Category Archives: loss

Sitting at my father’s grave

Dear Dad,

It is nearly one year since you left this world. I came to your grave, not a usual thing for me to do on Memorial Day, but I knew it would mean so much to you to have flowers put on your gravesite.

I chose some fresh flowers from my yard, such as they were, knowing it was the intention rather than their impressiveness. By the time I got myself out the front door, sunscreen on, and a big straw hat to protect my face, it was nearly noon.

When I said [my visit] would mean something to you, I’m sure part of it was projection on my part, looking in a mirror. Yes, this visit means something to me as well.

Our reconnecting after not communicating for–was it twenty years?–meant much to both of us. I give credit to Landmark Education for urging me to make that call to New Mexico. Although I lost touch, my sister Linda always knew where you and your next wife travelled. You were glad to hear my voice; amazingly, you recognized it after all those years. That call was more easy to make than my anxiety had led me to believe. Eventually I made a trip out West to visit. And it was good.

Then when your wife (after the long ago divorce from my mother) was ill and dying, you two returned to Ohio. You received support from your adult children. After her death, you and I began going out to eat together. It was what I called “your breakfast at lunchtime.” Cracker Barrel, Bob Evans, Big Boy–you had your favorite servers at each one. I bit back my vegetarian rigidity and loosened up a bit to enjoy a few hours with my father.

But that’s the past and you are no longer available for those breakfast sessions. Now I sit here in the hot sun with the noisy traffic on Colerain going shopping on the Memorial Day holiday. I sit on the edge of your plot; there is some grass now but it is obvious that the ground is fairly new. I was there when they lowered you in your coffin. Frankly, it still creeps me out, no matter how many times I see it. It seemed unreal–or perhaps I had to be numb to witness it at all.

It’s All About Me, anyway, this journaling, this blog, and my witnessing the end of a life. I know some day, some month, some year, I will face this, too. Not knowing how much time is left has been a huge zen koan for my life.

I sincerely hope my short visit has been some comfort to you–indeed, for us both.

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Another Mother’s Day

I lost my mother in 2007.  The anniversary of her birthday came and went in April. I usually write about her then but did not. Am I not a loving, dutiful daughter?

For one thing, I am getting “real” about my mother having passed. And, although she is not physically present anymore, I sometimes feel her presence, her spirit, if you will. The wind chimes I got her for her deck came back to me after her death. I hear them often; they are comforting as well as beautiful. My two sisters and I text, remembering our mother, as we try to be there for one another.

So this morning as I sat before my fireplace on this chilly Sunday, the theme for my reflection is evident. I sigh yet it is a sigh of acceptance. Perhaps her first-born has finally grown. For acceptance is the final stage of Kubler-Ross’s phases for grieving. One can accept reluctantly but not kicking and screaming in denial (for that would not be acceptance).

I lit incense to the goddess mothers in my living room. If I pause to look and listen, there really are mothers all around me.

 

My mother would have been 85 today

April 9th is a date that stands out for me: it is the date of my mother’s birth.

Today she would have been 85. Always easy to remember because she was twenty when I was born and twenty is an easy number for me to add to my own birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom (wherever ‘you’ are)!

I want to share the poem I wrote about my last day on Earth with her in March 2007. All five of her children plus two spouses were there, crowded in that hospice room at Ft. Hamilton Hospital. We Beisers, at least, seem to be a stubborn bunch! I’ve been told by several nurse friends that their experience is that people often die when you leave the room. But my siblings and I were not budging.

To honor and memorialize my mother (Irene “Shirley” Hornsby), I read my poem at my Thursday class at Women Writing for (a) Change this morning. We were having a readaround where we take turns sharing a piece we wrote. So, by popular demand, (at least from family and friends on Facebook), below is the poem:

Breath

It was her death, after all;
I was only an observer.
Lung cancer or not,
it all comes down to the breath.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Towards the end, a final gasp.
My little sister, a nurse’s aide,
watched for signs:
See that blue, the
mottled colors on her feet–
the oxygen is lessening.
It all comes down to the breath.
Breathe in, breathe out.

Later I called Jeri the conductor,
the family guide to mom’s passing.
When I, the last, reached the room
my little sister informed our mother
that all five of her children were there.
She had fought hard and now
it was okay to let go.
Earlier that day–
eyes seeing something we could not—
our mother exclaimed
“amazing” with no explanation.
We like to remember the joy
in that moment; meanwhile,
it all comes down to the breath.
Breathe in, breathe out.

When it was time she opened her eyes.
The look did not include us.
There in that room
with all her children watching,
she died with her mouth open.
The nurse checked her heartbeat
then told us she was gone.
She took the oxygen tube out
of our mother’s nostrils.
She asked me to turn the tanks off.

First one, then the other.
Suddenly so silent.
No more humming,
that nagging but necessary
noise of artificial breath
that had haunted her
those final few months.
No more need for these
tanks and tubes.

2:25 on a Sunday morning
and all we could do was
breathe in, breathe out.
It all comes down to the breath.

After reading a burial poem

After reading a burial poem

I remember my Grandma Katie at the graveyard.
We Beiser children waited … after the service, after the people left.
We followed the truck to the site where her casket would be dropped.
I’d never done that before. It was real.
We stood there silently and reverently.
After the job was done, after the guy and his truck
and death equipment had finished the job,
but not covered her casket with dirt,
I was ready.
Grandma Katie loved pussy willows.
I had bought some.
I dropped the flowers onto her casket.
If I said a chant it was unknown to me,
deeply felt, deeply dropped
into the earth with Grandma.

how that chant makes me cry

To settle down my mind before meditation, I played a chant that begins “OM Satchinanda Parabrahma” …. and ends “Hari Om, Sat Nam” that I downloaded from Deva Premal last spring. This chant will likely always be associated with a sad moment in my life:  my handsome and loyal dog Bodhi and his final hours on this earth. For I played this chant as he sat on the living room floor the morning after Memorial Day, unable to rise. 

When Bodhi’s back legs began giving out, I met him at the side gate and brought him in the house from the two front steps. When this became difficult, I bought him a ramp. When his front legs went, there was nothing left to do. He was a Norwegian Elkhound and 65 pounds his last years. We were together 13 years, long for a dog his size. 

So when I played this chant this morning, immediately that connection came up, that memory of me sitting on the floor next to him waiting for a vet appointment to release him. I cried. I had to. I am still letting go of this marvelous relationship. Little by little. Will it ever end? 

So I had a good cry then sat for a bit. I silently chanted OM 108 times, as I fingered my sandalwood beads. It felt like the perfect thing to do on this Sunday morning. Now I just shared this with you on this first official day of Fall Equinox.

three this year

 

Three this year

and it’s only August.

There is no rhyme or

reason for why

some are easier

than others.

 

I don’t care if it’s

just a dog.

I found him at the pound.

Handsomest male that day!

He trained me in trust

and lobbied hard for loyalty.

 

I don’t care if it’s

just a cat.

Longest relationship yet!

Eighteen years of telling me

what to do and when to feed her.

And when it was cold

she slipped under the cover

like a feline who knows

she’s top lover.

 

And when you said you were

leaving, even if it was

the third time this year,

this time I believed you.

You invoked the anger on my face,

making me admit it was there,

even though I fought it.

 

Three this year

and it’s only August.

Perhaps some will always

be easier than others.