“This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.”
“The Hollow Men” – T. S. Eliot
My fraternal twin sister, Deb, died of complications from liver failure at 7:49 a.m. EST on February 29, 2020. I am heartbroken writing this.
T.S. Eliot is one of my favorite poets, and although I love the depth of “The Wasteland” and the profundity of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Hollow Men” has always been my favorite. The last two lines always run through my mind when someone I know dies, as does Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 – “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun.”Continue reading →
The two most traumatic events I’ve experienced in a life that has seen its fair share of traumatic events are the deaths of my parents. When Daddy died on October 15, 1998, I went into protection and taking-care-of mode for Mama, suppressing the real nuts and bolts of my own grieving process over Daddy’s death so that I could give Mama my full support, help, comfort, and care.
I didn’t realize, at the time, that’s what I had done, because it seemed natural to me and I didn’t know how to do things any differently.Continue reading →
It’s hard to believe you’ve been gone almost seven years. At once, it feels like yesterday and forever. I miss you as much now as I missed you the second God took your breath away as you hit the number of days He had written for you in His book before you were ever born.
The world was crazy and falling apart when you left. If you can imagine, it’s crazier and crumbling apart even more now.
We’re all worse for the wear, but that’s to be expected, and people you loved and cherished have, like you, gone to sleep to await the resurrection in the years since you’ve been gone. Continue reading →
By the time first responders got to the accident, the SUV was fully submerged. They pulled the SUV out, got Chris out, and, after a lengthy amount of time, were able to resuscitate her. She was taken to the hospital and put on life support.
On Friday morning, January 11, 2019, a neurological examination showed Chris had no brain activity. The family huddled for several hours to decide what step to take next.
At 4:52 p.m. CST, Chris was pronounced dead. However, Chris was an organ donor, so the hospital kept her on life support until organ transplants could be arranged.
By Sunday, January 13, 2019, the hospital had found a liver recipient in New York and two lung recipients in the Midwest. At 7 p.m. CST, a “Walk of Honor” line, composed of family members, friends, and hospital staff, formed all both sides of the hallway from where Chris was to the operating room, where her liver and lungs would be harvested to extend life to three people Chris never knew.
That’s the Chris I know. Her life was not easy, and her journey had more than its share of ups and downs. Many people, given the same circumstances, would have become bitter, hard, and resentful.
But Chris did not. Filled with not just strength, but character that included grace, compassion, gentleness, kindness, and generosity, Chris took the hits, got up and dusted herself off, and kept living life to the fullest.
Chris was a fun person to be around. She smiled and laughed a lot and she truly enjoyed her life. She loved her mom, all of us siblings (there were six of us), her four beautiful children, her grandchildren, and all of our very large extended family with a heart that was big, open, and unconditional.
Her children – Michael, Mark, Jared, and Kaela – are now left to carry on Chris’s legacy. They will not be alone. Even though we will never be able to fill the void in their lives that Chris’s absence has created, we all – Chris’s siblings and extended family – will fill in the gaps and always be there to help them, to hold them, to love them. We may even dance at Kaela’s wedding. 🙂
Today is Chris’s memorial service. There will be tears, for sure. But there will also be smiles and laughter, because that was such of part of who Chris was and what her life was about. As we say goodbye to our sister, our momma, our niece, we know that it’s a temporary goodbye.
Our hope and the joy that is set before us is that we will see Chris again. We’ll see the twinkle in her eyes, the smile on her face, and we’ll hear her laughter as it warms our hearts. The only question left is who will be fast enough to run to hug her first.
So until then, dear Chris, rest well. We love you and we miss you, but we’ll see you soon. That’s a promise.
Mama is holding Deb. Greta is beside her. And I’m on the end. Deb and I were 4 months old in this picture.
It’s hard to believe that it has been six years since the last Mother’s Day I spent with Mama. It seems like a minute ago on one hand and like an eternity on the other.
There is not a time when I don’t miss her, wondering what she would say or think about things with us kids, her grandkids, the world. In many ways, just like with Daddy, I’m glad she’s been spared the last six years. Continue reading →
Seven years ago today, I got a phone call at 7:15 am that I was expecting. The eight or so months preceding this phone call had been hell for both Mama and me (not all the time, but most of it).
It became apparent in those months that something was clearly wrong. Mama knew it and it scared her, and that made her defensive, hostile, and combative. I knew it, but didn’t know exactly what it was or how and what I could do about it.
Mama lived ready to fight. I lived ready to catch her when she fell, walking on eggshells, trying to keep things as sane, as calm, and as peaceful as was within my power.
These months took their tolls on Mama and me both in very different ways.
Fortunately, that phone call I received early in the morning seven years ago today helped relieve the toll on Mama in ways that she needed. I, on the other hand, still bear a lot of open, gaping wounds that may never heal from the toll it had on me.
Dementias change everybody who is involved and many of those changes, especially for those of us directly in the war zone with our loved ones, can’t be undone.
I’ve had people who’ve never been through any of this and who have not lived my life tell me they know what it’s like and they’ve walked in my shoes. And then the “I know what’s wrong and how you need to fix it because nothing will change until you do this” follows with condemnation and criticism instead of empathy and compassion.
In my opinion, there is nothing is more insulting, insensitive, or hurtful than having this happen to a person. I have to forgive – and I have – because that’s my responsibility. But wisdom must accompany forgiveness and wisdom says that it’s not healthy to keep these kinds of people in any kind of close proximity in our lives.
I’d give my life for any of them. I’d help them with my last breath if they needed it. I love them, but to keep them near or in my life isn’t possible because it’s not healthy for me nor, frankly, is it healthy for them. That time will come, but that time is not now.
My 7:15 am phone call seven years ago today was from a psychiatrist at a local hospital. She said Mama had been transported, after she called 911, at 3:30 am to the ER. The psychiatrist was going to involuntarily commit Mama to a geriatric psychiatric hospital and wanted my permission (I was Mama’s medical power of attorney).
I gave my permission because that’s where Mama and I were in our journey through dementias. I knew that’s where she needed to be, even though it broke my heart to think about it.
The psychiatrist gave me instructions on how to change the commitment to voluntary and told me what to bring for Mama at the psychiatric facility later that afternoon.
I hung up the phone, knowing that our lives had just permanently changed forever. And I got to work immediately adapting to that change.
Within the space of the next two weeks, we had a diagnosis of mid-to-late-stage vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (I also realized Mama had Lewy Body dementia after her release from the psychiatric hospital because I researched all the things I was seeing beyond the other two types of dementia).
The most harrowing part of all of this was the geriatric psychiatric hospital.
When I was admitted for the first time the afternoon of July 11, 2010 to change Mama’s commitment to voluntary, with me as the responsible party, and to deliver her bag, my immediate reaction was to rescue Mama and take her home (she actually wasn’t there yet and was rolled up in a wheelchair while I was completing her admission, but she didn’t see me and I don’t know, as bad as her psychosis was then, that she would have recognized me anyway).
It was Bedlam.
The stench from urinary and bowel incontinence from the people walking agitatedly or sitting and screaming in wheelchairs around me literally took my breath away.
The intense chaos and high noise level was so uncomfortable for me that I wanted to take Mama and run far, far away.
The deep compassion and empathy for these people, despite all the other stuff, made my heart break even further and it took all I had not to just melt down into a sobbing mess.
But I held it together for Mama. I was there every day at the times I was allowed to visit. I called every morning first thing and every night last thing to make sure Mama either had a good night or was in bed safely tucked away.
Two weeks of that routine and that place left its indelible mark on me. I can barely think of now without shedding tears.
But the two weeks that followed this day seven years ago got Mama on a medication regimen that alleviated many of the symptoms of her dementias and, all in all, made life more bearable and easier for her.
And for that I’m profoundly grateful. It makes everything before and after worth enduring.
Because in the end, it was always about my Mama, and never about me.
It’s the little things that I think and dream about now that Mama is gone. Some of them are real and some, those in my dreamworld, are reconfigured to how I wished or hoped they had turned out.
As time passes between my parents’ deaths, I find more and more Daddy and Mama are together, the two of them and sometimes with my sisters and and sometimes just with me, but we all seem to be younger, when our lives were more together than they are now and we shared the little things that glued us together. Continue reading →