You should… It can kill you or a loved one.
Even as I celebrate my daughter’s pregnancy and my son’s imminent marriage, I got terrible news last night. My favorite uncle, brother to the father I’ve been grieving on this blog, has pancreatic cancer. The very same cancer that took my father’s life. Lethal and fast moving. And, even though I wasn’t present when my father died, I now know it was a very painful death. A death my uncle witnessed. I feel sick at heart over what he has in store for him. What he knows he has in store for him. I always imagine, no matter where my illness takes me, that the doctors would give me enough painkillers that there wouldn’t be much pain. Apparently that’s not always the case.
This is the uncle who taught me to ice skate with my beloved twin cousins, Lenny and Joe, both already dead before their time.. He took us on wild sledding rides, the three of us screeching in terrified glee. He taught us to dive into our pool head first, hands properly pointed above our heads. To make a game of raking autumn leaves and watching him set fire to them…then toasting marshmallows, carefully, his hand on our wrists to be sure we were safe. He taught the twins, already raucous, to make practical jokes at my expense. He was the one who made noise on the roof for Santa on Christmas Eve, complete with bells for sound effects. Who truly enjoyed the company of us three little rug rats. And most importantly, who took us off the hands of our stressed out parents and provided a safety haven whenever we needed it most.
I want to run to him and see him, its been years. I will go with my aunt, his sister,when she is over the shock and ready to plan our flight. I confess I am terrified. It already feels so like what we went through with my father. I want to be strong and supportive but I’m afraid the similarities will curl me into a useless emotional fetal position..I keep telling myself that he’s not my father. He’s my uncle. I keep telling myself that he is 75. My father was 53. I tell myself that we all have to die of something. As he has said, he’s had a good run.
It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help at all. My roots are dying one by one, as nature intended. Thank God a new one is sprouting in my daughter’s womb.
THE MEASURE OF GRIEF
Twenty-five years ago today my father died.
Even in my dreamless sleep I knew it.
I stumble out of bed
where is my husband?
I want to hug him
hug him so tightly
but he is gone
gone to work
to work his ass off.
I worry about his heart.
I want to hug my father
(who worked his ass off).
I want to hug him
hug him so tightly
but he is gone
gone to rest
to rest in peace.
I’d rather he were here, God forgive me.
Yes. I would rip him right out of paradise if I could
to have him back here with the whole family
loving living YES , even suffering
but right alongside us where I think he belongs.
A quarter of a century.
One-fourth of a whole.
A quarter coin is so small really.
A hole the size of a quarter
is still in my heart
big enough to kill me.
by Psychscribe ©2009
Image copyright Jupiter Images 2008
Myself? I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve done in this life. It took me a long time to grow up. Very long. Through one marriage and into the second, where I finally, finally grew my wings. (Thank to the snuggy, supportive nest my Alph made for me.)
I went back to college pregnant with my second child and delivered her between semesters. Twenty five years later that child became my colleague and partner in our psychotherapy practice. Imagine that?!! The joy I feel from this is beyond measure or description. But more than that, I love that we are able to give our services to those who cannot afford it. Kind of like Robin Hood. We get the max from our affluent clients and give it back, time wise, to our less fortunate ones.
I’ve learned to enjoy fun. I never played at all until a few years ago when I looked at some application which asked me to list my hobbies. I didn’t have any. For me, an A type, learning, seminars, learning, work were all I ever wanted to do. (Tightly held secret: we shrinks rarely apply to ourselves the very things we try to teach our clients.) It so bothered me that I thought: what have I always wanted to try? For me? That turned out to be decoupage. Hours and hours of learning how to do it, but playing, enjoying the process, the creativity. Creativity had always been what sustains me, but I’d put it aside in my quest for achievement. Now I’m making jewelry. Another joy in the process. If my efforts produce lovely results, great! If not, I still had fun. I’m also waiting for my new camera to arrive (thank you, Amber, for putting the bug in me!) because I’m longing to express myself by capturing the other love of my life: nature.
If I should die today, my career goals would have been accomplished. I would die knowing that I became the therapist I always wanted to be, who helped a lot of people. The ones whose heartfelt thanks cannot begin to be measured and who I will never, ever forget. The ones who trusted me with their pain and their wounds, who inspired me with their courage, and who taught me so much.
Have I become the woman I wanted to be? Well that, too, was an evolving process. First I wanted to be a homemaker and stay at home mom. When that changed and I wanted to get an education and a career, the trouble started in my first marriage. That’s not what he signed on for. And in all fairness, that’s not what I’d originally agreed to. We were so young. We just couldn’t navigate these choppy waters. We were only 21 when we married for goodness sake! Babies! What did we know about relationships? Giving?Flexibility? Growth and change? Nothing. Nothing at all.
It was a very painful divorce. Volatile, yet so sad. But as Carol Burnett once said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
My onset of lupus and subsequent stroke have actually been blessings too. Not a life lesson I would have chosen, but they were not exactly electives in the school of my life. I’ve had to learn to rely on others which has been a humbling experience. A giver all my life (parentified child) it has been hard to learn to receive. Also…very nice…and quite beautiful. And, of course, having come so close to death, I’ve learned to appreciate every moment of every day, and to thank God for the gift of my life.
I read somewhere once that we’re bound by our fate only as long as we accept the values that determine it. I never forgot that. In fact, reading that, and getting it, is probably what changed my life. I got rid of my culturally imposed role of what a woman should be, and I learned to define myself. My self. MY self.
I learned that personal authenticity is my primary value, and always will be.
So if I should die today, I would die happy with my journey. Happy that I died as ME.
What if today is the last day of my life?
These are the kinds of things you think of when you’ve had a stroke. I’m having symptoms which are scaring me, but I’ve spoken to my internist, and my rheumatologist’s nurse. Neither thinks its an emergency. She’s comfortable waiting for the rhuematologist to get to the office in a couple of hours to run my symptoms by him.
But I’m thinking it might be an emergency. For that matter, anything in life might be. A car accident. A heart attack. Getting struck by lightening. I got struck by my stroke four years ago this month, actually. You don’t exactly expect these things. But once you’ve had a stroke, and you read the statistics for recurrence, you become acutely aware of your physical vulnerability and of course your own mortality.
Most days I remember to thank God that I’m alive and alert and have no noticeable loss of physical function, from which He miraculously spared me.I thank him for my family, and my work, and for every beautiful aspect of the four seasons as I experience them, day by day.
Of the legions of doctors I’ve met with for my various health issues, no one can believe that the perfectly normal looking, active professional woman sitting before them matches the carnage of a brain in the MRI also sitting before them.
But today I’m more focused on wondering if today is the last day of my life. No one, of course, knows the date of their death. Yet every living creature, on one particular point in the line of time, wakes up one morning… and no longer exists the next.
Think about that. Wakes up one morning and no longer exists the next.
So feeling as I am this morning, I have to ask myself…what if? And what comes to mind, first, is that I have not managed to get into a personal relationship with God. With Christ. Other Christians talk about it but I don’t know what that means. (If my sister is reading this I’m in deep trouble!)
A personal relationship with the Almighty???? I picture the Almighty Presence, that gorgeous glow in the sunshine, spilling through the tree leaves and the clouds. I feel Him, and I see Him, in the wind. I pray to him and to His son. I thank Them. I beseech Them. I acknowledge them. But..it doesn’t feel personal…. more like wonder from afar…
The Christians I hang out with “walk closely” with the Lord. I go to bible study with them but truthfully it feels like The Emperor’s new clothes when they talk of their relationship with the Lord, of their experiences of deep connection with Him. I myself have felt a deep connection to nature, His creation, since I was a child. ..But that’s not what they’re talking about…. So if today is the last day of my life, and I go to meet my Maker, will He welcome me? Will he know me?
I have no doubt of heaven. None. I know. I’ve had signs. I feel it in my soul to be true that I will be going home again. And my earthly family members who have passed before me will be waiting there to welcome me…with much rejoicing, to use a biblical word.
Then there are my husband and kids. But I’m getting tired now, and that’s another whole post. (There will be a Part 2 to this post not long from now.)
And since I started writing this, I got a message from my doctor not to worry. No emergency. Thank you God that its not my time today.
At least I think not.
I am so ashamed to report that until I read VanessaLeigh‘s post today, I had no idea…
I lost three family members to AIDS. My Uncle Joe died in his 40’s. He was a handsome, brilliant professional actor and singer who never did make it to the big time. He never had the time. Also, in those days, he “passed”…but not enough… God what a guy magnet he was! I remember he visited my husband and I when we lived in Italy and we practically had to barricade the doors to protect him! Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea. He was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, my mother’s dearest friend, wild, witty, best known for his role as one of the original four cabaret singers in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. When he died, they had a tribute to him that I will never forget at The Village Gate in Manhattan, where the show ran for years. I was so proud to be his niece. I was always a bit in awe of him and so I loved him from afar. Uncle Joe, I pray that you’re alive and well and living in Paradise with my father and yours.
Lenny and Joe, my own age and my cousins on the other side of the family, will be harder to write about, because I loved them more. They were my age and we grew up together. They started drugs at the age of twelve which ultimately led to them dying of AIDS, also in their 40’s. Lenny was the proverbial chick magnet. He was a swaggering, gorgeous, macho early Sly Stallone look alike. He was bitingly sarcastic (anyone who reads my blog knows I hate sarcasm) but I could read him…I knew him…I saw his facade…his emptiness and no clear sense of his own identity. The same emptiness drove his identical twin brother. Joe was the less aggressive one. A goofier sense of humor. A one girl kind of guy. Rough around the edges, both of them. Street smart but no interest in academics, ever. Their twinship, rather then feed a closeness, seemed to drain both of them of their psychological life’s blood. Almost as if there weren’t enough for both of them. God I miss them. My roots. We were the first three kids in a huge Italian extended family. We all lived together in a 3 family house until I was about 6. There was a built in pool which of course needed adult supervision in order for us to jump in. So we would start the garden hose and put drops of water on our foreheads in order to get someone to take pity on our overheated bodies. On Christmas Eve we listened in awe as reindeer and bells clattered across the roof of our house, courtesy of our ingenious uncles.
I started life with two older “brothers”, and now they’re both gone. There but for the grace of God went I.
Lenny and Joe, I will always, always miss you. I will always be grateful for the love and the roots and the FUN we had as kids, before the drugs and the plague took you. And I will ALWAYS associate the magic of Christmas with you, and remember the sound of those bells on the roof.
Most of all, I pray that, like my Uncle Joe, you’re in Paradise with my father and yours.
And so, my friends….who would you like to memorialize here?
I just read an article about a California surgeon facing trial in an organ donation case. He is accused of hastening the death of a very ill man in order to harvest his organs. The man’s mother sued the hospital and got a $250,000. settlement, though the hospital admitted no wrongdoing…hmmm…
It seems so morally admirable to be an organ donor, at least in theory. Like giving blood. But I confess that its exactly for this reason that I said no when asked recently if I wished to be an organ donor. I would not want to live on life support, but I frankly don’t trust anyone except my loved ones to make the decision to pull the plug. At that point, I would be more than glad to help someone else live a longer or better life as I leave this one. (Not that anyone could even use my diseaed organs, I don’t think. Maybe my eyes..)
But I don’t want medical staff, or anyone else who doesn’t love me, speeding me along on my journey for purposes of expedience.
How about you? Are you a donor? Or not?
I read a moving essay in today’s NY Times, by a man who might not even be alive today if he hadn’t remembered the well publicized facts and symptoms of Russert’s heart attack. He notes that apparently many, many men are arriving in emergency rooms, better safe than sorry.
Its so worth reading…
I don’t mean for this topic to be depressing, truly I don’t…but sometimes I just get tired of being so upbeat, you know? For the first three years after my lupus diagnosis, nothing much happened… it was managed by medication and I was in blissful denial. I started a full time counseling practice with my daughter and I felt as normal as anyone else…excited and happy..but the last 6 months or so my flares (for the uninitiated this means active symptoms where you feel sick, weak, achy, exhausted, foggy, and worst of all cannot go to work) have been increasing in frequency. From a couple of times a year to every couple of months. From what I have read of other people’s experiences, this is usually the beginning of the long, sad road into disability.
However its not disability that’s on my mind so much as having to leave this world before I get to meet and enjoy my grandchildren. My paternal grandmother died of heart disease in her 40’s when I was four, so we really never got to know each other. But I was named for her. I remember my father frequently taking me to the cemetery and seeing my name on her gravestone. It didn’t frighten me, but did seem to be a connection of sorts. The same name, the same short life. Was her fate my fate? Then my father, my hero, died in his early 50’s of cancer, leaving behind two very young and much adored grandchildren. At every life passage they’ve gone thru, I have missed him and wept for all that he and they missed..
So its hard not to worry that their destiny is mine… that I have some sort of destiny gene that will call me early from this life. I have no fear of death and passing, because I believe in my God and the hereafter…but I do so fear having to miss the rest of my life, and being an active grandmother… (They have not even been conceived yet, but my daughter promises me they will be working on it immediately following their wedding in September )
I fear the loss of all I yearn for.
Please Lord, not yet.
Ok, this story outrages many people including me. Did you read about it? It happened out in Wisconsin. The parents of an 11 year old girl let her die, believing in the power of prayer to heal her. She died of complications from diabetes. Now, I also believe in the power of prayer. Therefore I believe in God. But I also believe that God has helped humankind to discover medicine and surgical procedures to help do His work. These parents are not a part of a fanatic religioius sect, in fact they are not affiliated with any particular religion, so you can’t blame cultural conditioning on their choice. What can you blame? I don’t know, but as a parent one thing I know for sure: despite their assertions even now that they believe they did the right thing, they will be blaming themselves until the day they die.
My question to you: should they be punished by our legal system?
Here is the full story: http://blog.beliefnet.com/news/2008/03/parents-pick-prayer-over-docs.php
This kind of thing is pretty scary even though it had a happy ending. The young man was pronounced dead four months ago. Parents had finally given permission to harvest his organs. They did one last test as parents were paying final respects and finally got reflex responses. This week he was on a morning talk show telling the host that he had heard and comprehended the doctor pronouncing him dead but could not communicate otherwise. Can you even imagine??????????
You can read the full story here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080324/ap_on_fe_st/not_dead_1
My father died of pancreatic cancer. Six weeks from diagnosis (Christmas Eve, thank you very much) to death two months later. The thing of it is, its so hard to detect. What I did not know, until reading this article, is that pancreatic cancer can run in families and be detected with the test this doctor has discovered:
amberfireinus‘s sympathetic response to my most recent post about the NY therapist murder prompted me to write a post on an issue which has always infuriated me, rather than commenting on her comment as we bloggers do…
In most of these United States, for some reason a “crime of passion” gets less legal consequences than one which is premeditated. The legal system drops the heinous act of taking someone’s life down a few degrees .So apparently if someone goes ballistic with jealous rage its more ok…understandable legally …. than someone who commits cold blooded, pre-meditated murder. And I’m sorry but that is usually a male who commits the crime of passion, so I can’t help but wonder about the sympathy of the predominately male legal system which makes these laws…(Did you know that police officers have one of the highest rates of perpetrating domestic violence?)
A “crime of passion” usually translates into someone walking in on their loved one in bed with somebody else and killing her and the lover. I don’t know, call me nuts, but people are still dead, aren’t they? And ragers usually have had rage problems long before they kill in “passion”. Did anyone ever hear of …uh…dare I say therapy….or anger management????
This is the man being held for second degree murder of that therapist in recent news . (Hello????? He allegedly butchered her with a cleaver? Second degree??????) It now appears he may not have been her patient. I am comforted by this, though I am still getting a panic button for my office. Ugh…this whole thing has shaken me to the core….and such sorrow for her family…
Well, this article pretty much validates my point in my previous post about screening potentially violent clients (to put it mildly). Still, who’s to know if she didn’t do this and assess him to be safe? You can never really know…Anway, I for one have ADT coming over to give me an estimate for some panic buttons for myself and my therapists. Geez….makes me feel so sick when I think of that poor woman. I mean, we do go into this field to help people…what an ending…
“Seeing something for the last time is almost as beautiful as seeing it for the first time.” Bernie Siegel
I’m not feeling depressed anymore so this is not meant to be morbid or anything. I just think its way cool. When my father was dying we had lots of good talks. In one of them I asked him to always be watching out for me in the hereafter and he said “Just keep looking over your shoulder and I will always be there.” So the other day I emailed my husband that I wasn’t feeling very connected lately. And he emailed back, “Just keep looking over your shoulder and I will always be there.” !!!! (He does not know my father ever said this to me.) Now there are two ways you could look at this. The first is simply unaccceptable. The second is that my father sent me a lovely message through my wonderful husband. I choose the second…and that feels great!
For me, its the image of going home…to everyone I’ve loved and who have passed before me. And I imagine realizing, the moment I get there, that all the grief and mourning and pain of their loss was really for nothing….because it was but an instant in the scheme of eternity….and because they…and therefore I…really am in a better place… and maybe those people who died young, who I felt were cheated out of a normal life span, were actually rewarded by getting out of here early…