Category: Grief

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.

 

 

Death of a Friend

Almost two weeks ago, I had a distinct nudging to visit a friend of ours. 

Les and I have belonged to a small support group through our church since 1969. Of the original nine couples and one single, seven of the men and three women had died. Floyd, the one remaining man beside Les, had been having a rough spring and we had wanted to visit him and his lovely Lynette in Loveland, Colorado.

Since Les' November brush with mortality, his subsequent pacemaker, and various ups and downs, our doctor had asked us to stay close to medical care in the Denver metropolitan area. Then in early April, with things somewhat stable, he gave us permission to drive to Loveland. We kept trying to make the trip. Denver had four snowstorms in April; Les had bad days. Things just weren’t working out.

Thursday, April 25, I woke with this strong urge. The weather was good; Les was okay. So we went. Floyd and Lynette seemed grateful that we had come. Floyd had entered hospice care the evening before, but he was up walking around, sitting in a chair, talkative, peaceful. The four of us and son Galen shared deeply. Les and I felt the visit was meant to be. Whether or not Floyd and Lynn needed us, we needed them.

On April 30 Floyd died. I want to share with you, my dear readers, the poem I read at his service:

 For Floyd

We can’t believe you’re gone –
hospice, yes, but only six days?
You were just here – alert, alive, aligned
ready to go, most surely, but still participating

You were such a good man –

Working hard and faithfully over the years   
an expert with your hands
building beautiful things
gracing this space with mailboxes,
coffee mug shelves, the reusable casket

Loyal to your church, your friends, your family
generous, giving, always game for another adventure
another trip, another house, another state

You were such a good man –

steadfast in faith
confident in convictions, vocal in opinions
You weren’t always right, but you were resolute

You battled through cancer and heart attacks
and surgeries with more grace and courage
than most of us could manage

You were such a good man –

We honor you in your unwavering love for Lynette –
with gratitude for how you cared for her, protected her,
and lent her your staunch warmth and unshakable strength

Happy trails, dear friend, our love and tears go with you –   
pile into the motor home of immortality
bluegrass blasting, the fishing streams of Paradise forever filled

May you discover heaven to be lovelier than the hills of Arkansas
and may you find the most amazing adventures ad infinitum

amen

Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad
May 4, 2013