Tonight is hard. I can’t sleep. The tears are coming often, without warning, and in various states. Heavy gusts that scare me with their sudden onset, and the fear that I’ll never stop to breathe; gentle drops that I almost don’t notice, because of their ever presence.
My body is still so tired, my brain so confused, and my heart so heavy, that I have fallen asleep at random places and times, out of pure exhaustion. But when I lay down at night, the loneliness and the grief is so strong I’m afraid it will smother me in my own bed.
Please, peace, find me…. If only for the night.
It still doesn’t seem real. It feels like just yesterday I made a similar sad announcement on this piece of the internet I call mine. I’ve avoided having to repeat history, but I also have to acknowledge that this is a place where my voice is heard, and people have grown to know me; so I must…
When my oldest niece graduated high school a few years ago, one of my cousins approached me at the reception and asked who the gentleman was that my dad was talking to. I looked up and saw these two old men, both in their late sixties, with oxygen tanks set up beside them, drinking coffee, deep in conversation about nothing in particular. ”Oh him?” I said. “That’s Larry, dad’s best friend”.
You see, Larry and my dad grew up together. They have been friends since they were 14 years old. They graduated high school together, along with my mom, in 1958. Shortly after, my mom decided to spread her wings before settling down with that boyfriend of hers, and moved a few hours away to work at a Campbell’s Soup Factory. This was a stretch for my mom, because she had never left home before, and even though she was playing hard to get, knew deep down she was leaving the love of her life behind.
But she gave it a try, and ended up meeting a friend. Linda was a rough around the edges gal, with no real family to speak of. In fact, she had nowhere to go for the holidays, so my mother invited her to come home and spend them with her family. When my dad learned my mom was coming back, he immediately asked her for a date. She said yes, on one condition: find someone for her friend Linda.
So my dad called Larry.
He doesn’t really remember what the 4 of them did that night. Though he must have made an impression, because my mom moved back home for good just a few short weeks later, and they became official. My mom still kept in touch with Linda though. And she wasn’t the only one.
That summer my mom and dad were cruising around town, when Larry pulled up next to them. ”You guys want to go to Iowa with me?”, he bellered out the window. He was going to pick up Linda.
So in they went, and the three of them drove hours through the night (long before the interstate existed) and eventually pulled up in front of a small house with one light on inside. Larry honked, and out came Linda, one suitcase in hand. She threw it in the trunk, hopped in the back with my mom, and they turned right around and went back to Nebraska.
“And then, life was over” my dad joked.
My parents got married in September of 1960. Catholic faith at the time stated that your Maid of Honor and Best Man had to be Catholic as well. So my aunt Maureen and Uncle Bill stood up for my parents, while Larry and Linda accepted the roles of attendants. When my mother was on her deathbed, and admitting truths she didn’t realize, she actually squeezed my aunts hand and said, “You know you were my 2nd choice”. We all had to laugh, because we all knew she was right.
Larry and Linda got married one month later. I didn’t realize until yesterday that at the time, Catholics couldn’t stand up for non-Catholics in their wedding either. So Larry and Linda eloped, and my parents were there in spirit.
They had 2 children, my parents had 5. Their son was in my sister’s wedding. I used to baby sit their grand children. Their daughter and son in law have been dear friends of my sisters. They’ve been tethered to our lives the entirety of them. They are family.
Later on, after my dad had gone home from my nieces’s graduation, I took plates of food home to he and my mom. I told them that my cousin had asked who Larry was, and that she was so amazed and touched that you still had lifelong true friends after 50+ years. My mom looked at my dad and said, “Well, should we tell her the next chapter?”. ”We bought our cemetery plots today”, he said. ”Right next to Larry and Linda. We’ll be best friends for eternity.”
When my mother passed, Linda was there 20 minutes before. She was the only non-family member we told because we knew she deserved to say goodbye to her best friend. It was almost as if my mom was waiting for her, because she went so peacefully so soon after. At the funeral, as we were walking out, I escorted my father behind the casket. At the edge of a pew, clear in the back, were Larry and Linda. I looked up, and and Larry was dissolved, heaving in tears. He reached out, clutched my dad’s hand, and for a moment they both shook with grief. I couldn’t imagine going on without my mom, but right then I realized that my loss was different. They had lost someone I didn’t even know. My mom in her youth, in her prime, decades of memories before I ever came along.
Since my mom’s passing, Larry and Linda stayed faithful to my dad. Linda brings baked goods and other treats on the regular, and dad and Larry would meet 3 times a week for coffee. Despite the declining health, and carpooling to cardiac rehab, and their loss of independence, not much changed. They were still each other’s first call when something good or bad happened. They checked in on each other when one was in the hospital. And somehow, even after 60 years, they still had stuff to talk about.
Two weeks ago, when I was on a work trip in Albuquerque, my sister called to tell me Larry had taken a turn, and been put on a ventilator. He passed away Tuesday morning.
I see that look now in my dad’s eyes, the one Larry and Linda had when my mother passed. It is heartbreak. But there is also joy…of retelling stories, breaking out ones we have never heard before, and knowing that my mom now has a best friend by her side as well.
I’m having a very strange and discouraging time when it comes to family lately. There is such a severe disconnect between myself and my siblings that some of them don’t even acknowledge me when we’re 5 feet apart in public. I can’t pinpoint when or why it happened, but I know I’ve continued to try for a year, and I’m reaching my limit.
I have come to accept, seriously, that the family I grew up with is not one that will stay the course forever. I have realized that family is not bound by blood, and I don’t have to be blindly loyal to people that hurt me just because we share DNA. I have continued to be grateful for the family of friends I have made in the past 15 years, and mourned the loss of warm Thanksgivings, sisterly advice, a someday wedding in the church I grew up in, and nieces and nephews that would be great cousins and friends to children of my own.
It has been a hard pill to swallow, but I’d rather be realistic than continually broken hearted over a fantasy.
Today would have been my parents 52nd Wedding Anniversary. I spent time with my dad, and squeezed his hand when he talked about how much he missed her.
I don’t see a future with my family, but in that moment I remembered the past that was, at times, so filled with love.
And I will keep that with me forever.
I was born with two brothers.
I grew up with three.
S was my brother’s best friend, in my family before I was, and did everything for me that my actual brothers wouldn’t/couldn’t/didn’t want to.
He had the patience to teach me how to ride a bike.
He spent an entire Christmas Day putting together my Barbie Dream House.
He moved me into my first apartment in college.
He served as a pallbearer when my mother passed.
He gave me unsolicited advice like a big brother, unconditionally respected me as an adult, and always, always treated me as a true friend.
And on May 25th, he died suddenly in his sleep.
I am broken. I am lost. I am terrified. I am still either hysterical or numb. Or drunk. Healthy coping mechanisms allude me. I don’t know how to handle this. When my mother died, we were prepared. We knew it was coming, and I had already stepped through many of the stages of grief. But this…. we were all going camping the next day. We had delegated him our DD and bought hundreds of dollars of groceries for a Cream Can Dinner Saturday night with all our friends. So how, HOW in once second, in one awful, painful phone call, did all that change?
But change it did. And I can’t fucking accept it.
I have been so busy lately…new job, new house, new distractions around every corner. Every time I remember where I was one year ago, every time I glance at the calendar and remember what date is coming up, I have a bucketload of things to turn to to forget, and to keep me busy. I’ve done really good at forcing down the emotion and keep on keepin on.
Today was a dear friends birthday. I’ve been terrible at keeping in touch, so while I did use Facebook to send her a message, which is so impersonal, I at least decided to send an actual message rather than write on her wall. And what did I find when I went to create it? The history of our past messages…. the chronological support she gave me almost a year ago, during my mom’s final days.
I lost my breath. I couldn’t avoid it. There it was, right in front of me. My eyes couldn’t un-see it. And the tears came spewing out like vomit. It felt so foreign and so familiar all at once. I suppose it’s a sign that I start to ease back into the grief. It hasn’t gone anywhere, and pretending it doesn’t exist clearly isn’t working…..
Sunday marks the 12-year anniversary of the day my dad passed away unexpectedly. I think about him every day, and miss him immensely.
In the years since, I’ve found myself with numerous friends who lost a parent at a young age: car crash, cancer, the unknown, boating accident… We don’t go…
So incredibly well said…..
I’ve been dreading this day. I’ve been paranoid and worried and terrified of this day. But now it’s here, and I don’t actually know how to react, because I’ve never done this before.
Today is my moms’s birthday.
6 1/2 months ago she passed away. I got through Thanksgiving and Christmas by equal parts distraction and denial. But here I am, beginning of May, trying to handle the one-two punch of her birthday and Mother’s Day.
I want to pretend the next three days away. I want to drown myself in booze and internet and trashy food; in embarrassing television and extended hours under the covers.
I could easily revert to that, but I’m going to try not to. I want to be strong. I’ve been making proactive yet tedious steps lately, trying to climb myself out of a hole that has more to do than just the loss of my mom, but that is obviously the overwhelming element.
I miss her. Tremendously. I miss her as a kid who still needs her mom for advice and unconditional love. I miss her as a woman who needs her drive to keep me accountable, always wanting her approval. And I miss her in my future. The person I’ll be when I get married, when I form the life she always wanted for me, when I’ll have children, and won’t have a mom to teach me the ropes.
My family is not acclimated to support eachother during days like this. What I mean is that none of my siblings are communicative or affectionate, so even if I weren’t living 14 hours away I couldn’t expect an emotional reaction from them.
But I’m not them. I’m incredibly emotional. And I believe my tears pay tribute to my mom, and how much I’m grieving her.
I understand that I can’t fall apart. That I’m allowed to hurt, and that I need to be gentle on myself. (Have I mentioned I’m going to grief counseling? I am and am so grateful for it!) And I’m realizing that I can’t gauge my progress against anyone else’s.
Tomorrow and this weekend will be rough. But I ask for the strength to honor her, to care for myself, and to keep my chin up, knowing that while sad, I would never wish for her to be back in that bed, suffering and in such devastating pain.
And I will also take comfort in, and do my best to remember, that she is celebrating for the first time in years to decades with her parents, her little sister and brother, and my dear Uncle Fred, who I’m sure is serving her the strongest drink Heaven allows, with a heaping side of laughter and reminiscing.
There is not a day/hour/thought that goes by where I’m not missing you mom. I try to be strong, as you were, and keep my emotions close to my vest. But I’m not that tough.
So I ask for strength - from God, from you, from my incredible friends I’m blessed to have, and from the many people reading my words. I ask for courage to not fall apart, for insight to step back and remember what I still have, and for the perspective to sympathize with others’ challenges, and use my energy to help them and others, as much as I can.
Happy Birthday Mom.
It has not been a great weekend. And I hate to have to say that, because it’s actually been a great weekend - I just haven’t been able to enjoy it in the right way.
It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m not handling it well. I spent a chunk of yesterday in hysterics, and I’m still recovering from the aftershocks.
I thought I could let it slip by quietly; just another Sunday I’ll spend alone. But avoidance wasn’t an option, and I wasn’t prepared to weather the emotions.
I’m regretting my decision to run away, but also leaning on my faith, and the message of today.
Blessings and strength - xo e
The dead orchid.
When I began this blog, my parents were sick, and I thought I could document the process and aid those who were forced to live my life. I wrote truthfully and vigorously, anxious to have a purpose for my pain. And then my mother died. And it was no longer a hypothetical. And my ability to communicate stopped.
The journey of grief is so unique, that there is absolutely no advice you can take verbatim. It’s polite and comforting to offer, I do it myself. But the truth is you’re a lone traveler, dependent on your own instincts and strength.
Everyone expected me to be vocal about my loss. I’m a gregarious, emotional, open book as it is, so it was assumed I’d take that route in this. I figured the same thing.
Not the case.
I worked. The last few weeks of my mothers life, her death, her funeral, I treated as a job. I overlooked the emotion and focused on the logistics, because that’s what I’ve been educated to do.
When hospice care needed to be called, when bed linens needed changed, when morphine needed to be dosed, I managed it. None of these tasks alongside hundreds more were something I thought I’d have to deal with in my life. But I had to.
So I created the spreadsheets and organized the dosing schedule and delegated the overnight shifts.
After she passed I went into super-producer mode.
I spent 22 hours straight finalizing her obituary. I made executive decisions about clothes and flowers and pallbearers. I sat at my parents dining room table with my sister, using my iPhone to recite hymns and readings we were to choose from.
At one point my sister had to comment - “Can you imagine what mom would say if she knew we were planning her funeral on that tiny machine!?”. We both laughed - hard…. Because we knew she’d be baffled.
My mom died almost 6 months ago. I’ve thought I’ve done ok. I’ve recently moved to the south, hoping for new opportunities, and desperately wanting to climb out of the grief.
Once again, I’ve been naive. Location doesn’t change the reality. Ev, an incredible friend of mine, lives in my new town. She and I, while distanced by distance, are true friends, sisters in the sense that nothing will come between us, and nothing will masquerade us.
In the short time I’ve lived here, she has listened to me, and also called me out - making me realize that I haven’t been fair to myself. That I was so focused on organizing and managing and handling, that I never let myself grieve in the moment.
When I made my move I got rid of a lot, but there was one very important piece. I was so blessed to receive so many flowers and plants at my moms funeral, but this was unique. My dear friend KFinn, knowing she couldn’t be there in person, sent a purple orchid to the service. As all dear friends do, she remembered what my favorite was, what would send me the most comfort.
It truly did - knowing she was standing there behind me, regardless that she was states away, that gesture gave me strength.
I brought that orchid on my move. It served as co-pilot.
But today, the last bloom fell, leaving it barren. Dead.
At that sight I wasn’t organized any longer. I wasn’t on the clock.
I was devastated and sad and grief stricken.
Almost 6 months later.