Bedtime Reflections

I need to write.  This is how I deal with things.

On March 31, 2015 my dad died.  It was sudden, painful and hard to learn about.  5 days ago my mom died.  It wasn’t sudden, painful or news.  It couldn’t have been more different.  Dad died quickly, more in the way he wanted to go.  No fuss, just gone.  Mom, on the other hand, had been living in a nursing home for several years.  She had multiple admissions into the hospital over the last few years, leaving me to wonder which time would be her last.

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Mom and Dad at a High School Dance

There were the ICU admissions, the ones that really work you up and cause you to panic.  Then there were the “routine” admissions.  Her body just not metabolizing her medications as expected.  She was on dialysis.  She had Parkinson’s disease.  Her mobility was severely limited and I wondered how we would do the holiday’s this year.

Mom spent almost a month in the hospital this time.  She was not herself.  She couldn’t communicate verbally anymore.  When she did, it was nonsensical.  She actually got angry at me one day because I wouldn’t move the chair in from the dining room so she could step off the table.  I knew where she was…she was standing on the kitchen table in her childhood home and wanted to get off.  I wouldn’t help her so I was “being difficult”.  When the doctor came in, he asked her where she was and she told him.  He gently said,

“Ruthie, you are at the General.  You’re in the hospital.”

She looked at him, paused for a moment and then a big smile flashed across her face.  As her eyes twinkled, she said, “Now you are doing what she did!  You’re trying to tell me I’m somewhere I’m not!”

That’s the last complete sentence I heard my mother say other than “I love you”.  The diagnosis was that she had a stroke sometime in September.  They couldn’t pin point when and the truth is it didn’t matter anymore.  The damage was done.  As the days went on, she spoke fewer and fewer words.  She could no longer feed herself.  Then, just to add insult to injury, she contracted C-Diff, a horrible intestinal bacterial infection that was triggered by the antibiotics used to rule out a systemic or brain infection.  It was a mess.  I never wished so much that she could talk again.  She couldn’t tell us when she had to use a bed pan.  We had to wear gowns and gloves to visit.  We couldn’t explain why.

The day finally came when the hospital said there was nothing more they could do for her and that she needed to go back to the nursing home.  My brother and I had a decision to make and it wasn’t going to be easy.

When I was about 4 or 5, my parents were living in an apartment somewhere in Pennsylvania.  There would have been company over that evening, and I really don’t

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Dad at my wedding in 1997

remember much aside from the stories told to me.  Apparently it was time to go to bed and I didn’t want to go.  Mom did her usual, “One…….Two…….”  and I took off running looking over my shoulder right into the sharp side of a door casing splitting my eyebrow.  I still have the scar.

In 1995 my mother survived a ruptured brain aneurysm.  That she survived is a testimony to her character.  But it robbed her of so many things.  First her vision.  The aneurysm had bled into her optic nerve and blinded her right eye.  Because of that she gave up her driver’s license because she didn’t feel safe.  Then her job.  At 57 my mom was forced into retirement and she couldn’t get government assistance.  That lead to her losing her home.  As much as I wanted to help, I didn’t.  I couldn’t.  She didn’t want it.  All of the above.  She wanted to live in Lowell and I am in another state.  I didn’t have enough money to support her.

After a few years of really trying it became clear to her and to us that she needed nursing home care.  She wasn’t able to control her diabetes on her own and after several close calls with congestive heart failure, we all saw the writing on the wall.  She adapted well to living in the nursing home, attending church regularly and coming to our house for holidays.  Things were going as well as they could.

Then the stroke came, and then the decision.  We were faced with 2 options: continue dialysis or not.  Because of her economic situation she could either have hospice care or dialysis but not both.  (Optimally we would have chosen palliative care WITH dialysis.)  Agony ensued.  How do you choose?  The choice was basic:  longevity or comfort and it was clear.  But abruptly that all came crashing down when her government medical insurance refused to pay for her new reality and dialysis; where she had been able to be transported by chair van, she would now need an ambulance because she was confined to her bed.  She would never be able to get in a wheelchair to even go to the dining room in the nursing home let alone 3 times a week to go to 4 hour-long dialysis and the government was simply not going to pay for that level of care.   It was, in the end, out of our hands.

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Thanksgiving 2017 at my house.

My brother and I stayed with her round the clock.  He took the first night shift sleeping on a cot in her room while I stayed at the home of one of her church friends.  I couldn’t do that again.  I needed to be where she was.  So we scrounged up another mattress and set it up next to the cot in mom’s room.  My brother and I traded off sleeping that next  night, and the rest will remain close to my heart until the day I die.  It was the first time in many, many years that my brother and I shared a room.

On Monday evening, October 29, mom slipped away into the gates of Heaven.  It was peaceful with her favorite singer, Roger Whittaker, softly playing in the background.  I was with her, but not at her side.  I think she wanted it that way.

So now they are both gone from this life but not from my heart.  Although divorce tore them apart when I was 16, my love for each of them was never stronger than it is now.  And I hope that’s ok.  They each moved on in their own ways, and I moved on in mine.  Now it’s time to move on, yet again, from the pain of the loss.  But I think I might just linger here a little longer because the little girl in me doesn’t want to say good night just yet.

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Perspective

The dictionary definition of perspective is, in simple terms, a point of view.  More specifically it has to do with how the parts relate to the whole.

When I was very young, our house in Naperville seemed so big.  The yard seemed huge.  It also seemed back then that summer lasted forever, an hour of homework was a lifetime, and Christmas just took soooo long to arrive.  That was my perspective of life.  But I also had a very specific point of view of relationships too.  In school, for example.  The social structure was defined by powers beyond me.  I was relegated to a specific social class from the start.  All of us were.  And once you were there, there was no changing.  At least not until we all eclipsed the age of 40 and then those barriers all seemed to fade away.

Such was the case with a girl named Juliet.  I was in a class with her more than once during our first 5 years of school, and our paths continued to criss cross up until the time I moved away the summer between 10th and 11th grades.  I never really gave her another thought.  I just wasn’t in her social class.  She was pretty.  She was smart. She was popular.  She was an Arrowette, the elite in cheerleading.  I was awkward, a wannabe jock, a tomboy,  the very antithesis of Juliet.  She even had a pretty name.  From my perspective, this girl, and the others like her, had it made.  I didn’t look far into the future back then, but if I had it would have written her story as success.  She would go off to college, probably meet a super jock with a great future, get married, have beautiful children running around their beautiful home with a manicured lawn and live happily ever after.

But I don’t think that happened for her.  I recently learned she passed away.  She actually passed away a few months ago but no one knew it.   The details of  how or why she died are not being shared by her family.  There are some suspicious facts that anyone who searches the internet can find.  But  in the end, there are just questions with no answers. And I’m sure as long as I live there will be no answers.  I just have to be OK with that.  But it’s left me wondering about my perspective, and how things change.  From what I’ve heard, Juliet had her struggles.  But she wasn’t supposed to.  She was supposed to have everything.  I can understand me having struggles; I didn’t have it all together back then.  I struggled academically. I was never the elite athlete I saw in my minds eye and I knew it…even back then.  It would make sense for me to have struggles and ups and downs (which I have, don’t get me wrong!  I have had my struggles!!)  But Juliet wasn’t supposed to suffer any of that.   She was part of that social group that lived above the struggles.  At least that’s what my perspective was.

What the news of Juliet’s death has done is for me just mind bending.  I know that we never know how things will turn out for any of us.  I know that where we were in high school really has nothing to do with who we will become as adults.  But it’s hard to overcome those perspectives when they dictate so much of a young adults life.  And I guess the only thing I can take away from all of this is to encourage my children not to live their young adult lives seeing the world as above them, like I did.  Because it’s really hard to rationalize when someone “up there” faces the same day to day struggles as the rest of us.

I am sad about Juliet’s passing.  I know from social media she leaves behind a little girl. I’ve found myself more than once the last couple of days thinking of Juliet and of her daughter.  I will join my prayers to those who called her sister, daughter, friend…I pray for comfort for family, for answers, for wisdom in dealing with a little girl who just lost her mommy.  To her friends that are now also my friends, I’m really sorry for your loss.  Juliet was a girl I didn’t really know. I wish I had.  Social rules kept us from knowing one another as teens and our paths never crossed as adults. Your memories are precious, keep them close.  All I can do now is wonder what ever happened.

 

 

Losing Dad, twice.

There are few things in life harder than losing a family member.  I think parents who lose a child top that list.  I can’t imagine that pain.  Losing a sibling or a spouse has to rank high on the list as well.  Losing a parent would then round out the top 3 in my world. Only for some of us, because I know I’m not alone in this, losing the same parent twice is just plain devastating. Divorce does that to some of us.

When I was 16 my parents divorced after 21 years of marriage.  At the time, I was stoic.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel hurt I guess because I was too confused.  My dad had not been an active part of my life and so his departure didn’t mean much to the 16 yr old me.  Over the years my stoic self turned into a very angry self.  I was angry at my dad.  I was angry because everyone else was angry.  I was angry because I thought I was supposed to be angry.  I was angry because my mom was hurt and that should be reason enough for anyone to be angry, right?  I was angry because I started to see where my father had let me down, and just how important he was to me.

When I reached my 40s I realized that, although I had already started to bridge that gap with my father, it was time for me to really lay it on the table for him and let him know where I stood.  So on the phone one afternoon, I let him know that I had lived many years not really knowing if I was angry, sad, or just what emotion was there but that I was in a place to just forgive.  I let my dad know that I forgave him for all the things that had made me feel angry, sad, alone or abandoned.  I let go of all that “stuff” and I told him I loved him.  I hadn’t said those words to him in many years.  From that day on, we started to forge a new relationship; one built on a mutual understanding of hurt and forgiveness.  He embraced my children with enthusiasm and joy that took my by surprise.  I loved sharing with him the accomplishments and the pitfalls of parenting these 2 beautiful children.  He supported.  He sympathised.  He encouraged.  He was my Dad.  After all those years, I had my Dad.  And I loved it.

3 days ago I lost him, again.  This time no phone call can patch things up.  His heart stopped.  He is gone forever from my life.  Right now, I hurt.  I think of him and his cheerful voice on the other end of the phone each and every single time I called.

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a parent.  Not even a long illness.  Because in the end, there are still so many things to say.  But I can rest assured that I spoke peace into my father’s life by laying down the hurt and anger that I carried (even if I didn’t know why I carried it) and telling him I loved him.  He spoke peace into my life too by loving me in spite of myself.  His blood runs through my veins.  His memory will live on in my heart forever.

Rest in eternal peace, Dad.  I love you.

Patriot

I’ve had a hard time writing this.  It’s been almost 4 months since we said good bye to our “first born”, Patriot.  It still brings me to tears to think of him.

Patriot was the puppy that needed me as much as I needed him.  Patriot was our introduction into the crazy world of Weimaraners.  We first saw him at just a few days old.  12 1/2 years later we said our final good bye.  We went through so much with him, from chasing deer deep into the woods to a 6 month struggle with what turned out to be an allergic reaction to (of all things) fabric softener to digestive issues that after extensive and expensive testing returned a plastic buckle.  Not to mention the completely devoured leather belt, then countless shoes and shoe laces…

PICT1073But through out his life, Patriot was so much more than just a pet.  He tapped into the deepest part of my heart when he was just a tiny pup wanting nothing more than to be held and to be loved.  He endured long days at home alone and reviled in the joy of our return.  He waited at the door more times than I can count for his best friend and mine, my husband Rich.  His heart tie to Rich was tight.  There were days I could have gone without all the barking; Patriot was never short for ‘stories’.  But his love was genuine and deep and profound.  And I miss him.  As much as Jingo was my dog, Patriot belonged to Rich.  He loved us all, but Rich was his buddy.

When we learned that the tumor on his liver was “huge” and inoperable, we decided that rather than go away on our long awaited family vacation knowing he was so sick, we would help him to end his battle at home with us by his side.  Our normally ravenous food thief seemed to want to savor and enjoy his last meal of cheeseburgers.  He took unusual little bites, careful not to nip our fingers.  And then he laid down on the bed we prepared for him as if he knew it was time.  He was ready.  As he took his last breath, Rich was right there, soothing him with his voice and pressing his head against Patriot’s.  It is an image I will never forget.  Their love was intense and I know Patriot would not have survived the 10 day separation from us.

My words now seem weak and few for the love shared between us.  But my heart is still broken and finding the words is difficult….

Not Alone.

I wrote this in 2009. Kate is still fighting. We need to keep praying.

JustLori

They were any other family.  Active, loving, playful.  They, the mom and the dad, were beautiful examples of all that God expects of those that he makes husband and wife, mother and father.  Their bond was strong, their love even stronger.  Their children, siblings, bicker and squabble, but their bonds, too, were growing stronger and stronger.  Sisters, leading, following.  Brother, teaching, learning.  They worshiped together, prayed together, lived together, love     together.  This family that God created.  This family that embraced all that God offered; their love, their each other.  She was any other child.  She shined with the joy of play, the shimmer of love and the brightness of childhood.  Her eyes sparkled, bright blue, full of wonder, amazement and curiosity.  She embraced life, although at her tender age she couldn’t know that’s what she was doing.  She was the reflection of God’s pure love.  A loSunflowerve that doesn’t…

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Suicide

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So, it’s been a long time since I posted.

But this has been pressing on my heart and I wanted to share.

DISCLAIMER:  I am NOT suicidal!!  I have been thinking about this since Robin Williams took his own life, and just wanted to share my thoughts!  I’m OK!
Honest, I am!!

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I wrote this just to explore myself the thoughts that one might think.  I was kind of surprised at what came out of it.  I don’t know…what do you think?
So here goes:

Suicide

If I stay, how would they act? What would they say?

If I stay, where can I go?  Where can I hide?

I don’t really want to go, but I don’t think I can hang around here anymore.

You don’t understand, you can’t even hear me.  I know you can’t see me.

So it’s better if I just go. At least then it will be of my own choosing.

So you say now that you care, and you want to listen,

But when I really needed you, you weren’t there.

I’m not really scared. I’m not really sad.

I’m not even relieved or anything at all.

There is nothing I can say now that you want to hear.

There is nothing you can say now that I want to hear.

I’m not really scared. I’m not really sad.

I’m not even relieved or anything at all.

If I stay, how would I act?  What would I say?

If I stay, where do they go, why do they hide?

I don’t really want to stay, and I know I can’t hang around here anymore.

I don’t understand, you don’t even hear me.  I thought you might see me.

So it’s better if I just go. At least now it’s is my own choosing.

So I think now that you might really care, and you might want to listen,

And now I really need you, and you aren’t here.

I’m not really scared, and I’m not really sad.

But I’m not sure if I should go…

2 Days Was Not Enough

 

I think back now to our first days1384381_10201658265671790_1085072720_n
and how you challenged me so.
Your sense of humor, your zest for life,
your unwillingness to let go.

Your crazy ears, your “Elvis face”,
your silly, goofy smile;
All these things will remain with me
even after you’ve been gone a long while.

I knew the day would someday come
when I’d have to let you go
But I never thought it would be like this
And how I miss you so

Now you’re gone and I’m left to ponder
All that we could have done
And all I can say,
How sad the day,
2 days was not enough.