Posts Tagged ‘memorial’

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

 

 

 

Why Am I Alive? Why Is She Dead? No.1

Pink Underbelly has an interesting post on her blog about a trip to her oncologist's office, ending with a paragraph on survivor's guilt.

I agree with her that it doesn't make sense to dwell on feeling guilty because we have been spared from dying of breast cancer. So far. Breast cancer is not a contest to see who has had the toughest time. It is a life-threatening disease that can recur at any time.

But twinges of survivor guilt do plague me from time to time.

And this is August, the month in 1991 that one of my best friends died. She refused nourishment from the beginning of the month, but didn't die until the end. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. Did she beat breast cancer and then die of stomach cancer? Or did she die of metastasized breast cancer? I'm not sure I know. She died.

And this is August. The month that her husband asked me to plan her funeral, just six weeks after my second mastectomy. He said "What I need for this job is a good anal-retentive German!" That I am. It was hard for me, but it was the last gift I could give her.

And as I contemplate why she died in her mid 50s and I live at almost 82, do I feel guilty? Perhaps. But I neither caused her death nor prevented my own. I feel sadness for her and deep gratitude for myself. She would have loved her grandchildren as I love mine.  

I'd like to share a journal entry from August 2, 1991:

She called me today to come say goodbye. Remembering how much my teddy year had comforted me the night after my second mastectomy a couple of weeks ago, I took Courageous Lion to her. She immediately drew him close.

I assured her that I supported her decision to refuse the intravenous feedings, even though we both knew what that meant. I could see she felt peaceful and that has continued to sustain me.

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (C) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 More to come…

 

 

Died Too Soon,Too Late?

One of my nephews (age 58) suffered a massive stroke on January 16 that left him with greatly diminished ability to communicate. He could not walk or use his right arm much. He went from hospital to rehab to a care facility where he lived (?) until he died on May 16. On June 16, I attended his memorial service and read this poem I had written for him. I loved him dearly. 

For Ken

I remember you as cherished child—
the faded photo featuring 
      three little cousins sitting on a step
      you were the two-year-old
      sweet little blond boy
      with big brown eyes

I remember you as terrible teen—
      every issue requiring debate
      every topic subject to argument
      nothing beyond questioning

I remember you as maverick man—
      your kind and generous heart
      your tender thoughtfulness
      your gentle spirit

sometimes buried beneath 
blankets of indignation
      eyes shooting fire of outrage
      voice shaking with fury
            at the injustices of the world
            at the unfairness of life

Your illness and death a lesson in unfair—
       untimely, unexpected, unwanted—
       You were not through with living
       We were not prepared to lose you

But you slipped away that spring afternoon
      free from the fetters of frustration
      liberated from the long loneliness
      ready to roam without restraint

And when you are ready to rest—
Rest in peace, beloved grandpa, father, son
Rest in peace, beloved brother, friend
Rest in peace, dear one, rest in peace

©2012 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad