Category: Grief

A Gift for Those Too Sad for Holidays

This poem is for those of you who are having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit because of the loss of a loved one or illness or some other tough thing in your life.

I wrote this in 2002 when someone very dear to me was struggling with brain cancer:

Christmas does not touch our hearts this year
The externals are here—

Trees alight with shining orbs
Wreaths bedecked with sassy bows
Gifts piled high on every shelf
Music mocks our bleakest woes

Nothing warms the cold, dark fear—
Christmas does not reach our hearts this year

December 21, 2002

 

(Excerpted from This Path We Share, (c)2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

A Sudden Mist of Tears

Today is my dear Mary Jo's birthday. She was eleven days younger than I. Four years ago I turned 78, but she died two days before she turned 78. 

I saved this story for her birthday.

Last week I walked up to buy some cosmetics at the Clinique counter in Macy's. A woman stood at the counter – she had short, dark auburn-dyed hair and the same rust-tone blush and lipstick as Mary Jo wore. She had gold rimmed glasses. She had the very same wrinkles in the very same places as Mary Jo. She turned to ask me a question. 

My eyes filled and my throat ached. If only Mary Jo could ask me a question.

It would be more likely that she would answer one of mine. She was my go-to girl: Which wallpaper goes best with my flooring? Should I get the green chair or the brown one? I need a good recipe for lasagna. Would you help me solve this issue with the kids?  

She married Les' brother when I was twenty and became my best friend. We raised our children together. We celebrated anniversaries together. We went to Norway together. When I became ill with CFS in 1989, she was the one who tried to understand my loss of energy and stamina. She was the one who made accommodations for me. She always had my back.

So, happy birthday, Mary Jo. I will love you and miss you always.

 

Tribute to My Beloved Friend

It is four years ago today that my best friend and sister-in-law died of pancreatic cancer.

As I look at her picture above my desk, I miss her as though it were yesterday. Mary Jo was generous, loving, kind. She worked tirelessly in her church, served countless dinners for Sons of Norway, read for the blind, made hundreds of quilts for the Linus Project, and was a caring friend to many. She never revealed a confidence. Tears still burn my eyes when I think of her and I think of her often.

It is in her honor that I share an excerpt from the chapter “Candles Floating on the Pool” from This Path We Share:  

Every day the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky. Every day Mary Jo’s cheeks became more like parchment and sunk further into her bone structure. Every day her thin arms struggled harder to grasp the side railing of her bed to turn to her left side, her skin damp with the effort. Every day her words became a little harder to understand. Often Les and I sat squeezed together in the big chair in the lobby (of the Hospice of the Valley in Arizona) as if we could create a cocoon and ward off our anguish.

One evening as I kissed Mary Jo’s forehead and said good-bye, she mumbled, “It’s hard to leave.”

“Yes,” I said, "but perhaps it is time.”

Early in the morning, five days later, I was on my way to Sherman House, only two minutes from my best friend’s bedside, when my cell phone rang.

“It’s done.”

As I drove back to the house to tell Ralph and Les that our beloved Mary Jo was gone, I thought back to those beautiful candles floating precariously on the pool. The lights had flickered across the water, offering shimmering memories, shining hope, unaware how truly vulnerable they—and we—were.

(Excerpted from This Path We Share: Reflecting on 60 Years of Marriage © 2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

May we each honor those whom we have loved and lost – today and every day.

 

On Mother’s Birthday?!

(See end of post for special offer.)

I meant to post this yesterday, because September 20 is my mother's birthday, but life happened. Anyway, here we are today:

September 20, 1995 –

Today is Mother's birthday. It is a busy day for me. I have a presentation at 9:00 a.m.. at Southwest Medical Center here in Oklahoma City, a luncheon speech at Baptist Medical Center, and a reading at 5:30 p.m. before the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma City Chapter of the Komen Foundation.

I wonder briefly if my overscheduling the day has anything to do with the fact that it is the first birthday since my mother's death in May.

After Les and I fight the rain one last time and return to the hotel, weary and cold, I feel let down. I've been hoping against hope that our new grandchild, due next week, would arrive on Mom's birthday.

I try to call Keith and Kara several times, but the line is busy. It is already 10:30 p.m. I check my messages and there isn't even one saying that they have gone to the hospital. Kara's first labor was very long. I know it is too late. It is simply too late.

Fifteen mintues later, the phone rings. Keith says, "We did it. We have our little girl."

On Mother's birthday? Was Kirsten Nicole really born on Mother's birthday? Oh, joy of joy!

The circle of life continues.

(Excerpted from The Last Violet: Mourning My Mother, (c) 2002 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

Special offer for This Path We Share still stands through September 30 – just $10 (regular price $18.95) with FREE SHIPPING. A wonderful present for newly marrieds, harrieds, and old-timers like us. You might even like one yourself. Limit 3 to a customer, please.

Go to the BOTTOM of page on  This Path We Share and click on "Order Direct Add to Cart." You can order as a guest if you don't have a Paypal account. If you want to send a check, or have a problem, call me at 303.781.8974. 

We offer a money-back guarantee. If you hate the book, I'll feel terrible, of course, but send it back and we will (sort of happily) refund the $10.

What can you lose? Do it now. I'll even personalize the book for you.

If you aren't interested, please keep following my blog, anyway! I love you all.

(I will include a copy of The Last Violet, regular price, FREE SHIPPING.)

Just Stay Positive?

"You will be just fine" has long been a problem for me. No matter what horrendous circumstance one is facing, what one needs is support and validation, not cheer-leading. Discounting a person's feelings and implying that everything can be solved by being positive does a great disservice to the ill or injured or depressed or bereaved.

But at one time or another, I suspect we have all said it. I know I have. Do we say it to reassure others? To reassure ourselves? To deny what's going on?

And beyond that, there is "Just stay positive." Another soul shrinker that:

  • implies you caused your own cancer with your negativity
  • burdens you with being in charge of getting well
  • causes infinite pain if cancer eats at you until you die

I have a poem to share with you:

You Will Be Just Fine

Please do not trivialize
my suffering.

You who are healthy
You whose mortaility is as yet
Only dimly preceived–
Please do not say
"You will be just fine."

I may well be–someday–
But I do not know…
You do not know…

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad. All rights reserved.)

And tell me why you think we keep saying, "You will be just fine."