Tag Archive | death

Life Goes By When You’re Living It

Blog 3-31 003This week has been a trial and a triumph.

The trial happened on Monday, I said goodbye to a dear friend. Patrick became my friend when we were both working for the same magazine. He was an ad salesman, and I was a writer. That was over twenty years ago.

Eventually, the four of us — Patrick and his wife Linda and me and Ken enjoyed a cup of coffee every Saturday at a quaint coffee house or we splurged on breakfast at a restaurant that was housed in an old building on Main Street downtown. This place had few tables and the best omlets in the world! Besides that, the background music was jazz, and I pretended we were all in Manhattan starting our weekend on a high note.

As the years went by, the four of us became very close. Patrick stood in for my brother who moved to California. Linda became another girlfriend and even proofread a couple of my books. A year ago, they moved into an apartment, which was right up the street from my house.

Unfortunately, Patrick suffered from diabetes,and the past five years had been a trial. And about three months ago, he went into the hospital and never went home. He was so sick, and as I gazed at him as he slept from the infections and drugs, I knew intellectually the end was near.

But my heart didn’t accept the fact that he was gone until we went through the funeral ceremony. Never again would he call every morning just to wish us a good day. Never again would we solve world problems over a cup of coffee, or challenge each other over a hot Scrabble game. He still is close, though. He’s buried him in the cemetery across the street from my house. Monday was a hard day.

A couple of days later, triumph picked up my spirits. My publisher took action on my complaint letter stating my feelings about the haphazard way the reviews on my books were messed up.

They agreed to rewrite the reviews so they represented the appropriate book, and they gave a full page for these reviews for the Frankfurt book show, which is one of the largest ones in the world. When I wrote my complaint letter to the president of the company, I never thought it would be answered. I’m glad to see the company took action. That made a lousy week a little better.

And life goes on. We live it everyday without any thought we are making impressions on everyone we meet. That’s why I smile through the tears and eventually remember all the wonderful people who have crossed my path. Every one of them are special.

Entering a New Life

423019Last night one of my best friends called to say her twin brother had died. Jerry suffered from an incurable cancer. Everyone who loved him hoped that his first remission would have lasted longer, but after a short eighteen months, the cancer returned. The news was disheartening for his family.

Whenever I hear about someone my own age dying, it has always had an affect on me. Selfishly, I wonder what I would do if I had to face dying. I like to think the best. I like to think I would die with dignity, facing the unknown like I have faced so many other unknown situations that have entered my life. I like to think I would look at death as my next big adventure. I hope my next stop is a better world, where there is no pain or hunger. I hope this place lets me have the freedom to hurt no more. I hope this place is happy where I can rejoin others who have passed before me.

For thousands of years humans have believe in an afterlife, but is there such a place? When it comes down to it, we truly don’t know what happens after death. Growing up Christian I was taught I am an eternal being, and this earthly place is just part of my journey. If I live a good life, I will be rewarded in heaven. This ideology is a pleasant thought, isn’t it? Even Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He believed in heaven. If that thought is good enough for Him, then it certainly is good enough for me.

But are we humans really better than all of the other living things on this earth? Personally, I’m a little ashamed of my species. After thousands of years, we have learned nothing about living in harmony with nature and one another. We just keep on thinking of better ways to destroy our world and each other. It’s no wonder we want to leave here. Will we really do better in heaven?

I hope for Jerry’s sake there is a heaven. I hope for my sake and everyone I love there is a beautiful place where we all can meet after death and have a grand party. When I must face my own death, I will die as I have lived. Death is part of the cycle of life, and hopefully, I’ve fulfilled my mission here, even though I truly am not sure what it is.

Until that day comes, though, I will continue on the path I’ve struck. I will continue to live with love in my heart, and hope that love has touched others in a way that will live on. So if there is a heaven, I hope to see you there someday.

An Unsentimental Journey

Today was another scorcher, and other than a road trip with my brother to my parent’s homestead, I stayed in the cool house and let my computer entertain me. As usual, I spent most of the day researching and writing on my newest book, so the day went fast.

If felt strange walking through my parents’ home knowing neither of them wouldn’t greet me. Everything was clean and neat, just the way my Dad had left it. Both he and my mother were neat freaks, and their organization still amazes me. You could eat a meal off his basement work bench, and my mother still had most of the ingredients in the cupboards to make a meal in a moment’s notice. The drawers are full of things that must find new homes and where it all will end up is still a mystery. There’s not a lot that I want, but I did put my name on a chair, a small dresser,  three of my grandma’s china cups, and a picture I painted for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift a couple of years ago.

I wasn’t melancholy about the trip because by now it is just a house. Yes, some memories linger, but I haven’t lived there since I was 18, so I have little emotional attachment to the surroundings. I think that’s a good thing. I hope my children feel the same when they have to dispose of the materialism I leave behind, but I also hope they do have some attachment for a few of the things I’ve collected. Sometimes I don’t think either of them have a sentimental bone in their body, and it’s all my fault.  I raised my girls to be independent and the rough edge of that kind of upbringing is to not get attached to anything.

The following months will be full of new adventures as we four children absorb or discard my parent’s belongings. I’m sure this won’t be the last time I tell you about the emotions that may or may not hit me. It’s been my experience emotional things come out at totally unrelated times.

Photos Protect the Good Times

I sit here in front of a blank screen not sure of what to write today. This week was full of activities and emotions that put me to bed early and drained my brain. Right now, everything I could tell you seems too trivial.

Independence Holiday will never be the same for me again; you see, we buried my father on July 3.  I didn’t feel like going to parades or fireworks. I didn’t feel anything but emptiness this year. I know it will get better as time heals the raw wound, but I’m an orphan for the first time in my life.

Being without parents is strange. I never thought I would have such feelings because for many years my parents pushed me away in favor of other children, and I wasn’t strong enough to push back. Whenever I tried, I always felt like the loser, so eventually I gave up. I would never reach their standard for me, so I grew up and set my own standard.  I know that sounds petty, and maybe it is, but I never had a closeness with my mother and my father followed in her footsteps.

His death dredged up emotions I realized will subside given enough time. The hurts of the past will fade away, and I’ll remember only the good times as I look at the photos that remain after their deaths. Unless your a professional photograph looking for art, most photos are taken during the happy times in life. I don’t think I have one photo where someone is crying. I don’t even think there is one photo of people frowning. Maybe that’s because before the snap of the shutter, we all say and think, “Smile!”

And maybe that’s how it should be. We should dwell on the happy times. In the end, it’s all we have left.

Miracles Never Cease!

flowers 003My world is perfect today. I mean it. PERFECT! The weather is sunny, warm, breezy. The birds are chirping. The house is quiet and serene. And for the last week, miracles have come into my life–one after another.

I told you about the fixes to our money situation, but that pales compared to the news I got yesterday. Believe it or not, my Dad is NOT DYING! I kid you not. His failing kidneys have fixed themselves and through proof of a blood test, his kidneys are functioning normally. Everyone is flabbergasted.

Of course, he’s still got cancer, and he’s very weak because he’s been in bed for over two weeks, but who wouldn’t be? I tell you, this man is amazing. He’s shooting for his 90th birthday.

We all thought his rebound was temporary, except for Dad. He complained the hospital staff didn’t do anything for him. He complained they didn’t take him for a walk or do any therapy. He rejected the morphine that was ordered. Hospice patients typically don’t do such things, do they?

So, now he is being moved to the nursing home for 30 days to regain his strength. There he’ll have company all of the time because through various stays he’s gotten to know the staff. He told me the people there are nice to him and he didn’t mind staying there for short bits. After he gains his release, he’ll go back home with home health care nurses coming to check in on him.

That’s the real miracle in all of this. The human spirit calls the shots. He’ll go home; and if he wants to, he’ll die on his own terms. No one deserves this more than my father. He’s the hero in my life.

 

On A Soapbox About the Medical Industry

Hospital-entrance-signYesterday was a gorgeous June day. Perfect weather and Ken felt strong enough to go out in the afternoon. so we got in the car and took a little trip. We spent the afternoon visiting my Dad and our friend, Patrick, at the hospital.

My Dad is still with us. Dying is such an interesting process. Two weeks ago, I thought he was taking flight on angel wings, but yesterday he was watching a baseball game on the television. He has rallied so much, the hospital is requiring him to leave. Yeah. You read that right. Dad has to go somewhere else. Like he can catch a bus to go somewhere to do his dying business.

The poor man is too weak to sit in a chair. His breathing is so heavy he gasps for air when he does the slightest movement, and the damn hospital is making him leave. Unbelievable! It seems the hospice care unit doesn’t make enough money, so they do this to dying patients when they deem their stay has been too long. Because my Dad hasn’t died on their schedule, he is being sent away when he needs the care most. It’s true. Money makes the world go ’round and the rest be damned.

Deep down, my Father is hoping to go home. I think once my sister arranges a 24-hour hospice nurse for him, he will feel safe and ready to die in the corner of the world he built with his own hands. He’ll be surrounded by pictures of his loved ones, and he’ll have  familiar things surrounding him. I hope for his sake, my sister can arrange for him to go home. I know he will be happier there than a nursing home.

Another person we love is also in the hospital, so after my Dad feel asleep for an afternoon nap, we got into the elevator and went to the second floor to see Patrick. This year has been so difficult for him. He’s suffering the mean stage of Type l diabetes and has had several surgeries, has had to go on dialysis, and has had complications with medications. Because things haven’t gone exactly as the doctors have anticipated, he’s suffered for it.

Medicine doesn’t seem to be an exact science, does it? There’s a human spirit which has some say in our fate, and unfortunately, it seems the medical “INDUSTRY” doesn’t recognize that factor. Just because a person doesn’t fit into a preordained medical box, they are pushed aside as if it were their fault. Too bad we can’t go back to the days when older people were respected and their doctors knew there was more to good health than medication and test results. There was human empathy and medicine was a  profession.

What’s It All About?

cropped-sunrise.jpgI typically don’t write about religion or politics because no matter what is said an argument will ensue. Today, I’m breaking that rule because I met someone yesterday who raised some pretty heavy questions, which I’m still contemplating this morning.

The scene took place at my father’s bedside in the hospital. The girl was one of my father’s neighbors. She brought her 10 year old son and a cute squishy soft stuffed animal to keep my Dad company as he waits for death to come.

After I introduced myself and Melissa sat down beside me, she had a lot of questions about my father’s situation. I’m sure many people do, but they are afraid to ask, but I got the impression that Melissa always shares what she is thinking. She seemed surprised my father was awake and alert. She marveled at his sharp memory. But she wanted to know when my Dad was scheduled to die.

Thank God, my father is as deaf as a post. I hoped he was sheltered from Melissa’s questions about how much time was left for him and what was hospice doing to help his death along. You see, since my father has rallied since he first was admitted to the hospital, he believes he’ll see his 90th birthday. For some reason, that milestone has become important to him.

But it is unlikely Dad will achieve that milestone. The kidney cancer is spreading and his kidneys have failed. His heart is so weak, just getting out of bed and stepping into the bathroom took all of his strength.

After I tried to change the subject a few times, Melissa said, “I just don’t get it. Why do people have to suffer to die? What does life and death really mean? Why are we here, anyhow? What’s the point?” Whoa, Melissa—those are very heavy questions. Not exactly bedside conversation.

She looked at me with searching eyes and said, “I’m not religious. I didn’t grow up knowing about God and stuff. I want to believe, but I really don’t know how to go about it.”

At that moment, I knew I met Melissa for a reason. She was looking for something to hang on to. She cared for my Dad and wondered why he just couldn’t pass if there was no hope. So I tried to help her. “Nobody really knows for sure what our purpose is. Scholars and scientists have searched for answers just like you are now. What I can tell you, though, is Jesus taught his followers they could have a personal relationship with God; they didn’t have to have belong to a church, and God would hear you, if you just talk to Him.”

She thought about it for a while. “So, how do I talk to God?”

“Well, I just talk to him like I do when I’m talking with one of my friends. Pretend you’re visiting over a cup of coffee and say what’s in your heart. I use my time in the car to talk to God.”

“Really? I can just talk into the air and God will hear me?”

“Truthfully, you can just think about something, and God will hear you. Whether you believe it or not, God lives within you. We’re all connected to each other that way. That’s why you care about my Dad as much as you do. God brought you here.”

“It really works that way?”

“I believe it does. And that’s all that’s important.”

She nodded and said, “Thanks, Barb. This has helped me.”

I don’t know whether our exchange at my father’s bedside enlightened her. My intention was to relieve her sadness and frustration of losing someone she carried about. Believing in God or the Universe or the Source, is important to most of us. I think we have to believe that there is more than to life than what we understand here. We have to believe that we are everlasting spirits who take on form for a short time and then are released for eternity until we decide to take on form again. I believe I was supposed to be there for Melissa. I hope she finds some of the answers and peace.

 

A Different Memorial Day

memorial dayToday is Memorial Day in the United States. Unofficially, it’s the official start to summer. We suspend all working activities of a Monday to go to parades, have picnics and for some people, travel to a destination far away from home for a vacation. The day is set aside to remember and appreciate the men and women who have died protecting our country. Many of us still do that, but today I find myself using my Memorial Day in a different way.

My father is lying in a hospital waiting for his angel wings. He’s at the end of a long, rich life. He’s dying.

And I’m remembering all the good times I spent with my Dad. Like going to several Christmas tree lots to find the “right” tree to decorate our living room. Like carving the Thanksgiving turkey and giggling as we both snitched little pieces of the juicy meat, while we piled the slices onto a platter for everybody else. Like the  rides we took on a hot Sunday afternoon. Like going to a father-daughter breakfast at church when I proudly sat beside my Dad and he treated me like his date for the day.

I’m feeling lucky I had such a loving father. He was strict, but he never punished with the slap of a belt. He sacrificed for his family in so many ways, and he protected us always. He built us a lovely home with his own two hands. He loved my mother with everything in him. He showed us how to be good people–to love our families, to give to our communities and to be independent.

Even though my father is a World War II veteran, he was never decorated as a war hero. Instead he has a more important distinction; he was my hero. And his time has come to leave, and we both know it. Now we wait until our time together is over. He will breathe his last breath very soon, and I will remember the good times alone.