Posts Tagged ‘dying’

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

 

 

 

Questions No One Should Answer

Telling Knots has a great post on the thoughtless questions people ask of breast cancer patients and how people try to find reasons for illness and/or death.

Somehow we think that if we can assign blame and identify what the patient did to get cancer, we will know what dumb things not to do and therefore we will be safe from a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent recurrence. This also extrapolates to any other randomness of biology and whatever accidents one can imagine. 

Her blog is very apropos for October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because over 40,000 breast cancer patients still do die every year. No way is it their fault. 

And most breast cancer survivors do hear many of the things Telling Knots has heard. You will be very interested to read her post. She nails it. 

What I liked best was her conclusion that the tactless questions others direct at us actually say more about them than they do about us. And instead of answering, perhaps we should say, "Why do you ask?"

This makes me think of the afternoon that my Uncle Bill called, soon after my second mastectomy. After some small talk he got right down to the nitty-gritty and asked: 

"So they cut off both your tits? What will Les do now?"

I did not write a poem about the incident. If I had, should it have said

Good grief
Beyond belief
Should I debrief?

What are some better ways to relate to your friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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."

 

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 4

The White Horse
(for Ann)

Death comes on a white horse
to carry you away

I see the love in Her eyes as
she lifts you carefully
and cradles you in Her arms

You go willingly, eagerly,
even though you know

you can't come home again

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

I miss you, Ann.

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No. 3

Shoreline
(for Ann)

Everything seems
so distant
now

Is Life receding or
is Eternity
approaching?

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)