Category: Grief

It Seems Like Forever

It seems like forever since my last post about winning a nice award for Abidance: A Memoir of Love and Inevitability. It was such an exciting time for Les and me.

And it has been eighteen months. It was August of 2019. We have all been through a lot since then. We can barely recognize our world. Oh, for the carefree days of Fall 2019, right?

As I have been  rereading my diary of those days, I keep thinking, “I am glad I did not know what lay ahead for all of us, and for me.”

Les fell and broke his hip on December 6, 2019. An ambulance took him to Porter Hospital to have it pinned. Since I always stayed with him, we were there until the day before Christmas. I missed the three Christmas trees we had at home, but we strung some lights in our hospital window. It was okay. And we loved getting home for Christmas Eve.

There was lots of physical therapy at home during January and February. Les was coming along well; we were encouraged. Then about the time that the COVID pandemic became obvious,  the middle of March, he began having pain and soon he couldn’t lift his leg to walk. I began transferring him to walker to wheelchair, to walker to commode, to walker to chair, etc., helping him lft and pivot each time. We went into hospice so I would have medications in the house to help him  in case his health went south during COVID, but we were afraid to allow any helpers into the house.

The pain increased; the morphine increased. Some confusion ensued. Toward the end of May,  we finally convinced hospice to send a mobile x-ray unit . Les’ hip was broken again. In fact, his femoral head had disintegrated entirely.

Now we were between a rock and a hard place. We could go on as we were, which was quickly becoming untenable. Although there were risks to surgery, there was also a finite chance to mitigate the pain and to walk again.

We chose surgery and spent sixteen days back in the hospital. (Fortunately, they had just lifted the COVID restrictions temporarily,  so I could stay with him.) We came home; the pain was gone; he could walk a little. But his 98-year-old body had gone as far as it could go. He became too weak to even stand. He just could not go any further.

Les died at 11:52 p.m. on June 25, 2020.

We had an online memorial service for him on July 25 . Our children from out of town could not come, of course. His ashes were interred at Ft. Logan National Cemetery three days later with only ten attendees, all masked and distanced.

Here are the links to his service and obituary:

Memorial service:       https://youtu.be/hAHluoUN7OU
Obituary: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vzVdx7bnf6fzCQGM4OVvvTelEXhfJxWN/view?usp=sharing

Bulletin: https://files.constantcontact.com/1fe2f3ef001/692c301f-f670-4455-a187-7922953638de.pdf

I am heartbroken.

Are You an Orphan?

Are your parents gone? Do you feel like an orphan?

A Birthday Mourning

A birthday morning—
an ocean shore, far from home
whitecaps blend
into the mist above
driftwood lies gray upon the sand
relics of places distant, days of yore

A birthday morning—
my first as an orphan,
the woman who bore me gone three years and more
the man who sired me, ashes encrypted

A birthday mourning—
for the two who gave me life

and where am I
under this threatening sky?

Who am I
and when
shall I die?

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, copyright 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. See "Books" above.)

Are either/both of your parents still alive? Do you treasure them?

 

Transition to Cancer Survivor

This morning I read an excellent post on the transition from patient to survivor (http://quivervoice.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/picking-up-the-pieces). How do we go about our lives during/after a bout with cancer?

Nancy's post prompted me to review what I wrote in Fine Black Lines and I'd like to share that with you. Be sure to read Nancy first!

"Several years later, thinking that I had always handled my cancer well, I reread my diaries, absolutely shocked by how much my present perception of what I had experienced differed from what I had written at the time.

"And I realized how similar I was to the women who join our support group hoping to learn how to deal with their newly diagnosed cancer. How arrogant of me to think they should be where I am now. How essential it is that each woman ultimately find her own way. How important it is that I tell my story as it really happened, not as time has softened it in my memory.

"And yet, as some come with their terror, I see myself and others shrinking from recalling our early horror, trying to convince ourselves we were different from them.

"And when others come with a strong sense of denial and a most determined bravery, I feel great sadness–seeing the cloak of innocence they wrap so carefully around them, unaware how much it has already frayed."

(Excerpted from FIne Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, Copyright 2003, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. See http://ow.ly/gumLP)

 

 

 

Thinking of Your Mom?

As you and I wait for the FREE Kindle book download for The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret, on May 7 and 8, I'd like to share two other excerpts from that book:

http://www.loishjelmstad.com/can-you-visit-your-childhood-home

http://www.loishjelmstad.com/you-can-run-but-can-you-hide

I wrote the first part of The Last Violet while my mother lay dying in home-hospice. It was a very confusing, frustrating, haunting time. After Mother died on Mother's Day 1995, I continued to explore our relationship and my grief in an effort to better understand her – and myself. 

I would like for The Last Violet to become a way for you to explore your relationship with your mother – living or dead.   

All my love, Lois

Mother’s Day Sadness

For the past eighteen years, I have felt especially sad on Mother's Day. 

Don't get me wrong – my husband and family were wonderful, provided beautiful flowers, poignant cards, a book of exquisite poems by Ted Kooser, a precious little stuffed animal, and took me out to dinner. I loved it.

All of the love and fun, however, did not assuage the sadness I felt on Sunday. My beloved mother died eighteen years ago today and in 1995, May 14 was Mother's Day. 

I am thinking of the day of her death and want to share an excerpt from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, Moving Beyond Regret:

 

May 14—I am grateful I have the presence of mind to get up early and pack everything I’ll need for the Big Spring Piano Recital and Graduation Recital this afternoon. I am thankful that I decide at the last minute to go help Jan [my sister]bathe Mother before Les and I go to the church.

 

We set everything up; the first program goes beautifully. During the reception between the two concerts, Renée [my sister-in-law]comes to tell us that Mother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. Her respirations are only three per minute. Although I have to desert the five precious girls who are giving their last recital, my only thought is to get to Mom in time.

 

Joy [our hospice nurse] had told us Friday that we were to keep her comfortable, giving her morphine as often as we noticed retraction. It would, as promised, relieve her sensation of suffocation and the struggling respiration. It is very efficient to give it in tiny amounts at short intervals. Karen [my daughter] prepares the medication; Nick [my physician brother] watches for retraction; I administer the doses. The rest of the family keeps vigil.

 

It is hard to continue giving morphine, knowing that it might hasten her death, but we have pledged that she will not suffer. Sometimes her teeth are clenched shut and I agonize that I am forcing her.

 

From 4:00 in the afternoon until 11:58, my eyes never leave her face and I am taking her pulse as it gradually fades, then stops. Her eyes are open, but she isn’t looking at us— her gaze focuses beyond us, and it is clear that she sees that which we cannot.

 

And so, on this Mother’s Day, my beloved mother dies. I gently close her mouth and hold her chin in place until it stays. I tuck the covers around her. She looks more peaceful than she has for eleven weeks—maybe more peaceful than she ever has.

 

We wait in silent good-bye, hearts breaking, until 2:35 a.m. when two men from the crematory come to take her body. They wrap her in a white sheet, twist the ends shut, and carry her out.

 

Dear God, I have no mother.