On Death, Dying, and Saying Goodbye

I had a conversation with my sister today that has made me think about death and dying, and saying goodbye.  She told me she listens to this song below and it never fails to remind her of our grandmother.  So, I’d like to share this video with you, as it has really touched me to my core.  The song is Supermarket Flowers, by Ed Sheeran.

Remembering my Grandma and Grandma Helen

My best friend back in Boston is basically a younger sister to me.  Her family treated me as one of them, and they were the hardest thing for me to leave behind in Boston.  Her grandmother died last week.  She was 98.  When I heard that she was expected to only live for about a week, it brought me back to the last week of my grandmother’s life.  Both of them, I think, made up their minds when they were ready to go.  For my grandmother, it was that she had a DNR, and didn’t want to be kept alive on a feeding tube after her major heart attack and stroke.

For Sarita’s grandmother, she refused to take antibiotics again.  Sarita told me that lately she had gone from being sick, taking antibiotics and getting better, to needing them again, and it was just a cycle over and over.  Sarita thinks she had had enough and was ready to go be with her grandpa.  I am very grateful that when Grandma Helen died, it was peaceful and in her sleep.  That was best for her and her family.  Sarita had lived with her for the past six years.  I envy her for that time she was able to spend with her, even if at times, she did drive her crazy.  The people we love have a tendency to do that, don’t they?  I think I used to surprise Grandma Helen when I would go to hug her before I would leave, but it just felt natural to do it.  So,  I did.

I know my grandma was ready at the end.  I also firmly believe I was not the only presence in the room with her during those last 24 hours.  My sister was also there for a good portion of the time, and had my (now 17) nephew with her.   My grandma slept a lot for those last few days, but I do remember this moment when my sister put Sean onto my grandmother’s lap.  He was just shy of his first birthday at the time.

Sean reached out and touched my grandma’s hand, and she reacted back to him. It’s hard to put into words how I felt, seeing that.  It was like something other worldly took place in that exchange.  She had been asleep before that.  But I remember the look of peace on both of their faces.  My nephew, of course, doesn’t remember it, but I do.  And I always will.  I know how proud my grandma was of him.  He was her first great-grandchild.  I’m so sad that she was never able to meet Jack and Katie, but something tells me that she knows of them now.   I know her heart would burst with pride if she could see how all of them are turning out.

There were moments during those last twenty-four hours when I know she was looking over my head at someone or something.  Her eyes were quite focused, and she tried to speak.  I knew then and now that she wasn’t talking to me.  And that was okay with me then and it is now.   I know at the very end, her eyes were focused on me.  I know she heard me when I told her that if she needed to go, she should just go.  I knew she would be at peace.  And I know she understood me, that I was saying she should go be with my grandpa and her family, especially her sister Helen who had died so many years before.  (There’s that name again.  Helen.)

My Dad

My dad is in the Boston area now.   He’s 81.  He’s never taken good care of his body, so he has some liver issues, Parkinson’s, skin cancer issues in the past, and dementia or Alzheimer’s.

I was primarily raised by my mom since I was eight.  My parents split.  I’m not angry at either of them.  It’s just I don’t really feel much toward my dad.  He’s not a bad person.  We just have never had much of a relationship.  I don’t blame him.  I don’t blame me.  It is what it is.

My older brother  Eric has been his primary caretaker for the past few years.  He handles his finances and everything. It also takes a toll on my sister-in-law, Judi.  Eric emailed all of us with an update on our dad, and it involves him being moved to a long-term care facility.  He said he’s lost a lot of weight, and that it has been decided to put him on comfort care.  Without him even having to say it, I know what this means.  It’s probably not long, although my dad being as stubborn as a mule, he might just surprise us all and live for a lot longer.  (Even when my parents were together, doctors were saying if he continued living, eating and smoking as he did, he wouldn’t live another ten years.  Well, I’m 45 now, so you do the math.  They were clearly wrong.)  My brother said he could understand if we didn’t come, but that if we wanted to, this might be a good time.

It’s weird but I don’t feel much when hearing all of this.  I’m not sad, or regretful or angry.  It just is what it is.  Unlike my siblings, I have never really yearned for a relationship with my dad.  I’ve never felt like I missed anything, other than when I hear my friends like Sarita talk about their dads.

My dad is not a bad person.  He wasn’t perfect then or now, but no one is.   I just know that if I will  head back to Boston at some point, it will be when he’s gone.  And I will go because of my siblings.  I know they will need the support.

Maybe a part of me is dead inside, but it’s how I feel.  I didn’t say goodbye to my dad, really, when I left Boston 2 1/2 years ago.  I figured with his mental acuity diminishing at that time, he might not even realize I was gone.  Possibly I tell myself this because it makes me feel less guilty for not having acted like a better daughter in that way.  But it’s also in the past and there’s nothing I can do to change that.

Do I fear I will regret not going home now to say goodbye?  I don’t think so.  Maybe I will get his number at the new facility and give him a call.  If I do, I know it will be awkward and strained.  Somewhat forced, like in a way, I am talking to a stranger, because even though we are related by blood, we don’t really know each other well, and never really have, when it comes down to it. Again, I’m not assigning blame.  Just saying it like it is.

Lily and Stinky

It is hard to explain the pit that I feel in my heart when an animal dies, either in a documentary, or in a story I’ve just read (such as the short story, “Meat,” by C.S. Malerich, in Among Animals, a compilation of short stories published by Ashland Creek Press.)  It brings tears to my eyes.  I have a tightness in my throat. It compels me to ask “WHY??”

This week, I was mentally drained on two occasions.  Stinky was a rottweiler whose owners couldn’t afford to really care for him the way he needed to be cared for.  He was four years old and completely blind, from what, we didn’t really know.  But he was euthanized.  Before his owners made that decision, he and I bonked heads/faces together and I bled a little.  That’s not what bothered me, not by a long shot.  What bothered me is that his owners didn’t stay with him for the procedure, and that because of his accident with me, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold him and  tell him what a good boy he was while the doctors gave him the life-ending injections. So, my boss volunteered to be with him. I was and am so grateful to her for that.

Lily was a gorgeous 11 year old border collie mix.  After having gone through a lot of testing, it was found that she had a large mass on her liver.  I’m not sure what the care for that would entailed, but her owner decided to have her euthanized.  He was very shaken up and couldn’t be with her at the end.  So, I told him I would, and I’m super grateful to my co-workers who allowed me the time away from the desk to do so.  I held her head in my right hand and with my left kept stroking her incredibly soft long fur and kissed her head on the head a lot and told her what a good girl she was.  I told her she might see a little white chihuahua soon and that her name was Osito, and that she could play with her and all of my other babies up at the Rainbow Bridge.  As with my grandmother, I saw the  light go out of her eyes at the end.

I know Lily had an idea what was happening when I took her back to the treatment area without her dad and removed her collar and leash for him.  Whereas before she seemed to be smiling with all the attention she was getting from the nurses as they shaved some fur in order to place the catheter, she seemed much more subdued.  She didn’t struggle when I held her and she seemed to just accept it.  I was very glad it was quick and peaceful.  And I was very glad that the doctor let me hold her in my arms.  Because no animal should ever have to die alone, without someone telling them that they are loved.  Ever.

Many people say they don’t know that they could do something like that.  I think you find out what you are capable of when the situation calls for it.  All I know is, I do it because I HAVE to.  It’s not part of my job description.  I just can’t stomach the idea of them dying without being loved at the same time.

I know this post has been much longer than most of mine are, so I thank you for sticking with me all the way to the end.  I needed to put this out there.  If you think it can help someone else, please do share it.  If you have any thoughts on any of this, please feel free to comment below.

Many thanks.

 

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Keep paddling, keep paddling, keep paddling, don’t stop.

Ever feel like you’re treading water or like you’re one of those ducks you see swimming on the pond?  You know, looking all graceful and put together, but underneath the surface, there’s a whole lot of stuff going on?

School and Freelance Work:

That about sums things up for me these past few days.  Been getting up at 5 or 5:30, drink coffee, eat a bagel or something else for breakfast and then get started on whatever project needs to be done that day, or on which I think I can make the most headway.  Busy reading not one but two books for my classes at the same time.

Doing some transcribing for my friend Elaine.  Readying myself to work with another company on a weekly basis so I will still have freelance work when Elaine shuts down her company in the upcoming months. (In case you’re wondering from my last post – I decided to only apply to one outside transcribing company, not the three that I was considering.  I was just getting way too stressed thinking about getting all of that work done and finishing my school assignments.  Oh yes, and sleep – sleep is important!!)

Self-Care:

Trying to work out about 3-4 times per week.  I reward myself with 10 minutes on the hydro massage beds that Planet Fitness has for Black Card members afterwards.

Writing:

Writing about who I am as a writer for one of my classes, and trying to not freeze while I’m doing it.   I feel a bit like a fraud.  I just throw words down on the paper, thinking I can go back and edit it afterwards, or if something else comes to me, I can add it then.  There is shortage of ideas or topics I would like to explore with my writing, but who am I as a writer?? That halts the flow of ideas and thoughts.

I don’t know why I feel this way about my writing sometimes.  Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I can define myself in just one or two terms.

“I’ve been finding it easier to write in the essay about what I want to be as a writer rather than what I am now.”

I want to be a fiction writer.  I want to write a memoir — everybody keeps telling me I should write a book about my life since my path has been so unusual.  But who would want to read about my life??

Reviewing Books:

I am so flattered to have been contacted by Ashland Creek Press, located in Ashland, Oregon.  They’ve asked me if I would like to receive some review copies of their books.  Wow!  This is how they describe themselves on their “About Us” page:

Changing the world one book at a time

Ashland Creek Press is a vegan-owned boutique publisher dedicated to publishing books with a world view. We’re passionate about the environment, animal protection, ecology, and wildlife, and our goal is to publish books that combine these themes with compelling stories.

So let’s see — do they seem like a perfect company for me with which to stay in contact??!!  Hell yes!!!

Vegan-owned? Check!
Publishes books with a world view? Check!
Passionate about animals, environment, wildlife and ecology? Check!

So I’ve asked them to send copies of two books to me and I will let you know as soon as I’m done with them, my thoughts.  I would have asked them for more but didn’t want to seem piggish. 🙂

Take a look at their page if you share any of these same interests with me! (And no, they are not compensating me to mention them.)  I’m so excited to see that there are publishers out there who are focused on such markets and topics!

Keeping it all together:

You could say I’m busy, but if you know me, you know that’s the way I am and like to be.  I like to be productive.  I believe my friend Dan would call my hyper-focused at times, or the Energizer Bunny.  I find that using a paper planner and setting a few goals for myself each day helps me keep organized and on track.

“I’ve also been reminding myself to breathe.  I’m a human.  I can’t do it all.  Just focus on what I can get done every day.”

As I’ve said in a recent post, if I want to make changes to my life, I have to do the work.  You can’t just sit around and complain or wish for your life to change, magically, without any effort.

Have you ever felt like there is a bit of pandemonium in your life?   How have you kept things under control? 

As always, thank you for reading!! Please share if this post has helped you or if you know someone that could benefit from it.

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