Tag Archives: grief

The Void

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Recently I read an essay by Toni Hammer about the void that happens when you’re done having children. About halfway through the piece, I could feel a knot in my throat, tears rising behind my eyes. Why? Because I’ve been living in this void, unwilling, possibly unable, to admit it. Reading Ms. Hammer’s words brought me to my knees in recognition.

I grew up an only child until age 12, when my sister was born. The sizable gap between us ensured that we both experienced life more or less as only children with the undivided attention and devotion of our parents. I thought that was fine and that if I ever had a child, I only wanted one. Continue reading

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Time Out

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Today I take time out to honor those who died on September 11, 2001.  As I do each year on this day, I recommit myself to making my life count, to making the most of the time I have been given so not to dishonor the immeasurable sacrifice of those heroes and innocents who lost their lives that day.

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The Stories We Tell

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After participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge during the month of April, I decided to take a break for a couple of weeks from writing here. A lot happened during April that made me reevaluate some things in my life, and to do some hard pondering about where I’ve been and where I’m going. Continue reading

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The Rising (U.B.C. – Day 10)

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Driving home the other day I heard Bruce Springsteen‘s song “The Rising.”  I hadn’t heard it in years, so as I felt the goosebumps rise on my arms, I turned up the volume and tuned in my mind to listen. Continue reading

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Mean People

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I know they’re out in the world, but it nevertheless appalls me when I encounter them. I am disappointed in their lack of humanity, their absolute certainty that their own priorities and things to which they feel entitled matter more than the anyone or anything else. The selfish and mean ones demand consideration from the rest of us for any tiny speed bump in their journey, yet refuse to give any consideration for the most monumental explosions in other people’s lives: death, life-threatening illness, birth, etc.

Mean people, those who just can’t be nice, who spend their time spewing thorns and littering the world with their particular brand of spite and anger.

The day after my husband’s father died, the ex-wife texted me looking for her alimony check. When I politely declined to engage in said discussion with her and opined that my husband had a few other things on his mind, she promptly e-mailed my husband with the message that she was oh-so-sorry for his loss and didn’t want to bother him at this time, but she had no choice because I was being a meanie and wouldn’t give her satisfaction.

Aside from the fact that she was looking for information pertaining to something about which I had no knowledge (nor do I want any as it’s … wait for it … alimony paid by one former spouse to another and, therefore, none of my business), I have a question: what kind of person does that? It’s a rhetorical question, nevertheless one to which I think we all know the answer. A mean person. An inconsiderate person. A callous person. A selfish person.

I’m sure many of us have forgotten to pay a bill that was due the day a loved one died, or perhaps even sometime during the week after. Even if a mortgage payment were missed, I’m pretty sure the lender would understand why and make an exception to the late payment rule. Perhaps a credit card company probably would do the same.  As much as we might love to malign them for unscrupulous business practices, the reality is that large corporations have humans working the phones and collections desks, and most people have compassion and understanding for their fellow human beings. Because we’re all pretty much in the same boat.

We’ve all either got parents or had them at some point in our lives. If we’ve lost them, we have grieved. If we still have them, we fear the day they leave us. We’ve all got loved ones: parents, children, friends, spouses, relatives. The death of someone we love, perhaps someone on whom we depend, someone who makes us smile and whom we want to be around, can be, and often is, devastating, especially when it is unexpected, sudden.

It is heartbreaking to me that anyone – especially someone with whom my husband shared nearly twenty years of his life and with whom he raised two children – would blunder so miserably and show not even a shred of compassion for him in the most human moment of losing his father. I am angry and disappointed. While my knee-jerk reaction is I hope she doesn’t seek any consideration from either Ernie Hemingway or me when she loses her parents because she wouldn’t deserve it, I know that compassion is my truth. No matter what she’s done, no matter how mean she may be, I will feel for her and I will have sympathy for her loss.

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The Rainbow Bridge

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After nearly twelve years together, my little kitty with the bunny soft fur took her walk over the Rainbow Bridge this morning. She was dying of cancer; she was in liver failure, and she was in pain, so I did the humane thing and helped her cross the bridge to relieve that pain. I held her in my arms while the young veterinarian administered the sedative. While we waited for the drugs to do their job, I told her that I loved her and stroked her head and told her that soon she would be with all of her kitty pals who had already taken their journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

I adopted Meadow in January 2003. She was a stray living in my mother’s backyard, and as I had a few months earlier lost one of my other fur babies, my mother thought Meadow would be a good addition to my family. My family consisting of me and one cat. So Meadow joined our household.

When I first integrated her, she was affectionate, albeit a bit hesitant. After all, I had taken her from a life of freedom and the boy kitties to the inside of a 6 room apartment with an overweight and somewhat irritable tabby feline. I gave her space, figuring she’d come around sooner or later. My other cat, however, did not give her space, and the two of them became fast buddies, snuggling together in the sunshine patches on the couch and my bed, curling up together around my feet at night.

Towards me, however, Meadow remained aloof, refusing even to allow me to touch her. I got a few pats in quite by accident over the years by stroking her back as she streaked past me. I was frustrated; I’d never owned a cat that didn’t want snuggles or to be on me when I sat down. I made it my mission in life to win over this cat’s trust, and to that end, I spoiled her rotten.

After four years, I was finally able to touch her with the help of Greenies cat treats. I would lay out a few while I sat stone still a few feet away. Once she ate the first few, I would put out a few more a bit closer to me, and so on and so forth. Eventually, she allowed me to touch her head, but only while she was eating. Our relationship developed at the same glacial pace until about four years ago.

From the first apartment home, I moved her a total of four times, ending in the home where I now live. We landed here four years ago, and almost immediately she became different. She was still aloof and avoided me, but she would twirl around my ankles when I fed her. She would allow me to touch her and pet her while she ate. I made it a point to do that every day.

I found a house-call vet so that I would never have to terrorize her with a car ride again. Dr. Jeremy is a wonderful vet, but he is an even nicer human, and Meadow and I both came to know and trust him. She certainly didn’t like his exams, but she remained mostly calm through them, and I was able to hold her during them! She didn’t seem to hate me for days after each exam, which I took as a positive.

About a year ago, Meadow allowed me to hold her for a few moments while she was eating. I took to giving her snuggles and hugs while she ate, or while she sat in front of the screen door to our back porch watching the birds and chipmunks. As long as I didn’t lift her off the floor, she tolerated my affection, even purring most times. Each morning as we descended from the bedroom, Meadow would greet me or my husband with a chorus of meowing. It sounded as if there were multiple Siamese cats rather than one eight-pound tortoiseshell. My husband even took to talking to her, which was a testament to her sweetness, as he is not someone I’d call a pet person. He likes the cats, but he’s just not attached to them the way I am.

I wish I could pinpoint when I started to notice things were off with her, but the truth is I have been distracted over the past several months with human life, and over the past few weeks with the loss of my husband’s father and my son’s grandfather. She had her annual physical in March, and all her blood work came back normal. She was a tad underweight, so I took to feeding her canned food, and her weight jumped right back up. We figured she just needed different nutrients as she aged.

A couple of weeks ago, as we finished sitting shiva for my father-in-law, I noticed that she had become thin and gaunt. I tried to tempt her with her favorite foods, including roast chicken (much to my husband’s chagrin as she often jumped up on the counter to steal the chicken out of the pan), but aside from a few bits, she wasn’t too interested. On Saturday, my family was here for dinner, and my sister and mother commented that she didn’t look good, so I knew it wasn’t just me being paranoid.

I called Dr. Jeremy on Sunday morning, and he came by to see her. He was equally worried, so he took some blood and other samples. When he called me last night, I knew instantly that it was bad. Meadow had been laying on the couch in our basement since he left on Sunday, so I had my own suspicions, but he confirmed the worst of them. Meadow’s liver was in advanced stages of failure and based on the blood work results, she likely had some sort of massive cancer that was just eating her up. Unless I was willing to take aggressive action, such as a blood transfusion and other invasive treatments, she was going to die soon; even taking the aggressive treatment route wouldn’t guarantee positive results.

When I told him that based on those results, I would in all likelihood be euthanizing her and that I wanted him to be the one to do it so that I didn’t have to take her in the car, he apologized that he was going to be out of town until Thursday; based on her blood work, he said he would be surprised if she lasted that long. He gave me the name of a local emergency veterinary hospital, and said that if I made the decision to go ahead before Thursday, I should take her there.

I spent a lot of time with Meadow yesterday. I tried to tempt her with her favorite foods, but she had no interest. She didn’t even want water. She was weak. Her legs buckled under her when she jumped off the couch to get away from my son. I held her, wrapped up in a fleece blanket so she wouldn’t get cold, and I made her a little nest so she could be comfortable overnight. I wasn’t sure that she would make it through the night.

When I checked on her this morning, she opened her eyes but didn’t move. She tried to move away from my hand when I stroked her, which told me she was in pain. She only wanted me to stroke her head and her ears. I gathered her up in her blanket and held her, talking to her about what she wanted me to do. She looked at me with her big green eyes, so trusting and sweet and meowed. It may sound corny, but I knew she could understand me and I knew that the time had come.

I brought her to the veterinary hospital, and they put Meadow and me into what they call a bereavement room. I held her and told her how much I loved her. She seemed to know that it was time as she just lay on my lap and closed her eyes. She looked up at the young woman who came to give her the injections, but she wasn’t afraid and she didn’t try to run, and for that I was glad. I think she was just tired, and she was looking forward to everything I was telling her about being able to run and play and eat as much tuna as she wanted once she was over the Rainbow Bridge.

Meadow’s death was quiet and dignified, and I cradled her with love until she was gone. I know I did the right thing for her, but my heart is still broken a little bit. I will miss her and her sweetness, her chatter throughout the day, her constant presence hovering just out of reach like my own personal satellite.

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The First Loss

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Today I had to tell my little boy that his grandfather died.  My father-in-law’s death was sudden, and my heart broke for my sweet boy when I told him that his Papa had died.  All I could do was wrap him in my arms and hold tight.  Until he pulled his head back, took my face in his little hands and said, “Mama, you need to blow your nose.  You keep sniffing in.”  Then I laughed.  He smiled, kissed my cheek and told me he loved me, then scampered off my lap to play with the bowling set he has set up in the family room.  Normal, everyday routine.

I know what it’s like to lose a grandfather.  I lost my mother’s father, my Grampy, in 1987.  I was 18 when he died, and I miss him always.  Every time something wonderful happens, I hope he knows about it and is happy for me.  Each time I accomplish something, I hope he knows and is proud of me.  When my son was born, I thought how much he would have loved to have another great grandson.  When I got married the first time, I hoped he would approve; when I got divorced, I knew he would be angry at my ex-husband for the way he treated me.  When I married my Ernie Hemingway, I knew Grampy would be happy that I had found someone to love and with whom I could build a life.  And every holiday season, when I pull out my tree and all the decorations I miss him desperately.  Still, even after all this time.

My heart aches for my husband, who lost his father.  I want to put my arms around him and absorb all the pain for him, take it away so that he can smile again.  I know he will someday smile again, but I would give anything for him not to hurt until then.  I will do whatever he needs me to do in the coming days, pushing my own grief to the back of the line so that I can help him, hold him through his own tears and the waves of grief, and perhaps in that way take some of the blows for him.  I want to comfort him, but I know that what he wants most I cannot give.

I will sit with my husband and his brothers, his mother, his children, in the coming days and nights.  I will hold open my arms for anyone to nestle in, to claim a hug should they need one.  I will cry when I think about what a good man my father-in-law was.  I will know how fortunate I am that my husband was raised by such a remarkable man and that my son got to spend time with him.  I will feel lucky to have known him for as long as I did.  I will murmur to my husband how blessed he is to have had such a father, and how proud his father was of him.  And someday, when my little boy finally understands that his grandfather is gone and comes to me crying, I will tell him how lucky he was to have been loved by his Papa, and how honored his Papa felt to be loved by him.

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