Lessons Learned From the Death of My Beloved Son


This morning I walked downstairs and into our great room with a heart and body full of emotions.  My husband’s big comfy chair by the window was back in place after a few weeks of being upstairs in a bedroom.  We had become incapable of helping Rich navigate the stairs as he lost more use of his body so had moved first his bed, and then the hospice bed into that corner by the window.

We all lived an extremely intense few weeks and his stay here in our home was such a gift.  With the help of his wife and my husband, I was given the privilege of being with him in our home for the last six weeks of his life, and my sister came for the last week.   What would I ever have done with her too!  I was privileged, as well, to be able to do every single thing that a mother could do to save her son.

I have lived for many years wishing I could have a “do-over” raising my children.   I loved them but looking back, I didn’t know much of anything about love, about being fully aware and truly and consistently cherishing them while they were learning about life.   Fortunately I’ve been blessed with many years to cherish and love them and they clearly know how much they are loved and valued.

My daughter lived with me until she left home as an adult but when the boys were pre-teen, they went to live with their father and although only a few miles away, and back and forth between our homes, I often regretted my allowing them to leave.  I missed so much.  The little things and also some of their life-forming experiences.   I can remember at least once that each of them didn’t want to stay there after they had left and I could see in later years that it had impacted them heavily, the fact that I had allowed them to go – even though they wanted to be with their Dad.   At the time, he and I felt they should be allowed to decide where they wanted to live.   It had a heavy impact on all of us.

Many years ago, Rich and I talked it through and he said he had peace but that didn’t change the scars and fear of being alone and feeling abandoned that he lived with for the rest of his life.  Perhaps those issues had less power over him- I don’t know.  I have lived with a lot of guilt that I didn’t hold on to them tighter and refuse to let them leave.  Who knows what was the best for them.  I still don’t know.  I do know that over the years, I’ve been blessed with a very close and loving relationship with both of them.

I, along with my other son and my daughter, were with Rich in the hospital in the state where he lived when he was given the heart-wrenching diagnosis of glioblastoma multiformae Stage IV.  You can read his story here.   He and his wife had wanted to move back home – here in Washington State- for several years. Now was the time.  They packed what they could carry in their suitcases and 3 days later we were on the plane home for treatment at Oregon Health Sciences University and then to Compass Oncology.  Rich didn’t live long enough to get into treatment.  Maybe a blessing.   We were furiously fighting for his life but the tumor was on a mission of it’s own.  The tumor won.

He passed on Tuesday and this is Thursday.  I was in an abyss of grief and despair until last night.  I was adjusting to the change in my life – going from the intense life we had all been living for six weeks – every thought, prayer, breath, action included Rich and fighting for his life.  When he came home from the Hospital a week ago on Thursday for hospice care, I was challenged to change my focus – from fighting to accepting and simply making him comfortable.  That was a heartbreaking change in every aspect of my care for him.  It brought me once again to my knees emotionally and physically – in grief and prayer.

I’m so grateful that my sister and Rich’s wife were here to share my final experiences with my son. I couldn’t have done it without either of them.   My two remaining sisters are very close to him.  I know how I would feel if this were one of their children and I know how much they both love Rich and that they were experiencing very close to what I was experiencing during his final days.  There is huge comfort in shared experience.   Thank you!  I’m so grateful to you, Lynda, for being here.  I know Carlieta would have been here too if at all possible.

I had incredible joy and many “grateful” opportunities seeing my three children together during these weeks – nurturing, loving, caring for one another.   I know very well who they are but it touched me deeply to see them together.  Their living separately as young children had no impact at this point.  That was one of my concerns and pictures of a fractured family.  But this proved to be family at it’s finest.  I saw healing at a deep level for them and I know it was for me.  I am so blessed.

I have watched Rich go through many years of incredible pain, physically and emotionally.  My other son has navigated authentically and courageously through his life challenges and my daughter is a very courageous colon cancer survivor.  All three of my children are my great role models.  Their outlook on life, the way they navigate and function in life, their deep beliefs – somewhat differing but tolerant and strong, inspire me.  They are truly my greatest teachers, along with their children and grandchildren.  I’m so blessed and grateful to have these people in my life.

I’ve learned, on a whole new level, about courage, trust, faith, humor, diversity, loyalty, compassion and truth.

Last night and this morning, I have grief, of course, but that really comes in small waves.  I’ve been given the gift of peace and comfort.  I still don’t know what I believe or how this has come to me.  After the last few days when I’ve felt lost and searching, trying to live what I think is my belief, failing and faltering,  I’m given this incredible peace and feeling of being more deeply grateful than I can ever remember.  And yes even joy!

I still can’t say that I’m able to live my belief but I do know this for sure.  I’m writing it down to remind myself when I need to…we are nothing more than visitors on this earth.  We are gifts and lessons to others.  My children are first and foremost a soul that I’m privileged to know in a special way but they are not mine.  I cannot hold on to them – I simply get to touch them and love them.  And when it’s time for them to move on, I can do nothing but give the best send-off possible and be grateful that I was so privileged.

I’m doin the Grateful Dance.  I was entrusted with that great soul in my life for a little over 54 years.  How deeply blessed am I.

“On the Children” by Khalil Gibran

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

 

Christmas with Mom


This post is written as an entry to a  Christmas With Mom Contest – http://warnerwriting.wordpress.com/christmas-with-mom-contest/.  Join in the fun!  100 words or less by 12/5/11…

My sisters and I knew what we were getting for Christmas.  Every year.  We never had a Christmas tree – Dad’s decision.   But Mom loved Christmas!

Each year, Mom bought each of us one present and it was always clothes.  And she always hid it in the same place – for as log as I can remember.   And we always peeked.

We could hardly wait to open our gifts, our excitement not at all diminished.  But it was not because of finally knowing what we were getting – but that we could finally  wear it.

She never knew….

My Life, My Mortality… and My Loves


I got some sleep last night – Yay!  And today is brighter…

Writing my letter to Dr. Oz (thank you Sister – for suggesting that I do it) clarified my plight – to myself.  I’m so grateful for some clarity.  Now I have hope again – that I can deal with my fear and get my life back.    I was suddenly able to see the part that fear is playing in my health issues.

I recognize clearly that my fear is about death.  My death.  It’s also in some strange way about the people that I’ve lost in the last 5 years.  I realize that I’ve never grieved them.  I realized yesterday that thinking about them is so painful that I avoid even letting them into my mind.  When they slip into my thoughts, I keep it at a very superficial level – and quickly change my thoughts to something else.

One of my doctors told me that she thought that these losses were having a part in my health issues and that she feels I have some grieving to do.  I heard her say it, I listened, I went thru some motions of grieving but I didn’t really get the connection.  Now I do.

I’m thinking about them today with joy and tears.  I’m honoring them.  I’m missing them deeply.  I miss Dad and my three sisters at a whole new level.  I’m remembering what I loved about them.  I’m remembering fun, funny memories – one of the many times we sisters came from different directions and met for lunch and a few hours together.  Our human pyramid picture.  Our sisterhood reunions. Shucking corn for a dinner.  Posing for pictures together.   What I learned from each of them is such a part of who I am.

And my husband, Dale.  We had such a rocky marriage and a deep unshakable love.  Our friendship lasted thru a divorce until his death in 2007.  He loved me.  Completely.  I loved him in the same way.  We had a bond that neither of us knew how to break – or even wanted to.   It wasn’t a consideration.  I didn’t realize until after his death that he was the reason that I could never move on into a marriage with another man.  Neither of us remarried.  But we didn’t live together either.  We were there for each other – right up to the last phone call the last day of January,  hours before his assumed death.  He lived by himself and when he didn’t return several phone calls, I was alarmed.  When I didn’t hear from him on Valentines Day – a yearly gesture even after our divorce many years ago – I knew something was terribly wrong.  I called the police who entered his home and found that he had passed – they estimated about two weeks earlier.  I handled his estate per his wishes.  I’ve avoided thoughts that he’s gone – always.  Not today.  Occasionally I’ve started to go there and recoiled as quickly as if I had touched a red hot wood stove!  Today, I’m remembering him…so many things.   There were very painful and difficult times in our lives but in many ways he was such a rock for me.  I feel way too vulnerable without him in my world.  I miss him terribly.  So much love!

And Peter.  My love.  We were in each others’ lives for 7 years.   Wow could he dance!   He knew how to have fun.  He was an old school Hispanic man and was such a character!  My Latin Love….  He loved taking care of me – cleaned my home, cooked, pressed my clothes,  was a lot of the reason that I was able to be very successful in my business.  He took care of many things in my life that allowed me the time to focus.  And did I mention fun!  I’m remembering the Las Vegas evenings, all doors open to my outside living area.  He loved cooking in the outdoor kitchen – for everyone, palm trees swaying, warm evenings, music playing and  NO BUGS!!!  We drank wine.  We loved.  We laughed.   He was so incredibly handsome to me – his dark skin, hair –  and bold, warm eyes.  He was gallant and classy.  He sang songs to me in Spanish – all of the time.  He ended up battling major health issues for two years that led to his death.  With such courage.   He wrote love letters to me.  I haven’t read them for a very long time – much too painful.  But I’m going to re-read them as I can, starting today.  Yes, of course there were difficult times too.  But I grieved those at the time.  Today I’m grieving and missing the sweetness, the love, that man.  Towards the end of his life when he was on a respirator, he wrote “Sin Ti” on a piece of paper with x’s and o’s.   I still have it tucked in with his love letters.  He used to sing that song to me.   I miss you so much, Peter!  You made your mark in my life.   Thank you!

And my sisters.  I’m going to write about “The Sisterhood” in another post.  I miss them so much.  They were my three older sisters and my link to so much of my history.  I wish I could have thought of more questions about how they remembered our lives before they left.  There’s no one to answer those questions now.   I know that they each knew how important they were in my life – no regrets there.  I just miss them.   It’s almost impossible to comprehend that they’re so gone!   Today I’ll remember them…

I’ll remember them all.  With so much love and gratitude!  I had – and have – some very special people in my life – some great loves!

And maybe, if I grieve my loss of them, I won’t have to worry about losing myself?  If I honor their lives, I can live mine – fully – without fear?   If I accept and remember their lives – and deaths, will it help me accept my eventual great adventure?  Without fear?  Will it help me live my life without fear?  hmm…

Is the doctor right?

Amidst the grief, I have my joy back today!  I’m starting to let go

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Joy, Letting Go