Category Archives: Family

On death and dying

Would it be in bad taste to talk about death in bullet points? Should I cut to the heart of the matter? I’ve been a little choked up in my thoughts and emotions. Hang in there with my gallows humor. Colonel Mustard in the Dining Room with a Candlestick.

Now I’ll get serious. Deadly serious. These are some of the thoughts I thunk during the wake, funeral and burial of my mother-in-law.

  • Receiving lines can be excruciating for germophobes.
  • People acclimate amazingly quickly. My children Freaked Out when they approached the casket for a private moment before the wake began. Within five minutes they were back to normal. Grieving, still, but able to incorporate Grandma Marshmallow’s altered presence into the occasion.
  • Death grants a person something of a beatification. What were annoyances when a person was alive are viewed as quaint personality quirks after death. I feel guilty even admitting that I harbored any feelings of annoyance.
  • Kids keep me present. Children are so much better equipped than adults are to be in the moment. They are not yet as adept at being wistful about the past or worrying about the future. The are able to be. here. now. and they remind me to do so, as well.
  • Observing the dying process has been, in hindsight, like watching a trainwreck in slow motion. You know the ending and you just have to wait for it.
  • My memories of Lisa are split in two: before the cancer, when she’s vibrant and beautiful and active and seemingly eternal; and after the cancer, when the insidious malignancy has robbed her of her hair, many of her abilities, her life force. I have a hard time reconciling the two.
  • People want to DO something.
  • People who are mourning their own losses are comforted by comforting.
  • Even if you say, “In lieu of flowers…” people will send flowers. Lots of flowers.
  • Friends and family hold us up when grief becomes unbearable. We can always come back to it. Just a conversation or a touch tends to break up the grief.
  • Mercifully, grief tends to come in bite-sized morsels. I am amazed at how moments of normalcy took over whenever the grief became to much:

Despair — load the dishwasher — sadness — toilet paper roll needs replacing — grief — oooh, here’s a text message — sob — help Reed find his non-existent socks.

  • The burial is the most difficult part for me. I hate hate hate that returning to the earth.
  • There’s a yearning to get to a New Normal. We left town two days after the burial, and I dreaded leaving my father-in-law and sister-in-law to their newly quiet lives. But when the time came I sensed that my in-laws and my husband were curious about finding their New Normal. As it turned out, the leaving wasn’t so hard for we leavers or the leavees.
  • I view, “She’s in Heaven” and “She’s an angel now” as platitudes to calm and placate. My theory is more along these lines. But I must admit that in the dark days of the wake and funeral, my own beliefs seem platitudinous, too. It wasn’t until our flight home lifted into the air that I was able to start believing again in something eternal and connected and bigger than life in this dimension. Sort of. So who knows what the purpose and meaning of life is?
  • Where IS the soul when the body no longer houses it?
  • When a person is alive, she is available in your mind as a motion picture. When that person has died, she is accessible to you only as snapshots — the movie no longer plays, not even in re-runs.
Aunt Jen, Tessa, Reed

I went 40+ years without having to experience the death of a parent/parent-in-law, and Lisa’s was the first death in our parent’s generation. I am fearful that now the bubble is popped, the other three will follow soon. And by “soon” I mean within the next 40 years.

One final note. I am expected to live to age 96. How about you?

Sliced

We didn’t know it, that first day of Tessa’s swim team practice in the spring of 2010, but our lives were about to be sliced in two.

Before: we were consumed with the end of the school year. There were report cards, field days, deciding on next year’s school, assemblies. We’d had a wind storm the night before that blew our shed off its foundation. Roger was dealing with some serious problems at work that were weighing him down. I was preparing for a big conference and was feeling similarly weighed down.

Little did we know how heavy things would get.

Minutes after Roger told me “I don’t know if I can take anymore. It’s just too much,” his cell phone rang. It was the slash that would govern our lives for the coming year and beyond.

His dad reported that his mom had had a CAT scan for some pain in her side. It revealed masses on her lung and liver.

Over the next days and weeks the full diagnosis emerged: Stage 4 lung cancer, metastasized to her liver, lymph and bones.

How could this be? Grandma Marshmallow had just visited us for Christmas. She spent Easter with us, and we’d gotten up at 4 in the morning and enjoyed a glorious sunrise at Red Rocks amphitheater together. Surely this diagnosis must be a mistake. Not Lisa, a non-smoker who ate healthfully and was physically active, a loving and well-loved person. Surely she would beat the odds with treatments.

We visited her last summer during her early rounds of chemo. We visited in the winter when the doctors said there was nothing more that could be done. Roger and I met his parents in Florida in February while we were on a business trip. We spent Spring Break with her just weeks ago. Those were her waning days when Grandma Marshmallow was all but bedridden, her energy depleted, her spirit straddling two worlds. We teared up at our goodbyes, knowing we’d likely not see or hear her again.

Grandma Lisa died on April 12 at 8:38 in the morning. Roger had gotten to her side hours before. She was surrounded by her loving husband, son and daughter.

This will take some processing, so bear with me.

Perfect Moment Monday: Swearing on

Back in high school, I went skiing with our church’s youth group. It was miserable and I swore off skiing forever.

That was before I had a husband to please. Six years ago, I succumbed to said husband’s requests to ski again. It was still pretty miserable (especially on my left, black-and-blue hip) and again, I swore off skiing forever.

That was before I had children to please. In January, my extended family shared a weekend in the mountains. Only my parents and I remained in the cabin while the others skied. When Tessa and Reed returned from the slopes, they plaintively asked me if I would pleeeeeeaaase try skiing so that we could do it as a family. (Coached — ya think??).

I was momentarily touched and said yes, I would try again sometime. Hoping that they would forget.

Well, they didn’t, and this past weekend we four hit the slopes. Even I!

One thing that made me hopeful is that since my last foray onto the slopes, I’ve taken up yoga. In theory, my balance should be better and my core should be stronger.

But you know what made the biggest difference between the last two times I tried and now?

This time, I cared not a whit what anybody else on the slopes thought of me — in fact I didn’t even notice other skiers and snowboarders. Previously, I was paralyzed by the thought of what I might look like to all the hot-doggers on the slope — I foolishly let the imagined thoughts of others derail my efforts. This time, I was fully in myself, focusing only on the task at hand.

Another motivator? This is my era of facing fears.

I took a group lesson with “Dutch,” a 60 year-old former stud with a current swagger, who looked and sounded like Ah-nald. After learning the basics of moving around in skis, we headed uphill on the magic carpet and later graduated to a small ski lift. Getting off it was the scariest part of the lesson; I bobbled a couple of times.

And got back up.

The kids were taking a more advanced lesson nearby, and would cheer me on whenever we were within shouting distance.

Other than getting off the ski lift, I stayed upright almost the entire lesson. After my 5th or 6th run, Dutch commented on my style. “Lah-ree! You have SOOO much cahn-trol. In fact, you haff 110% cahn-trol. Could you give up a little bit of cahn-trol?” Belly laugh.

Clearly, he didn’t know me.

The half-day lesson ended at lunchtime and Roger, fresh off the double diamonds, skied down the bunny slope with me. “Did you have fun?” he asked, hopefully.

I couldn’t say that I had fun. I could say that I accomplished my goals by showing up and booting up, by finishing the lesson, and by showing my kids that it’s all about trying, even if you’re grown up.

And this time, I’m not swearing off anything.

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Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

Once a week we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Follow this blog.
  2. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment.
  3. Use LinkyTools below to enter your name (or your site/blog name) and the URL of your Perfect Moment.
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Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Visit these moments of others and share your comment love.

Perfect Moment Monday: Harmony

Tessa is in the back seat listening to music on an off-brand MP3 player I gave her years ago. She gets excited at the song that comes on and passes one of the earbuds to  her brother, keeping the other in her own ear.

She becomes Olivia Newton-John and Reed turns into John Travolta as they belt out “You’re the One That I Want,” sharing the tune, sharing the earbuds, sharing one harmonious moment.

I get a jolt of happiness.

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Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

Once a week we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join.

To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Follow this blog.
  2. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment.
  3. Use LinkyTools below to enter your name (or your site/blog name) and the URL of your Perfect Moment.
  4. Visit the Perfect Moments of others and let the writers know you were there with some comment currency.

Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Visit these moments of others and share your comment love.

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