death

All posts tagged death

Lost scarf with gold thread

Published September 9, 2014 by megdedwards

Sunset-Vernon_BC-2014_08_11

I  had a beautiful scarf that I bought myself when I was out shopping with my precious first daughter. It was a warm gold and orange and turquoise, just vibrant and fiery and calming all at once.

I was wearing it on the day that I looked into my car’s rear view mirror and saw my friend looking in panic at something on her driveway. The snow was piled high and blocked my view. I thought she saw a dead cat.

But it was her husband. I left my little daughter in her car seat in the parked car and ran over.

When I was alone with my friend’s dead husband I could not leave his head on the ice. My friend had run into the house to get a phone. He did not seem to be alive but I was not sure.  He looked dead. I put my hand on his chest and  I turned him on to his side. When I moved him he involuntarily sighed. It did sound exactly like a man sighing but I also knew that the weight of his body had probably pushed the last bit of air from his chest.

I was alone with him for a minute or two.  It was intimate except that I did not know him and he was already dead.  He did not move.  I knew he was dead but when my friend ran back I pumped on his chest as she took instructions. As we waited for the ambulance I took off my beautiful scarf and put it under his head. It seemed so horribly cold to lie with your bare head on the icy driveway.

My little girl was waiting in the car. I dropped her at her preschool later so that I could have tea with my friend who had lost her husband that very afternoon. My little daughter saw nothing.  She was facing the other direction when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the look of horror on my friend’s face. There was a big pile of snow so I could not see the body of her husband yet, I just saw her look and run.

That is one death. And one scarf. I have lost that scarf now and I have lost a lot of favorite things. I remember thinking, will I still want to wear this scarf later? And I did take it home, once his body had been moved to the truck and we were all inside having tea. I had my scarf. But I lost it later. I keep hoping I will find it in a bag of winter things.

When I went home I was all alone, the kids were in school. I crawled into my bed with all my clothes on. I called my Dad’s wife who was dying of heart break and I said, ‘I did not know who to call but I knew that if I called you I would not be able to make you more unhappy than you already are”.  I knew she was miserable after the death of her beloved, my Dad. She never recovered. She helped me on that afternoon though. It was good to talk to someone.

Later when I took my little girl and her brother to visit my step mom on my deceased Dad’s birthday, so she would not be alone, she was a walking ghost.

Her face was grey, she was thin and under nourished although she made herself soups and took herself off to yoga and listened to audio tapes that tried to tell her to remain present. We cheered her and distracted her but I wish we had taken her home with us to our chaotic, loving home.

She died of a sudden heart attack on her bathroom floor, her sweet little nightgown covering her carefully tended body.  Alone on the floor for days before anyone knew that she had not gone to her yoga retreat. When I heard I was frantic with panic. I thought I had killed her.

Had I left her a phone message that upset her and broke her heart?  Had my phone message about the sexual abuse of my cherubic soft haired baby girl been the final blow? What did I say? I could not remember. Did I leave a message, did I call and ask her to call me back, was I weeping?

But thank god for my big sister, who always wants to solve the pain in the world. She threw in a hook, deep into the ocean and pulled out some words of salvation,  She told me that if my step mother had heard I was in pain she would have called me back. She would have been there for me.

I felt great relief when I realized that my sister was right. I knew that was true. While my pain was almost killing me it would not have killed her. She would have called me and offered her help and love.

My message rang out in an empty house. She was already lying dead on the floor, oblivious to my pain or the curse of a storm cloud that was resting on ‘my happy little family’.

I cannot find that scarf. I have other things. I have my Dad’s wild staring eyes as I tell him I am going home because my kids needed me. I will see you in the spring, Dad.

I have the love of my step mother stamped in my heart. She told me she loved me when we sat by Dad’s hospital bed. She was a proper lady, very similar to my friend who invited the local volunteer firemen in for tea when her husband was carefully stowed away in the truck.

“What do I do now?” she asked me? And I said, “Let’s make some tea”.

We all sat around her table and talked about her husband. She cried a little and reached out involuntarily for his cap when she saw it on the back of the chair.  A repressed gasp, just audible.

I can’t find that scarf anywhere and I was determined that its brush with death would not stop me from wearing it.

I have my happy family; my little girl has healed from her assaults but carries that wound forever inside. She is growing into a preteen ripe with womanly power.  I smother her with love and attention.

I have no Mom anymore. She died the next year, singing and joking and lifting her eyebrows and squinting her eyes to continue contact with her children until the last moment. In my spirit world my dead are wrapped in my beautiful scarf.

Bummer, Blues and Visions of a Radiated Sea

Published February 15, 2014 by megdedwards

murmurationI had some good thoughts yesterday but I have forgotten them now.  I am thinking in colours and textures.

Did I have an insight about death? No, nothing there,  just a flash of darkness that passes through me. But not an actual thought. 

We are approaching the first year since my Mom died and I have some pretty strong memories of her cold body. Physical memories that hang around inside of me like shadows.

I find I cannot articulate the sheer outrage of having a soul pass away into the air, leaving a body that gets so cold it is colder than the air. Becomes icy and waxy. I thought that having talked to her and said good bye and seen her body move from life to death would make it easier to mourn. Maybe it has. But it sure is weird. I cannot express it.

I had a dream about trying to warm a small old female cat by the fire. Her legs were so cold I could I thought it was too late. The cold was in her bones.

Mom was one to experience life very intensely. I know she was right there until the moment she opened her eyes one last time. She might have been frightened, but I think she was more curious than scared. She had a brain that was capable of scientific inquiry while her heart raged and her eyes teared.

She died and knew what it felt like to die. She always told me all her terrible nightmares and her thoughts so I am waiting to hear from her. Her death would become an anecdote at a dinner party. She might even get a wobbly chin as she told us. But she is gone, with no looking back, she is off adventuring in some other time and space.

We have boxes of photos and files of writings. We have family history and genealogy. She kept it all so fastidiously, but never did anything with it. Now my sister and I are breaking into boxes marked ‘precious’ and pulling out crumbing letters, shaking out dresses from the 1930’s reeking of mothballs.

A cat broke one of her precious bowls the other day and I was somewhat relieved. One more precious thing that is free.

I was feeling so tired and questioning of myself yesterday. Parenting, in all its glory, was wearing me out. I wanted to talk to my Mom, not for comfort but just for company. It is hard to lose someone who knew you so well that you did not even have to say anything for them to know you don’t feel well.

She would have complimented me and said that I was doing everything very well and I would have felt good that she enjoyed my call. We would have made each other happy by being nice to each other.

I started dancing to music yesterday and it was very nice at first and then it just made me want to cry. It is as if my sadness is bound up in my body and when I move it to music it releases it. It makes me realize that I am holding down the fortress on any given day and emotions are boiling away just under the surface.

I tried a dance work shop a week after my Mom died and the more I released my body to the music the more I wanted to cry. Well I did cry, and my friends were nice enough to not mention it. I just want to talk to my Mom about all that. Take some Vitamin B or D or something,  she would say.

I don’t know why I continue to blog. I don’t need to add my voice to the masses. In the past I would have written in a journal, as my Mom did. Why do I add to this public domain?  No good reason, I am just trained into it now and I feel that some people are comforted to hear a voice that they recognize.

I am overwhelmed by the madding crowd chattering away about so many things. People getting outraged. people stating their opinion, people having opinions about subjects they know so little about. People complaining about this and that. It is exhausting.

We all know the amplification of the voices is exhausting. It is very hard to tell what is important. Everyone’s cause is so important and we need to ‘share’ everything all the time. It makes nothing important, it flattens the horizon; it is white noise.

I had a horrible foreshadowing vision regarding Japan’s radiation of the ocean. I saw quite clearly that we will have to stop eating what comes from the sea, and that one day I may have to tell my daughter not to swim in the sea in case it makes her sick. I don’t want to dwell on this because it is too terrible. It is more important than ‘fracking’ and train accidents even though those are important. But we go ahead with plans to re-open our nuclear plant in New Brunswick, now that it is ‘fixed’.

What a bummer. Sorry, will try to rally and think of a brighter future.

When I first wrote this I decided not to publish it on the blog because I felt bad about being depressing. But I will publish it today because it is here and it is true, and I have written about all the other stages of grief.

But I have to say more.  Is it my change of life, or is something else happening to me? I am feeling a lot of joy. I am celebrating every moment with my loved ones and I feel joy, joy so deep and layered  like the earth’s many layers from crust to burning center. 

We are going to have a party to celebrate a year since my Mom’s home death. It will be nice to see all her friends and family because we all recognize her in each other.

She was confident, proud, beautiful, and a little unpredictable. A talk -too- much, put your foot in your mouth quality. A  snazzy style that was a bit shabby, a challenging mix of indifference and independence and a simple  joie de vivre that lit the eyes.  That was Natalie, she had an effect. It is fun to see her effect ripple through life.

Mama – Last Word

Published March 13, 2013 by megdedwards

dusk 020I made one more trip to see mom before she died.

I went straight down to see her and was dismayed to see how lifeless she was. She had not been sitting up for a few days, and she had stopped eating.

I knew that, and I knew what was happening, and I knew why I was there. But when I lifted her hand with her pretty rings on it and it was lifeless, I was shocked.

She was dying, and was already leaving. No squeeze from her hand. No energy in the capable hand that had washed me, patted me, lifted a finger in admonition, cooked me many meals, typed out so many stories.

I leaned over her ear and said “It’s Meg”, she made a small sound. I sat beside her and said the first thing that came into my mind. In the last few years I had done that with her, just released thoughts straight out of my mind into hers. No sensor, no fear. I said, “You must be very happy”, if she could have, she may have moved an eyebrow. “Your kids are all around, and everyone is happy and healthy. You did a good job, you are a good Mama”. She said, “Mama”.

The last word she said to me was “Mama”. Her last word.

I rambled on after that, and said “Do you remember when we went to the cottage, just you and me?” I  was talking about the first thing on my mind. “Do you remember how we had orange pop on our picnic?” She made a ‘Huh’ sound. She remembered, and I was glad I was reminding her of a moment that we shared, when I was about 12 or so, and before I was a young woman and so defensive and easily offended.

Then I told her, “Liz and I are going to go visit Kate for her birthday, and bring her some presents and make her feel special. Do not die while we are gone, wait for us”. We went and saw Kate, who was in high form but loved the presents and cake that we brought her. When we returned we told Mom how much Kate had enjoyed seeing us. I could feel relief in her almost inert body.

She had stopped moving and her feet were very cold. There were no more words out of her. The Cheynes-Stokes breathing typical of a dying person had been replaced by a hard strong breathing that seemed to take over her whole body. I sat beside with my hand on her chest, feeling the breath pound through her lungs and beat her tired heart. It looked like hard labour.

My brother’s face was pale with concern, watching her hard breathing was hurting him. But I said to him, it is almost like the body is doing this all by itself.

At about eleven at night we all prepared for bed, thinking that Mom might have another few days like this. The night caregiver Mafe was settling into her chair when Mom made a sound, and opened her eyes. Then she stopped breathing and Mafe said into the monitor, “Liz, you should come” and Liz flew down the stairs. When she got to the bed Mom was still and quiet.

Liz approached me on the couch in the other room. I was just slowly falling into deep sleep, I had heard a voice, and wondered what it was, but the night was drawing me down. Then Liz woke me and I thought, why would anyone wake me? “Meg, Mom died”. I leapt out of bed and ran to her room.

I placed my hand on her now still and quiet chest. No more deep strident breaths, no more living. No more oxygen, no more heart pounding away in a universal beat; just a quiet body.

Liz and Mafe began to move around in a slow but frantic manner, looking for the clothes that we wanted her to wear. They went into the closets and started pulling out random bags of clothing. They were quiet but I wanted to do some sort of primeval wail. I said something, like “I just want you to know, I am going to make some noises”.

A keening sound was arriving in my stomach and pushing its way up to my throat. Later we thought how funny our behavior was, me warning them of my wailing, them digging through random bags of clothing.

A tableau emerged, of Liz and Mafe crying and washing her body while I sat up by the pillow, with my hands around my Mom’s face. I was holding her mouth up, pushing her mouth shut so she would not be left with her mouth hanging open. I cried and wailed and held on tight.

It was still my Mom but it was obviously not my Mom. She would not have liked anyone to force her to do anything, even if it was to close her mouth for the viewing of her body.

The hard labour of the breathing, the naked woman in the hands of other women and the bedroom setting reminded me of home births. We labored with her, to take her to the next life. I am so grateful for that. There were no anonymous nurses, no matter how well meaning, no bells or harsh lighting. We had complete control of the ‘home death’, as I began to see it in my mind.

Then, just as in a home birth, we made strong tea and sat around her bed. She was dressed in my beautiful wedding gown, a second hand raw silk dress that I had given her. She had on make-up and her hair was brushed. Her head was tilted back as if she had just leaned back and passed out. Her eyebrows were calm and majestic, her mouth calm and almost in a smile. If you knelt beside her you could almost imagine her puckering her lips in a kiss, lifting an eyebrow.

I remembered lying beside her as a little child, when she wanted me to nap. I remembered watching her nap.

At 3 am Liz and I crashed. We had taken all the medicine out of the room and cleaned it out of the detritus of life. It was now a viewing room, cold and empty except for Mom, a candle and Mom’s cat that would not leave her side.

As I crawled into the couch, with a comforter around me, I found myself holding on to a teddy bear that we had cleared out of her room. I laughed inwardly, Mam, are you tucking me up with a bear? And I passed out.

Mama’s other prime caregiver Remia had gone home but on the arrival of our text she turned right around to come back, crying the whole way. She and Mafe sat and prayed for our Mom while we slept. I don’t know if they slept at all.

The next day, when I woke at 6 am I was hit suddenly by the loss. I was never going to take tea to my Mom again. I remembered going up to my Mom’s bedroom when I was a young mother living in her ground floor apartment with my little girl and baby boy. She was the only one up at that early hour. How she gladly dropped her book when she saw me, and put her arms out for the baby.

There was not a time when I sat down on her bed when she did not rustle about trying to cover me with blankets and make sure I was warm. I have so many visions of her, flashes of her being. She does not really feel gone.

The day she lay in state, like a queen or a movie star, we had visits and we sat in the kitchen with family and close friends. We drank very good scotch and we talked and laughed just as she said we were to do.

Now we are preparing for her public Wake on Friday. It should be a Wake  like no other. We do not know what to expect, but that is what is beautiful about  life.

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My Dad Died

Published September 21, 2011 by megdedwards

My Dad died.

A universal experience, and yet the pain is so personal.

We all come to a stage in childhood when we realize that we are going to have to live without our parents and it comes as a terrible revelation.

Then as an adult we bury our fear of death and pretend that we can live with it. We might even imagine that the death of our parents will free us of the emotional baggage we carry around.

For those who have not lost a parent yet, let me warn you that it is as bad as your childish mind dreaded.

I left my Dad at the hospital, looking past the mask forcing him to breathe, and into his large startled eyes. I said, ‘I’ll be back in the spring’.  He nodded.  He had his wife there, and my older sister. He was either going to die or get better; my children needed me so I was trying to believe he would get better.

When I got the call that he had died, it felt like my heart was ripped out of my body. My hands were glued to my face, covering the grimace of pain on my face.  I was wretched.

I felt like tearing my clothes in some sort of medieval ritual, I cried and cried. It was irrevocable. He was gone, a moment that I had always dreaded in my still childish heart.

My heart and mind were full of my Dad. I could picture his physical body, and I could conjure him in my mind. His tanned forehead and expressive eyes, his thin soft hair that he kept swept back so that it would not annoy him, his shoulders, and chest, even his gently acrid body odor.

His long fingers, rubbing his eyebrows in resigned irritation at being stuck in the hospital, the pain he had in his thin high-arched feet. I could see and feel and smell him in my memory, so physically.

While at his bedside I felt for a moment as if I was his mother, watching the beeping, blinking machines track his breathing just as I did with my son’s asthma attack. I felt his mother’s soul slip into my body and love her child.

I had been his child, held in his arms as a baby, and held his fingers offered on a walk to kindergarten. He had watched me grow up and tenderly offered advice and help from a respectful distance.

I heard his voice and saw his gestures and longed to see his corporeal self but he was gone forever.

I wept in the Zellers, I wept at the local church’s Christmas choir, and tears flowed in yoga. I became a sea of mourning with calm days in between.

One time I told him in my mind, “Dad, I am not feeling  at all well, I think I am depressed” and he laughed lightly, the way he would, and smiled and said, “This is it, Meggie, this is life, this is all you have”. I felt reprimanded, and I knew he was right.

Then I had a lovely dream. Dad and I were on a field, far away from everyone else, and he was trying to remember a song and dance. We were both trying to remember the lyrics, and he was doing a soft shoe dance. We both came up with a rhyme to the last line, which I can’t remember, and then we leaned into to each other, bending at the waist, as if this was part of the song’s choreography, and kissed each other lightly on the lips.

When I woke up, I was filled with joy. It is the only time in my life that a dream has woken me in the middle of the night, not from a nightmare, but from pure happiness.

My Dad and I were similar in character, and close in spirit. Ultimately I knew that his dying could not separate our minds or our psyches. There is a world out there that is beyond the material, and I acknowledge it.

I realize now, two years later, that Dad lives in me.  Not symbolically, living on in my teachings or philosophy, but he is actually part of my cell structure and I know he is there.

When I am enjoying feeding the birds, as he did, I share it with him.  He is with me, alive, enjoying the world around us.  I feel his spirit within me, and I am comforted.

I sent him a paperback copy of The Metaphysical Poets when he was first in the hospital, and when the hospital room was cleared the book came back to me, with a corner of a magazine page marking this sonnet by John Donne:

Death be not proud, though, some have called thee

Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,

For, those, whom think’st, thou dost overthrow,

 Die not, poor death, nor yet canst thou kill mee;

From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,

Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,

And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,

Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.

Thou art Slave to Fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,

And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,

And poppie, or charms can make us sleepe as well,

And better than thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?

One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,

And death shall be no more, death thou shalt die.

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