Category Archives: grief

September 11.

September 11. Home.   Not happy. I should be flying. Nothing to do but maybe I could go play golf. 8:45 a.m. I hate morning television shows but I go into the living room and turn on the TV to CBS. Before I’ve brewed my tea, the nightmare begins. My cousin calls first. Ken wants to know I was safe.  Phone calls continue throughout the day and night. No one can believe it.

Days earlier, I had been in Columbus, Ohio. “Please, Chris. Please! Let me go out early!” I begged and pleaded but the answer stayed the same. Chris said I needed to stay home. What did he know. I just wanted to fly. I was already going out on September 13, and I was wrapping up an extended tour. It was a game to work your schedule so you could fly on your off days and stay home on your work days. This meant $$$.

The airspace was reopened on September 13 but our passenger didn’t want to go. My copilot was a skinny guy from Alabama. The silence over the airways was deafening. I thought of “The Stand” by Stephen King, where everyone disappeared. Periodically we’d key the mic and ask ATC if they were still there. Yes, but quiet.

As we crossed over Richmond going into Baltimore, we were told to look out for close traffic on our wings. I never dreamed of a military escort, not in my wildest imagination. When we arrived at Baltimore, our identification was checked before we got off the plane. It was a somber day as we awaited our passenger, a senator from Wisconsin who was attending the memorial service. We could still see the smoke when we approached White Plains, a few days later.

Flying changed. My attitude towards flying changed. I had imagined being hijacked but I never imagined an aircraft being used as a weapon. Each time I went to Hartsfield to meet my aircraft, my luggage was searched. My underwear would be strewn out over the table, my uniforms pulled out and wadded up, and my battery operated toothbrush turned on. Nothing was ever put back correctly so I now had to allow extra time for repacking. That was minor, though, compared to the realization that we were no longer safe.

There are four days in my life that I will never forget. The day President Kennedy was shot, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and September 11, 2001. Of course I will always remember our wedding day and the birth of my children, and there are probably others, if I think about it. Each of these events changed the way I saw the world.

We can’t forget.

Lost – A Very Short Hospice Story

I had no idea where I was going so I called Trevor. It was a bad neighborhood and besides being our chaplain, he was an ex-cop. There were good people on the street, but trouble lived nearby. At least Trevor knew where we were going. Or so I thought. Hospice patients only die at night, at least that’s how it seemed. It was my turn to go out and pronounce and no way was I going alone. Not to this neighborhood and not to a strange home. Trevor and I agreed to meet at a nearby intersection.

I followed closely behind his car. My first clue that Trevor didn’t know where we were going was how he kept slowing down. It was – literally – a dark and stormy night, and visibility was limited. Numbers were missing from most of the mailboxes so we couldn’t confirm the address and the houses were obscured by the trees and the darkness. We’d have to rely on Trevor’s memory.

We knew something was wrong as we approached the house. Where was everyone? You would like to think there would be some cars there, since a beloved father, grandfather, brother, and friend was dying. What was going on? Where was everyone? Apprehensively, Trevor rang the doorbell. We waited. I rang it again. Finally, we heard movement when the door flew open. “I WON! I WON!” she screamed. We looked at each other, totally confused, and the lady abruptly stopped. “You’re not the Prize Patrol.”

Sometimes you just have to find the sense of humor.

Seeking Zen with a Foster Dog

FredFred was one day away from execution. A friend of mine, Josephine Bennett, is a huge animal lover and through her I became aware of the plight of so many dogs. My dog history is not really exactly what you’d call stellar. Our Boston Terrier ran away and went to live with my grandfather, who would hold him in his lap and feed him from the table. We adopted a Golden Retriever that was in the midst of a custody battle, and the ongoing drama between his previous owners was too much for my children and then it became frightening. I gave up on dogs, but I had great memories of dogs from my childhood.

This has been a tough year for our family and there have been times I have alternated between wanting to run away, or just sleep. I have friends with wonderful dogs, and I even once went to the shelter to look at dogs. They just seemed to require so much more work than our two cats. Then along came Fred. It all happened so fast.

Fred became our foster dog on Thursday, December 10. I really did not understand what all we were getting into with Fred. I told Josephine that I needed Dog 101. He is not neutered, yet, so he had to be crated when inside. He is heartworm positive, so he has to have medication every 12 hours. I didn’t realize just how big his crate would be, nor did I anticipate the cats’ reactions. We’re working it all out.

I’ve obsessed over some of Fred’s behaviors, but mainly I think he’s behaving normally in a new situation. I’ve worried that he hasn’t barked, but if he did bark, I’m sure I’d worry about that. Last night, on our usual walking route, he stopped suddenly and growled at something. We walk by this house several times a day and this is the first time he’s had a reaction. I couldn’t see anything and it was a bit creepy. As strange as it sounds, I was happy to hear him make some noise.

We’re now on Day 5. What I really love is the walking. When Fred and I go out for a walk, I don’t text and I don’t talk on the phone. I focus on walking. I watch Fred and how he interacts with the environment. I listen to see if I can hear whatever it is that makes his ears perk up, and makes him stop and look around. Mostly, we just walk. I know when he comes over and leans on my leg he wants me to pet him. Fred is getting a lot of petting. In these 5 days, he’s gotten so much better walking on the leash. When he’s ready to come back inside, he guides me to the door and then walks directly to the crate.

I don’t know how Fred came to the shelter, much less how he came to be on Doggy Death Row, but he’s a smart dog. This is what I know. Fred likes me. I still seeking Zen and trying to find some sense in the tragedies of 2015, but Fred is helping. At least when we are on our walks, I’m just a human being, walking a dog.

 

Trying to be Normal in a Completely Abnormal Situation

It has been almost seven months since three of our grandchildren came to live with us.  It has been one adjustment after another.  Bob and I are older and really enjoy our time together.  We love traveling and spontaneous dinners with our friends.  We love sitting outside and watching the sunset over the lake.  We enjoy sleeping in.

All of that changed with the death of our precious granddaughter, Carly.  If you have corded blinds in your home and you have children or pets, please do yourself a favor and replace them.  Between law enforcement investigations and the utter stupidity of the Department of Family and Children Services, our lives have been nothing short of difficult.  Seven months.  I appreciate the need to investigate but this has gone on long enough.

Throughout this period, my husband and I have tried to keep things as normal as possible for the children.  But nothing about this is normal.  Tonight, though, I finally realized that we just have to find the humor when we can.  Here’s my list of things where we found humor today.  They all may sound trivial, but they are keeping us sane.

  1. Sarah Katherine, who prefers the nickname “Snowy”, decided to help Bebob (what the grand babies call my husband) tape off the molding so he could paint the stairway going from my office to the main floor of our home.  If you aren’t a painting perfectionist and haven’t ever tried to tape the molding going up the stairs, you’ve missed a treat.  You have to laugh.
  2. Tonight was a series of invisible “boo-boos” on four of SK’s fingers.  Only one bandaid would do, and she moved it from finger to finger.  When the one bandaid finally gave up the ghost, the insult of a second bandaid was just too much to bear.  Not even a Disney bandaid was an acceptable replacement for the plain bandaid that had gone from finger to finger.
  3. A bed would not do for SK tonight, as with most nights.  She likes to sleep “on the ground.”  This translates to the floor in our bedroom, which eliminates any CSI watching or any other TV program that is not suitable for a two year old.  She has a perfectly fine bed, but in our room she has a spot where she wants to sleep and it covers about an area large enough for another queen size bed.  The assortment of animals and babies that are lined up across the floor further add to the obstacle course of our bedroom.
  4. Watching SpaceJam with the boys was also an adventure.  What?  You don’t know who Michael Jordan is?  Seriously?  Charles Barkley?  Larry Bird?  Our “good ol’ days” included Yogi Berra, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, Mean Joe Green.  We had Neil Armstrong and John Glenn.  We had Apollo 13.  We had the Beatles making their debut in NYC.  We saw the first lunar landing.  These poor babies!  What are they missing?

While they are missing their parents and they are missing their home, we make sure they get lots of love and the constant reassurance that there is an end out there, somewhere.  Their parents are here every day, and my 82 year old mother makes the trip down as often as she can so that Bob and I can have some time away.  My sister has also offered to come down.  Many of our friends have helped, my boys call regularly and Jackie calls periodically, and you can’t imagine how much that means to us.  You cannot imagine how much we appreciate those who have made efforts to help!

No, our life is not normal, but we’re hanging in there doing the best we can.  We laugh daily, as much and as often as possible.  We are thankful for our friends and for the family members who have been supportive.   We are thankful for everyone who is helping.

The lessons learned from this are to hang in there.  Appreciate what you have.  Appreciate your family.  Whatever their flaws, they’re the best you’ve got. Make the best of whatever your situation.   Use humor when you can.  As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

Grief, Again

We were on our way home from the airport.  I’ve been in Washington, D.C., working on a pretty incredible project that will decrease the digital divide in Nepal, increase literacy, and improve education.  It has been a very exciting trip and I was fired up.  If I had to rate this entire week, I would give it a 10+.  My flight arrived on time and I was excited to see my husband and three of my grandchildren.  We would drive home with Sirius 78 on the radio, Kids Place Live.  There was a lot of laughing and a lot of fun, until a surprising trigger came on the radio.

About a month before Carly died, we took her to Disney World.  I ran a 5K on Friday, a 10K on Saturday, and a 1/2 marathon on Sunday.  It was Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge.  The icing on the cake was being able to take Carly with us.  We rode lots of rides and she was captivated by “It’s a Small World.”  That particular ride is one of my favorites, as I rode it when it was premiered at the New York World’s Fair.  I think that was 1964, and I had never seen anything like it.  I have always loved that particular ride.  On February 21, the line for “It’s a Small World” was short and Carly was as excited as I was.  She was captivated by the animation and the voices and the many wonderful characters.  As the dolls sang and moved up and down, Carly was transfixed.  The photo was taken on the ride.  Such precious and wonderful memories!

I’ve done well, I think, with the pain of losing our precious granddaughter.  But today, when “It’s a Small World” came on the radio, I lost it.  Carly’s brothers and sister were in the car but the tears came, anyway.  I couldn’t stop.  The memories of the fun blended with the extreme sadness and the result was an extreme pain.

When I got myself together, I apologized to our grandsons.  I’m not sure they’ve seen me cry since the funeral.  James, who is 10, very wisely said, “It’s okay.  I understand.”  The sad thing is that yes, he does understand.

You never know when the pain of a loss is going to hit you, and you never know when it will grab you so hard it will take your breath away.  Today was my day.  Sometimes you just have to ride it out.

A letter to Glenn

Dear Glenn,

15 years ago tonight, I was trying to get a good night’s sleep but your mommy was fighting me, every step of the way. I had been away from home for six weeks in pilot training at Netjets, and I had just gotten home the day before. Your mommy was convinced that I needed to come and visit, the very next day. That would be March 22, 2000. I kept telling her I’d be there in a few days, but I needed to rest. Late that night, she called me and said she was in labour. I told her, I’m almost embarrassed to say I told her to go to sleep and call me in the morning. To my surprise, you made your appearance that very next day. From the moment you took your first breath, the people who loved you surrounded you with so much love and affection. You were a beautiful and beloved baby boy.  The light of our lives.

As you grew, you were even more beautiful each day. Your curls and those big brown eyes were perfect, and you were as sweet a child as there ever was. You were our Boogie Bear and we all adored you. You had a great mom and your personality was a light to all who knew you. We took you everywhere, places I still can’t imagine little boys enjoy going, but you loved meeting people.

From the time you were about three, your mommy and I owned a hospice and you went with her, sometimes, to see patients. Everyone commented on your excellent manners. At the same time, you were telling us things that should have been a forewarning. You told us your angels told you to pack up your toys and your clothes and give them to the poor children; you would not need them. We didn’t understand and we thought this was just cute.

It wasn’t too long before your little brother came along. Once when he fussed, you packed up your clothes to come and live with your Memaw and Bebob. That was so funny, and we happily picked you up so you could have a little break. You made your mommy promise that she would never let your brother look like he came from the Children’s Home. I hate to tell you this, but this is a promise she has not kept!

Then the worst happened. We will never know why you crossed the street that day, because that was something you did not do. Our world changed in an instant. Life would never be the same, as we lost our Boogie Bear. My prayer is that you didn’t suffer.

You would be 15 years old today. We should be celebrating with cake and balloons. Your mommy should be teaching you to drive and I would be teaching you to fly. You always loved that I was a pilot teacher. One of our funniest memories was when we all went up to Jackie Torrence’s memorial service, and you told everyone that your Bebob was just a pilot but that your Memaw was a pilot teacher. As if that wasn’t funny enough, at the memorial service, you stood up and loudly exclaimed, “You mean we flew all the way to North Carolina just to see a gold box?” We still laugh about that. You were five. A very precious five.

We have wonderful memories and you are frozen in time as a perfect little boy. I have no doubt that, at 15, you would still be a perfect boy but you would be a teenager. You wouldn’t want us to call you Boogie Bear, and you would probably have times when you would be grumpy and temperamental. It is highly possible you would be a challenge, but in our mind you will always be our perfect, precious little 5 read old.  We have every confidence in the world that you would have grown up to be a fine young man, but we did not get to watch you grow. I’ll bet you would still love raw oysters, though, and that you would remember how to stop a stampeding elephant.

So many things are going through my mind. Would you have been good at sports? Where would you want to go to college?   Would you play the piano? Who would you take to your first prom? How would you like driving the Porsche, your favorite car to ride in to school. Would your mommy let me teach you to fly? You had so many friends and so much promise, and you left a profound mark on so many people. From a spiritual perspective, even at 5 you knew the meaning and the words of the Sacrament. More than once you reminded our ministers that they weren’t saying it correctly. They did not realize what Holy Communion meant to you and how important it was to you. It was truly a Holy Sacrame

You have four brothers and sisters who remind me of you, each and every day. Your sweet spirit lives on. We had James’ photo professionally made at three years old, and when they showed us the photos, I burst into tears. It was just like looking at you. Carly saw the photo of you on your tombstone and thought it was Jacob. Sarah Catherine has so many of your characteristics.

I think we all struggle, at least to some degree, with the loss we suffered the day you were killed. It was a senseless accident and I personally have problems forgiving the man who so recklessly drove down Happy Valley Circle that day, talking on his cell phone. I know what my Christian beliefs tell me to do, but it is not easy. There are times I wish he could feel our pain, and that I hope he is haunted by his actions. I remind myself that you would, even at 5, tell me that was not right to feel that way. You were wise beyond your years.

As we reflect today on our gratitude, it is important for us to celebrate what was and the profound impact you had on so many people. We miss you. You gave us so much joy and laughter. You will forever be our perfect little boy. Your legacy lives on, though, in the service your mommy provides to other people who have lost their children.

Happy birthday, sweet Glenn. Today we will focus on our good memories. We will celebrate and we will give to the children at the Children’s Home, whom you were always so concerned about, even as a little boy. We will keep your legacy alive.

We love you, Glenn Milton Price. March 22, 2000 – November 2, 2005. You were gone too soon.

Love always,

Memaw and Bebob