Sharing Grief


This, this sharing with you is all so new to me, strangers, invisible only because I cannot see you or you me … yet my mother’s passing is anything but that. In time as we know it, it was two years ago, February 25th, 2013, around 2:30 in the morning: it was yesterday, it is today, and it will be tomorrow. The date is a stamp in time letting me know each year that passes but none of that catches the tears in my heart, the loneliness in my soul. Hiding does me no good. I can’t hide from myself, from my memories, from my mother … and all this while I write about mom, I’m on the verge of tears from guilt … I’m consumed with thinking about her, writing about her when I feel the same loss for my father, but dad passed close to 23 years ago … it’s easier … I had mom but now I have neither … but with mom … well, that was barely yesterday … and I can’t lessen the image of that morning when she was taken away, wrapped in white … gone …

I have my TV on and while I’m writing I’m watching two llamas, one black one white, running loose on some street somewhere - and they are wonderful - they bring smiles to me and I know there is more … imagine, two beautiful creatures that can momentarily push my hurting aside …

And then they’re gone from the screen and I can see myself wishing they were still there to help me from stepping back into sadness.

I don’t want to write anymore for now, but I am going to share something I wrote for my mother soon after she passed: maybe they are feelings that pass into your thoughts, into your life.

So many veils shrouding me from you
And tears I cannot wish away
The space around me is without you
The emptiness within me is searching for you
The silence almost deafening
And I listen for your voice
So soft, so warm, to call me
To whisper my name to let us know
I wander in such quiet space
And long to feel you close once more
A shadow somehow stepping back
If only passing so briefly in this moment
A smile that I can capture
And lock into my heart
However feint your presence wills
I’ll wait for an eternity

Perhaps you’ll want to share a thought, a feeling with me … it’s okay if not … if I can put into words maybe a little of what, of how, you are feeling – whenever those feelings might be – then I am glad to share with you now, and again – soon …

While Mom was under home hospice care we became friendly with people from the hospice: one in particular, a volunteer who came almost every week to visit. He’s a really nice good man and I believe he enjoyed our visits as much as we did. He’d spend most of the time with Mom before she started drifting into her own “place.” I’m not sure if any of us were there – “her place” - when that happened. I can see her staring into space, staring at something someone only she saw, I don’t really know. What I do know is as I watched her I would be momentarily mesmerized by her intent gaze, a gaze that was mirrored through her most beautiful sapphire violet eyes: I can still see her doing it and I cry.

As mom started to emotionally, gradually at first, leave me – us - it was suggested that if I hadn’t already or if Mom hadn’t I should think about making the necessary arrangements for the time when she passed. I put it off and off but eventually realized – intellectually at least – that when that time did come dealing with what had to be done all at once and with immediacy I needed to begin that unwelcomed and frightening process.

Doing that brings on, it did for me, a cursory chill of what is going to happen and the shadow stages of grief, desolation and sadness to come. But I left all that with my “intellect.” I left my heart out of it. I deceived myself for as long as I could, and I am reminded of Shakespeare’s words, “… Tis such a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive …” He didn’t write it in the context I’m using it for, but it really is tantamount to the same sense of what I’m trying to say. The when is not up to us: we, I, put off what we know will happen hence putting off the emotional and mental attachment with it and maybe, for me anyway, it ends up prolonging eventual pain and sadness. I don’t believe that it magnifies – intensifies - our feelings just that it may do us a little more hurt.

With mom having been under palliative care for a few years and bed-ridden for the last 2+ years, I thought to share some tidbits of words/information I read in “Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine” published by Oxford University Press: some of which just did not relate to thoughts and feelings I had and have. “… the anticipation of loss intensifies attachment. Thus, anticipated loss has emotional implications different from those of bereavement.” And, “the resurgence of attachment behavior that commonly follows the discovery that a loved one is nearing the end of life may have immediate value for the relationship and later value for the survivor … relationships often get closer and more honest … Even though awareness of impending loss makes for greater pain the concluding period of closeness often is treasured afterward … forewarning permits certain kinds of anticipatory preparation … There is learning to live with the prospect of loss, so when the loss in fact occurs, it is at least not unexpected … one of the risks of forewarning is ‘premature’ grief … we begin … to accept the death while the person still lives is to become vulnerable to later accusations of having abandoned the person before death …”

I ask you to be patient with me as I would like to quasi-counter much if not all of what I quoted above as it solely/souly relates to me. I do not question for a moment their relevance to and identify-ability for anyone of you: I am only sharing their relevance to me. I am going to do it in a way that I hope will not confuse you - at least not too much.

I kind of didn’t let myself anticipate my mom’s passing. I kept delaying the inescapable eventuality of it. I always had, and still do, an indefinable attachment with her. That doesn’t preclude our disagreeing and/or arguing sometimes but that never lessened let alone affected our attachment. And, if I had any repressed anticipation it would have and perhaps did intensify my fears of unavoidable bereavement. Yet, knowing mom was going to join with dad soon is one of the very few things that gave me some sort of emotional solace and intellectual acceptance: the other was, of course, that she would be free from suffering and pain. I’m not sure that anything can truly prepare us for loss; and, as “expected” as it might be it is never expected in one’s heart where emotional fantasies are forever. I have always and will always treasure my mother and father: in all the closeness during our lives and the closeness that embraced us as they came closer and closer to their passing: for me there is no difference.

I’m going to step back again for now. We’ll share again soon.

Sometimes I wonder just when I began to bury and just how deeply I buried my feelings, my thoughts. When I moved to Florida in 2001 I did it to be with Mom and I wanted to be out of New York. My sister, brother and I were all concerned though not overly so about Mom’s health and her living on her own. My moving down there was the most realistic and appropriate for the three of us as Shawn and John’s life was in New York as was his livelihood and David’s life at that time was in New Jersey with his family. And, like I said I wanted out of New York.

For the first few years my living with Mom was more as her companion yet that began to change over time after she had a bad fall in her apartment hitting her head on a corner wall and being concussed severely: just how severely, neither one of us realized until a few weeks a few months a few years later. Mom subsequently had a couple of major TIA’s (“transient ischemic attacks: neurological events with the signs and symptoms of a stroke, but which go away within a short period of time - also called mini-strokes”); and a stroke. We were fortunate in that she didn’t have any lasting physically debilitating effects from them. But, the emotional, mental, and even the intellectual traumas were insidious as they slowly began to eat into her being, her brain – though never her soul.

Eventually the companionship we shared developed more into my taking care of her especially during the last 2 – 2 ½ years of her suffering. I say suffering because her life was being drawn out of her. Slowly at first until the time she became – forgive me for putting it this way – less and less recognizable: not physically but in every other way. It’s not really the word I want, but it does describe so much of what was happening – gradually less gradually and eventually gradual was no more. (Mom did have a CNA come in for about 8 hours during the day to help take care of her.)

Now more than ever I sometimes sit and wonder did I start repressing the anticipation of grieving, the knowing and refusing to acknowledge let alone accept what mom was going through – what I was going through though for me I didn’t think in terms of mortality. Was I being selfish in those thoughts, is that maybe why I repressed them. I honestly don’t know for sure. I am just trying to understand the upheavals, the waves of absolute sadness emptiness and loss that punch me in my heart – anytime of the day or night.

Mom was always so brave, such a “trouper” we used to call her. Her world, her life, her love revolved around Dad, my sister my brother, me and our pets (we always had pets, they were family): the same was so with Dad. So much, actually most, of what mom did she did for us and with us in mind before anyone: we always came first. Don’t misunderstand me: mom was not perfect yet she was an extraordinary woman. While we were growing up, friends used to tell me how lucky we were to have the parents we had: sometimes it was more a question - a rhetorical one - of did we know just how lucky we were. I say rhetorical because our home was where people wanted to be. Our home was the gathering place for family and friends. My aunts and uncles were always wonderfully warm and hospitable as well and we loved to visit them, but there was something more in our home: there just was.

I’m sitting on my bed now and remembering the oh so many times Mom would bring a homeless puppy home, and then try and find them homes. Mom wasn’t allowed to have pets when she was growing up, but that didn’t deter her from trying. And, she made up for it from the time my sister and I were born (obviously before that too) up to the morning she left me. Dad loved animals too and had dogs in Hong Kong long before he met mom so in their “match being made in heaven” they so shared a love of animals: a love we have too.

I suppose today I am sharing a little history with you: a light history but a little to give you a glimpse into the whats and the whys of whatever it is I do share with you as you read this. Trying to understand, to recognize, what comes before we lose a loved one. I think it can maybe help us live with and through our grief, our hurt, our pain. It’s maybe how our intellect can help to allay the utter force, the loss, of what becomes a part of our lives.

I think Hellen Keller’s words say it beautifully, “What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

I have more history, if you will, to share with you, but that will be for other times: times interspersed with our grief, with our loss, with our living each day for tomorrow.

One of my dearest cousins has been reading my postings and found this translation of a song she wanted me to share with you. I hope you find it as and soulful as we do.

Yesterday is buried, mourn it on the morrow.
Here is but ephemeral bliss, ruin it not with sorrow.
Grab yourself a bottle, while you still can swallow.
You wont cop a single drop in the world to follow.
Brothers wail & howl, let your beard be wild.
That's the way to dance away sorrow & exile.

Do you sometimes wake up at any hour of the morning and feel you sense something though you’re not quite sure what. I do. It’s like a dream that jolts you awake and you’re not sure just what is real and what is going on and then you question are you imagining, were you dreaming or did something touch the air, the space, around you. Actually it can happen to me at any time: it’s a little more startling when I’m sleeping and suddenly wake up. I’m not frightened in any way because I don’t sense anything bad or wrong. I simply sense something and I like to believe it’s Mom – maybe Dad too. Now that they are together again, I like to believe they are both with me at that moment.

I don’t know whether you believe in psychic, paranormal, stuff: maybe you do, maybe you don’t: I do. Perhaps with that belief it makes it easier for me to explain that sense of ‘otherness’ I have sometimes.

Our apartment has a wonderful view of the inter-coastal, the boats docked by us and the ocean. We’re not on the ocean but when we stand on the balcony and look out it appears as if it’s across the street. Even though there is a skyline of other condos in our southward view much of that rising skyline changes with the private homes across the waterway in front of us - northward. My mentioning this is because we have a comfortably sized room between our kitchen and balcony where Mom loved to sit on the couch and so purely enjoy the view. (When she sat inside, she always had the TV on.) Mom’s aide, Elaine, who helped take care of her for over five years used to take her to the pool initially and/or just outside for a walk or at times just sit quietly out in front of the condo: it got to the stage where she couldn’t balance to walk and she became wheelchair-bound. Elaine took Mom outside most days until taking her out of the apartment – other than to the doctor – became inadvisable: her dementia started taking over more and more. Living with and trying to manage her as her dementia intensified is for another time: maybe, probably.

I briefly mentioned our apartment and Mom’s cozy favorite spot for a specific reason. Unless Mom was sitting in that room or my sister and brother-in-law were visiting, the TV in there was not used. And, after Mom passed I kept the remote on top of a multi-CD holder on a small shelf beneath the chest-table the TV sat on. In other words, it was out-of-reach and pretty much out-of-sight unless someone specifically looked for it and moved it.

After Mom passed and for a considerable time, I lived alone in the apartment. Some months later, I woke up – as I do several times more often than not during the night/early morning - around 3:00 a.m. and thought I heard some soft voices in that room. Carpeted as the apartment is, I quietly tip-toed to the kitchen and saw light and realized the TV was on. I was a little taken off guard but then smiled slightly and thought Mom was letting me know she was there with me. Could it have been something electrical? Who knows. What I know is that it has happened about 4 maybe 5 times since Mom passed: sometimes the TV was on with a picture and sometimes it was on just snowy. The last time this happened was this past March 12th, my birthday. A few others things have happened but that too is maybe for another time.

My biggest regret in my life is not having had children: had I, I would say to them, “I believe that if I should die, and you were to walk near my grave, from the very depths of the earth I would hear your footsteps.” Emotions expressed by Benito Perez Galdos; and, heartfelt feelings I know both my parents would have borrowed and said to me my sister and brother.

Loving and being loved is boundless, timeless and inexplicable when it transcends our lives and the ethereal lives of loved ones who have passed. This is what I believe, and it is what I wanted to share with you.