You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘loss’ tag.

Poinsettias are usually not classified as things that last, but this one, scanty as it may appear, is special. It is ten years old. My boss gave it to me when I got back from ushering my Mother through her death. It was awkward, she said, because it was Christmas, and she wanted to give me flowers, but…it was Christmas, so she gave me a poinsettia. She was my boss then, ten years ago, and after the twisting, turning roads of the corporate world, she is my above boss-boss at my current company.

Poinsettias usually only last a season. And they are toxic to cats. This one has lasted a decade, and Mr. Man has had no problems with it. It is special. It represents my Mother. These were her last days, ten years ago, and I was with her every minute. It is a difficult time for me. As I have said each year, I live through every moment on some subconscious level. This year, with the turmoil of the election and the issues that it has raised for many women, myself included, I have found myself reliving other tragic and traumatic incidents from my past, owning them, writing about them (and wondering if I should make these writings public) and trying to let them find their place in my soul. It is not a peaceful process, but it will have a peaceful outcome. Every memory, sweet or agonizing, is and always will be, a lasting part of me.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” — H.G. Wells

Daily gratitudes:
Helping others
Fellow nasty women
Seeing MKL for the first time in three days
My giant coat on bitter cold days
That tickle of courage when I look at terrifying events of my past

 

 

Well, not exactly, but the blues are singing a song of me today, and kitties always seem to help, whether it is images on a screen, or the real thing sitting on my heart. Mr. Man does have a tendency to lay on whatever part of me isn’t feeling up to snuff. He’s a wise healing kitty. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, and I hope you all enjoyed it or at least kept family disputes to a minimum. I know it can be a tense time, especially this year.

For me now, we enter into a strange chrysalis-like phase that often lasts from after Thanksgiving until after the anniversary of my Mother’s passing. It will be ten years this year, and seems like yesterday sometimes. Two friends have lost a parent in the last week, and my heart goes out to them. It alters the character of the holidays when a loss is associated with days that the rest of the world associates with a certain celebration.

So for now, kitties.

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Littleton, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Daily gratitudes:
A lovely day
A lovely yesterday with MKL
A Downton Abbey marathon
A long talk with Kelsea
The East Simpson Coffee Shop

I remember December 25, 1996. Kelsea was 24 days old. We put her next to us on the floor as we unwrapped Christmas presents, and suddenly couldn’t find her, because we’d accidentally covered her with wrapping paper (a.k.a., glee debris). We immediately uncovered her, and she was happy as a little clam the whole time. That was a lovely Christmas day, full of family (because family comes where the baby is), and fireplaces, and good brunch, and cuddling, and naps.

The next day, we went to the House Up Top, since we had a second house in Black Hawk at the time. I remember sitting in the big taupe faux suede recliner, holding my baby girl, and watching the news about JonBenet Ramsey. I’ll never forget that…my little girl in my arms, while hearing about another little girl, blonde and beautiful like my own, whose life was snatched away at age six. It chilled my heart and made me hold her a little tighter.

I worked in Boulder. I had gone to school there. I had lived on The Hill. I had walked by that house. Boulder, at the time, felt small and safe. I walked everywhere alone at night without a qualm. People who lived there at the time were still at that six degrees of separation level. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone…you get the picture. An acquaintance was the stepdaughter of the District Attorney. Everyone was hearbroken. Everyone had an opinion on the case. Everyone followed every development. Everyone thought the police were totally out of their league. This sort of thing never happened in Boulder.

As a new mother, I felt for the Ramseys. I had my own opinions about the case, still do to this day, best left unsaid except to my closest confidantes. The Ramsey’s sold the house, they moved away. The city changed the street number of the house, because once it sold, it still garnered so many looky-looers that the new owners couldn’t take it. It became an albatross in the real estate market. And the Patsy Ramsey died of her recurring cancer. John Ramsey started a new life, and good for him. Patsy and JonBenet are buried side by side in Georgia.

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JonBenet Ramsey, age 4 or 5-ish

I know it has been 20 years since this happened, an anniversary. But I am disgusted by the massive amount of attention that the media is taking in this case, starting last month, and no doubt continuing through the year’s end. Maybe it’s only been three shows and some new stories, but I feel they’ve been constantly repeated for weeks. It’s all about ratings, I guess. I know that a lot of people who are in Boulder now weren’t there then, but for those of us who were, having such pieces be promoted (I haven’t been able to watch them) dredges up sorrow and pain that it has taken years to settle uncomfortably with. Maybe even by writing this, I’m giving validity to those bringing up old wounds, but I had to say my piece.

None of these exposes and “new” investigations are going to identify her killer. Nothing will bring her back. I think it’s time that we all let JonBenet rest peacefully. Whoever killed her will have to live with her blood on their hands until their last breath. After 20 years, that is, I think, punishment enough. Let’s not punish her spirit, and the rest of us who live with the memories.

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Kelsea at age 4 or 5

 

 

 

I don’t know. But I feel that there are people I love waiting there – people and animals. And there were people waiting for all of those who arrived so suddenly yesterday. I imagine that when I get there, I’ll see something like this. Peaceful. Beautiful. Tranquil.

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Somewhere over the sea.

Quote of the day: “As the rose-tree is composed of the sweetest flowers and the sharpest thorns, as the heavens are sometimes overcast—alternately tempestuous and serene—so is the life of man intermingled with hopes and fears, with joys and sorrows, with pleasure and pain.” — Edmund Burke

Daily gratitudes:
The concept of Bolivia
The man listening very intently to the pillar on the corner of 15th and Wynkoop
A little girl in the dancing waters
That Kelsea is (still) on her way home
How beautiful my cousin looks

Mugs
Some days I want to drink my coffee
From a mug that reminds me of my mother.
It’s one on permanent loan from
The work kitchen of a now-defunct employer.

It’s gentle curves are like a mug my mother gave me,
A fine sheen, ivory and green, embossed with seashell art.
I lost that in the divorce, along with many things,
And drawers and cabinets full of pain and dead dreams.

My mother doesn’t know anything about that.
She died before it happened.
I often wonder
What she would think of me,
My life,
My choices,
Now.

But this curved mug
Is brown and green and embossed with trees
Like the ones my mother loved so much.

One of my favorite images is of her
Hugging a pine tree
In Rocky Mountain National Park.

So when I fill
The mug that reminds me of my mother,
With Folger’s crystals like my father used to drink,
It is as if I am having a small cup of coffee with my parents
Each morning.

That is a very fine way to start the day.

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Denver, Colorado. (This is my alternative mug, purchased for
me by MKL. I love it.)

Quote of the day: “I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.” – Charlotte Eriksson

Daily gratitudes:
The flat fall of Snowmaggdon
Favorite movies on a snow day
A super snuggly cat
Experimental eggs
Having a warm spot on a cold day

 

I learned today of the death of a friend. Even though we hadn’t seen each other or even spoken in years, I still considered him a friend. Over the years, we were there for one another when things were falling apart in various sectors of our lives. It has saddened me. Saddened me because we hadn’t spoken in years. As I reach a certain age, I will lose more friends, just as these days, the world loses singers and actors that were icons of my teens and twenties. I love my friends and family, even if I don’t often communicate. And when they die, whether it’s sudden or slow, it’s always too soon. I am left with memories – good, funny, random, bittersweet. And never enough.

My wedding this summer brought me back to some of these people who are closest to my heart, and for that I amforever blessed.

It feels like it has been a year of passings for my friends, and we are not even a month in, and that makes me wonder. Why? Why did pneumonia steal away the larger-than-life man with the larger-than-life heart, whose loss has devastated one of my beloved friends? Why is another of my darlings, who so recently defied death herself, now faced with the slow, tender, painful, spiral of her mother’s passing? Why is a new daughter faced with the light of her grandmother suddenly extinguished?

I keep asking why, and there is no answer.

There is no way to take away the pain of loss. It does fade, gradually, like a well-loved shirt, laundered and worn until it comes apart at the seams and transforms into something different, or gets tucked in a drawer to stir memories when you catch sight of it as you’re looking for something else. But it is always there. Pain of loss transforms us in ways we cannot understand. I would hope it makes us kinder, gentler souls, who handle other souls with greater care, but I don’t know if that’s always so. The pain reshapes us inside, and we are never quite the same person as before, even if we think we are.

We are all treasures in process, I suppose.

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Quote of the day (and one quoted before): “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Anne Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Memories
MKL, always
Kelsea
The mystery of life
Walking

 

 

 

December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

December 11, 2006:

You had slept.  I had only dozed, for the ninth night in a row.  I had gotten up a dozen times from the bed next to yours to check on you, to be sure you were still breathing, like a new nervous new mother does with an infant.  You would moan every so often.  When you awoke in the morning, you looked over at me.  “Am I still here?” you asked.  “Yep,” I replied, “unless I’m dead too.”  “Damn,” you said.

We talked then, about the pain, about how you wanted to go and were unsure why you were still here.  You asked me then, if I would help you go if you did not go by yourself today.  Which told me how much you were hurting.  We talked about how I would do it, with the morphine.  I would have done anything for you.  But I could not commit to killing you.  I said, “Let’s see how it goes today.”  I couldn’t say yes – but I couldn’t say no.

The quality of the day changed after that talk.  It felt like when you’re getting ready for a journey – which you were.  We were down to just the orange sherbet now.  I would slip a little between your dry lips  (no amount of lip balm seemed to keep them moist for long) and you would smile this blissful little smile.  We talked about the little blonde daughter that you had never had, that one time when you had an early miscarriage, and how she had always haunted you, and not in a nice way.  How you had longed for her (I tried not to be jealous, not to feel like somehow I hadn’t been daughter enough for you.)  How you could see her hovering around now, still being mean and angry.  We had banished her together, you and I, me finding the words to help you forgive yourself for not having her (as if you had had any control over that) and us finding the words for you to use in talking to that spirit, to tell her that her behavior was unacceptable, just as a mother would talk to a obdurant child.  That seemed to ease you greatly.

You needed the morphine – just small amounts – more often.  More people came and went.  We talked about your excitement about whatever came next.  And we talked about your biggest fear – fear that my Father would be mad at you when you saw him on the other side, that he wouldn’t have forgiven you for something that you blamed yourself for, something that I know he never blamed you for, no matter what words I used to try to convince you otherwise.

More people came and went.  I remember the quality of the light of the day, just as I remembered the quality of light on the day the Kelsea was born.  It was a slow, gentle light, lingering and warm, but clear in its waning, fading in beauty, dipping and deepening into dusk, then darkness.

We talked and talked.  You were getting…frisky? Cocky?  Rambunctious?  You were talking about getting up to the Pearly Gates and kicking St. Peter’s ass.  I never did know where that came from, but more power to you.

You wanted to see one person in particular, but he had had surgery that morning and couldn’t come.  You had something she wanted to tell him, but you finally decided that he already knew.  And you let it go.

[As I was writing this, I noticed my reference’s to my Mother changed from “you” to “she” about this time, a sign of letting go, perhaps.]

The hospice chaplain came.  I spoke to her out in the hallway, and couldn’t help but cry.  I didn’t cry much the last few days.  Mother didn’t want me to cry and so I didn’t.  But Jodi, the chaplain was so genuine, it was impossible not to let some tears flow.  I told her that she needed to talk, that there was something she needed to find peace around, before she could let go.  After Jodi left, she was calmer – she had found a certain peace.  I never knew what was spoken between them.  It didn’t matter.  It only mattered that she had released that last burden.

Things felt like they happened quickly after that, and then slowly.  Jackie, her home care nurse, came to visit.  It made her so happy.  “It’s my angel,” she said.  She always thought that way about Jackie.  Jackie too took me into the other room and told me that it was her time.  “Have you noticed that smell?  It’s the smell of death,” she said.  “I know that smell.”  Jackie was a big, beautiful, joyful, compassionate woman.  She told me that she’d tell the night nurse what to do, about preparing the body, that I shouldn’t worry.  She hugged me.

As the afternoon faded, she started to fade.  She became less lucid. She wasn’t talking so much.  She was hurting more.  I was slipping the small dropper of morphine between her lips more often.  I was the only one who could give it to her. I felt like her pain was in my hands.  It was getting late.  We sat with her, my uncle and brother on one side, me on the other.  She had stopped talking long ago, her eyes were closed now, her breathing slowing and labored. She would groan and twist sometimes, and I would give her another taste of the morphine.  I did not know if she was hurting, but I could not stand to think she might be, and couldn’t tell me, and I was doing nothing to ease her pain.

The waitress at their favorite restaurant called, and told me to light a white candle in front of her, and encourage her to go toward the light.  We did.  We sat and talked quietly.  We sat in silence.  We sat through the night.  E-Bro went to rest of a while.  It was calm.  I could feel her struggling to leave her body, as if her very spirit was working hard to let go, to get out, to be free.  Finally, somehow, we could tell her something had changed.  Maybe it was her breathing.  Something.  My uncle went to get my brother from the couch.  We sat again, the three of us, encouraging her to go.  I stroked her hair, whispered to her, kept my hand on her heart.  It slowed.  Her breaths came farther and farther apart, more and more shallow.

Until they stopped all together.

[These three days are always hard for me, especially coming at this time of year that I love. And so, over these next three days, I will be reposting what I lived during these days nine years ago. I did this three years ago as well, and find sharing my experiences and memories comforting and cathartic. I find it interesting to reflect on how my feelings about death have evolved as I have aged. But that’s for another post.]

With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.

[The next three day’s postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother’s death four years ago.  This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]

December 10, 2006:  I don’t remember what we did today.  Probably not too much but talk – and laugh.  Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there.  I only remember us.  Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping.  I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times.  I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone.  But you didn’t.  It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time.  Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control.  We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees.  In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.

You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day.  Not much, but you’d never needed it before.  I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession.  You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself.  It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain.  I remember your pain.  It was in your bones.  When you would move sometimes – or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable.  You would hold your breath until it passed.  I hated to see you in pain.  I encouraged you to take the morphine.  After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain?  But you wanted to spend it being present.  I admire that.

You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you.  Water.  Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls.  It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does.  You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside.  Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature.  But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured.  The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.

People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so.  You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend.  You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone.  I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself.  But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.

Everyone brought food.  You weren’t eating.  I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep.  I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me.  It wasn’t comforting.  It was a random necessity.  That had been going on for a week, my eating like that.  Ever since you really stopped eating.  For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.

I don’t remember doctors coming.  I don’t remember even talking to the doctors.  But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?

In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it.  I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you.  When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest.  You said yes, and looked at me strangely.  I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand.  Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter.  Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me.  I felt a chill that I did not show.

I had been so wrapped up in caring for you.  For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you.  Your death became my life.  We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth.  We had talked every day.  After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day.  In the mornings, to be sure you were okay.  If you were lonely.  If I was bored.  If you went to the doctor.  In the evening before bed.  If I was scared.  If you had some piece of news.  We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.

And you were so happy to have the three of us there.  You loved us so.  That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night.  You said goodbye to me.  You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her.  You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen.  Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.

But it was not your last night.

Sometimes silence is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. The silence of a sunrise is a good thing. The silence of a loss is not. My daughter has been struggling with the suicide of a beautiful, bright friend, which is especially painful considering how she wants to help people. It hurts me to see her pain, when I can do nothing except be there. It was been 10 days now, and she is getting better but she’s still sad, which I reassure her is normal. She and I have both been sick. I have been overworking and not seeing enough of her. It is a hard transition into Fall. On a happy front, MKL and I have set our wedding date for next August at the spot in this picture, which will make everyone, including my dear departed parents, very happy.

I understand suicide. I have wanted to commit suicide. I have come achingly close. Only a promise to Kelsea has kept me from it. Depression lies, and one of the lies it tells you is that the world would be better off without you. And as a teenager, everything is so immediate that it is hard to see past the moment, past the pain, past the despair, to remember that yes, many people care about you, that you will have a bright future, that your parents will not ruin your life, all those things. I wish there was a way of showing every teenager who feels like this life is too hard that there is a future worth living for. If you are reading this, please, always remember that.

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Topsail Beach, North Carolina.

Quote of the day: “Some people are just not meant to be in this world. It’s just too much for them.” — Phoebe Stone

Daily gratitudes:
Love and MKL
Cleaning out the refrigerator
Wedding gowns
Tamara
Ice cold pillows
Mr. Man

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