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Archive for the ‘life and death’ Category

Some things we hear stay with us for a long time. We might not understand them completely when we first hear them but we know they will come back at some point and we’ll understand completely.

Many years ago, one of my three brothers committed suicide. He left a wife and four children and then there were us, his siblings and parents. I won’t go into all of the feelings and thoughts that followed his death. That’s not where this story is going. At some point, not sure exactly when, I think it was about a month after his death, my sister-in-law started calling me in the mornings. We would chat about her feelings. I would let her talk and respond when appropriate. Sometimes we talked about silly things. There was always, as you can imagine, an underlying sadness to those calls. I soon learned that my brother used to call his wife at morning break every day and that was the time that they spent talking about the kids and feelings and stuff. It was their time with no kids around.

One of things that she was missing without him was the chance to tell him about what the kids were doing when he was at work. She said that it used to be that she could share the silly things the kids did that made her crack up and then things they did or said that made her proud. She said that as parents, they were the only ones that would understand those things. She could share the same things with other people but it would never be the same.

I thought about that a lot. I was a new mother then. My son wasn’t even a year old yet. I understood what she was saying because I used to fill my husband’s ears with all the things the baby did when he was at work. Every day he did something new and I shared that with him. Although I understood part of what my sister-in-law had said, I would understand it more and more as the years went by.

When my husband walked away from our family and turned the whole thing into a very hostile situation, I thought again about that conversation all those years before. I no longer had someone to share my day with and what the kids did and said or what they needed. He was out of the picture and inaccessible to me. It made me understand even more than before. Now, all these years after that original conversation in 1982, it has come right back to me.

For years, I used to talk to my mom on the phone and tell her all about the kids. When I moved far away, it became more important because we didn’t see her as often anymore. So the phone calls meant a lot. Then I moved further away and the grand kids arrived. For the last eleven years, many of our phone calls centered around sharing with her what my grandchildren were doing. How big they had grown, when they started school, and all those milestones, as well as the everyday silly things that happened involving the grandchildren. And that intensified four years ago when my only granddaughter arrived. She wanted to know all about her. She did meet her when Maya was about six months old. It was the only time she saw her. It was love at first sight…on both parts. After that visit, my mom wanted to know all about Maya. Was her hair getting darker? Was it curly or straight? How big was she? Was she talking? Walking? And because I didn’t have anyone to share those all important things with, I would not spare a detail. Sometimes I would call her just to tell her some silly thing the kids had done and we would laugh and laugh over it. It was the highlight of our conversations.

And then she died.

And now I miss that again. That’s one of the things that gets to me, almost every day since my mom died at the end of last August. I forget and I reach for the phone to tell her about Maya or about one of the boys and then it hits me. I can’t tell her. I can’t share that with her anymore. I don’t have anyone to share those moments with. I miss my mom. I miss that I can’t get in the car and go see her even thought it is a two day drive. I used to do it when I got to missing her a lot. I can’t anymore. I used to send my sister pictures of the kids by text and ask her to show them to my mom. I used to have pictures printed and mail them to her so she would have my grandchildren with her. I can’t anymore.

I miss her a lot. I miss her for many, many reasons and at so many different times but this is one of the things that gets to me almost every single day. There is something I want to tell her about the kids but she’s no longer here.

Sometimes it takes a long, long time to understand what we hear. Sometimes we don’t get it until we walk in other people’s shoes.

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Last week was particularly difficult as I watched hurricane Harvey and all of the damage it did to Texas. The day after the hurricane hit, I got a call from my mom (who was born and raised in Corpus Christi). She told me about a phone call she had gotten from my uncle. She and my uncle are half siblings. My uncles’s cousins lived in Houston. She told me that the cousin, her husband and four great grandchildren had drowned in the flood waters. It was sad to hear it and even more so because of the family connection. I think we all hoped and prayed that it wasn’t true. However, the next day, word came through the media. It was true. The woman who was my uncle’s cousin, Belia, her husband, and four great grandchildren had definitely drowned inside of their van while trying to flee to higher ground. Great, great sadness.

And then last Saturday a fire was started by a very foolish fifteen year old who threw a lit firecracker down a ravine in a heavily wooded (and dry because we have had no rain in three months) area. The entire region caught fire. If you aren’t familiar with the news, it is in the Columbia River Gorge, one of the most scenic and peaceful areas around. It is one of my favorite places to go. It has really grown in the four days since it began. The fire is near the watershed which supplies water to most of the Portland Metro area. If that goes, it  could be catastrophic for Portland. It’s so sad to see the pictures and to see the ash falling outside, as if it were snow. Then there is the air which is full of smoke and is causing hazardous air quality conditions.

It also seems that I am getting every single complication from my surgery that I could get. First there was the infection, then the sciatica (which I think is directly related to the surgery because I had to sit and lay down most of the time during the first three weeks post-op, which put pressure on the sciatic nerve. Now the latest is that it appears that I have developed an “incisional hernia,” which is most likely a result of carrying something that was too heavy during the post-op period. So now we’ll see if they decide that I need to have surgery to repair that. I am not looking forward to another surgery before the incision from the last surgery has even closed up completely. That’s actually how I discovered what I think is the hernia. The incision is still not closed. The opening is pretty small but it is still open. I noticed about a week ago that there was tissue protruding from the incision. Then over the weekend it was gone and I breathed a sigh of relief but then last night, it’s back. That’s when it hit me that the doctor warned that a hernia often develops in that kind of incision. So now I have to go in and get it checked out and go from there. Not too happy about that. I guess when the doctor said no lifting for six to eight weeks, I should have erred on the side of safety. I didn’t. I gave myself only the six weeks. Now there’s a problem.

So not good here. I guess you can understand that. I’m crossing my fingers that I’m wrong about the hernia!

 

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I’m currently reading End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James Swanson (don’t run out and buy it; it’s not the best book out there on the subject). Today I am at the part where the body is brought home to the White House and preparations are made for the funeral. Although I have read a myriad of books about this and saw so much of this unfold on live television in 1963, it is always heart wrenching and tears follow. Needless to say it has been an emotional day.
I’m struck by the timeliness of this reading as it is not only coming up on the 51st anniversary of the assassination but also because today is day of the dead, a day when people welcome their lost loved ones as they return from the dead to comfort their live family and friends. It is believed that to forget a departed friend or family sends them to true death while remembering them keeps them alive for as long as the memories are alive. I’m one that believes that the dead don’t leave us. They are always with us in spirit and in our hearts and minds.
When someone like President Kennedy dies, the entire world knows about it and mourns the passing and remembers them in history books. Their loved ones are accompanied in their sorrow by strangers who loved and mourn them. Indeed, even when there is no more family to mourn them, they will go on in history books and on the Internet.
What happens when someone dies and they are unknown except to their friends and family? Are they any less worthy of being mourned and being remembered? Is it only the famous and the infamous that live on in our memories? Is their death any less significant?
Everyone is worthy of being loved and remembered and mourned. Everyone. Every death is significant, if not to many, to a few. Every death.
I’m thinking now of those I’ve lost. Maybe only my family remembers them. Maybe only we still mourn them. But they go on in our hearts. I know that each of my brothers is with me as I go through my daily life. Something will remind me of them and I smile. Sometimes the memories bring tears, but that’s okay. Tears are not always bad; not always sad. When I see my nieces and nephews, I see my brothers in them. When I see their grandchildren I know that they live on in those children. I know that they are here, not just on the day of the dead but every time someone thinks of one of them, they live on.
Maybe they weren’t important and maybe they won’t be in a history book but each of my brothers, David, Richard, and Carlos, lives on. I feel them with me at times. They walk the earth. They live on.

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