Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reflections on My LIfe

Ok...I'm in a dark place this evening. And all of you who read this blog with any regularity know why.

So, as I sit here in my parents' home, I'm feeling VERY alone. The loss of the warmth of my mother's presence has just left this place with such a hollowness that is hard to describe.

As I have thought about all that is going on...and about the stuff that needs to be done....I wonder why this is happening now. Over the past 5 years, as I have emerged from one crisis...I find myself totally enveloped by the mist of yet another one.

Three weeks ago, I was sitting on mom and dad's front porche on a hot early fall day. Mom was feeling well...and a bit wistful.

"It's coming," she said bluntly.

We both knew what she meant.

"And it is a lot closer than either of us know."

"Are you frightened?" I asked.

"Not really," she answered quietly. "It's a new adventure. The only thing I realize is that I have never done this before and I don't know what to expect. When I have been frightened by the unknown, after whatever it was that I was afraid of was over, I looked back and realized the fears were silly! I think this is going to be the same."

"How do you feel?" I asked.

"I feel like I am divorcing my body," she answered. "It's hard to explain."

She knew and she was calm.

I looked over at her and said, " know I have been through a whole lot of drama over the past few years right?"

"You sure have." She smiled.

"Well, when you arrive at your final destination, is there anyway you could put in a good word for me up there and ask them if they could lighten up on me some?"

"You got it," she said. "I will look in on you and see what I can do to make your life easier."

She squeezed my hand.

I squeezed back.

"I love you," I told her.

"You too!"

She smiled again.

Grief - 2

A friend sent me this today. I have received such comfort from my friends during this time. I'm amazed by their love....their care...and their compassion.

The Dash
by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own;
The cars, the house, the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left,
That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
To consider what’s true and real
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

This is BAD

Perhaps this is a good thing.

I am 52 years old.

I have had plenty of drama for two lifetimes. I went through a very bad divorce...and it almost sunk me.


Nothing ever prepared me for what I feel during this time.

Saw a grief counsellor yesterday. She says that I amd doing and behaving normally....she says that it just feels abnormal not to have mom around anymore.

This is so true.

One thing for certain...during this time of trying to be there for my dad, I also have to be there for me too. I need to take very good care of Frank during this...

A friend sent me this poem by Henry Van Dyke. In a strange way, I find tremendous comfort from it.

By Henry Van Dyke

"I am standing at the seashore. A Ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. I stand and watch her until she hangs like a speck of white cloud, just where the sea and the sky come to mingle with each other. And just at that moment, when someone at my side says,

"There she is gone!";

there are other eyes watching her comig, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

"There she comes!"

And that is dying."

Sunday, October 17, 2010


It's now the early hours of Monday. Later on today, my mother will have been gone from me for 7 full days.

My daughters have returned home.....Lovey has returned to her churches. I am still in Huntington, WV with my dad and my son.

I have been so focused on the planning of the memorial service and the cremation....and my kids....and my dad....that I have neglected myself. This is really nothing new. I have basically done this all my adult life.


As I was taking a much needed breather to join some church friends at a bowling event tonight began to settle upon me. The pain began to envelop me like high tide.

I miss my mom.


And, there is nothing I can do about it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October 16, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010 was the day I have been dreading for many, many years.

You see, my mother, passed away peacefully after her long battle with cancer while she was in the hospital. I was honored to be with her when she slipped away...and today was the memorial service.

All of my children were here with me....and so was Lovey!

Five people from my church in Northern Virginia traveled all the way here for the service. I totally broke down and wept when I saw them! Three other people from my gay friendly church were also in attendance.

As mother was beginning the dying process...God gave me a special wink. A lesbian chaplain from the hopsital chaplaincy came in to pray for me and my family and my mother. It served as a grand affirmation of me.

As things slow down now, I am going to begin grieving for my mom....alone. It hurts....bad.

Today's service was special. Here is my EULOGY that I delivered.

I hope it is a blessing to you:

I have so many rich and warm memories of Mom. She was, perhaps, my closest and dearest friend. As I have reflected upon our relationship, I have come to realize that there is nothing about me that she did not know about…or have an opportunity to comment on. You didn’t mess with Mom. She didn’t mess with you. She was never afraid to speak her mind. Her philosophy was simply if you don’t want my opinion, don’t ask.

Some of my earliest memories revolve around my being an only child. As I grew from being a toddler and got to first grade, I remember being afraid that my parents would die and leave me as an orphan.

I guess this is a natural thing for kids to worry about.

Dad used to have a mournful bluegrass recording about such a topic entitled, “Someone Will Love Me in Heaven” by Don Reno and Red Smiley. He would play that song over and over again…and I would listen to it to only become horrified at the concept.

When I became a dad, I remember very clearly that one particular time when I suffered migraines, my twin daughters who were about four years old, came in to try and take care of my. They literally slapped cold and wet washcloths on my forehead in an effort to make the pain go away. When I grew silent…Jessica turned to Laura and said, “I think he’s going to die.” Laura said, “Oh no…now who is going to drive us around when we need to go somewhere.”

I have always been fearful of losing my parents. As a result, over the years I have become fiercely protective. My love has grown for them. We lived as the three musketeers….all for one and one for all. Still, always in the back of my mind, I have been concerned about the season in my life where I would lose my parents.

And here we are.

I stand before you today having a lost a dear friend – my mother.

But she wasn’t just my friend. A lot of you knew her and have your own stories to tell. One of my aunts wrote the following on my FACEBOOK wall:

“Two little girls growing up as close as sisters. We shared first grade thru adulthood. We had the joy of walking many roads together; over mountains to gather hickory nuts, sitting on a log in the middle of flooded Kiahs Creek with Mary, singing "aint gonna study war no more"...sneaking off to the outhouse to smoke a stolen cigarette together, having many sleepovers, telling each other what we thought about things, what kind and color house we would live in; married to brothers, loving each others children, calling each other and trying to remember all the parts of a nursery rhyme, trying to figure out what “crarn” meant. In our last conversation last week, we told each other to keep on trying and many times saying that we loved each other. I will live my days in hope of being with you again. Your buddy, Lois."

I have a vast library of stories Mom has shared with me.

She’s told me about the many times she got into trouble with her mother. One being when she gathered a group of her friends together when she was a child and she stood on a woodpile…and began preaching, “Upon this woodpile I build my church…” As she and her congregation began really getting into it, she remembered her mother coming to get her and spanking her….and marching her back into her house and saying “you little devil….”

But her dad always got a charge out of watching his baby girl have fun…even though it may appeared that she was making light of church or spiritual things.

They had a great relationship. Mom was driving his stick shift car at age 12 – driving all over the community’s hills and loose gravel. In one case, she helped a 16 year old boy drive a big truck up a steep hill with lots of loose gravel…all to the chagrin of the 16 year old boy.

Her dad seemed like a funloving parent with a tremendous sense of humor. Perhaps she got her sense of humor from him.

It never left her.

For example, she and I attended a funeral of a loved one many years ago. The particular loved one had grossly inflated their academic and other accomplishments such that mom grabbed at me and whispered to me, “June Bug….I think we are at the wrong funeral…..I have to look in that casket again to make sure it’s who we think it is in that pretty box!”

We subtly snickered….and agreed that we would never tell the survivors that their relative had made up a lot of the accomplishments in their obituary.

When mom was diagnosed with the worst kind of cancer one can have…she met the challenge head-on. She went to the beauty shop. She told me, “Son, if my hair is going to fall out because of chemotherapy, then it is going to hit the floor in style!” And it did. During those times she would be dressed to the nines….her hair perfectly done…..and her nails done…. She was determined to give “Mr. Chemo” a run for his money.

We spoke many times a day In the midst of the aggressive chemotherapy treatment she underwent. It left her greatly weakened….she called one cold wintry day to tell me that she was just not able to go to her chemotherapy. “I just can’t summon the strength,” she said. I told her to rest….and try to relax…that I’m sure one day would not set her back. She agreed.

BUT…that afternoon, she called me all proud of herself. You see, in this day of caller id, she had received an obscene telephone call that day right after she had spoken with me. It made her so mad that she got the extra dose of adrenaline flowing through her body that gave her the strength to do her chemotherapy. Oh, and in the process, she let the obscene phone caller have a piece of her mind!

Mom was quite the fighter. She fought cancer with everything she could. And in her normal style, for a time, she won. She went into total remission for a year and three months. Then it returned this past May. During the summer we planned and she began her treatments…but this time, the cancer came back with a vengeance. For a time she had strength and was able to do a multitude of things….but by the time I arrived in late September I could see the toll it was taking.

Mom began having new pain in new places….and the doctor told us the cancer was on the move. More scans and x-rays. The doctor told me privately that she had six months or less. The cancer was indeed spreading. He recommended that we contact Hospice.

I was devastated.

Hospice did become involved…and mom admitted herself into the program. Somewhere deep inside her, she knew what was happening. She told me that she never wanted to know how much time she had left.

But she said to me at the beginning of October, “I’m not afraid to die.” I asked her why not. She said that she looked upon this as a new adventure…and that the only fear that comes from this is the fact that we have never done anything like this before. So there is a little fear of the unknown. She also told us what she wanted in terms of her funeral….she was pretty emphatic about being cremated.

“It’s coming,” she said. “I feel it…and it won’t be much longer.”

That weekend her heart went out of rhythm and we were told to go to the emergency room. Mom fought Hospice and us, but we were finally able to get her to the emergency room. After a few days of monitoring, they were able to shock her back into rhythm.

It didn’t last.

By this past Sunday, she was not feeling good…but her sense of humor remained intact. On Monday, she was obviously miserable. Her condition warranted a transfer to a private room.

She was restless….and in a moment where it was just her and I in her room, I said, “Mom, can you hear me?” She squeezed my arm and nodded her head. I continued, “Mom, you are very sick. I never thought I would say this to you…but I feel I must: If you need to go, go ahead. Dad will be okay….and we will take really good care of him. Just don’t ever forget how much you are loved here. Do you understand?” She nodded.

Within a half-hour, she had calmed. And, another hour or so after that, she passed peacefully.

Oh, it has broken all our hearts. We loved her.

But we know that she is at peace and finally pain free awaiting each of us.

Not just her family…..but she is awaiting each of her friends as well.

I’ve prepared a multimedia presentation in honor of my mother. I pray that it is a blessing to you.

The first song is “There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill. The second song is “Coming Home” by my daughter.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I have been in WV almost three weeks now. As I write this, both parents are in hospice care. Mother went for palliative radiation treatments on her shoulder, skull, and neck. The brain scan one week ago revealed that the cancer has spread around her is a C3 and C5 in fact it has eroded some of the that....she has two masses in her neck....that are contributing to the pain. Yesterday she was barely able to walk after her treatment...and we saw her normal oncologist. Her heart was out of rythmn. He sent her to the hospital...where she is today. While her heartbeat was originally at 162....this morning it is still over 100 beats per minute. They are concerned that she will start sending out blood clots.

Dad is still asleep.

He collapsed twice at the hospital yesterday.

Deep inside me I am going crazy....

It is so hard watching this happen to my parents.