’s had a nice visit with Grandpa and Grandma Olsen and a couple of other cousins. Then, I envision him on a phenomenal hike in the heavens with a view unmatched here on earth.

I’m thinking he’s figuring out if he can do an ultimate bungee jump from there to here, just for the thrill of it. He’ll be able to talk whoever is in charge into it, no doubt, with that charming smile of his. I can here it now. “Sure, Gumpers, for you, I’ll bend the rules a bit. Here’s the bungee cord. Have fun!”

Ah, Darrin, you are already missed so much by so many.

Get a team together for a game of Ultimate for the rest of us when we get there. It’ll be epic!

In the meantime, feel the love we’re all sending your way.

Categories: Death, Hope, Memory Lane, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sudden or Slow?

“Don’t you think it’s much harder to have someone die suddenly than to have them die slowly?”

Multiple myeloma (1) MG stain

Multiple myeloma. Don’t let the pretty color fool you, this is wicked stuff.

A room full of ten women recently heard that question. The one asking is dying slowly. It’s a process that’s being going on for the past four and half years. The one she was asking lost her husband unexpectedly to death six months ago. Neither of these women qualify as old, not by any stretch of the imagination. They are young and at the peak of life’s gifts and joys and grinds.

What a stunning question to ask someone straight out when they’ve suffered such a horrendous loss.

It caught my breath. But they’ve both earned the right at such honesty about  a difficult subject.

But there’s no topic off-limits in that group. Not anymore. Ten years ago, maybe. Now. No.

A short list of some the other losses for that group of friends:

  • Two have cared for a dying or dementia ridden parent who then died.
  • A mother died from cancer.
  • A mother died after a long, long life.
  • A best friend dying suddenly in an accident.
  • A husband suffered a massive coronary, lived, but has lost earning capacity, mental acuity and vitality.
  • A sister with brain cancer.
  • Parents died at the hands of a drunk driver when she was eleven.

The Answer to that question is…

The conclusion was that sudden death was harder to deal with. No warning. No chances to say goodbye, to say last important words.

Although, the slow dying thing isn’t exactly fun for anyone involved either.

My friends talked about extra weeks purchased at the cost of hail-Mary chemo treatments. Talk of hospice and bereavement counseling also bantered about the room.

Honestly, I felt myself trying to physically create an emotional wall in that room. I kept turning my head away from this wrenching discussion, visualizing a barrier, willing my hearing to deafen instantly. Even now, writing about it, I’m leaning away from that side of the room, trying to create distance from such personal stabs of knife twisting pain.

I can’t, I won’t, I don’t want to deal with it.

There’s no escaping though.

We’re all dying slowly.

But that’s not the point is it?

The point is living in the meantime.

Velcade Chemo treatment: Cycle 2, Week 2

Velcade Chemo treatment (Photo credit: tyfn)

That isn’t always easy. Filled to the brim with mean poisons, your body overrun with side-effects, doped up on painkillers to survive the treatment that’s supposed to buy you more time, how do you make use of such poor quality time? How do you smile when the pain is excruciating? How does someone do anything useful, check any tiny thing off their bucket list, interact with their loved ones in a meaningful way under such circumstances? Cancer and its treatment is a personal tornado that rips lives to shreds.

Or maybe your challenges are slightly less complicated than that. Maybe you have chronic pain or a life altering illness. Perhaps you’re unemployed. Maybe you’re always worried about finances. Perhaps you work in a horrid place. Maybe your spouse makes life unbearable. Your parent might need additional care. Your child could have learning difficulties. Your car is unreliable. Loneliness haunts you. Your past feels inescapable.

Or maybe, if you’re lucky, it’s just garden-variety stuff. Busy schedules, sore muscles, what to fix for dinner for the zillionth time, a curfew-breaking teen, piles of bills needing attention, the mountain of laundry requiring scaling, a leaking roof, a tooth ache, weeds.

Living in the moment while living in the reality we find ourselves in. Not always easy. Rarely easy, actually.

Have we created a now that includes eternity or is now all there is? What’s your perspective? Immediate, long-term, short-term? Or maybe with blinders on? That’s a tempting option, but not a great one. How do you get through? What’s your coping strategy?

Death is coming for us all, eventually. Sooner or later. That’s the only way out.

What are we doing in the meantime?

Categories: Death, Mental Health, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Gift Returned Too Early

Some people really are a gift to everyone in their life.  I had a friend who was that way.

He unexpectedly died on Christmas morning.

He’s one of those people who bring joy into a room with them.  The barometric pressure changes when he walks in, bringing sunshine and a sweet ocean breeze in his wake.

His smile sends so many messages at once.  It’s one of those genuine smiles that include the eyes, not one that can be faked.  It’s a smile that says, “I’m really, really glad to see you!” or “You’re awesome!” or “I’ve been up to something mischievous,” or “We’re in this thing together and we’re gonna kick it.”  It’s a smile that creates instant friends, that engenders trust and that opens tightly closed doors.

Calling him a Christian would be understating the matter.  He gives 100% to whatever or whomever he takes under his wing. He works hard, plays hard, prays hard, loves fuller, gives deeper, and shares wildly.  Generosity ought to be his middle name.

He doesn’t tolerate a mere handshake, but pulls a person in close for a hug, as if they’ve not seen each other for years. And that brief hug conveys vast amounts of love.  The ability to communicate caring so potently, to bring joy to others, to give unconditionally, are talents worthy of emulation.

The gift of a man like Sean is a precious, priceless commodity.  The world is poorer with his passing. There is now a gap to be filled that’s unfillable.

He is loved.  He is missed.

Categories: Death, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: