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Fearing the Reaper

reaper

Once death hits really close to home, it feels like it never quite leaves.  It’s like a booty call that leaves an item behind to have an excuse to collect it later. I’m not talking about the elderly who have lived long, full lives and it’s not entirely unexpected when the pass.  I’m talking about the under 60 set, like our parents, friends, siblings or even kids. When people are still crafting dreams and are in the middle of their lives, it seems like death swoops them away and their living loved ones are left floundering, stunned from the loss.

I lost my mother 12 years ago.  I was 32, she was 57.  She died of cancer, and while her death at that point was expected due to her illness, her illness itself was a shock to my system.  I never really expected her to die that young, to leave a life not yet fully realized and lived.  If I’m really honest, she told me in a dark moment “I’m not ready to die!” and I believe that she wasn’t.  She had plans, dammit, lots of plans!  While life for the living goes on, a piece of me stayed with her when she died. Like the Jewel song says “there’s a hole in my heart in the shape of you”.  Life continues in its twists and turns, but a little piece of me is held there in time with her. I started to also wonder, would death come after me like it had my mom?

A couple of years ago, and I’ve blogged about it, one of my oldest and dearest friends fell asleep one night and didn’t wake up. His heater malfunctioned and pumped carbon monoxide into his room.  He just never woke up.   His death was a shock to the core, completely unexpected, no sense to it, and heartbreaking for everyone who knew him. At the time we hadn’t spoken for a little while, simply because life had kept us busy and we lived in different parts of the country.  He was my age, and it seemed ridiculous to me that I was headed to a memorial for someone so young.  Death isn’t supposed to come for the young, or at least, the sorta young.

Last month, a friend of mine died. She was just a little older than me.  Her story is a different one.  We had been good friends until she made some life decisions I just couldn’t hang with.  She became a different person, and I think she was tired of some of the baggage I had myself, and we parted ways as friends. She didn’t come for me or do anything horrible to me, she just made detrimental choices for her own life, and I couldn’t have those choices around my kids.  See, here’s the funny thing.  I’m not really a grudge holder.  I also have a relatively piss poor memory, which means I let a lot of stuff go that perhaps I shouldn’t.  (Let me be clear, if someone comes for me or my husband or kids, I will become a beast like no other, and I will stop at nothing until that person stops their shit.) For the most part though, I don’t hold on to ill will.  I don’t stay angry, I just remove myself from the person.  When she died, we hadn’t spoken in years, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t miss the friendship, miss our hours of laughter, and giggle at old jokes.  I miss all of those things.  I’m sad things worked out the way they did, but I can’t have toxic people in my life, so I’ve removed them all.   Honestly, I looked at her facebook today, wishing their were more clues as to what happened to her, and I just felt inherently sad.

Sometimes, you don’t just grieve the person, there are more layers to it than that.  Sometimes you miss the old stories, the laughter.  Sometimes you grieve the hopes and dreams.  Sometimes, you simply grieve the fact that the person will never have a chance to get their shit together.

See, that’s the thing.  Once these people started dying, I became very interested in death.  From the actual science of some of it, to the grief process.  I belong to fb groups for funeral directors and other people in the death business.  I don’t think it’s something I could ever do….it freaks me out on one hand, but on the other I have a fascination with it.  Perhaps the study and conversation about death takes some of the mystery and pain out of it.  Sometimes it’s easier to look at something that saddens you in a way that removes all the emotion and just looks at the science of it all.  It’s not a popular conversation.  I’m that person who is honestly curious how people died.  It’s not polite to ask, of course, but I truly want to know what happened to the person who died most recently.  Do I have a couple of guesses?  Sure.  But the cause haunts me a little.

Maybe it’s because deep down, most of us fear the reaper.  We don’t want life to go before we have seen our life play out.  Even on it’s most boring days, our lives still have the hope of adventure and the unexpected.  One thing I have always told people struggling in life is that “you are only just one small decision from living an entirely different life.”  Nothing is permanent, and we can make different choices to have a different life if we choose.  Some choice are easy, some are devastatingly hard, but the choice remains.  Life is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.  We hope we make good choices.  Sometimes the choices don’t line up he way we hope.  Sometimes the choices aren’t good or bad, they just are.  Sometimes a simple, innocent choice leads the whole story to end.

 

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Everyone deserves a written send off.

I’m currently working on possibly moving my blog to a new domain since my stalker has created fake accounts on this one to get notifications of when I post.  It’s ridiculous I have to do that, but such is life. In the meantime, I’m still going to post here, because frankly, this is my blog, and I’m not bowing down to ridiculousness. I’m even questioning moving it, because I simply shouldn’t have to.  All of that being said, I began this blog to be an outlet for me, to express my thoughts.  Yesterday’s event warranted this post, so I’m posting it.

Yesterday was a tough day, for reasons I was not expecting.  I found out an old friend of mine passed away.  She was only 49.  When you become an adult and your parents and friends start dying, it’s a surreal feeling.  Everyone still feels way too young to die, and honestly, 49 is.

She was one of my close friends for a while.  She could make me laugh until I rolled around on the floor.  We shared a similar, dark, savage humor, and could find the laughter in just about any situation.  She was my friend during some hard times, and she certainly helped get me through it.  I also got her through some devastating times.

After a while, she met a new guy, while still married to the old one, and the new guy came with baggage.  Lots and lots of it, actually.  He was bad news from everything I could see, and I did my best to warn her.  I warned her, I begged her, to stay away from him and all the bad he was bringing along.  You know how it goes though, some girls love those bad boys and their big promises.  Before I knew it, her behavior became erratic.  She became paranoid, angry, and was acting like a totally different person.  I knew she was on drugs, and it was doing some major damage to who she was.  The last “conversation” I had with her was filled with paranoia and anger.  None of it made any sense.

The fact is, I have kids, and I just can’t have that sort of stuff around them.  I’m also grown, busy, and tired and I can’t have it around me either.  These were hardcore drugs.  I also saw her doing some other things that seemed questionable.  I had to bail.

I’ve felt badly over the years that I bailed.  The fact is though, when someone is on heavy drugs, they just aren’t the same person.  No matter what I did, I never would have been able to rescue her.  It had to be her that made her choices to get better.  Nevertheless, I felt sad.  I missed our friendship. I missed the laughter, her good heart, and I wondered why it all ended he way it did.

She ended up running away with the bad boy, I think they may have even gotten married.  Last I heard, he had terminal cancer.  I have no idea if he is even still alive, to be honest. It all just seemed so sad.  Yesterday, I saw she had passed away.  The blurb is short, she was born here on this date, she died in her residence on this date.  That made me even sadder. It seemed there was nobody to properly eulogize her life.  She had been reduced to a blurb.  I sat at my computer and cried. Here was a larger than life soul and all that was there was a 2 or 3 sentence blurb about her birth and death, but the middle, where all the important stuff really was, was missing.  I tried to find a proper obituary, but found nothing.

Everyone deserves a written send off.

I am sad for the end of her life.  I am sad for the end of our friendship.  I know I had to end the friendship, but it doesn’t always make it easier to know she’ll never have a chance to get back to the her that she once was.  It feels like the death of a chance.  I hope she found happiness with her bad boy, even if it came with a lot of baggage, chaos, illness and sadness.

I can surmise how she died, likely one of two ways.  I’ll likely never know for sure, but it doesn’t really matter.  It is what it is, and it’s sad. I’m sad. The past two weeks have been a test of all my emotions, and this one brought the sadness.

 

One Day

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Oneday

One Day.

That’s all it took.  Just one, unimaginable day, and she was gone. I woke up to a call from my father saying I needed to come quickly, as the time had come and she would likely pass away soon.  The problem was, there was no “quickly” about it.  I was a good 5+ hours by car away, and still a good 4 if I tried to take a plane instead.  There was no quick. There was only tears, and fear, and horror as the “should be” 5 hour drive turned into 11 painstakingly slow hours.  I was right near the George Washington Bridge when I got the call.  I was too late. I also had a very long drive ahead.   But I am ahead of myself.

One Day.

That day I got married, and she couldn’t be there because cancer made her so weak she couldn’t travel up.  It was a Justice of the Peace wedding, not at all as I had planned in my youth.  But if my mom couldn’t be there, I didn’t want the big wedding.  I married the love of my life without either of my parents able to be there.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

One Day.

The day my son was born.  The day I truly believe she fought and battled that cancer to be able to be there for.  She couldn’t get there until well after he was born, but she was there.  I remember her telling the nurses to be extra kind to me, because her mum was dying and there was all just so much STRESS when there should have been only happiness.

One Day,

That day my daughter was brought into this world, without her Grandmother there to wonder out loud if she had a curly haired grandchild, and to marvel how pretty and delicate she was.  I remember telling the nurse that I had held it together all day in front of visitors that I was just so heartbroken that my mom wasn’t there to meet this beautiful baby, but I couldn’t hold it any longer.  That nurse called the station to say she would be a while, sat down and let me cry while she held my hand.

One Day.

The day my father finally remarried, and I wrote a lovely speech that thrilled him, smiled for pictures, and made peace with the idea of him making that next step, all while hurting that the change had to take place because she was gone.

One Day.

The day I had my uterus taken out and knew I’d never have another baby for my mom to meet, but that same nurse was working, so I asked for her and thanked her so profusely for what she had done for me to get me through the happiest day that was still tainted with a touch of sadness.

One Day.

That day every year when mothers, including myself, are celebrated and revered, but the day is so bittersweet.  The card displays I walk past, the gift ideas I scroll past online, and the thought of “oooh, she’d love that!” only to know I won’t be buying it because she’s not there to give it to. The day when my husband and kids take me out, and I feel so special, but also a little tinged with the reminder of the loss.

One Day.

That day that I remember how she trusted me to get on my bike and ride to my friend’s, and my son asks me to do the very same thing.  Only this time, I say yes.

A lot can happen in One Day.

Going Out With Fewer Parts Than I Started With

“How do you feel about a hysterectomy?” the Dr asked me.

I blinked quickly a few times, surprised by the question.  Sure, I had some severely heavy bleeding during my periods.  I knew I had fibroids, and they had just found a polyp.  My PMS was getting worse by the month, causing me severe cramping, which I’d never had before, and rage filled mood swings that made me feel unlike myself.  I was done having children, as I’m already of “advanced maternal age”, as I had sadly seen written on my last maternity chart.  But a hysterectomy?  That hadn’t been something that had crossed my mind.  I thought maybe they would do a D&C, or take the polyp out.  No, they wanted to take the whole kit and kaboodle out too.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Initially, the Dr said “we’d leave your ovaries, as they will help prevent things like dementia.  I nodded.  Both of my grandmothers had dementia, and it always frightened me a bit that I might get it too.  My memory is pretty awful as it is, never mind when I grow old!  Keeping the ovaries might help prevent it. Thumbs up to that!

“Oh, wait,” she said, looking at my chart again, “your family history shows a lot of cancer.  Are there really this many people who had cancer?” I nodded.  Both parents, three out of 4 grandparents, a semi estranged uncle who mentioned he had a tumor,  a great aunt.  The odds are working against me.  “We may need to take the ovaries too”, she said.  “Oh great, so it looks like I will possibly get cancer or forget who I am!” I laughed.  I must have looked nervous because she also offered to try to treat the issues I am having with meds for now.

A week in, I hate the meds.  They are some sort of birth control/hormone thing that I struggle to remember taking.  I feel slightly “off” on them and I don’t think they will be a good fit for me long term.  Surgery looks like it may be in the cards.  The only issue is, how does a full time working mom of 2 kids with a husband who is self employed working opposite hours take that kind of time off?  The Drs have said it could be 2-6 weeks.  I think I’ll be on the shorter end of it, as I tend to heal well and have had 2 c-sections before.  After the C sections I was walking and cleaning up (yes, CLEANING!) in no time.  Even still, I am scared of taking that kind of time off.

Not to too my own horn too much, but I am the scheduler, the planner, and the hub of the family.  I manage where everyone needs to be, how they get there, and what they need.  I plan the minutia of the day, keeping everyone in the loop, and calling for help from family when I get stuck.  With my husband’s schedule, most transportation and execution of tasks falls to me.  One of the ways I scare the kids to get stuff done like cleaning their rooms is to tell them I may go on strike.  If Mommy goes on strike, they know things will be chaos.  Taking myself out of the loop for even 2 weeks is going to be a strain on the family.  My husband is awesome and will step up to help. I have also had family offer to help in however they are needed.  I am super lucky to have them.

So there it is.  First there will be genetic counseling to try to get a handle on my genetic risk for cancer.  Based on that, the dr’s will make a recommendation about how much to remove.  I guess the nice thing will be no more heavy bleeding, and also I might even lose a pound or so..lol.

More to come.