My Christmas Wish

I haven’t written a post in quite a long time.  Christmas is such a stressful time for me and also so overwhelming and exhausting that I have been just too exhausted to think about writing.

But Christmas Day deserves a post.  What a special day.  Because I have a strong faith Christmas is very important to me.  God came down from Heaven to become a man in order to have a relationship with us.  And what a wonderful relationship it is.  But what does that have to do with this post on grief and my Mom.

Well, Mom is slowly getting worse.  We just got a palliative care nurse to help manage Mom’s care.  She is getting so weak that even signing her name on her few christmas cards was almost more than she could manage and it caused her to have severe shortness of breath.  The last few days I have noticed that when I am with her I can hear her breathe.  It’s like she is lightly snoring or wheezing or something.  Basically her breathing is getting more and  more laboured.

Mom won’t do the exercises that can help her breathing.  She won’t take the medication the palliative care nurse prescribed to help her when she is short of breath.  She wants to do things her way and although it makes me angry I have to respect her desire to do things her way.  It’s so hard to watch her go downhill.  It’s so hard to listen to her complain about all that she can’t do any more and how she feels useless.  It’s so hard to know things are only going to get worse.

I love my Mom so dearly.  I would do just about anything to reverse this aging process so I could have her with me for a long long time to come.  Unfortunately that’s not the way life works.  So this Christmas I made a wish to God.

I asked God that He would take Mom home on Christmas day so she could be with Dad in Heaven on Christmas.  I thought that would be so neat.  She would be free.  No pain, no mobility issues.  She could dance, run, skip and even just walk with no problem.  And her head… her head has caused so much discomfort since her stroke 15 years ago.  She would have no problem any more.  She would be free from her awful head.

I know in past posts I have talked a lot about needing release for me.  I have been at the end of my rope and I needed release but this Christmas wish was more about release for Mom.  I know she is miserable.  It just seemed like such a neat thing if she could be in Heaven on Christmas with her loved ones and her beloved Saviour face to face.  To see Dad again would be so wonderful for her.  I wanted that desperately for her.  But I guess it is not going to happen.  Mom’s doing well today.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not wishing her dead.  As a christian I am wishing her to be in her new body with her loved ones who have gone on before her.  Of course, I will miss her terribly and I will grieve and life is going to be very hard without her.  But at some point you have to lay aside your own fears, your own desires and look beyond your own security and comfort.  I just really wanted Mom to be with Dad.  I know she misses him so much.

I don’t know if this is going into another stage of grief or another acceptance of sorts but I wanted to give Mom a special Christmas gift by asking God to send the angels to take her to Heaven.

It is true I am exhausted, overwhelmed, and burnt out.  I need release too. But I am willing to keep going as long as Mom is on this earth.  I know God will give me the strength.

I guess I will have to tuck my Christmas wish in my pocket and hold on tight to it to maybe next Christmas.  It’s OK to make a christmas wish but if it is not God’s wish then I don’t want that wish at all.  God’s timing is perfect and that is what I want for Mom.  Instead of this Christmas wish I have had the blessed chance to have another christmas with my Mom and that is so special.  When someone is in palliative care you just take each moment as it comes and you treasure each moment as a special gift.  I may  not have gotten my christmas wish but I got a very special christmas gift – my Mom for another christmas.  What more could I possibly ask for?

Mom’s Wish – My Loss

Today was Dad’s birthday. I wonder if they have balloons in Heaven?  He would have been 89.  He would have caught up to Mom who was 89 in April.  Mom was the first to mention it this morning.  I sang a lively rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Dad much to Mom’s delight. ( I am know for my serenading people on their birthday with various renditions of “Happy Birthday” including the Hallelujah chorus rendition!)

I have been getting more and more worried about Mom.  She looks so sad and dejected.  She sits in her chair with her eyes closed or just stares off into space.  She is not having good nights, often up with trouble breathing and not feeling well.  I have been going to bed myself wondering if she will be awake in the morning.

Tonight was an especially hard time that has catapulted me once again into hyper-vigilance with hyper-anxiety.  I asked a simple question I have asked her a million times.  ” Is there anything you would like, Mom?”  I’m usually referring to some food she might like.  This time though her answer took me by surprise.  She said, ” I want to go home.”  ( home meaning Heaven).  My heart quickened in my chest and my stomach felt like I had just been punched.  I replied, “I know you do Mom.  Although I want you with me forever, I know you want to go home.  I can’t be selfish here.  It hurts me to see you suffer and be miserable.”

What transpired next was a half-hour conversation where she asked me a number of questions like how much was left to pay on my mortgage,  what would I do for income that I would not be getting from her monthly stipend etc etc.  I got the feeling she was wanting to know I was going to be alright without her.  I assured her I was going to be alright.  I had a few close friends, a church family that I felt closer than I ever had before, I was going to be an Aunti to a new little adopted girl who I adored by my best friend’s daughter, I had my brother, my “belle-soeur” ( my sister in law) and my wonderful niece and nephew and my cats.   I told her I was trusting in God to look after me and provide all that I needed.  ( she does not know I have autism and when I said this I knew I was trusting God for a lot more than what she might think.  I was basically going to be alone.  I had already a hard time coping in the world.  I knew trusting God was going to be key for me to my being able to keep going in this world as someone with autism)  I then showed Mom the ring I had bought but had not shown her yet – a silver ring with 2 hearts and an infinity symbol band on the ring – symbolizing mom and me being together forever.  She was quite interested although I don’t think she grasped the significance the ring had for me.  I am very sentimental and I have many, many things that have special meaning to me.  Things in my life are given meaning I think to help ground me and help to keep real the parts of my life which are no longer tangible.  Memories are cemented in my mind by a thing that I attach a meaning to.  Unfortunately, it means I have a lot of things in my life.  Sometimes people don’t understand my attraction to things of all sorts.  They help glue all the pieces and memories of my life together.

So back to our conversation… We continued talking for a while and then just sat quietly with each other, the cats joining us in the bedroom.  We were all together my little family.  All I could think about was what was going to happen?  Was Mom going to die tonight?  I don’t know.  She may surprise everyone and live another several years or she indeed may go tonight.  I just know that these episodes put me in such a state of hyper-vigilance for days until I think the danger is over and things resume a calmer state.  This wreaks havoc on my whole system.  Everything goes haywire – my eating, my sleeping, my ability to concentrate, to look after the house and all the other things I have to tend to.  It exhausts my already exhausted frame.  I feel shell-shocked.  I feel physically sick.  I cry.  So now as I am writing this I wonder – will I be able to get to sleep tonight?  I don’t know but will probably need to sleep part of the night in my easy chair wrapped in a blanket, my knees tucked up under my chin.

Mom’s wish.  A simple wish to go home.  We all wish to go home when we are away.  I can’t deny her that.  But Mom’s wish come true means my loss.  Am I selfish? Yes, indeed, at times I am.  I want her here with me – always!  My loss will be overwhelming, immense, unfathomable, almost unthinkable.  But my loss will come just the same.  There is no control here, no say.  Just loss.

As I am typing here, Mom is asleep in her room.  I just heard her cry out “Lorne!”  That’s Dad’s name.  Oh, how she misses him.  She needs to go home.  I must say goodbye soon.  I must loosen the grip I have on her life and let her go.  And accept the loss.  Wishes are more important than losses.  Wishes are often the result of losses.  I wonder what wish will come forth from my loss.  Tonight ( or in the days ahead) a wish and a loss rest in the heart of God. A God with a heart big enough to make any wish come true and any loss to be cut down to a size that is not overwhelming or unbearable by His great great LOVE.

Remembering Dad

May 20th – a day etched in my brain that won’t be erased like that child’s toy, the Etch- A- Sketch.  May 20th is the day Dad died.  Seven years ago now, but still as if it were yesterday.

May 2nd I wrote a blog entitled ” Anniversary Grief – what’s that?”.  I talked about anticipating the anniversary of Dad dying.  It may be helpful to read that before you finish reading this blog.

Yesterday, my anticipation and grief reaction to the anniversary of Dad’s death was at its worst.  I woke up almost unable to function.  It was an effort to move, to think, to get going with my day.  I cried all through my usual therapy session in the morning.  The world was closing in on me and I felt lost.  I also was having constant flashbacks to the hospital room where Dad lay, his breathing laboured, his face contorted.  It was not pretty, not peaceful like people often say death is.  The flashbacks tormented me and I couldn’t get them to go away.   Along with having flashbacks,  my sensitivity to light, and noise was heightened to almost unbearable levels.  I decided it was one of those days where I would spend most of it curled up in my easy chair covered by a very soft blanket and rock.  I had to cancel my tutoring student which made me feel like I was once again  a failure for not being “normal” and able to handle things.

Mom, too, was having a very difficult day.  I don’t know whether it was her stroke effects that causes her head to hurt, or her congestive heart failure, or heart ache of missing Dad or a combination of all three.  I was really worried about her.  She looked awful.  I began to wonder if I would lose her as well on this anniversary eve.  I stayed home, checking on her every little while.  She did not want to talk, she looked so sad.  I felt helpless.  It was NOT a good day.

I went to bed not knowing if Mom would be alive in the morning.  My brain, working in patterns again, imagined she would follow Dad to Heaven as he had gone 7 years before.  I made sure I kissed her goodnight and said, “I love you”.  I wondered if I was in for a long, difficult, sleepless night.

I knew that on the day Dad died, I would have to run.  I don’t mean going for a jog.  I mean running like the wind to somehow still the anxiety inside me.  So….. I planned on some errands I had to do all over town.  I would roam and wander and get lost in the movement of going, going, going…   My first stop was a garage sale I had seen advertised close to my house.

I awoke to the sun streaming through my window.  It was a beautiful day.  I felt so much better than I had the day before.  Somehow the anticipation is always worse than the actual event for me.  And as I listened with apprehension, I heard sounds coming from Mom’s bedroom.  She was still with me!!  I must admit I did have a bit of mixed feelings about this.  I thought that if Mom had to go sometime, going on the same day as Dad did would somehow appeal to my autistic brain’s need for logic and pattern and practicality.  After all, it would be much less stressful to have one anniversary to commemorate than 2 different ones.  However, that aside, I was very glad to have her still with me.  She, too, was feeling much better.  After attending to all the things I needed to do for Mom I set off for the garage sale.

It was like old times.  Mom and Dad and I used to always spend Saturday morning going to garage sales.  It was our weekly ritual and we all loved it.  Especially Dad and me.  And here we were, I imagined, going to a garage sale together just like old times.  I carried on a conversation with Dad as I walked along.  I told him all about what I was doing in my life, and especially that I was keeping my promise to him and looking after Mom in the best possible way I could.  The garage sale turned out to be amazing and I picked up several treasures.  Dad was truly with me I thought.  On my way to drop off my new things at home,  I saw a sign for ANOTHER garage sale near-by.  Again I talked to Dad as I walked down the streets to this sale.  Again, it was a great sale.  Two great sales??  That was too much to ask for.  I had not been to two great sales in a row in years.  My heart soared.

I headed downtown to do some errands, then took the bus all the way to the other end of town to do some other errands before I finally arrived home in the early afternoon.  The need to roam and wander had ceased and I could finally settle down at home with a cup of tea.

Later in the afternoon, a most curious thing happened.  Actually it was a wondrous thing, a miraculous thing.  Dad loved to garden and especially loved his flowers.  At their old house, he had some beautiful tulips that were red and yellow.  They bloomed about the same time every year and the year Dad died they were in full bloom.  The house had not yet sold so I was able to pick many of them to create bouquets of Dad’s flowers for the funeral.  Those beautiful vibrant red and yellow tulips were somehow a symbol to me of God’s goodness through all the pain.  Well, last fall, I planted a whole mess of bulbs in my little garden at the side of my house – my Dad’s memorial garden I call it.  Many of the flowers were up including some tulips of pink, purple and red.  Today I knew I needed to replace some of the flowers in the bouquets I had been making for Mom from the flowers in the garden.  I went out with my scissors to pick a few and to my amazement there were a number of red and yellow tulips in full bloom!  They were not there yesterday.  I did not even remember buying any red and yellow tulips.  It was like Dad put those tulips there on this very momentous day,  letting me know he was OK and he was watching over me.  It was also an incredible gift from God to know that He too was letting me know I was loved and was not alone in the midst of my pain.  He knew what I needed on this difficult day.  I carefully snipped two of the miracle tulips and brought them in to Mom.  We marveled together of God’s goodness to us.

Well, it’s now 9:45pm, time for bed.  Time to let the grief that has been front and centre to settle back a bit into the inner recesses of my mind.  Do I forget?  NEVER!  Dad is with me every day.  I miss him so much.  But grief is like the ocean.  The tide goes in and out, the waves are big or they are calm.  It’s never the same from day to day but it’s always there, always lapping at my toes.  Dad, thanks for a good day with you.  God, thank you for you faithfulness and your endless love.

Anniversary Grief – what’s that??

Today is May 1st.  May is an anniversary month.  No, not a wedding anniversary – it is the month in which my Dad died.  On May 20 it will have been 7 years since I’ve had the chance to talk to my Dad, give him a hug, tell him I love him and joke with him.  I miss him all the time but when May comes around the missing him that was there in the back recesses of my mind comes to the forefront – right to the centre of my thoughts and my life.  No, it is not as intense as it used to be but it still affects my days.  What I miss most is not being able to tell him all the things that have been going on in my life.  I was never able to tell him of the incredible experience it was for me to be librarian at the brand new school and how I set the library up myself and how it was the best two years of my whole 33 years in the school system.  I couldn’t tell him that I retired after struggling so hard for so long to work and be a “normal” person with a job.  I couldn’t tell him that I now work in the  Public Library system and I look after the library at my church.  He’s never met my new cat, Gus Gus and does not know of all the crazy things he has done.  And most of all, he doesn’t know that Mom has lived with me the last 3 and a half years and that I am keeping the promise I made to him on his death bed – to look after Mom in the best way possible.

What is it about anniversary grief that is like a sore that just keeps opening up and oozing.  Does it ever heal?  I don’t know.  Actually I hope not.  Anniversary grief for me is a way of never forgetting. I have always been very sensitive to anniversaries of all kinds.  Dates and events in my life hold such meaning that they are played over and over each year like a broken record.  Even if my conscious mind forgets the anniversary, my unconscious mind will react and I will realize with surprise why I was crying or feeling down.  I don’t know if this is an autism thing or not.  I just know my brain runs in sort of a groove year round with different things coming to the forefront at the precise time each year.  A sense of order even in my memories, categorized by date, severity, and a number of other slots they fit into.

Anniversary grief also for me has a sense of anticipation to it.  With Dad, I dread May 20th getting closer and closer and I think it will be a horrible day in some way.  In reality, it usually turns out to be a fairly regular day.  The anticipation is far worse than the actual event.  I know this but somehow it doesn’t really help.  And when the day is over there is a relief that I got through that dreaded event.

I need to make a plan.  I need to make a plan to do something positive on May 20th.  I could work in my flower garden, the garden that is a memorial garden to my Dad who loved to garden and plant flowers.  I could write him a little letter telling him of all the things I wish I could say to him.  I could buy a can of peanuts and munch away at them.  I always gave Dad a can of peanuts for Christmas because he loved them.  The trick was to wrap it in such a way that he did not know what it was!  I could phone my Uncle John and tell him I love him ( that’s Dad’s brother) because I do love him bunches and bunches.  Maybe if I think about doing some of these things the knot in the pit of my stomach that gets tighter and tighter as the month goes on may just instead loosen it’s grip and wrap around the oozing sore and send some healing to the grief.  It’s worth a try don’t you think?