Tag Archives: Grief

Making Connections

We were invited to a GPB dinner on Tuesday evening to share our ideas on one of our favorite shows, On Second Thought.  The show is taking a new turn, as the previous host stepped down for a new and wonderful adventure.  One of the reporters said she was from a small town in North Carolina, and I said I was from a small town outside of Greensboro.  She said she was, too, and it turned out she is from Trinity, about 15 miles from my home.  Trinity has a small airport, Darr Field, which is where I had my first flying lesson that really ignited my passion for aviation.  It was a wonderful conversation and we talked about some of the things we love about North Carolina.  We left with sense of just how connected we all are and how small the world really is.

And then today I received an email today from a man whose grandfather owned our (my!) airplane before my dad bought it.  He talked about flying with his grandfather to a baseball game between Kansas City and the New York Yankees, and how he got to see Mickey Mantle play.  I told him how Daddy flew my brother to Baltimore to see the World Series, around 1970, and how they flew to Indianapolis to the Indy 500.  He told me that his grandfather purchased a Cessna 210 after he sold the Cessna 172, N7214A, which he had owned in a flying club with three other pilots.  I told him how I stripped all the paint off the plane so that Daddy had no choice but to paint it yellow and white, just like I wanted.  He told me he was a commercial pilot and flew crop dusters.  I told him that was what I always wanted to do.

I’m always amazed by connections and how small the world truly is.   But right now, I just want to call my dad.  I want to tell him about the email and I want to tease him about taking Robert to the World Series and the Indy 500 instead of me.  I want to hear him laugh about losing his airplane the day I had the flying lesson at Darr Field.

I just want to remember.

 

 

Last Wish

My dad is in his final days. He wants to see his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and his sister and we’re going to make it happen. It won’t be easy; Daddy and his wife are frail and Aunt Kitty. His wife is visually impaired and Daddy has dementia on top of everything, so the bulk of the load falls on my niece, Brandi, who is his 24 hour caregiver. My brother and I are supplying love and financial support.

The logistics of traveling with a hospice patient requires contracts and coordination. Besides the rental car, there are the obvious medical needs. Daddy is planning seven nights on the road, four at our home and three in a hotel in South Carolina. He sleeps about two hours at a time. Dementia is challenging; sometimes he’s with us and sometimes he’s not.

Brandi asked me whether I was sure I didn’t want them to stay at a hotel. No, he’s my dad. Her response was, “But he’s a handful!” Yes, I know. His medications have been adjusted and titrated, and sometimes he’s okay but sometimes he’s not.

Food restrictions? “No shrimp, catfish, pork, or anything like that,” she said. “And no spaghetti. He doesn’t like pasta, spaghetti sauce, and nothing with any red dye. He’s very worried about red dye right now.” Hmmmm…red dye? He might have dementia but he has very specific opinions.

My daughter is working on sleeping arrangements but we’re not sure what we’ll need beyond that. We’re playing this by ear.

His brother waited until he saw my dad, and was gone before Daddy got out of the driveway. Last wishes can be tricky, especially with someone so frail.

This will be interesting. I want to make this next week memorable for everyone. He’ll see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had not heard the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Like a River” in a very long time, but she talks about how she is no longer waiting for her mother, as a daughter, as the part of their lives together is over. I have wanted my dad to come and visit ever since we moved here, but I never really pushed it because of his health. He’s coming this time on his terms, and I will cherish whatever days I have with him. It is his last wish.

I have certain movies that I watch for different reasons. I can watch Brian’s Song and cry without anyone questioning whether I’m okay. Airplane makes me laugh myself silly and the quotes sometimes come out at the most inappropriate times. And right now, the thought that comes to mind is, “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” I have to find humor wherever and whenever I can.

But to quote Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

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.

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

Cleaning and deleting – Not an easy task

I’ve spent the past several days trying to delete photos from my computer and also clean out some of the boxes that we packed up in Newnan and moved down here, and haven’t touched in more than two years.  We probably packed some of them long before that.  It was easier to pack it up and put it in the basement or attic than deal with throwing the stuff away.  But deleting and throwing away was not so simple, especially when it came to deleting photographs from the hard drive on my computer.

We are coming up on what would have been Glenn’s 15th birthday.  The realization of this brings to the surface memories of what we would be doing, were he will with us.  Glenn loved the Porsche and he loved sitting in the driver’s seat of any of our cars, pretending to drive.  I have a great photo of he and my mom, in my Miata, pretending they were taking a trip.  He had such a great imagination.  If you know me very well at all, you know that Glenn was killed when he was 5 years old.  We won’t be teaching him to drive and we have missed the experience of those tumultuous teen years.  Glenn was a sweet little boy, perfect in every way.

As I was going through the photos on my computer, I found that I had three and four copies of many of the photos of the grandchildren.  It should have been simple to delete, right?  But as someone who wishes I could recapture every single minute of Glenn’s short life, even deleting a blurry image or a duplicate was difficult.  I know it sounds crazy, and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  Our other nine grandchildren are beautiful, healthy, happy, and smart, and I know we can’t live in fear that something will happen.  Yet there is a dark place in the back of my subconscious that remembers our loss, and doesn’t want to part with anything.  Not even a blurry, duplicate image that is almost unrecognizable.

My rational self has won this battle, but the battle was hard fought.  Pieces of broken toys in boxes have been thrown away.  Random pieces of paper with children’s drawings have been discarded.  I realize these were great works of art at the time they were created, but at this point I don’t even know who scribbled on the paper. My rational self and my even more rational daughter assures me that it is fine to throw these things away.  I’ve moved the random Legos to the Lego box, but most everything else from this corner of my office is going away.  I’ve deleted the duplicate photos and I’ve deleted the photographs of unknown blobs.

This job isn’t complete, but I’ve gone through six boxes and thousands of photographs.  I’m happy with my progress.  At the end of the day, I think that’s pretty darn good.

A Grandmother’s Grief

Nine years ago, our precious grandson, Glenn, was killed by a reckless driver who was speeding to get home and talking on his cell phone.  I sat at the hospital that night, listening to the sounds of the intensive Care Unit and smelling its unique smells, and I knew life would never be the same.  My daughter would lose her first child, the darling little boy who had charmed us from the day he was born.  I cannot imagine her grief and she cannot imagine mine.  She lost her firstborn and I lost my first grandson.  We were both fragile, but fragile in different ways.

I couldn’t fix this.  I was the mom who could fix everything, but not this.  I was powerless and felt as though I was in the midst of a tornado.  For months after, life just happened as I grieved.

Here we are, now, in December of 2014.  The worst imaginable has happened to a friend’s grandson, and that is why I’m writing.  This is for Toni, and for any other grandmother who is saying goodbye to the most wonderful gift your adult child could ever give.  Toni’s first grandson was shaken by the babysitter and was brain dead in the hospital.  If you’ve not experienced this, and hopefully you haven’t, there are different rules for withdrawing life support from a child.  Apnea tests must be performed, at specified intervals.  If you are planning for the child to be an organ donor, then there are other steps that must taken and processes that must be followed.

Toni’s telephone call to me brought back memories and pain, but it also has provided me an opportunity to share some words that just might be comforting, at least in some way.

First of all, treasure your memories.  You are not going to forget this child.  Little things will come back to you, sometimes at strange times, and embrace your reactions.  That’s all you can do.  You’re going to cry.  You’re going to talk about your grandchild and it is going to make people uncomfortable.  You’re going to want to run away to a place where you aren’t the dead baby’s grandmother.  But you still are.  Accept the fact that your memories are your own.  Your child will very likely not remember things the same way you do, and will likely not respond the way you do to his or her memories.  Own this.  Make a scrapbook, a photo album, or something to help you remember things, your way.  You are entitled to your memories, but also be cognizant of when things get out of control and you need to seek professional help.  Church was no help.  “He’s with Jesus” only made me angry.  Jesus didn’t need Glenn.  I did.

Let go of your need to control your adult child.  He or she has just lost a very precious child.  The funeral arrangements must be left to them.  This is their child and their responsibility.  The best thing you can do is stand back and let them do things their way.  Be available, but not intrusive.  Give your adult child room to grieve.  You can’t do this for them, and they will likely do things over the next year (or even two) that leave you confounded and frustrated.  This is a normal part of the grieving process. This is possibly the worst part.  You are grieving for your grandchild, but you are also going to grieve for your child.  Your child will never be the same.  Neither of you will never be the same.  Both of you will look at life differently.  Be patient with your adult child but do not expect them to be patient with you.  They have just lost their baby, and their grief is different from yours.

My daughter and I are 9 years from the event that changed our lives.  We’ve had some tough times and I did seek professional help. The doctor felt the best way for me to heal was with medication, and I won’t second guess the doctor although I do think it delayed my recovery by simply numbing my senses for awhile.  I couldn’t sleep and I was angry at everyone.  I would close my eyes and I would see Glenn, so fragile in the hospital bed, then the shell of Glenn in the casket.  I would smell the smells of the funeral home and relive the hours in intensive care.

Eventually I was able to sleep, unmedicated.  I am now able to remember Glenn and visit the cemetery without crying uncontrollably.   We tell our funny stories of Glenn, and we see glimpses of him in his siblings.  My daughter is happily married and has four additional children, none of whom remember him but all know about him.  Things are tenuous at times, but isn’t that common in all families?  She is now telling her story and has started a chapter of Bereaved Parents of America, here in Macon.  I’m so proud of her.

In the future, people will ask you about how many grandchildren you have.  How will you answer?  Do you include the baby who is no longer with you?  This is something you can only answer, and it may depend on the situation.  Sometimes I will say 10 and sometimes I will say 9.  It all depends on where I think the conversation will go.  Accept this discomfort.  Your grand baby will always be that perfect grandchild, in your heart.  Whether you share that memory with others is your own decision.

I hope this helps.  Just love your child, cherish your memories, and take care of yourself and your loved ones around you.  Own your emotions and reactions and allow your child to own their’s.  Never presume to be in more pain or to be suffering more.  Your child is an adult, and needs to be treated and respected as such.  Love them, and allow them to grieve.