Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today has been much less strenuous than yesterday.  Death is one of those events that is still shocking, even when it is expected.  The memories seem to pour forth of all the things that person has done, the conversations that have been had, the stories told, the happy times when there was laughter and celebration.  And those memories which keep the spirit of the person alive, also remind me of the loss.

A lingering death is not pretty.  My wife and I wished so much on Tuesday evening that euthanasia was allowed.  If an animal of mine were in such a condition of wasting, surely I would have it put down.  And yet, so much suffering happens every day among humans who simply linger on with a terminal illness.  This isn't a political statement but one that I consider  reflective of love and caring.

As the Higher Power would have it, our fervent wishes to ease Mom's sick and suffering were granted.  Perhaps she knew that we were all there, telling her we loved her, assuring her that it was okay to rest now.  And so that's what happened.

Her body was still warm.  We put her sweater on her, covering up her nightgown that had the Sun, Moon and Stars on it.  And her cat, who had been sleeping on the adjacent bed, came to sit on her abdomen, no doubt sensing death had come.

I talked to my first sponsor last night.  He is on the other coast, but I was so grateful that he called.  Only a few people have called.  We have received a few emails. And the blogger community has been kind and caring with comments.

In the days when I was a child, it was de rigueur to visit the home of the bereaved and drop off something like a casserole, pie, or a flower. I told my sponsor through tears that I didn't want casseroles or cakes or any kind of food, but I longed for the human touch.  I wanted that for my wife.  I wanted her fellowship to surround her. Just to have a friendly face show up and sit for a while would have been wonderful.  No one has come.  Not a single AA or Al-Anon has asked to come by.  I don't understand this as we have entertained so many at this house.  Perhaps this is just the new order of things in which people are busy with their lives and their own problems.  I am working at letting this go, but it is gnawing at me because isolation leads to more sadness.

So this afternoon, I am leaving to visit Pop.  He is being visited by the priest today. He took the news with sadness yesterday but seemed to be accepting.  I know that it won't be long for him though.  Hospice called this morning to say that he is declining, and so morphine and Ativan are being prescribed.  I hope that he will still want to go out for a milk shake, but reality is that his body is also worn out.

We are both grateful for your thoughts and kindness.  All will be okay.  Our lives will get back to some kind of rhythm again.  Death is a part of the rhythm. Here is a poem that an Al-Anon friend sent:

For Grief

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure:
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And thought this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself,
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time. 
~ John O’ Donohue


  1. Syd,

    I am so sorry for your grief. Wish I were closer so I could sit and listen to your remembrances and see the smile as you recall the good and healthy times.

    It is funny you mention the milk shake about Pop. Darlene's grandpa was 94 when he could no longer take care of himself. He was in a care facility for about 4 months before he passed. One of our first visits we ask what he needed and he said, "A real strawberry milkshake." I went right out to Dairy Queen and got him a strawberry milkshake. We never again visited without a strawberry milkshake in our hand walking in. I think I have never seen a person enjoy a milkshake as much as he did each time.

    In the end it is the small things that matter. A milkshake, holding ones hand as in your photos and just presence and soft words. We all need to take the time to relish in those moments.

  2. Thinking of you and C. It's rough stuff. There should be community around you now. I think it's a sign of the times that people no longer connect as much face to face. I find that so sad. I wish you both strength through this time xo

  3. Just to say I am thinking of you and is so hard no matter what is for the best.

  4. Yo have my colendences on you loss.I'm sorry i did not comme on yesterdays posting. but I was really haveing a really bad day yesterdat.

  5. How beautiful, especially that last stanza. Not everyone knows how to deal with recent bereavement, some seem to almost avoid the recently bereaved as if it were catching. I used to be awkward and uncomfortable with bereavement until my father died. Then I realized how much it meant to have someone drop by, for folks to show up at the visitation and attend the funeral, and the days after. Now I try hard not to miss, even if I did not know the deceased or the bereaved super well, it means a lot at the time. Some people just don't know that.

    I am thinking of you all. This unkind heartbreak in the midst of the beautiful life you have created will pass. You have that life, and what's more you have the makings of that life and you have each other.


  6. hugs man...

    i wish for you community as well...some people fear death honestly...but those are powerful moments we can come together...reminds me so much of my MIL passing...the wasting away...i know your feeling and appreciate it....

  7. I see wisdom in the old way of having the body in the house and people coming over to sit. And bringing food, too. Maybe the Jewish tradition of sitting Shiva. But yes, it is a good thing to have the presence, the touch, of others. I think we are so freaked out by death these days that we don't know how to talk to someone who has just lost a family member. It's sad. Because death is always going to be with us and we shall always grieve and we shall always need the touch of others to comfort us.

  8. I'm sitting here mulling over your experience at losing a loved one, and - just as you pointed out in this blog, as well as John's beautiful composition, pointed out the very 'heart' of grief in the seeming robbery of the loved ones left behind. I felt this when my husband departed - and felt hurt that he took so much of me with him. But, after some time, I realized the treasure he left of his memories with me. These are the things that make me laugh, cry, and just be grateful for life, knowing the inevitable will come one day.

    Those left behind - feel and observe their grief - and the ache gradually subsides - with a warm feeling of being part of the life of another human being.

    I love you. May our God - My Higher Power - enfold you in His arms and give you solace. Amen.

    Anonymous #1

  9. This is just the worst time. Sometimes people feel awkward and don't know what to say or if they are intruding. It's very hard to tell who will welcome and who will not. But I think a phone call to at least ask is definitely in order...especially from those in the fellowship who are supposed to be a lifeline in times like these. I'm sorry they are there right now. Perhaps in a few days?

    Take care Syd and if there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to reach out. You help so many with this blog, it's only fair that we give back.


  10. I am so sorry for your loss. The reading The Grief is/was beautiful. I hope your Dad is able to make the funeral. I hope he is able to continue to enjoy his milkshakes.

  11. Cyber hugs for you and C. Grief is a period of time, not an activity. Take all you need. You are so right. Death is a stunner, even when expected. We, humans, don't know how to deal with death. It's hard to accept. We weren't created to die. We were created in perfection. Death came with the fall. I pray you forgive your AA community. I pray you get the comfort you need. Just know, I'm praying for you.

  12. Hi Syd,
    If I lived closer to you, I would be over to your house right away. I wouldn't necessarily know what to say, but I would give both you and your wife a hug and just sit with you and visit. I am so sorry about your family's loss. Sending you prayers and a hug.
    Shelley in SK

  13. I can only hope as word gets out some people will come by to see you and C and comfort you.

    Those of us who read your blog are here for you and C in spirit and love. I can't imagine what that drive was like to tell C's dad the news. That had to be incredibly hard. Now you face the difficult task of navigating his health and his grief over losing his wife.

    I can't give it to you in person but my favorite meal to take to a grieving family is Chicken Pastry, Seven Layer Salad and my 99 year old's famous Lemon Pound cake. So I'm sending you a virtual meal that you don't want. I promise to just hug you quickly, tell you both that I am praying for you and drop it off and not overstay my welcome. And I'm too emotional - I'll probably break down crying before I leave.

  14. So sorry for your loss - no matter how old they are when they pass,...nor how much we know it's coming,'s a very tough thing to experience. It's a very intense, loving, yet at the same time painful thing to go through. My thoughts are with you and your wife. I wish peace and comfort to you both - and for your father in law.

  15. Syd, I've lurked for years here and am finally coming out of the shadows to express my heartfelt sympathy on the loss of your "mom". I'm so sorry you are feeling lonely & isolated in your grief. Like another poster, I, too, felt discomfort in "intruding" on another's grief until I lost my beloved mother. Then I realized, for me, part of the grief process was wanting to share stories and humorous moments as a celebration of her life.

    Until one suffers a great loss, I'm not sure they really get it; or perhaps they like to pretend you'd prefer to be alone in your grief, as I'm sure some do. And let's face it, as far as words go, no one says it better than you!

    I hope you and your wife are able to find some small comfort in memories of warm & wonderful moments shared with your MIL as you walk through this difficult time.

  16. I'm really shocked that the AA and Al-Anon communities didn't reach out. There is such denial around death and grieving in so much of society.

    Your wife C is very much in my thoughts now -- as a daughter who lost a mother, I know the grief goes deep, deep, deep.

    And like others here, I do wish I lived down the road and could come up and sit with you, do any small things like washing up dishes in the kitchen or shopping for groceries, make you some chicken soup.

    Take care.

  17. Your MIL was fortunate to pass in her home, with comfort from family.
    At the Buddhist center they mention comfort we can receive from from the presence of another person. I am thinking of you both and send loving kindness your way.

  18. Syd, let me give you a different spin on this. Both my mother and my father had it set up so that once their cadaver left the house that was the last we would ever see of them. Transported to a funeral home to wait until the university they donated their bodies to (U of M)called for them and that was that. No memorial, no masses, nothing and it was a very specific wish in the will. Their reasons for that were their own as are mine for setting the disposal of my cadaver the same.

    People especially for my mom would have flooded the damn church and spoke like all the bullshit they gave her over 50 years of being a Social Worker was great (for them) and how wonderful she was. Fuck that, she is still. One remains alive as long as someone remembers their name or the work they accomplished that moved their family ahead.

    People, and this I do not understand anymore, still can not wrap their head around death. The fear of not knowing if it is and ending or a beginning keeps them silent, keeps them away unless of course it is a perfunctory visit that lasts long enough to get the ummms and errrrs out and then back to the door. Don't be distraught or dismayed over the actions of others. I know this sounds a little rude but 2007 taught me. 9 funerals Syd. 6 were suicides, one a much loved nephew and of the other 3, one was my mother.

    Yes sir I saw many many forms of inability to cope that year Syd. Often it was the bereaved offering comfort to the distantly attached and to be honest that may have helped in some sort of way to get closure. BUT for every one person that showed up at those funeral homes and wakes there were 10 that stayed away. Just. Could. Not. Handle. The. Having. To. Stare. At. Death. and think about their own mortality.

    This is not one of my infamous "fuck 'em" moments Syd. This is a moment where you try to understand it is not you they are abandoning but rather their own fears and hesitations they can not abandon.

    Words at times like this really don't mean much Syd.

    But I pray you and your wife find your peace and that it carries a milk shake to an old man who is also slipping away from you. It is him you comfort and grieve with and know that in the end having done all you can do, you did all you could.

    Be Well Syd. The boat and smooth seas are waiting patiently for you and C to sail to your own horizons.

  19. Syd, I am so sorry that the fellowship let C down. I wish I could come over and just say hello. Just sit for a moment and let you know I care. And you know I would have to bring a pie or something. Even if you didn't want it.

  20. Syd, my heart broke as I read your post. What you write about your experience is so similar to what I experienced with my mother, including how she passed and the strange silence of those I considered friends. The poem you posted is so incredibly accurate in it's depiction of grief. I know you know you will live it and it will morph and change. Still, in this moment it is terribly hard. Although you don't know many us "commenters" personally, we are reaching out to you. Your writing has comforted me many times, and I hope you can receive some comfort from us. Lots of love to you and C.

  21. I am sorry for your loss Syd. You and C. have done so much for your mom and Pop. I am not close enough to deliver a casserole, and I'm not a very good cook at that, but I am holding you in my heart.

  22. Syd, Now is the time for family and friends to pay their respects to the dead and to bring comfort to the bereaved. Every family has their own traditions surrounding death. Will your mother-in-law be buried or cremated? Will there be a funeral? Will the ceremony be open or private? Will people be invited to the home afterwards?
    If there isn't a funeral for people to attend, do you feel comfortable asking key people to come by your home on a specific day and time when you can remember your mother in law together?
    This is an important time in your lives and you should not be alone.

  23. Thank you for your kindness. I would like if you all could be here. We would feed you and just sit and talk.
    Mom is being cremated and there will be a memorial mass this month at the Catholic church where they both belonged. We will have something at the house afterward. I am hoping that we won't be as raw with sadness as we are now.
    Of course, we don't know what the situation will be with Pop. He was weak but did drink his milk shake yesterday, ate some fruit and a few veggies. He is very frail.
    We both appreciate your prayers, thoughts, and sentiments for us, Mom and Pop.

  24. I find that most people are uncomfortable with grief and death. It reminds us that nothing last forever. It makes us think about our own death and who in our lives we might lose.

    My thoughts are with you.

  25. These days people can be so shy. Here in England people send cards but it's not the tradition to call. My thoughts are with you. I have been through somethng similar recently.

  26. I am so sorry for your loss and C's but I am glad that the long and painful journey has ended for her mother. I can't imagine why you have not heard from your AA and Alanon family unless they are under the mistaken belief that it is how you would want it. I wish I could be with you and you know you have the outpouring of love from your blogger friends.

  27. I am sorry for your loss. It is always so hard and there is no real way to prepare yourself. No one visited us either after all the deaths we recently went through. Only one of my girlfriends came over. I do think that this part of our culture is changing.Others came to the funerals or sent cards but only one actually came over.

    My father in law died at 96. He enjoyed ice cream up to the last day of his life. When no one could get him to eat I could. The secret was telling him that there would be ice cream for dessert.

  28. All I can offer is that some people prefer to grieve privately while others are comforted by company. I try to figure out as best I can what will help the bereaved, not what I would like. Sometimes I wish it was more clear what they would prefer. Maybe your fellowship friends are reading you wrong. Maybe you will see them later at the memorial service; I truly hope so.

    Be good to yourselves. I wish you, and C., and Pop, comfort and strength.

  29. Syd,

    I am sorry that there has not been more local support for you and your wife during a time like this. It is a shame. I am just glad that your wife has you, though, and that you have her. I am keeping y'all in my prayers.

  30. Syd,
    I love how present you are with yourself-your awareness that the stories keep your mom alive in your heart- and that's also where the grief lives. It's all true all at the same time.

    I feel sad that no one has shown up at your door to sit and witness this with you. I will be with you from here- across the states- holding the space. Having walked a similar path, I trust the process of grief and healing... I will hold that thought for you as well.

    Peace my unknown friend

  31. I lost my brother six months ago and it's just now starting to hit me. Hugs.


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