Month’s Mind

Yesterday, there was a memorial service at the senior community where my parents and, until recently, B’s mom live. They hold one every quarter for residents who have died in the previous three months; this time, there were eight.

This service marked the first official commemoration of Grandma’s death. She did not want to have a wake or funeral; there will be a graveside service later in the spring back in New England.

By coincidence, the service was almost exactly a month after Grandma’s death. It made me think of a Month’s Mind Mass, which is from my Catholic faith tradition. Grandma was not Catholic and the service was not a mass, but it was comforting to me.

The service was the first time I have been a bit teary. I have been so busy concentrating on doing everything that needs to be done and on supporting others that I haven’t really done much mourning myself.

Reaction to loss follows its own path…

Four weeks

Today marks four weeks since Grandma died.

The time has passed in a blizzard of paperwork, phone calls, sorting, packing, and hauling.  As if to add to the surreal sense of time, we had a springtime siege of cold weather and snow, following a winter that was much milder than usual. Had Grandma been alive, she would have heartily disapproved of the turn in the weather. She liked things to proceed in an orderly fashion and was inclined to take inclement weather as personal affront.

One of the hidden blessings in all the sorting and cleaning out has been that we came upon so many reminders of her life. Photos from the decades of her life, including a newspaper clipping of her modeling a fur coat back in the fifties. Playing board games with our children. Writing the weekly menus in calligraphy so that she could stay in practice. Her favorite authors and movies. Her love of decorating for every possible season and holiday, including three drawers of candles in a range of colors to match the decor.

We reached a milestone yesterday. We turned her cottage back over to Good Shepherd Village so that they can ready it for the next resident. Grandma has been the only person to live there, as she moved in shortly after the community opened in fall of 2009. It was bittersweet for B and me to walk in for the last time, having stripped it back to the bare walls and floors, looking much the same as it did when we first saw it.

The window treatments and the dents her furniture had left in the carpets were the only visible reminders that Grandma had made her home here near us for her last six years.

bubbles

Note:  I wrote most of this post last Tuesday, but just got back to finish it in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

It’s a week today since Grandma died. The shock is diminishing and we have carved out a few bubbles of not really normalcy but times when we could focus on something else.

Saturday was my dad’s 91st birthday. B and I took Nana and Paco downtown to meet their youngest grandchild, our niece S, at the bus station. It is only a short jaunt down Interstate 81 from the campus where she is a first-year. We went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, then back to Nana and Paco’s apartment to visit for a bit before we had to bring S to catch her bus back to campus. Paco’s three other grandchildren called during that time, including a skype call from our daughters E and T. It was our first time doing a group call with them. When Paco was growing up, if someone had told him that one day he would be able to communicate with his grandchildren in Syracuse and Honolulu at the same time, he would not have believed it.

Of course, we had not forgotten about Grandma during this time of focusing on Paco’s birthday. After we finished all visiting together on the skype call, B and I went into another room to talk with E and T about how things are going with them as we continue to deal with Grandma’s death. We also discussed trying to schedule a time for the burial later in the spring, which involves trying to work around several commencement dates and long-distance travel.

Another bubble of focusing on something else was Easter vigil on Saturday night. Although the liturgy deals with death and resurrection, it was a way to focus on belief and faith, rather than on my own little recent experience of death.

The third bubble has been the time spent trying to complete my first week of the MOOC I am taking. I was a good student back in the day and apparently my inability to skip out on assignments is still there. I honestly don’t know if I will be able to keep up, but I managed to complete the first week on time.

 

Shock

On Monday, I posted about some re-prioritizing I was doing here at Top of JC’s Mind as I prepared for a busy spring.

Somewhere, the Fates were snickering behind their hands.

Monday afternoon, I wrote poetry with my friends at Sappho’s Circle. Just as I was preparing to drive home, I got a call from B. He was at the hospital, waiting while his mother, known here as Grandma, was in the heart catheterization lab. She had had a heart attack.

I was not far from the hospital and got there as quickly as I could to wait with him.

The cardiologist was able to remove the blood clot that had caused the heart attack; there was no need for a stent. The nurses got her settled into the cardiac intensive care unit and we were able to spend several hours in her room, as she gradually woke from the sedation and B and I answered dozens of medical history questions on Grandma’s behalf.

We left the hospital at about 8:00 PM, with Grandma stable and resting under the watchful eyes of the ICU staff. We all expected a few days in the hospital, maybe a short stay in rehab, and then back to her cottage at her senior living community.

We didn’t sleep well. At 6 AM, B’s cell phone rang. Grandma’s blood pressure had dropped, but they had been able to raise it back to an acceptable level. Then, she became short of breath, but it was difficult to address it. They might need to put in a breathing tube as a short term measure. We dressed and headed to the hospital. It turned out that, as we were en route, Grandma’s heart had stopped.

We waited near the nurses’ station as they continued efforts to revive her, but they were not able to.

Less than 24 hours after her heart attack, Grandma had died.

Shock.

There just isn’t any other word for what we have all been feeling since that moment. Everyone that we have had to tell, everyone who has spoken to us, we are all in shock. “But I just saw her at the movie on Friday.”  “But she was here Monday morning, after her PT session.” “But she was at dinner with her friends on Saturday.”  No one quite seems to be able to wrap their brains around the fact that death can be so quick.

Everyone is grateful that there was not a long period of pain and suffering. It was one of the things that Grandma had feared the most. She loved her cottage in the retirement village and did not want to leave it to live in the Health Center. We are grateful that she did not have to do that.

But we are still in shock.

And we are sad.

B and I have been doing our best to talk to people and deal with paperwork and start sorting and make lists and not miss anything that is important to do.

It’s been less than 72 hours at this point, but it feels so much longer. I have to remind myself what day it is.

And that it is Holy Week for most Christians, including my denomination.

As I write this, it is very early on Good Friday morning.

I had tried to sleep, but couldn’t, so I got up to write this.

Before I go to bed, I want to go to the website for my friend Angie’s memorial fund. It has been eleven years since she died. In 2005, March 25th was also Good Friday.

I don’t quite understand why I am not crying.

It must be the shock.

Saying Good-bye

I am thankful that a hospice newsletter that I was reading referred me to this article entitled:  How to Say Good-bye When Someone You Love Is Dying:  Regrets and Lessons From Grieving Survivors.

I am also thankful that it isn’t information that I need to use right now, but I am grateful to be able to store the link here in this post for a time in the future when I will need to be reminded.

 

Tara Betts is the Poet of the Day!

Tara Betts is featured today in the Poem-a-Day series of the Academy of American Poets!

You can read Tara’s poem “Gentle Collisions” as well as her note on the poem and her bio, see her photo, and click on the audio link to hear her read her poem.

We were blessed to have Tara here for a few years while she earned her PhD from Binghamton University. I met her through Binghamton Poetry Project and Bunn Hill Poets. With her bright, shiny doctorate completed, she headed back to Chicago to teach. We all wish her well but miss her!

When the Circle of Life Feels More Like a Box

A beautiful reflection on grief and friendship from a high school friend who has recently begun blogging.

jazzyjeweljude

IMG_439808736277A dear friend of mine lost his mother this week. The moments of death & grief unfold unexpectedly yet predictably. That is, not knowing when or how they will arrive, they will come. And as a close friend who, as any of us do, wants to help ease the pain, I realize such skill doesn’t always easily come. And maybe it’s not suppose to. I can think of no more solitary journey than that of grief. Being surrounded by love, family and friends cannot, nor should it, alleviate that sacred walk along immortality and mortality, finite and infinite. Life and death. We all breathe it everyday, witness it ad nauseum through news media which desensitizes us with over sensationalism giving little to no regard for the sanctity of life and death. And the most difficult observation while grieving is the harsh realization that life around us marches on. How is…

View original post 227 more words

%d bloggers like this: