Posts tagged healing

Reflections of Life’s Passages (click song at end to listen while you read)

        DSCN2720     The mirror reflects back a “me” that I no longer know.  She isn’t young, My health was decimated by the loss of a child. Even my youngest child has a car, a job and a girlfriend now.  The years since I lost my son and health have completely changed me. I have known this for a long time, but held out hope that time would at least partially repair the wounds .Allow me to explain the crisis that lead to these reflections.

I have come to a point where I do not see that happening.  I raised six children. Raising them, loving them, teaching them was not only my dream, it was my life. I home-schooled them on vacations, Saturdays and in summer. The youngest one was home-schooled full time for several years. With a large family, there is little time to worry about what “you” want or even need. I lost my best friend to cancer when we were 48-two years before I lost my son.

I worked in the children’s schools as they grew up, as an assistant, a volunteer, and a substitute.  My life was filled with ball games, dance lessons, band and activities that revolved around them. Since i was a stay-at home mom in summer, I would have up to 14 kids at my house in one day.  I admit it was hectic. I suffer from migraines and it often took everything I had to be the kid of mom I strived to be,

Even today, my kids say that I was a terrific mom, that now as parents themselves, they don’t see how I did it.  I worked my way through a university while raising two kids as a single parent.  It seems I found endless energy and patience somewhere.  I only wish I could find that place today.

When I lost my health from Cushing’s Disease, it was determined to be from the trauma of my loosing my son.  Being a mother WAS my life.  Loosing him was unthinkable, unbearable.  It was at a time when my older kids were going to school, getting married, having their first child, and I was at that age a woman faces when she realizes that “youth” is no longer with her.  My grief, my problems were not recognized by anyone but me.  I would hear, “It’s natural that you are greived over your son, that your children moving away is difficult, but you will, in time adjust.”  I didn’t believe it then, and when I had heart failure eight months after my childs death, I knew that I had been right all along. I really was sick. The heart doctor started doing tests and wrote a report to my regular doctor that month, saying that I had the classic symptoms of Cushing’s and should see an endocrinologist.  Evidently, my regular doctor never read it.  When I went to my cardiologist in January and he asked me what the endocrinologist had  said, I told him that I had never been referred to one. He was astounded. I ordered a copy of my medical records from my regular doctor, and there, right on top was the letter from my cardiologist. Apparently, it had never even been read, just stuck in my file.

The cardiologist immediately sent me to an endocrinologist and after many test, Cushing’s Disease (sometimes called Cushing’s Syndrome) was confirmed.  She told me the only way to get well was pituitary surgery, which meant going into my head through my sinuses, and into the area right below my brain, where the pituitary  gland sits.  I was terrified. Why was all his happening to me -loosing my son and then my health  as well?

When I was finally accepted at an out of state facility for pituitary surgery, I was told that the tumor was wrapping around my carotid artery and I would have probably had less than 3 weeks to live.  It had now been a year and a half since my son died.  Not long after he died, I started a slow process of gaining weigh, although I couldn’t eat and watching my long hair thinning out, I was nauseous all the time. I could hardly walk, using a cane  to steady myself. It took months after the surgery to even begin to recover.  The joyful events I should have been enjoying had been taken from me, yet I felt that no one could really comprehend what I was going through.

As I mentioned, my youngest child was only eight years old when his brother died, He was my rock. He needed me, he didn’t care if I didn’t have a lot of energy, he played with friends, with siblings, and most of all supported me.  Now, he, too has grown up. I wonder, tearfully , how much he remembers about his brother. They were so close. His brother and I were so close. When the time came for my son to get his drivers license, he was going to college in the afternoons and high school in the morning. He started dating, and, like all children growing further away from needing mom.

I continued to try to make a small garden. I had been taught the love of gardening as a child and loved sharing the study of nature, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles and even arachnids with my children. Even  when pregnant, working and  and tired, I would find time to have a large garden. It soothed my soul. I could enjoy the bounty of anything from spring strawberries to autumn pumpkins. Now,  I was so weak, I could hardly make it to my garden. I was not able to work in it long at a time.  I watched as my beautiful garden got less and less attention.

Cushing’s affects your whole body, especially if left untreated as long as mine was. My endocrinologist described my bones as like “chicken bones”-terribly fragile. I broke my hip in a simple fall simply because I went down at an odd angle on my fragile leg. My digestive system has continued to be a problem. I feel sick when I eat, I have severs scoliosis and and in constant pain. from my neck and back to my hips. My feet are numb, my face is numb from the pituitary surgery, my hip has cramps so bad, i can only compare it to natural childbirth-without the joy of your baby at the end of the immense pain. Even though I have made some improvements in my strength, I know I will always have the symptoms of Cushings knocking at the door. For a time, It took small steps and a cane or holding on to something to navigate a room, My goal was to reach my son’s grave, on a hillside, without help.  I felt like I was climbing a mountain, but one day, I made it and it became a place of solace for me. I find letters and mementoes there from others-his many friends, even now, after eight years,a wedding invitation, a Carolina memento, a black rose. I put Victorian statuettes of a mom and son watching younger children sleigh ride, or laid a baseball there, maybe holiday rememberances. Even though I never liked baseball, he died between innings in a game he didn’t want to play, so I had “Safe at Home” carved on his black obsidian stone to help us remember that his last hit was one of the best he ever made.  Many years ago, I put a heavy chain with eight links on it around the flower pot-to symbolize that there would always be eight people in our family. I find messages from him there, I have written about them in other blogs-things only he and I would understand. Black widow spiders that we studied, dimes,(that one is secret), feathers from a bird killed by predators.

Every day is a struggle. I feel like I was cheated out of enjoying the years of my other children’s lives when they were maturing, going to college, marrying, having their own children, living, laughing, just regular things. I am having a difficult time accepting that my youngest child is not now, that youngster who helped me so much and needed me-no matter how poor my health is.  Now tthat he is older, I depend on him for other things.  He is just doing what young people do-grow up, just as my older kids were doing when their brother was so wrongly taken.  I know that, but it still hurts.  I have to find the strength to do things with him that I am often not really able to do. I have had to learn not to expect to be “mommy” after 40 years. It is more difficult than I can describe.

Looking into the mirror of my life’s struggles has affected me in many ways. I think of my friend who died at 48, after struggling with cancer for 15 years and I am thankful that I was a least here to witness the maturing of my family. I fight the anxiety and stress of not being able to do for my family what my heart longs to do. I smile when my older children sing the songs to their kids that I sang to them, or one of them remembers a book we read together. I walk in the park with them as they tell them the names of insects and flowers we studied so many years ago.

I have given up on having even the people who love me, and that I love, truly understand what I have been through and why I am less patient, more emotional, not as strong as I once was. I can only hope that one day, when they remember “me”, they remember the “me” that I was when I had all of my children, when I was young, healthy and strong. I hope that as all of us grow older and struggle to keep up with the things that made us who we are, that our children, our loved ones, realize that those thing are still there, inside of us. Our hearts have not changed, our love is just as strong, even when our bodies have failed us.  

Once in a while, I have a good day, and can almost do the things I once did. What a joy to be “me”, if only for a while.  I still listen to my Lynyrd Skynyrd and other Southern Rock music.  I still love long hair and blue jeans.  I am still me. Those who know me, please, remember that. Inside, I am strong, proud, loving. Outside, I still manage an incredible amount of accompishments, difficult, though they may be.  If the sun is covered by clouds, it is still there. I am still there. Remember that.

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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The Gifts that She Left

 

Together, we sing a special song, “Morning has Broken” as we sat together at the Celebration of Life of a woman who was taken before her time, but faced her illness bravely, with unbounded love from her family and friends.

I will always remember our talks as we strolled down her driveway or stood admiring each others gardens. She was a school counselor, a mother, a wife, a friend. Only a few years ago, she was full of life, taking the vacations of her dreams, planning additions to their house, planting new flowers. It never occurred to anyone that her dreams would be stolen by illness.

As a mother who has lost a child, I still feel the unfairness of my friends and cousins who have lost their battles with disease as adults. It seems so wrong, they had so much yet to give. I lost my best friend of 35 years to cancer when she was just 48. Oh, how I could have used her shoulder to cry on in the times yet to come!

Today, though, I look at the gifts that my friend and neighbor left for us to keep her alive within our hearts. Every time I see a flower blowing in the wind, I will smile and think of her. When I see a child walk across the stage to accept their hard-earned diploma, I will think of her. When I see her husband, walking, alone, I will see her there beside him. I believe with everything inside me that her life will always hold more meaning than her untimely death.

I struggle to allow myself to have these feelings for my 15-year-old son. I STILL struggle. I will always struggle. But somehow, now, when I see the sunrise up into the brilliant magenta sky I will think of her, perhaps laughing and talking to my son in a different realm. Perhaps the most important gift she left me was the realization that no matter how much time we are given on this earth, there will be those who love us-present tense-LOVE us, and that kind of love does not die as the sun crosses the sky and night falls upon us. It simply becomes a different part of our lives.

 

 

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Night Sky

She sat in the dim light of the moon and stars, looking – no- pondering the thoughts that entered her mind as she thought of the memories that the scene brought to her.

It was a summer night at the beach. She and her father had brought towels and laid in the sand, listening to the thunder of the waves and the sharp wind It made talking nearly impossible. They had simply, quietly taken in the majesty of the night sky against the backdrop of the wild yet calming ocean.

She was fifteen and her mother had died of cancer three months before. In what he had thought was a futile effort to help her heal, her dad had brought her to the place. It had been her favorite place to spend with her mom. His friends had thought that he was crazy, opening that wound and watching it bleed, but he knew better, had experienced something much like it in his young years.

She felt his strong hand grip hers and hold it gently as tears flowed down her cheeks and rolled onto the towel. He let her lie there until she sat up and picked up the box. In it were her mother’s ashes. He stood up and grabbed her hand to help her stand.

He took the box and they walked hand in hand to the edge of the water where the tide was going out. He lifted the lid from the box and they each gently took a small portion of ashes, strewing them into the waves.

“I love you, mom,” she whispered. “Julie, you were my life’s great love.” Dad said quietly as he, too scattered some ashes. Dad handed her the box and she let out a pain-filled poignant yell as she twirled and let the rest of the ashes float away in the waves as they tickled her toes.

She ran into her father’s arms and sobbed. He spoke not a word. Soon, they were walking down the shore with the midnight stars sparkling above them.

No, it didn’t heal her pain, but it allowed he to share it with the only other person who was hurting as much as she was. Forever, this would be a sacred place. One that they would visit often, maybe light a candle and sit and cry.

Her father knew that sharing grief was even more important than sharing joy. Even though the ashes and the ocean brought back his own grief of his father’s death in Viet Nam, he remembered how his mom had put aside her pain to let him have a time, a place to remember him and their days together.

They walked into thee darkness together, a cloud covering up the fullness of the moon.

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Freedom and Truth

As I start to press the “publish” button on a story about the loss of my son from a sudden heart issue, and the organizations that I have found that help prevent these tragic, unnecessary deaths. I think of  my losses caused by having to live without him, I find my hand shaking, my heart throbbing and wonder if I have the courage to push the button. I know I will have to respond to replies, open the wounds and subject myself to religious opinions that make me ill. Finally, I will hit the button, realizing that If I save one mom from the hell I have ended, it will be worth it. Opening my wounds id definitely the type of blog that both frees me , forces me to be truthful and hopefully helps others avoid the tragedy of loosing a child.

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A Day of Anticipation

He looked out over the beautiful sunrise as it revealed its first light above the mountains in the distance. The sky was ruffled with bright pink clouds just before the bright red ball erased them and climbed slowly onto the mountaintop. It looked as if it were a child’s ball, ready to roll down a hill.

“What was he doing here,?” he thought, adjusting his position on the rock to one more comfortable. “Why had he come here, now, of all times, to this beautiful place?

He thought about that day, so long ago when he sat here with her as her auburn hair blew wildly in the warm wind. It was hard to imagine that such a feeling, such a magical time of life would ever end. “Fool.” he whispered to no one.

He took a sip of the barely warm coffee and sighed as he looked out over the mountains. The sun was up now,, casting long shadows toward him of snags still standing from the spruce killed by the wooly adelgid beetles which has decimated the beautiful trees over a decade ago. A crow landed on the limb closest to him and let out a hopeful series of “caws”. The gray-green lichens now covered the trunks of the trees, giving them an eerie sort of second chance, something still lived there, even with the death of most of the forest.

He thought of her standing there. How she had stood at the edge of the precipice and laughed, making him leap and grab her, in fear that she might fall. He realized, at that moment, that the fear of something happening was often in vain because in that tiny moment that we experienced the heart-pounding fear run through us, we usually had time to stop the tragedy from occurring.

He stood up and walked towards his truck, glimmering now, n the sharp angle cast by the sun. He stretched, got into the truck and started the engine. As h traveled down the mountain, he got a glimpse of the valley below. The houses, a farm that had survived the influx of wealthy city folks, and finally, the church.

He took a deep breath in anticipation as he watched the cars gathering in the church parking lot. The sisters and cousins preparing for the wedding. Her wedding-to someone else.

“Men didn’t cry.” he though to himself and hit the gas pedal with an angry roar. The sun suddenly blinded him as he rounded the curve and he felt himself tearing towards the edge. The rocky edge on the upper side of the road. The engine sputtered and died as the fan hit the wall. A wisp of smoke rose from the engine.

He jumped out, heart pounding and looked around. “Was she really worth dying for?” he thought as he shook his head, amazed that he wasn’t hurt or dead.

The sun settled behind a cloud as a couple of guys in hunting gear walked up to him.

“You alright, man?” One of them said.

“Yeh, I’m, alright,”he sighed. “But I need to call a wrecker.”

In the distance, the church bells rang, as he sat in the grass, silent, deep in thought.

“Today was not his day,” he though,” not for a new life, but not for death either.” A weak smile crossed his face as the hunters called a wrecker for him. Life was funny like that, sometimes, it seemed, we needed nature to cleanse us, empty the pain and give us a chance to start over.

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Sleep- Word a Week prompt

Often sleep is my only relief. I relish the moments when I dream of my child-alive, myself-young, my world-hopeful. Although I find it discouraging to look at sleep as the best part of my day, it sometimes is. No pain, no real bad news, I don’t have to be afraid, things are the way I wish they had been, should have been, I wake with a smile.

Sleep, even in happy times, refreshes me, gives me energy and determination. In difficult times, it gives me a moment of relief, a moment where pain is not a constant, a moment with a friend or loved one who has been taken.

We sleep about 1/3 of our life. It gives us the energy and courage to live the other 2/3. Being able to relax enough to go to sleep is a blessing in its self. And no, my friends, goodnight.

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