Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hard Goodbyes, Continued

Catholic Cemetery, St. Augustine, FL
I'm not surprised I ended my week with the crud.  It's more than a cold, not as bad as the flu.  Just enough to have me hunkering down with a kleenex box, some warm soup and a good book all weekend.

For me, there's a definite link between stress and illness.  It's not always true, but it's amazing how often I come down with something during or just after a stressful week.  And, for me, last week definitely qualified as stressful.

Charlie's funeral on Monday was a wonderful sendoff for a sweet man.  As his fourteen year-old son stood at the front and read, with clear eyes and voice, a poem his dad had written for him, I was blubbering in the back of the room.  As they stated so well in his obit, 'his leaving has left a Charlie-sized hole in the universe that will be hard to fill'.  I will miss him.  But, I think, I hope, I pray that his parting won't leave a void as big in the lives of his children as Mom's did in mine.  Young Mack will not need to take on the sort of responsibilities that I did - his mother will be able to support him, he will be able to finish living his teenage years as a teen.  A teen keenly missing his Dad's strong and steady guide light, but a teen all the same.  

Walter's mother's funeral later in the week was a different kind of sad.  Here was a woman who had lived long and loved well.  While the sting of parting was still there - it's always hard to say goodbye to those we love - there was more of a sense of a job well done; a life well-completed before she moved on to those distant shores.

So many goodbyes, so many tears.  So much laughter and smiling through the tears because of the joy of having known these good people.  I've always been told death is not the end; that we will meet those we love again.  I can only hope so.  Because I already have a TON of stories saved up that I'd love to share...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Goodbyes Are Hard

Lake of the Ozarks, 2009

I found two quotes worth adding to my list of 'quotes I'd like to try to remember' relating to death this week.  Apropos, since its chill touch has touched my life and the lives of those I love twice more this past week:

The late F.W.H. Myers used to tell how he asked a man at a dinner table what he thought would happen to him when he died. The man tried to ignore the question, but on being pressed, replied: "Oh well, I suppose I shall inherit eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn't talk about such unpleasant subjects."
-Bertrand Russell, philosopher, mathematician, author, Nobel laureate (1872-1970)

We sometimes congratulate ourselves at the moment of waking from a troubled dream; it may be so the moment after death. 
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, writer (1804-1864)

Charlie, the friend I wrote about last week, died this past Wednesday.  His lungs finally quit.  His daughter, who had gone back to college that morning, got the call right after her classes let out.  She raced the three hours back to Kansas City, and got here about an hour before he died.

Walter's mother was 80-something.  She was tired, and quit eating just a couple of days before she, too, left this world for the next.

Talking to both families as I delivered cookies (when in doubt, bring food!), I was struck how we never think today will be the day.  We think there will be time to bring over those favorite stuffed green peppers next week.  And when we aren't granted that time, we are shocked and angry and feel robbed and full of regret for things left unsaid and undone; gestures unnecessary now that it's too late.

I remember the feeling when Mom was so sick.  Yes, she was sick, and was going to die soon - but not today.  So, when the news came, though it was sorta expected, I was still in shock.  I still wanted to <fill in the blank> with her.  I wanted to say I love you one more time.  I wanted to hold her hand, tell her I was sorry for all the times I hadn't been a good enough daughter, thank her for all she'd taught me while she was able.  I was relieved she was now free from the pain that had dogged her every breath, but selfishly, I wished she had waited just a few more days, so we would have been able to say good-bye.  (Her condition had turned suddenly earlier in the week, and they'd come and rushed her off in an ambulance while we, her children, looked on from a distance, scared and uncertain.  They told us we could see her soon to say what we wanted to say - but soon never came.)

Since my surgeries earlier this year, I have been more aware of the fragility of my own life - the beautiful moments are all the more precious because on another road, they might not have ever been.  Yet, already, I find myself caught in the frustrations of daily living, dwelling on the negative, forgetting to look for the Beauty that is everywhere God Is, and thus is everywhere.

God, help me to dwell not on life's frustrations, for they will always be around and screeching for my attention, but to dwell instead on life's beauty, even on those days it is not apparent.  Because I don't know when my days will be done.  And I sure would kick myself if, on that day, I'd noticed only the gray of the sky, and forgotten to note how vibrant the yellow fall leaves appeared against their drab backdrop.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Mixed News Week

Jellyfish - Omaha Zoo
This has been a week of ups and downs.

Up - because my daughter and her fiance brought THAT BABY down to see me this past weekend.  She's so CUTE.  I'm pretty sure she misses me, if only because I gave her chocolate to bribe her into liking me.  (Hey, whatever works...)  She's walking, and learning a new word a day.  She loves to go out and to see people and places.  And, she traveled well, which bodes well for my chances of her mom bringing her down to see me again when she gets a chance.  Hectic, tiring - but I loved every minute of their visit.

Down -  I've written here before about how alcohol has affected my family.  I grieve to say it's won this latest round.  Unable to see a way past the dark cloud it brought to his life, my cousin's husband took his life this last week.  I didn't know him well - but the few times I'd met him, I'd liked him.  He leaves my cousin and two college-age boys behind to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move on without his light in their lives.  Damned drink!

And Down and Up - Today, I went to a hospital birthday celebration for a good friend whose lungs are shutting down.  I don't know exactly what's wrong with him, I didn't ask.  Whatever it is, it's not good.  In spite of that, in spite of the oxygen tubes, when I walked in, he was alight with joy as he looked at his daughter and her friends singing bluegrass music - they'd come down from Nebraska for a  birthday surprise.  What a wonderful gift, what beautiful love.

It's all brought just a bit of much-needed perspective to my musings.  The cycle of life, brightened by family and love, darkened by despair and loss.  "It is what it is", as my oxygen-tethered friend told me.  No guarantees, except that death will one day visit us all.  There's joy between here and there.  Sometimes it's hard to find, and sometimes it arrives smiling and playing a fiddle like there's not a cloud in the world.

Dale - May you now see clearly.  May you rest safely in the arms of God.  May your time be filled with Light and the presence of God's Peace.

Charlie - Thank you for reminding me once again to look for and savor Joy - whenever it happens to stop in for the day.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

People Everywhere!

Flamingos - Omaha Zoo - Oct 2012
It is slowly dawning on me that part of my problem with fatigue may very well stem from the fact my office got moved this summer.

I used to have a private office; now I'm tucked into the back corner of the tech room.

I don't mind the change - it actually works a bit better with my workflow, but it does mean I no longer have any modicum of privacy or alone time during the work day.

From the time I get there until I leave, there are people about.  My student worker for the day is generally waiting at the door when I come in.  My partner in tech, who shares the office, comes in around nine the three days a week she works.  There are students studying in the front part of the room for much of the day.  Staff members, teachers and students stop by with questions or just to say hi.

I spent the previous fifteen years of my work life working independently - for much of that time, from home.  Then, I got into the camper van, and spent another five months alone on the road.

And I wonder why I'm tired now that I'm spending all day, every day, with people?  I know there are those who thrive on the presence of others, but for me, people take energy, even when I'm not pre-tired, which is rare these days.  (It's not all draining - one of the students perks up when he sees me, gets a huge smile on his face and gives me a big hug - I always get a lift from those interactions.)

I saw my oncologist last week.  He says I'm looking great and that all my blood numbers look good.  (Yay!)  There's no obvious reason for me to be so tired.  While it annoys me that there's not some magical pill he can give me to fix it, in some ways I find it comforting.  It means that the fatigue I still fight daily is most likely just a result of overdoing it after surgery; nothing nasty is underlying the exhaustion.  Which means, if I continue my campaign to get to bed early, I should begin to have more energy soon. Especially if I can figure out a way to snag a few minutes of alone time during the workday.