Wow.  It's been a helluva 2 months!  I haven't written in so long, I really have no idea if I've even done a good job of keeping this blog up to date on what's happened.  This place is 1 part documentation and 99 parts therapy for me....so I'll just write.

Just a few months ago, our family was whole.  Not entirely healthy, not entirely sane....but whole.

And now, so many are missing.

In the span of 3 and a half weeks, two family members died and the local family that felt like our other half moved to California.  Can you hear the sucking noise coming from Idaho?  From my home?  From my heart?  It's this incredible void....vacuum....that's left behind.

It's funny, my sister and her family couldn't fit all their lawn chairs in their moving truck, and Grandma had a few chairs on her patio....we inherited them all.  My sister in law commented on how many chairs we have now, and all I could think to say was, "Yeah, but we don't have people to fill them!"

We're surrounded by stuff.  Extra wine glasses.  Plants.  A dresser.  A computer.  A painting.  Books.  China.  Candlesticks.  Forks and knives and spoons.  Stuff everywhere.  It's amazing how on one hand, the stuff is all precious because it brings memories of people...on the other, it's stuff.  Stupid stuff.  I'd so rather hear that laugh.  See those busy hands fluttering about.  See my kids run to the door excitedly when they see that little red car pull up.

And while I'm talking, I might as well come out and say it -- I'm beginning to believe I'm being haunted.  How else to explain how overwhelmingly powerful her presence is from time to time?  Out of nowhere, it's like she's here and I can feel her and talk to her.  I wonder if people can come to visit us after they die.  Or is this just grief?  One second I'm fine and normal, the next I'm sobbing.

It's not just her presence that's here with me.  It's the whole experience of taking that last painful and beautiful journey with her.  I can smell her.  I can see the flowers.  I can feel her hand under mine.  I can see her eyes and hear her voice.  Watching her as the realization began to dawn on her and take grip on her heart....that she was dying.

A moment of clarity among the confusion, "I'm so confused.  I'm confused about my great confusion."  She looks at me with a question in her eyes.

"Are you confused about WHY you're confused?",  I ask.

"Yes!  Can you tell me that?"

"You're confused because you have cancer in your spinal fluid, remember?"

"Ah, yes.  Okay."



she looks me straight in the eye and says (or asks), "It seems to me that I'm going to die."

The air is sucked out of my lungs.  I know I have to be straight with her.  It's important for her to know so she can do the work she needs to do.

"Yes, Bernie.  You are going to die."

"Is it the confusion that's killing me?"

"No.  Cancer is killing you.  Cancer is causing your confusion, and it will also cause your death."

"Okay.  Well.  That's awfully overwhelming."

"It sure is.  I'm so sorry.  I'm going to miss you a lot, you know.  I love you and admire you so much.  I wish I could fix it."

Those blue eyes look at me and I can see the confusion rolling back in.  Our conversation is over for now.

Oh, there is so much to write.  So much I don't want to forget.  So much that already feels like it was just a passing dream.

One evening, she was lying in her bed with Jeopardy on the TV for quiet background noise.  I had the overwhelming urge to just go be with her, so I crawled up on the bed with her and just laid there quietly and held her hand.  I thought she was asleep until she blurted out and answer for the TV and startled me.  I giggled.  She smiled.  I closed my eyes and let the tears run down my cheeks and we took turns trying to answer the TV's questions from time to time.

"I'm going to miss you.  I hope you know how much I love you." I whispered during a commercial break.

She just fidgeted a bit as if she heard me but didn't know how to respond.  It was okay.  I wasn't looking for a response.

And the singing.  One of the hospice nurses told me that people can often understand singing after their ability to comprehend the spoken word is gone.  So I sang.  I have a terrible singing voice, so I felt a bit bad filling her last couple of days with my voice :-)  I racked my brain for a song, and the only tune that would come was "Amazing Grace".  So I sang it.  I sat by her bed and sang for hours. When I'd start to sing, I could just see her settle in and relax, and it felt so good to be able to do something to help her just a little.  After a while, I thought she'd drifted off to sleep so I stopped.  It took her about 10 seconds to realize that I didn't intend to go on and she opened her eyes, looked right at me, and said "Don't hear anything!"

So I sang.

On her last day, I couldn't come up with the tune to Amazing Grace to save my life.  All I could hear was "I'll Fly Away".  So I sang it.  And she relaxed.

One of the most tender moments I had with her was in her last couple of days here.  We would physically move her every couple of hours to keep her from getting sore.  My sister-in-law (although she feels more like just a sister now) worked from one side, while I was on the other side.  Bernie was on her back, and we were rolling her to her side.  She looked up at me, and started working to do the moving herself, but she couldn't.

She looked into my eyes as if to ask me why her body was betraying her in such a cruel way.  I leaned in to her,  grabbed her left hand with my right, and wrapped my right hand and arm around her back.  We were cheek to cheek, my tears falling on her neck, while I said "It's okay.  You just relax and let me do this for you, okay?"  I felt her body relax into mine and it was as if I was holding and caring for a child.  She was losing a bit of her fight...or she trusted me enough to let me help her.

I got her positioned, kissed her cheek that was damp with my tears, and told her I loved her before wiping her cheek dry.  She looked at me with eyes so clear and filled with sorrow.

Her last 24 hours.  I can't even talk about it right now.  It needs to be written, but it will have to be later.

And  Grandma.  She's gone too.  I feel guilty that I don't think about her more.  I miss her, yes.  But her moving on was something she was totally ready for....eagerly anticipating, actually.  Death is ugly and sad and painful no matter the circumstances, but hers felt more like a relief for her....less like the tragedy of a 60-something year old woman who was fighting and wanted so desperately to live.

But, oh, Grandma.  How is she GONE?  Those frail but busy hands always fussing with her hair or adjusting her glasses.  The lipstick always on.  The pantry always stocked with Oreo cookies and little boxes of juice for my kids.  She was the picture of elegance and grace and beauty right up her last moment here.  And now she's gone.  I can still feel her hands under mine....still and cool.  I had to give her a little shake just to be sure she wouldn't just wake up.  She didn't.

She died 3 weeks and 2 days after her own daughter did.  I like to think of them both whole and happy and healed.  I like to think that they both finally know each other with love and peace in their hearts.  And forgiveness.  Theirs was not an easy relationship this side of Heaven.

My writing about this is necessary, but not tidy or clean.  Such is grief, I suppose.  Such is grief.

Anonymous –   – (7/12/2011 08:44:00 PM)  

Grief is definitely not tidy or clean. I'm crying with you.

Bless with a Boy  – (7/14/2011 09:47:00 AM)  

I know how you feel. I've lost my brother, then a few years later we lost my grandpa and cousing with in 5 months of each other then a few years later we lost my grandmother then my mom 6 months later. My heart still hurts. I can't tell you how sorry I am for your loss.

I am now caring for my dad. He has COPD and congetive heart failure. He is living with us and I can't tell you the number of times I have checked to maker sure he is still breathing.

It's good to greive. Jesus did. It's beautiful that you have written about it. When yu are stronger you will write the rest so your family has documentation.

Again, I'm sorry for your losses.

michelle  – (7/20/2011 08:23:00 AM)  

Daiquiri... grief is ugly and nasty..and also sometimes it is a good thing. If that doesn't sound too bad.

I cried as I read this.. Though I did not go through your personal journey, I am reminded of little things from my journey of grief. This is a healing process. For you to write about, will help you later on go back and remember things.. our grief class recommended keeping a journal of our thoughts and feelings. I have yet to do that...but thank you for sharing yours..I know it's hard~ hugs

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