Each loved ones passing, makes you examine your own life and the type of legacy you hope or wish to leave. Not only is there heartache with dealing with the death, but you are also reminded of your own immortality. You know at some point that your time will come.
Each person handles death differently and each death someone experiences is different than the one before that. The death could be of a child, a sibling, a mother, aunt, uncle, cousin or a very close friend. For me, the first death that ripped my heart in two was the death of my Grandma H. at age 17, which was completely out of no where and unexpected. Other than my mother, she was always my savior, the one who protected and shielded me from things that were happening in my life. Then, 10 weeks later, my Grandpa H. passed away. For Grandpa H., we were a little more prepared. He had suffered for several years with Alzheimer’s so we knew eventually it would take him. With the passing of both my grandparents, this caused major turmoil at home. Things had gotten so much worse, to the point of finding myself not being allowed to come home. At age 17, I was called into the office and told I was not allowed to go back the only home I had ever known. Part of me was relieved and part of me was scared. My Grandmother, my savior, was gone and I felt so alone. At this specific time, my Mother was not allowed to talk or see me, which made things even harder. During this time, I cannot say I made the right choices about life. I pretty much did everything a young person, who went from a strict family life to no supervision, would do – except drugs that is. However, without great extended family and friends and my beliefs, I do not know that I would have made it through this darkest time in my life. Of course, my Mom snuck a way to see me and make sure I was okay as well. How could she not, she was my Mom. She loved me with every ounce of her being, but was not strong enough at that time to do what she ultimately ended up being able to do later on down the road.
After a short while, life was finally getting back to finding happiness. Then came the death of my close friend Heather. It was a few years after we graduated, but it still broke a piece of my heart none-the-less. Heather had a way of shining wherever she went. There are so many memories of Jody, Heather and I (and sometimes Tina) running around our small town we lived in. Jody and I attended her funeral, reminisced about things there and back, gave her mother hugs – all of the things you do yet again when someone passes.
Then the unimaginable happened after that, my amazing and beautiful cousin Jody was murdered by the guy she just married. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I would have never in a million years believed I would have been attending her funeral before we were old and gray. She and I had been pretty much been inseparable since we were tiny tots. We lived right next to each other and basically lived at each other’s house. She was more my older sister than my cousin. When she was around, no one, and I mean no one, messed with me. We also did a lot of crazy stuff as kids. She was my early co-partner in child crime – meaning causing mischief for our parents. If she was home sick, I had to be home sick. So many, many memories we still had to make together, but her life was cut short.
As usual, life does go on after death. Although different, things became routine again, life became routine again. However, I started looking at life differently. I had two small children at that time and I wanted them to experience and have so much more than I did. Yes they were loved, and I made sure they knew it, but my priorities changed. I obtained the education I had slowly been getting, got a different job – a better paying job – than I could have gotten before it. Things were again back on track – but of course, differently. Jody was not there to share in the memories I was creating. She was not there to watch my kids grow up with me. It definitely wasn’t the same. Yes, we did have a lot of one-sided conversations, but still not the same.
A short while after that, I received a call at work – my other best friend (childhood friend), Tina, passed away in her sleep. What can I say, but man life pretty much sucked with this her passing. Out of the four of us, she was the only one I had left. All I could wonder was why, why are these amazing friends being taken so early. They had so much life left to live. Yes, I still had so many amazing friends who I loved dearly and who I made great memories with, but I have to say at this point I started pulling away a bit. The pain and loss was starting to be something I could not handle. Three people who I was supposed to grow old with, gone just a few years apart.
Other than my children and immediate family, sadly I don’t remember that much from the following few years. I worked quite a bit, went back to school and did the normal family things. I lost some more loved ones during that time. Although difficult, I think I was becoming a pro at losing people until we lost my stepfather. We only had him in our lives for a little over 10 years, but he was so very good to my mom. He never treated me like anything but his daughter. He loved my children like they were his blood grandchildren. He played with them, took them fishing, everything a grandfather would do. He was just a very kind and gentle man who really liked to pick on me. With him, I was there at his death. I watched him take his last breath and begged him to stay. I will never forget walking out of that hospital room, having my legs collapse from under my body and landing on the floor. This was so very hard to experience. With his passing, I knew I had to be strong for my mom. Instead of curling up in a ball, I had to make sure she was okay. My stepfather was her everything and now he was gone. I could tell she felt so alone and lost.
After his passing, again life went on as usual – work, kids’ activities – all the normal stuff. There were more deaths of loved ones. Each one broke a little piece of my heart. During this time, I got to know some amazing ladies whose daughters’ were friends with mine. I also reconnected with other childhood friends that sparked other memories I had forgotten. Each of these amazing friends helped bring back what I had been missing – what I had pushed aside to avoid that unbelievable heartache of losing someone that close again.
Unfortunately, death reared its ugly head and broke my heart into a million pieces. A very close friend of mine, Darla had lost her battle with cancer. Darla was a beacon of light. We had many conversations about our girls, how they were growing up, their school activities and all of that fun stuff. Heck, between our houses, they pretty much lived with one another.
As she was dying from cancer, she was so worried about her children. She fought an amazing battle just to be able to have more time with them. She actually defied the odds and amazed her doctors, as she should have actually lost her battle sooner. I wasn’t sure how, but I promised her that I would make sure her youngest was taken care of. After all, she was my daughter in all sense of the word except blood as well. It was so hard saying good-bye but what helped me with her passing, was her unwavering faith. Through it all, she knew she would be okay. Even in the darkest of days, she remained positive and maintained her faith. It was something I had never been apart of or experienced before. Sure, she would have stayed in a heartbeat if she could have changed what was happening to her, but near the end she knew it was not meant to be and God was calling her home. With her passing I was also able to watch the unconditional love four young teen friends had for each other. These girls reminded me so much of the bonding you develop when you are young. Although, they were experiencing the loss of a mother figure with Darla’s passing, at such a young age, these girls would not be anywhere but with their friend, who just lost her mom. Even though a few years have passed and they are now adults, I know these girls will forever have that bond they formed early on. If one needs the other, they will be there, just like mine were for me.
Darla’s passing also taught me so much more than I expected. The strength she had, the courage she had, the love she had and the light that still shine inside her even when she was feeling the worst she could possibly feel, will remain with me forever. It showed me that no matter what you face, faith would get you through. Faith can be God or just faith that there is hope for tomorrow. For her, it was both. Each day she was still here with us, she won a new battle, she had faith in tomorrow. Each day she faced, she faced with God by her side.
After her passing, things again went on as normal. Our daughters went from being teenagers to beautiful young women. There were a few more deaths. Other than losing a very dear and close friend, the other hardest part in the months to come, was that my mother’s health started declining. I found myself going to all of her doctor’s appointments, following her health very carefully and spending countless hours in the ER or in her hospital room by her side. My family and friends helped give me courage and strength as I tried to remain strong for her. Although she was putting up a good fight, the physical therapy facility she went to after breaking her leg left her oxygen machine off for about 45 minutes. She was 4-5 liters of oxygen dependent and her body could not bounce back after it. Sure, she fought for almost two weeks, but her body was shutting down. I have to say, this was the hardest thing for me to have to do. I never in my wildest nightmares pictured myself having “that talk” with my mom, let alone helping her make that decision or carrying it trough. Who really does? They picture their mother being the strongest person they know, not a person they may have to help eventually.
While at the hospital those last days, I recall the doctors saying she may not make it home and into hospice. They were giving her a bunch of medicines just for her to make the ambulance ride home. I also recall sitting in a little room with hospital personnel and hospice while they covered the ride home, getting her set up in hospice, etc. During that conversation, they looked at me and said, “Your mom may not make the ambulance ride home.” I am not sure where the strength or words came from, but my response was, “If that’s how it is supposed to be, then that is okay. At least she will die trying to be where she wants to be. As long as I can ride in the ambulance and be there if that should happen, then I am okay with it as well.” Well, mom did not pass in the ambulance. Although she came home needing three oxygen machines to sustain her life in hospice, her strength and determination to not die in the hospital or on the way, got her to my home. Although she passed three days later, she got to see her fur-babies, eat one of her favorite meals, say good-bye to her grandchildren and take her last breaths in a room that was not in the hospital. All of this was not easy to watch and sleep was definitely a distant memory. This was the third death I actually witnessed or was there during the passing, except this time, it was my mom. Although every ounce of me wanted to curl up in a ball and shut out the world, I knew I had to have the strength to make her transition as easy as possible, as well as, make the plans that were needed to get her home and then after her passing.
With everything going on, I could not have gotten through it without my amazing family and friends – those who knew me enough to know that although I put up a good front of strength, I still needed them to make sure I was okay, to help me get her body ready after she passed so she could be picked up with dignity, to calling, texting, messaging and stopping by to make sure I knew I did not have to go through this gut wrenching heartache alone.
With mom’s passing, as strangely as it is, it gave me a strength I did not know I had. I fought with medical staff making sure she was taken care of, helped with things I never thought I could – even reported the PT facility/nursing home to the State of Michigan at the same time I was planning her funeral. Although her health was failing, it is the oxygen being left off that cut her life shorter than expected. It was the nail in her coffin she did not need. I did not and could not live with the fact that they would be able to do this to another family. The State Agent was amazing on the phone. She assured me that things would be investigated and investigated they were. The final report showed 89 pages of failures with other patients. Sadly though, it was not enough to close their doors.
But the strength from it all still carries on with me. I had already begun to change my life and restore my beliefs after Darla’s passing, but with mom, it awoke more in me than I never knew existed. It also started making me reevaluate life and what I may want to do or be. My spirituality was renewed as I tried to reconnect with her on the other side. She was there – I just had to find a way to listen. For those who know what I mean, I found my reconnection with her. I can now hear her laugh when I do stupid stuff, I can hear her advice when I need it and I can feel her love when she knows I need strength to get through another day. She is all around me. I just need to quiet my mind to be able to hear her or feel her near.
Again as with everyone else, life continued. There were few more deaths of loved ones. The past couple weeks have been again so very hard. I lost my very amazing father-in-law unexpectedly. He was part of my life for over 25 years, my husband’s father and my children’s grandfather. He never made me feel anything but a part of the family and actually picked on me quite a bit (lol) when his son and I started dating. Having experienced the loss of a parent, I had hoped this was not something my husband or sister-in-law would not have to experience for a long time in the future. Although it was hard for me, it was harder to watch them go through the pain and not be able to take it away. I knew that, like with mom, if they could have done anything to change what happened, they would have done it in a heartbeat. The only thing I knew I could do was to be there and try to support and give them strength through it all.
Just a very short several days after his passing, I sit here finding myself trying to make sense of another life taken way too soon. My dear sweet cousin, who was only 33 years old, drowned while saving children from a local river. Her daughters are still young and needed their mom to get through the soon-to-be troubling teen years. With her passing, I find myself basically wondering what the hell. How does it make sense that someone who has so much life left to live, have to be taken so young? It is too soon to see what lessons need to be learned from this one, but I do know that her death has shown me the true meaning of selflessness. She gave her life to save children, to make sure another family did not feel this type of pain on that fateful day. The outpouring love others have shown for her and the type of person she was during her short life shows that just one person can make a difference to others. I mean, at some point in our life, we all hope we are able to help make a difference for that one person but she did it. In her short life, she made a huge impact on so many; not just to the parents of those children she saved, but all of the people she has come in contact through her life. Although we are all suffering by her passing, I get to read about the restoration of faith in humanity she is leaving behind. Her story is impacting those who didn’t even know her. It is a true legacy to leave behind.
With the way life has become with so many people all about themselves and what is happening in their life, as tragic as it is, her death is reminding us that it is important to be there for each other, to love one another and to support one another. She has shown us that you do not stand by and watch someone fall or struggle – you get in there and help when and where it is needed.
Death breaks our heart each and every time it happens. We all deal with it in different ways. We all learn different lessons from it. As hard as it may seem at that moment, we all seem to find the strength needed to get through another day. I am sure our loved ones who passed, help us each and every day, as they do not want to watch us in pain – but, life does go on – it has too. Another death will continue to come and another heartache will be created by that death. It will continue to happen until it is our time to make that final journey. Some will be harder than others and some we will never understand, but it will still come until it is our time.
While these are just a few my stories, so many people are going through the same thing. Each and every person we meet will have some type of impact on us. Some may be good and some may be bad. Some may make profound impacts on our lives’ that actually either help us to realize our true path or push us in a direction we may not have seen before. We will all take different lessons from each of these people, whether while alive or in death. We may not be able to see them until we finally travel out of the darkness, but they are there for us when we are ready.
I don’t have all of the answers and I have not experienced all of the heartaches there are to experience, but I do know this. Life shows us on a daily basis that there is so much more than we are able to see. It shows us that we do not control the outcome of everything. However, when we listen and look for the miracles, life does provide us light in even our darkest of hours. That bigger thing will help us find our way when we are lost. Nothing during our time here is final until we are called home.
Death is also not our final journey. It is just the final journey here on earth. I do believe we do not leave our loved ones even when we transition. If you close your eyes and quietly listen, you will see and hear them as if they were there next to you. Their voice will still guide you and help you along the way.
I hope by telling my story, it helps to bring light to others during their darkest of hours. No matter the trials or losses you are going through, there is light at the end. It may be hard to see now, but it is there. If anything, know you are not alone. When you are ready, there are others who are there to help and remind you of the good times.
If my story can be one beacon of hope.. I want it to be for you to always remember…. “You are not alone. The light is there for you to see.”
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Categories: Spiritual Journey