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A few weeks back, someone told me that no mater your age when your last parent dies,you are orphaned. Damn skippy, they were right. The sense of abandonment, the “what did I do to make this happen?” thoughts, and the sadness of being left with a simple box of belongings that represented a life. A life that gave you life, and (hopefully), nurtured and cared for you. All of that is in that box.

The US gives use 2 or 3 days off of work to grieve and get over it, then pack all of your feelings in that box and continue your 9-5 life. Two years later when you have that nervous breakdown, everyone will wonder why.

There is something to bs said for ritual, and our ancestors worldwide seemed to grasp that need for recognition of a loss before life continued as usual. (if I wasn’t so caught up in my grief, I would have done the proper thing and provided a list of scholarly references we detailing such rituals here.) I thought I was done grieving – having pre-grieved 3 times prior with the close calls she had. I grieved after her stroke – it stole her psyche – the part of Mom that made her “Mom.”

I had said what I needed to say, and it was all OK. Then I got that phone call at 835a on February 21, and every bad thing I was angry or resentful about just melted away, leaving the memories of laughs, and how we clung to each other in our struggles to stay sane while being held captive by my father.

What I would give for a chance to hold the good memories close, and to make her last years here much better.

On Death and Dying


I am facing the death of a parent right now.

Our society (in da USA) does nothing to prepare us to handle the death of someone important (human or otherwise).

We are shown many ways to celebrate life, enjoy life, create life, save life. Not even God’s many fan clubs give us a clue how to handle death, or how to handle the dying process.

(I can vouch for the fact that one certain organization used the threat of death to make people believe their way, and of course, get your money. I know firsthand,  was an 8-yr old child brought to many a tent revival. To this day, I still have a moment of panic when I hear a horn from an unknown source blare – or a storm comes up suddenly a darkens the sky. But that is the subject of another post.)

Sadness. Grieving. Loss.

Instantly, that is what we Americans think about when someone dies. We rarely prepare for death in any way, and even if a loved one (again, human or otherwise) is ill, we submerse ourselves in a bath of denial  – that they will somehow miraculously get better or that science will come up with that miracle cure just in time.we use words that try to ease the impact of what is actually happening.  Some people say someone “passed on (what, they didn’t want to breathe  anymore and decided to pass on it, just like passing on Brussels sprouts at Wednesday dinner),” “taken by angels (are angels like the FBI, they can just come and take us away? Do they need warrants?), “is no longer with us ” (yes, the person found a family he or she liked better) or “has moved on (All those commercials about planned communities in Florida were just impossible to resist!).

Animals are often said to “cross the Rainbow Bridge” and will be waiting us to join them. Sweet sentiment.

Yes, all of these platitudes are created to make us feel better, but I believe that they just make the grieving process longer and more difficult to  move through. But, guilt can often becomes a stage in which a survivor gets stuck. They constantly berate themselves for things they “shoulda, woulda or coulda” done that may have altered the course of events.

In some communities, long periods of mourning are required and expected. Those that are able to accept a death quicker than the social norms dictate are looked upon as being disrespectful to the memory of the dead person, and are chastized – often publically. How evil is this? Who are these insensitive asses, telling others else how to proces personal feelings and memories, how to conduct themselves in the community, what to wear. Grief, mourning, and processing the myriad of feelings accompanying a death of someone close is unique to each individual.

Social norms and behavioral expectations  have changed in the past 20 years or so in some communities, with the advent of the hospice movement, which is now actally paid for by most, if not all insurances. But again, those people, who feel as if they have to tell others how to behave and process personal feelings imply that to get hospice involved to help the ill individual (sorry, no hospice for pets yet – that I know of) is to condemn that person to death – that death it will be hastened – or that somehow, it is a sign of the caregivers’ weakness or selfishness,  just giving up and giving in to death.

In other societies, death is a part of life.  It is talked about, prepared for, and celebrated For example, Dia de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead – a celebration in Mexico celebrates the life of the departed – including beloved animals!

Why can’t the U.S. catch on, and save its population from the horror of denial, grief, pain, hopelessness.  Sometimes, we cannot imagine our life without the beloved and take their own lives. More death.  Leaving more behind to grieve.

Lacking the spiritual strength that immersion in the aforementioned fan clubs of the Almighty seems to bring, I feel isolated.  Of course, this feelingof being an island is greatly enhanced by the facts that I am an only child, estranged from extended family, and thus lack a true feeling of “community” I can burden with the complexity of the feelings I have. So, I called Hospice. This is the best thing I could ahve done, and I wish I had done it about 6 months ago. If you are thinking – “gee, how awful!” – stop it. Lest you have a squemish stomach about all things medical, I will spare you the intricacies.  Bringing Hospice into the situation earlier that I did would have prevented lots of agonizing pain and unpleasant medical procedures, which led to a couple of painful medical errors, creating more suffering for not only my parent, but for me, and in turn my husband. The four recent hospitalizations which occurred in quick succession stole the last bits of dignity and  humanity from an already weak and broken individual. That aspect, and the sceams that occurred even in a coma-esque state that echoed down the long corridor leading to the ICU broke my spirit and ripped my remaining strength.

The Hospice workers have become my “community,” and focus upon keeping my parent comfortable. They work to preserve simple human dignity, provide comforting care and pure lovingkindness. These are special people. They also provide support for me, my anxieties, my feelings and my confusion. I imagine that this is how the dying are cared for in societies that embrace death as part of the life experience, and do not pretend it never happens, as is the societal standard here is the US.

Thusly, I really wish I could ask, “Do you feel you want to die?”

An answer would make life – everyone’s life –  simpler. We could all work toward a common goal, in harmony, together.  We do not have an answer to thia query. We do’t know if we should encourage activity and eating and drinking and participation in ice cream socials. We don’t know if my parent is tired, and feels that it is “time.”

Providing a good transition – when the essence of my loved one will leaves it’s tired, worn vessel and becomes free – that is my solitary goal right now. Comfort and peace is our sole intention.

Secrets and Lies

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When was I really born?

Number one, most important.

Secrets from the time I was learning to walk. Staring at the pattern In the carpet. Memorized.

So important, most important.

I memorize other patterns in ceilngs, floors, bedding… Born again hell fire and proclaimations in foreign tongue.

So imortant, so perfect. I too will be saved and I will be so important.

Can’t cut the cord, no.  Number One, my most important.

Failed relationships, no social skills. Damaged goods.

But oh so important, the baby. The cord will never be cut.

Me in a relationship, a normal one? Don’t know how. Me, have friends? No.
Her number one. Her most important.

Ruined life.

Rescue? Protect? Save me please. Even animals – lower life forms protect their number one, their most important.

Selfish, selfish person. Most important? Look in the mirror – go ahead.

I can’t.

Your number one? No way. Not ever.

Secrets most important. Lies conveniently forgotten. Who is number one?

Ruined, sad and pathetic life. Psychic pain, eating away at my mind, my body.

All because you were the one that was most important, number one.

Continue to lie to yourself, number one, most important.

Your actions created my destiny. And yours. Pleased with how that turned out?
45 years of lies to yourself. To others.

Sever the cord. Walk away, most important number one.

I will do what you should have done, or what any animal would have done.

Go see yourself in your self-imposed destiny of guilt.

I will keep myself safe, warm, clean and undamaged.To me, myself, most important, number one.

For real. Not a lie. Not any more.

See, I can be positive!

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My husband wakes me up with a kiss on my forehead to say ‘goodbye’ before he leaves for work. He is smiling and asks me how I am feeling.  This is the hardest question for me to answer.
My lower back is stiff and painful.  My legs refuse to respond to my subconscious directions to move. My big toe joint are on fire and my lower legs are swollen just enough to make them too achy to ignore. The back of my neck and upper thoracic area is on fire. I smile anyway.  My mind goes back to something my husband said in the car a few weekends ago.  “You know what would make me happy?” he said.  “To hear you say that you feel great – not to hear you list off all of your problems and pain – not to hear you dwell on your problems all the time.” But, I can’t lie, and darn it all, I don’t dwell on my medical problems. The cells in my body do that for me. Thus, I am forced to be consciously aware of my pain all of the time, even with diversion.  I briefly think about a worst-case scenario: What if something happens to me later on – he would not be able to advocate for me – “Well, she said she felt fine earlier,” he would tell the doctor/ambulance crew.  So, do I lie to make my husband happy before he goes off to work, so he can have a good start to his day, or do I honor my body, and tell the truth?
I decide to change the subject – I roll over as carefully as possible, peel myself out of the bed and go to the bathroom, telling him that I’ll be right back. By the time I return, he forgot that he asked that question, and the conversation moves on to dinner, and what we need at the grocery store. So he leaves, thinking I am fine since I didn’t complain, and proceeds through his day with now idea how I struggle.
My husband comes through the door, always grumbling about the stupid drivers he must dodge in order to safely navigate the twenty-six miles from his workplace. I empathize.  I used to commute by car too, before I became a medical train wreck. The question is asked again, “how do you feel?” This time subterfuge is easy. I tell him all the things I did; factoids form the silly TV shows I watched, gossip about friends and neighbors. No mention is made about the searing back and leg pain, the stabbing pain still in my neck, alerting me a migraine is just around the corner, or a series of uncontrollable muscle spasms that rendered me unable to drive. I did enough things around the house to make it look like I was busy and actually accomplished something housewife-y – more than watching TV while laying on heating pads, doing stretches to try and loosen my tight muscles that squeeze the nerves that most likely cause my back and leg pain. Or, that I napped for three hours. Of course, the medications that I took to try and maintain some quality-of-life are not mentioned either. Hubby curls up on the couch with his laptop and cruises the net, completely immersed in reading his techno-geek websites. My condition is no longer a concern, or so I think. Then around 8:00p.m. he announces that he has made me a nice warm bath, to help relax my back and legs. Perhaps I will sleep better, he says. Without my verbalizing about the magnitude of my issues, he knows, at least to some degree, how I really feel. I underestimate his ability to perceive my aches and pains. After my bath, I tell him what he wants to hear. “I feel great! Thanks for thinking of me.” It is still a bit of a white lie, but I do feel great – and loved.  For a few moments I am pain free, and I smile, for real this time.