Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shaking the blues

It has been a hard week. Harder than most. I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but interestingly last night, in an email, a friend asked how I was and said, "I just don't trust every cheerful thing you put on your blog . . ." Hmmm. Perceptive.

Nearly two weeks ago a cousin, who lives in another town, suffered a cerebral hemmorhage. He was flown to Portland, to the medical school hospital and remained in a coma until he died Sunday morning.

We were never close. We grew up hundreds of miles apart and I was 8 years older. I remember him as a sweet little boy we saw when we visited our grandparents in the same town where he lived. As adults we lived, for several years, in the same town, but apart from some shared holiday dinners and a family reunion, our paths did not cross much. I had little in common with him or his wife. If I'm honest I'll admit that I thought they were odd.

And suddenly he was dying in a strange city and I was the only family, apart from his wife, that was nearby. He had no siblings, no children. I talked daily with his wife and I emailed the cousins to report on his condition. While I was writing about the "blue hour," he was in his own transition between daylight and darkness and though I didn't say so, that was what was on my mind.

When the Drs said there was no hope of recovery and his wife should let his family know, I was the only one here to tell him goodbye. I did my best. Whether he heard or not, I told him his family was with him. I told him about the sweet little boy I remembered and how much his parents loved him. I talked about Grandma and Grandpa and our other cousins—common ground we did share. It wasn't so much, but it was what I could do. He died the next morning and I was the person his wife called to come. I sat by his side with her for hours while the hospital arranged for organ donations. She was alone and devastated, so I brought her home with me. Her grief filled my house. When she left today a bit of it remained, lurking in the corners.

Something about all this has pitched me into a dark place. To know that I was really never part of his life until he was dying seems terribly sad. My sister has twice written, "family is family" as we've gone along this past couple of weeks, and I guess that is what it was all about. I was the family that was here and representing the ones who weren't here became my job. It's over, but I'm having a hard time shaking it.

16 comments:

  1. Be well. You were there for her, you did what people always say, "let me know how I can help". You helped, that means alot. **hug**

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  2. Don't be in too much of a hurry to shake the blues. I think there's always more closure in letting oneself feel the emotions rather than rush through them, as uncomfortable as they may be. You did the right thing. You'll be back in the sunshine soon enough. :-)

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  3. Walking with someone through the grieving process is the greatest gift a person can ever give. It is enough that you were there with your cousins wife. It is enough that you held her hand and opened your home and let her grieve with family. Family is family and she wasn't alone.
    The ache will ease over time. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  4. I'm so sorry you have had this to deal with. I guess that's the true family experience. The bitter with the sweet. What a meaningful thing you did-to have someone sit with you when these things happen is golden. Doing something complicated at these moments helps one focus on something besides saddness-if only for a brief time. Sofia's always a great anti-depressant.

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  5. Anonymous7:39 AM

    Dear Terry,
    Families are just what you said "common ground"..our connections are roots but like seeds we often grow in different gardens. What you did for your cousin and his wife was ancient..
    and the best part of family
    -you witnessed at his bedside with memories and love...what a gift.God Bless. Missy

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  6. I don't know about family as I basically don't feel that I have one. It is the loneliest feeling in the world to be in the situation your cousin's wife was in. You gave her the gift of friendship and your caring heart to tell her she was not alone. That is a tremendous consolation, family or not. Bless you.

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  7. Terry, I'm sorry for your loss and for the blue time -- but I think grieving is something to honor, and it's natural to feel moved and deeply affected by what you have been thru. It also sounds like you provided strength and comfort to your cousin and his wife and other family members in a time when they needed it -- and that's a wonderful thing. Be kind to yourself and let yourself feel what you feel, and you'll be feeling sunny again when it's time.

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  8. I am so sorry for your loss and for the sadness you are feeling. You may not have been close as adults, but you were there when his wife needed a friend. As everyone has said before - be kind to yourself, allow yourself to grieve, and know that we all are here for you.

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  9. Being there for your cousin's wife is a wonderful gift. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and emotions - it's helpful for people who find themselves in similar situations, we know we're not alone.

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  10. I have a niece who is a hospice nurse. Only 39, she loves her work, if you can understand that. She loves and grieves her patients and moves on to help the next through the last transition. Just this weekend, she told my daughter that she knows her patient's end is near when he/she starts asking how all those dead people are able to be at the bedside. They truly see deceased loved ones--in the majority of cases, she says. Don't feel sad that you were the only one there with him. I suspect many others were there too and maybe you were a conduit. Even if you never hear from his wife again (too painful, too distant, whatever), know that you gave her a great gift by opening your heart. And I bet your cousin knew it too.

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  11. Oh, Terry. This resonates more than you could imagine. Hugs, and take care of yourself.

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  12. Ah, but Terry, you were there when it really counted. Your cousin's wife will always feel a kinship with you because you shared a very sacred time in her life with her husband. I would feel honored to have you by my side telling me stories because you are one of the best story tellers I know. The darkenss wil slowly fade away. Sofie will see to that. Hugs from me.

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  13. I am so sorry for your loss... but what a wonderful gift you gave your cousin and especially his wife... be well...

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  14. What a gift. You were in the right place when you were needed.

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  15. Terry,
    I'm so sorry that I haven't had a chance to check in with your blog until this evening, and to read of your loss and "family dilemna". You know, you were ther for your cousin and his wife in their real time of need! How good it was of you to be with her and to offer your home to her! Don't beat yourself up about not being there in the past: they didn't need you then, but they needed you when he was sick. You were GREAT!!

    Warm hug,
    Judy

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