Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Mourning: The Death of a Child

A year ago, an annual FB post was noticed by the DW. I’d not yet read Pam’s book but her request to share my story has scratched at the back of my brain ever since. After reading Death Becomes Us, I knew I could trust her and her audience with my story. As this is a particularly meaningful year for me, it felt like the time was right.

My son, Christopher, was born by emergency C-section 16 years ago, today. He was 4 weeks early. We found out later that I’d gotten a group B strep infection earlier than they tested for and it had killed the placenta. The entire experience was traumatic, in ways that have haunted my nightmares ever since, but I’m not going to relate that here. Suffice it to say that it was an abusive marriage and had been an equally brutal pregnancy. I was alone in every way that matters and everything went wrong. But in the end, Christopher was alive and recovering, or so we thought.

Preemies must prove that they are eating and growing at a certain rate before a hospital releases them so, for two weeks, we believed we had a normal kid that had just gotten a rough start. A midnight life-fight to Primary Children’s hospital changed all that. Did you know you have to promise that you won’t freak out if your kid flat-lines mid-flight to ride with them? With only minutes to absorb the situation, I had to admit that I didn’t know if I could stay calm. They flew off without me.

My husband (at the time) gathered our things from the hospital sleep-room (a temporary room provided to parents with children who’ve been hospitalized) and drove us the hour and a half to where our son had been taken. What followed was five and a half months of fighting for Christopher’s life.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday Mourning: The Sudden Death of a Friend

Today on the blog I have Edie Mackenzie. Edie is a published author, traveler, dog lover, and tortoise enthusiast. Passionate about what she does, her books provide people a firm grounding in the dog breed and their unique characteristics with a nice touch of humor.

The dates, names and places have been changed due to an ongoing criminal investigation.

DW:  Who was the person who died?
EM:  Our friend Sarah was the victim of a hit and run driver.

DW:  How old were you at the time?
EM:  This happened in the spring of 2015 and I was 56 years old.

DW:  How old was the person?
EM:  Sarah was a youthful 52 years old. In 1998 my husband and Sarah worked at the same company. One day he came home and said I had to meet this cool woman he’d met at work. He said he knew we would be friends. He was right. We were friends for close to 20 years.

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?
EM:  Both. Sarah was hit by a car while walking home after an evening with friends. The person who hit her never stopped. Never called police. Has not been caught. EMT’s took her to a trauma hospital, where they put her on life-support. (They did not have access to her DNR at the time. Only when they were able to locate her family were her wishes made known.) I got a call two days later telling me what had happened. My husband and I were devastated. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday Mourning: Two major deaths in less than a year

Jodi Thompson has been enchanting people with her writing since she could hold a pen -- well, according to her mother. Fate smiled on her and she was able to open a small publishing company, Fawkes Press, which keeps her busy with work that is a much higher quality than her own. She lives in Texas with her husband, lots of pets, and occasionally her young adult children.

DW: Who was the person that died?
JT:  I lost two people this year that felt like one loss – my biological father, Joe, and my uncle, who I called Bubba.

DW:  How old were you at the time?
JT:  45 and 46, respectively. Their deaths were 10 months apart.

DW: How old was Joe? Bubba?
JT:  Joe was 68 and Bubba was 80.
Joe

Bubba

DW:  Was it a sudden death or did you know it was going to happen?
JT:  Joe’s death was very unexpected. His official cause of death was accidental drowning. The irony is that he spent the last 25 years of his life working as a dive instructor and dive boat captain. He was always more at home in the water than on land.

Bubba’s death was not unexpected. He had cancer seven years ago and we thought we would lose him then. He recovered and had done well for years. He had a follow-up in late April and there were no signs of cancer. He went to the emergency room with extreme weakness the first weekend of June and they found cancer all through his body – bones, liver, lungs, and brain. He never went home and passed away less than a month later.

DW:  Did you ever talk about death with Joe or Bubba?
JT:  I never, ever talked about death with Joe. It just wasn’t the kind of relationship we had.
Bubba and I spoke frequently about death and final arrangements. He was not afraid of the end and trusted me to fight (if necessary) for his wishes. My relationship with him was much more like a father and child than with Joe. (I thankfully report that there was no drama and his wishes were met.)

DW:  Had you experienced any other deaths in your personal life before this?
JT:  Yes, we have a huge family and death is a part of life. Oddly enough I cry harder when I have to bury a pet than when it is a human in my life. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with that!

DW:  Were people supportive of your grief or did they shy away from you when you were grieving?
JT:  Overall, people were supportive. It was very weird with Joe’s death because a huge number of people in my world had no idea he existed. My Dad is actually my stepfather - he has been with us since I was three years old. People who suddenly found out that he wasn’t my biological father didn’t quite know how to react. There were also a lot of people who knew Joe that didn’t know me and called me all kinds of horrible things. That was not helpful with the grief process at all.

It was a different story when Bubba died. I had lots of support from friends and family. He went to school with the parents of some of my school friends, we had attended the same church, and I had my cousins. I did not feel like I was alone at all.

DW:  Is there anything you wish you’d done differently with Joe or Bubba?
JT:  Yes, I wish I had been more present with Joe. We were not estranged, there was no bad blood, but we were not especially close. I would send Christmas cards, but the last couple of times I had thought about calling or enclosing a letter I had been “too busy.” If I had thought there was any chance that there would be no more opportunities, I would have made the time. It just never occurred to me that he could be there and then, suddenly, not.

Overall, I don’t think I would have changed anything with Bubba. I’m sure there are things across my entire lifetime that could use tweaking, but nothing huge that gives me regret. For the past two years, we have had a regular dinner night where I would make whatever food he requested and then take it to his house. We would have dinner, I would show him pictures of my kids, and we would just talk. After he passed, I had several people tell me that he often talked about our dinners and how he enjoyed them. That made me very happy to hear.

DW: Were they buried or cremated?
JT:  Joe was buried in a nature preserve, with a green burial. He had not left any instructions and it was important to me that he be laid to rest in the most natural way possible. He was very eco-conscious and I believe he would have approved of my choice. However, we had to find a place in Florida because it is illegal to transport an unembalmed body across state lines. (I’ve told my family that if I die across state lines, they should prop me up in the backseat and pretend I’m napping until they get back to Texas.)



Bubba had a traditional burial next to his parents. I was very happy that we were able to complete everything as he had asked.

DW:  Did you learn anything about the grieving process you’d like to share?
JT:  I think the thing I learned was that the grieving process will be different for every single person. For me, the process has been very difficult in regards to Joe. I was his only child. He never remarried. He had no siblings. His parents had passed years ago. I felt like I was carrying the weight of grief for all those missing people. Additionally, I have had to handle all the legal aspects of his death and it has really taken a toll on me. (Have a will. Make your wishes known. Please.)

I’ve had to remind myself that there is no timetable. If I start to cry because the last time I made a certain dish it was for dinner with Bubba, that’s okay. I can be sad. I can be angry. I will come out of it…eventually.

DW:  Were any songs played at the memorial service that were important to them?
JT:  Joe’s friends had a memorial service for him out at sea. They played a lot of 60s and 70s rock – basically his iPod play list. I thought that was nice. (I did not attend that service.)

“How Great Thou Art” was played at Bubba’s service. It was important to him because it was his mother’s favorite hymn and it was played at her service. I loved that at the age of 80, two plus decades after her death, he still had that deep connection and wanted to honor her in his choice of song. 


JT: Thank you, Pamela, for giving me a platform to work through this crazy year of emotions.
DW: Thank you for sharing your experience!

Do you have an experience with death that you'd like to share? People may not comment in these posts, but just like life, we don't always know what to say. But, there is a lot of traffic. It is my hope that these posts will make people feel less isolated in their experience of death/grief. So what are you waiting for? thedeathwriter at g mail dot come