Tag Archive | grief

The Last Time…

A last reminder

“Call Dad @ 3PM on Monday”

“Call Dad @ 7am on Wednesday”

Those notes to myself are still stuck to the wall above my bed, tucked into the top of one of my favourite pictures of one of my favourite “people”.

“Call Dad @ 3PM on Monday” Monday, September 2, 2013. The next day, he was going to be prepping for his surgery on Wednesday and didn’t think he’d want to talk to anyone. So we had a long chat — about nothing, about everything — this one last time.

“Call Dad @ 7am on Wednesday” Wednesday, September 4, 2013. A quick call after I got home from work on the day of his surgery, to wish him well, to tell him I loved him before he headed off with my brother to the hospital.

Two-and-a-half weeks in the hospital, during which I fought other callers, visitors, pain, and drugs for time to talk with him. Our conversations were short and sad and so very heartbreaking. Then a week at home, where I still fought other callers, visitors, pain, and drugs for time to talk with him. (I went home at the end of September, to look after him while we waited for home health care to kick in, but he passed away only a couple of short weeks later, at 9AM on October 16, 2013. )

Today would have been his 77th birthday. And not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had more time to talk to him, about nothing, about everything.

You don’t ever think that the last time is the Last Time. For anything.

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A very good place to start

“So…you mentioned ‘epic’ in your last post. Care to elaborate?”

Oh, yeah.

I should probably explain that.

And why I know this time is different.

(I know…how many times have I said that. I have journals and diaries going back decades that attest to my high failure rate at making any lasting changes in any aspect of my life. So why is it different now?)

After my last Maci-related posts here, I drifted in apathy and sadness and nothingness. Slept a lot. Ate more. Wallowed endlessly. Got further out of control in pretty much every aspect of my life.

Cut to November 9.

That was the day that I decided I needed a new start — an extreme new start.

[I grew up in a household full of wonderful clutter. The difference between that home and mine is that my mother was neat and tidy by nature (where I’m messy and lazy) and so our houses were always charming and homey in their clutter. And my mother was a serial collector — giving away the contents of one collection when another was started — rather than a hoarder.

When my mother died, my attitude towards “stuff” began to change. You can’t take it with you, and if I were to die, there was nothing I owned that anyone would struggle to (or want to) keep — at best, things to be sold off to get rid of them; at worst, they would just be tossed out. If it wasn’t making me happy to have it around me, then why keep it? My attachment to my “stuff” was weakening, but the situation I was in was overwhelming.]

Trying to fix things while staying put where I was wasn’t working for me. It was long past time for a change.

“Portable” became my new mantra.

I put in my notice on my apartment and found a room to rent in someone else’s house. Rented a small storage unit and a mail box.

I threw away most of my belongings, and I do mean “most”, including almost all of the books that I’d been desperately holding onto for decades, every piece of furniture I owned, my television, and most of my computer equipment. (I know — it seems a waste to have thrown out so many functional and usable items, but ultimately that excuse has been keeping me from decluttering properly for years and if I held onto things now long enough to sell or give them away, I’d never be free. It had to be a quick and clean break and that meant throwing things away while I could.)

I couldn’t manage to do it all myself — not because I was holding onto things, but because I wasn’t in the best shape or health and trying to do this huge a job on my own while working 12-hour shifts was hard. So I hired the 1-800-Got-Junk guys. Unfortunately, one completely-packed-to-the-rafters truckload and many personal trips to the dumpsters later and my apartment still looked like a squat. That’s when I realized that I’d never finish it if I stayed, so I cut and ran before the new year. One of these days I’ll get a bill from the landlord for the final clean up. And that’s a small price for the sense of relief that doing a runner brought.

So now I live in a rented room in a house with dogs and a small yard. My phone and my Internet are mobile and contract-free. My electronics are all portable. The only furniture I own is a new twin mattress set. Everything else that is here with me is in a half dozen plastic storage containers. My small storage unit is severely underutilized and contains pretty much only those items that I wanted to keep but didn’t need with me: my mother’s paintings, my technical writing and other reference books, photos, my guitar, some tarot/oracle card decks, and some papers I didn’t have time to sort through. If I were to lose it all tomorrow, I’d be disappointed but not heartbroken, and that’s very liberating.

I live closer to where I work so I’ve virtually eliminated my taxi addiction and I’m walking more. I’m working on cleaning up my finances and my health. I’m coming out of my hermitage and beginning to actually interact with the Real World in ways I’ve avoided for over a decade. I’ve returned to the spiritual quest I paused years ago. And I’m working out what phase II is going to look like.

I am still very much a work-in-progress. I don’t know where this is going, but I’m no longer afraid and no longer hiding. And that’s a very good place to start an epic journey.

Filling the hole

In the minutes/hours/days after Maci’s death, I went on a grief-fueled shopping binge. Anything remotely spiritual, cat-related, grief-related, or (better yet) cat-grief–and-spirituality-related brought out an urge to spend, spend, spend. Over the course of two days, I’d spent several hundred dollars on things I wouldn’t likely never have bought otherwise, including making a number of small, spur-of-the-moment donations. The only thing that really stopped me from spending more is a lack of money.

I’d done something similar when my mother died, buying things that I’d hoped might help me to come to grips with the emotions I was feeling…I still haven’t finished reading most of the books I ordered during that period. (Hell, I haven’t even *started* reading most of them.)

Most of the things I ordered this time around won’t arrive for several weeks, but I’m already over the initial rush of gut-wrenching emotion that prompted their purchases. It’s the ultimate in binge buying. The act of shopping filled the aching void in my heart, made me feel like I was actually doing something at a time when I was feeling particularly helpless. (In the weeks before this, I’d been on a smaller buying spree, ordering things that might help me get Maci to eat more. Those items are now arriving in my mailbox and I’m finding myself now trying to figure out where I can donate them.)

The whole situation has me thinking about the issue of hoarding in general. Hoarding is the current topic du jour on TV, the new train wreck for all of us voyeurs. And most people cannot comprehend how a person gets to that point in their lives. I can. While I’m not (quite) at a point where I would be featured on one of those shows, I do live in constant clutter. Before this, the clutter made me kind of depressed. Now, it’s comforting in the sense that it muffles the emptiness that is Maci’s physical absence. It, like the binge shopping, fills the gaping hole in your heart. Of course, it’s a stop-gap measure that causes its own problems in turn that can be even worse than the grief, but at the time you’re not thinking about the future, just about stopping the pain or anxiety.

It’s done what I needed it to do, but I think it’s time to release the clutter, release the bubble I’ve wrapped around myself over the last few decades.

I have much to do, and time’s a wasting.

Tear-stained thoughts from a broken heart

Maci, my feline companion of 15 years, died on Saturday morning, just two days after my 46th birthday. He’s left an enormous hole in my heart, bigger than you would think such a little guy could leave. It was a sudden decision I had to make without prior preparation. He’d been losing weight and was little more than skin and bones, but I still never thought cancer. Maybe I was too wrapped up in grieving for my mother, and that’s something I can’t make up for.

On Wednesday, he had a brief moment where he couldn’t stand up — his back legs just wouldn’t support him — and I finally made an appointment with the vet. The back end problem went away, but he still wasn’t eating much. And he was just, well, “off”. I had reiki healing done on him on my birthday — to support him until our appointment on Saturday — and he spent pretty much the entire session in my arms or on my shoulder. It seemed odd at the time, but I think he knew by then what was going to happen to him. Me, I was firmly in denial. He was supposed to be around for at least a few more years, damn it.

On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready to go, he actually came out of the bedroom where he was sleeping, climbed up on a box of cat litter, and started nosing at his cat carrier, which was sitting on top of my laundry cart. He got into the carrier with little fuss. That should have been enough to warn me something was going on, but I brushed it off. At the clinic, he was less vocal and upset than he usually is and I had the thought that I should take him out of the carrier and hold him…but I didn’t want to stress him. I will always regret that I didn’t heed that impulse, because, looking back, I would have braved any amount of biting or scratching to have one last cuddle with him.

I’ve been reading Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s book “On Grief and Grieving” lately, trying to come to grips with the ongoing grief from my mother’s death in August. I was reading the book in the examination room while we were waiting for the vet to finish up with an emergency patient. I talked to Maci — he was mostly lying quietly, though he hissed when I moved anywhere near the carrier door. (I’d brought a blanket with me for him, but that really upset him for some reason, so I tucked it into my purse, out of sight.) I told him we were going to make him feel better….and I suppose we did, though it wasn’t at all the way I’d expected us to. In hindsight, I should be thankful for that long wait in the examination room as it was the last time I got to spend with my sweet boy while he was conscious.

The vet finally came and took him into the back for his examination. After several minutes, she came and brought me into the back with her. That’s when I knew things were going badly. Maci has to be — had to be — masked in order to minimize the trauma of vet visits and he was still masked and lying on the table. The vet had me feel the mass in his intestine — it was so long, but hadn’t been there in January at our previous visit. She recommended letting him go. It was like a punch in the stomach. It wasn’t a decision I’d expected to have to make that day and it broke me to make it. I stayed there until it was over — I’ll be getting his ashes in a wooden box with a name plaque on it later — and then left. I cried at the clinic and then managed to hold it back in until I got home and into my apartment. Then I started hyperventilating and I’ve been doing that pretty much ever since. It is unbelievably empty here without him.

A heavy thread of guilt underlies my grief for Maci that doesn’t exist under the continuing grief for my mother. Guilt because I was responsible for his care and quality of life: I should have noticed how serious things were sooner, I should have had my own shit together enough to have been able to afford regular vet care, I should have been a better companion. My mother controlled her own life and environment, but I alone am responsible for what Maci ate and what his environment was like.

He’d been sick for some time, but I had lots of reasons for not taking him to the vet when it all first started: unemployment and lack of money, not believing in the seriousness of the situation, putting it all down to getting older, not wanting to stress him out more with a vet visit, my own personal emotional issues…lots of excuses, but it all comes down to a failure of my responsibilities and, for that, I don’t think there is or can be forgiveness, certainly not from me.

Right now, I’m precariously balanced on a precipice. Do I use this powerful grief as a catalyst for change and growth, to honour the memories of this most beloved creature and my mother who preceded him? Do I just fall fully into the darkness? Or do I just continue to teeter forever in this sorrowful, apathetic limbo?

I know what my answer *should* be, but it’s too soon to say how it will actually play out.

I’m beginning to hate you

Yes, Facebook. I’m talking to you.

I don’t need to see my mother’s face as avatar all over my news feed.

And I don’t need to see all of the “RIP Grandma” status posts and messages of condolence slipping through that same news feed.

I’ve deliberately not posted a message myself on my own wall in order to avoid all of that from my own friends, but it’s leaking through all the same because many of my friends are people who knew and loved my mother.

Maybe I’d feel differently if I didn’t permanently have this connection now between Facebook and my mother dying. Maybe I’d be feeling more generous and understanding. I’m not there yet.

I got an e-mail from a friend of my parents’ (a very sweet lady) that included the sentiment “I know how you are feeling but we all have to be there for your Dad now”. And it’s making me cranky, I think because it presumes both that she knows exactly how my grief is manifesting itself  and that my grief is insignificant compared to my father’s. I don’t like that her well-intentioned message is evoking this reaction in me — she’s grieving herself (and she lost her own mother when she was much younger so she has been in a similar situation) — or that the activity on Facebook is doing the same thing. It’s not my place to dictate how anyone else grieves. But the feelings are there all the same. It’s something I’m going to have work through and come to grips with — I’m not as enlightened as I would wish to be.

It does all make me want to turn off my computer for awhile, though.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

I’m going slightly mad…

I’m in some kind of messed up head space.

Things are going reasonably well for me right now. I’m working in a new (short term) contract, my EI finally came through, things are generally OK. But I have a permanent low-grade headache and general unwellness that I just can’t shake. I feel frazzled, despite not really being overextended. And I seem to alternating between insomnia and narcolepsy.

More importantly, I am constantly near — or actually in — tears. Over nothing. Over anything. Happy things, sad things, mundane things. It’s an overwhelming and sudden sadness that has no actual form or substance. It might be subconsciously related to my mother’s illness, but it’s certainly not consciously about that. It might be hormonal or chemical, but it’s been going on for a couple of weeks now and that would be odd for the usual imbalances.

All I know is that I recognize this place. I’ve been here before, and I don’t like it. (Or, rather, I don’t like not having control over it. It’s a subtle difference.)

It’s not depression, not really. It feels more like being steeped in someone else’s sorrow, if that makes sense. (Have you ever been around someone who leaks sadness or anger to such a degree that you begin to feel the same thing, despite not being sad or angry yourself? That’s kind of what it’s like.)

The song that’s stuck in your head

I woke up this morning with Dan Fogelberg’s “The Leader of the Band” going through my head. I have no idea why. I wake up to my TV, not the radio, and I don’t remember hearing the song on the TV. I didn’t hear it last night, nor at any time in the last several months. Yet there it is, playing continuously in my head, all morning.

Perhaps there are stray thoughts of my father percolating in my head, manifesting as this song. “And, Papa, I don’t think I said I love you near enough.”

I’m in a weird, sad, and melancholy mood the last couple of days. Last night, I had sudden and vivid recollections of the summer day our first dog died of a heart attack in our backyard. It’s been almost 30 years and I still feel it keenly.