Wednesday, April 19, 2017
When Your Loss is Their Gain
Yep...that's my momma on the left. It's the last picture ever taken of her. She is sitting on a bench beside my high school BF's mom. They had both driven to pick us up from cheer leading camp in the late summer of 1977. She died unexpectedly two days later while out shopping with me and my older sister for school clothes. It was less than two weeks before I started my senior year of high school.
Here's a fun fact that every single person who knows me from my childhood will totally understand. She not only sewed that top herself but the slacks too and even made the purse she's holding in her lap. The woman was a seamstress genius and one of the most talented women I've ever known.
She could also pop Wrigley's Doublemint gum like no body's business.
She also made both outfits my sister and I are wearing in this pic from a few years earlier. I absolutely loved that culotte sailor dress.
I don't think any of us have ever gotten over her death. It was probably even harder for our Diddy.(that's what you call your father in the deep south)
He lived until 2002 but never remarried.
I always felt cheated. I think we all did, but all carried on...toting our grief with us along the way. Over the years the pain dulls but it never leaves. It simply becomes easier to live with...one day way on down the road.
Now as I'm approaching the sixty year mark (sooner than later) understand why it all happened.
God was looking out for both of them...and us too.
So many of our friends have spent years and years taking care of their aging parents. Some aged well, some not so much. Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes and a plague of other diseases made not only the parents suffer but their grown kids as well, watching a long slow decline of the people who used to take care of them but now with the roles reversed.
I totally admire those (now grown) childhood friends of mine and salute their untiring albeit extremely tiring efforts, and commend them on being there for them every agonizing step of the agonizing way.
To watch a parent turn into a helpless person is more than I would wish on my worst enemy.
Case in point:
Flash forward decades and decades and decades from this photo. The woman sitting beside my mother is the mother of one of my dearest childhood friends. We (shout out to Denise) remain close friends to this day. Her mother suffered from Alzheimer's for the last few years of her life.
My friend took care of her mother until she couldn't, then put her in the best place possible and visited her probably at least twice a day.
This woman dressed and looked every day of her life like she was on her way to a Gala. Hair perfect, makeup perfect and always smartly dressed and totally accessorized. That's a lot to be said for a single, working mother who raised three kids.
I remember my friend telling me one time that while in the assisted living (then eventually hospice) all the nurses called her mother, "Miss America."
She may have been losing her mind but made sure she looked sharp while losing it, makeup and hair always done.
"Way to go Frances!"
I've watched so many of my friends go through the same thing with their own loved ones. Different situations but all with the same result...the loss of a loved one.
My brother commented one time a few years back, "Our family takes the express checkout."
He's right about that, and am grateful for it.
My mother died (from a massive brain aneurysm) in less than one minute. Had she lived, would have most probably been in a vegetative state for the rest of her life.
My Diddy contracted West Nile Virus at the age of seventy seven and went from physically healthy to being taken off life support in ten days. He had been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's and hid it from us.
God simply took him from us so he (and we) wouldn't have to go that route.
Every so often I have to remind myself how lucky I've been.
I had the greatest and strongest parents in the world...right up to their end in this game called life.
I may not have a lot of money, and actually have been through times when there was none, but I was showered with God's Blessings and love literally saved me from every direction in every way possible.
Call us the "Check Out Express."
The reason for this post is yet another of my childhood friends, who I grew up with in the above church both our families attended... has been taking care of her own aging mother while also taking on the roll of caregiver for her spouse of decades (not so) recently diagnosed and suffering from stage four brain cancer.
Talk about a double whammy.
Her beloved partner died yesterday after a courageous battle from them both.
I consider myself a strong person but the strength caregivers have... watching and waiting for loved ones to die while doing every possible thing to ease their pain, are the true strong ones.
A book I am reading phrased it perfectly today as I sat out back in the sunshine reading:
"He used to say we all had a compass inside of us and what we needed to do was to find it and follow it."
My dear friend found her compass and set the course...yet knowing stormy seas were just ahead and would surely swell before ever ebbing.
Her beloved is whole again and out of pain, yet my friend begins the descent into pain from her loss.
Talk about oxymoron's...
Life is a fragile but sturdy thing.
You need to be strongest when feel your weakest.
When you feel empty inside you simply have to be full for those who need you the most.
When you have a devastating loss, it is devastatingly hard to not be traumatized by their wonderful release from the pain, which in turn intensifies your own.
Brutal fact of life...We are all born to ultimately die.
Let the waves of grief wash over you. Cry until you can't. Then pick up that compass and continue your own journey.
It's called the circle of life...but should be a circle of love.
My heartfelt sympathies go out to Tracey and feeling a little bit ashamed I've been so spared.
Love every person like there is no tomorrow...because life doesn't come with guarantees or Do Overs.
Til next time...COTTON