Monthly Archives: May 2012

Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is an everyday occurrence. We say goodbye to our families as we leave for work, to people we talk to on the phone, and to our co-workers at the end of the day. Goodbye comes in many different phrases, it’s verbal or nonverbal. Most of the time goodbyes are extremely simple. Every now and again when we know that distance and time is going to separate us, goodbyes are difficult. But when we say goodbye there are not really any moments when it hits us that goodbye means forever. As humans we tend to think that there will always be time for another hello, another hug, another kiss, smile, wave, nod, or heart felt chat. We never think, this is going to be the last time I see this person’s face, hold their hand, laugh at a joke, yell at them, kiss them, hug them, or just be in the same room with them. We fully believe that there is always going to be a later or a tomorrow. It isn’t until we are slapped in the face with death that we realize later or tomorrow may never come.

 Justin died on the 12th of January. It was a Wednesday. Thursday we planned the service. Friday, his mother, sister, and myself went to verify that they had indeed brought Justin’s body to the right place. The funeral home needed a positive identification before they would cremate him. I understood, but I was completely unprepared. When we walked up to the place. A man that I can only describe as a macabre version of Raggedy Andy greeted us and showed us to the room were Justin was laid out. I had an overwhelming urge to kiss him, to run my hand through his hair and tell him to wake up. I wanted him to look at me one more time with those brown eyes, to smile at me, to touch my face. I wanted him to sit up in that cardboard box and scare the hell out of the three of us. When that didn’t happen I wanted to crawl into the box with him, to snuggle up beside him and go to sleep. When I touched his cheek he was cold and his hair smelled funny. This wasn’t my Justin! Anguish and pain and panic shot through me. I wanted my Justin, I wanted to be held and told that it was some big misunderstanding, that Justin was at the hospital waiting for me to pick him up and bring him home. I wanted the world to spin backwards so that this never happened, I wanted to feel good again.

The world did not spin backwards, it simply kept moving and it wasn’t long before the horror film version of Raggedy Andy escorted to a desk where I signed some papers and then to the door and out to the car. The next thing I knew it was Saturday and the goodbyes would begin. I hauled myself out of bed and dressed in jeans and one of Justin’s t-shirts. Justin liked shirts with sayings on them (usually inappropriate) so to truly say goodbye to him we asked as many people as possible to wear t-shirts with these sayings on them. For my closest friends and family i let them wear one of Justin’s shirts. I wanted everyone to know what kind of sense of humor he had, I wanted them to know what a great person he was behind the wall he built to keep people at a distance. But more then anything I wanted my Justin to be standing next to me. At the service there were so many more people then I had thought would be there. Justin always said he didn’t have many friends, and there weren’t many people that came to our house. I wonder if he was watching that day and if he was surprised that there were so many people wanting to say goodbye to him? I don’t remember a lot about that day. I remember a lot of people, I remember family and friends, I remember tears and anger, I remember trying to hold myself together so that I didn’t fall apart in front of everyone (especially my daughter). I remember it like it was a dream, everything seemed unreal. I remember some of the words that were spoken about Justin, I remember speaking and listening to Tara speaking. I don’t know if anything made sense. I remember people hugging me, telling me how much they would miss Justin and if Anastasia or I needed anything to ask. I remember food and then the comfort of my home. I remember so many people in my house. Then the world spun again and the goodbyes were over for a lot of people.

As the world kept spinning and new things popped up I realized that the goodbyes would never end for me. Everyday I had to wake up and face the fact that my life had irrevocably changed. Everyday I had to remember that Justin wasn’t still at the hospital, that he was never going to walk through the front door again, now matter how long I stared at it and wished that he would. A week went by and I got the call to come and pick up Justin’s ashes. I took Tara while Anastasia was in school. We walked into the funeral home for the last time and picked up a wood box with a dark stain. This box contained what was left of Justin. Tara and I walked back out to the car, i sat Justin’s ashes on the seat in the back and Tara drove me home. We hesitated a moment wondering if we should buckle the box in, then we just moved it to the floor and laughed a little at the absurdness of it all. Everything I had built my life on for the last 10 years was reduced to ash. What was I supposed to do now? I wasn’t the only one hurting and I couldn’t just give up, I had to be there for Anastasia, I had to be there for others, I had to try to figure out how to be there for myself.I had list of practical stuff that needed taken care of but that was just the merest hint of the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t know where to go with everything that lay below the surface.  What was going to happen now? All of these questions…nothing and no one stopped to answer these question swirling in my head…the world just kept spinning like nothing had happened.  

What to do about Death

Everybody’s been to a funeral at least once in their lives. We go to the funerals and visitations to support our family and friends who have lost. We know that there is planning that takes place and money that exchanges hands, we know that somebody had to arrange for everything, that certain decisions were made. When we walk into the funeral and everything is done we make comments on the beautiful flowers and how everything is set up and how many people showed up, but we don’t readily think about how much planning or how little planning went into the service. In all honesty no one wants to think about that, it’s hard enough to just know that a person has died. That someone we care about is hurting because of this death. We don’t actively think about who made the arrangements, who sat at the somber table or desk going over the costs and the insurance or lack there of, or how it was decided what the person would wear, or if there would be a burial or cremation. We know these decisions had to be made, but don’t think about who or how or why everything was decided.

Sitting across from the man at the funeral parlor was surreal. I had the clothes that I was asked to bring and I had my sister-in-law and her husband. There was a little cart with water, coffee, soda, cookies, and crackers I think. I remember thinking “why is there food here? Who could possibly eat while planning a loved ones funeral?” This is going to sound so completely odd and maybe a little repugnant to some of you and to some it will sound completely normal. I don’t remember a lot of details about that day. I couldn’t tell you what I was wearing or really what the place looked like. I do remember laughing, I remember a few tears (but they could have been from laughing). I remember walking in and sitting down and feeling like I was going to throw up at any second, I remember not feeling real, like it was some sort of morbid dream. We sat down and started talking, there was the usual condolences given and then there were the options. That’s when everything started getting kind of weird. Tara, John and I started talking about Justin and we started laughing. We talked about cremation because somehow all of us knew that Justin wouldn’t have wanted his body stuffed into a box and taking up space in the ground. Then we laughed at the cost of everything, because holy cow! I didn’t realize that a simple cremation and memorial service could cost so much! We laughed because we all knew what Justin would say “Don’t F***ing spend that much money! Take me out in the backyard and start a fire.” Not that he was money hungry, he just struggled all his life for very little so when he had money he stuck it away. But life is hard and our jobs didn’t pay much and bills piled up, so we didn’t have much in the way of money. Insurance? Hell no! Who can afford it? No he hid some money in the house and that was all I had to fund my Justin’s death. A whopping $3,000 when everything cost over $4,0000. What did I do? What were my decisions? Well I was lucky in a way, I had Tara and John. Tara and I were both in the fog, John a little less so, we talked about the options and the money that I had and the funeral director was a good guy. So after we told our Justin stories and heard a few stories from the funeral director about odd funeral planning sessions, we de-frilled or in my own words Justinfied the memorial service. As for the cremation we were offered 2 options. Okay, I have to say that when the funeral director said 2 options, my poor battered brain thought about when my mom’s cat died and she had 2 options; single cremation or a group cremation. I know that is morbid and disgusting but that is where my mind went that day. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that this is not what was actually being discussed. The options were different price options, we chose the one that fit the budget. Then John took us out to lunch and we laughed some more, eating and sharing memories and planning the memorial service. And those cookies that were at the funeral parlor? We had some of those before we left. Looking back on it now, I feel like the pain had lifted just for a moment and I was able to do what was needed. A bridge was started that day, the first support was set. Though the progress of that bridge would stop and restart many times it was a beginning, a way to cross the abyss that circled and swirled around me. A bridge is needed, because whether we want it to or not life does go on, the world spins around and people keep moving no matter how badly you wish for everything to just be still.

And Death did more than knock

So I was sitting on this chair outside the room feeling like I was falling and I hear someone say “he had a DNR”. The nurse she remembered him saying that when he was admitted but they couldn’t find it. They asked if I wanted him ventilated. To me this was an f***ing stupid question. Of course I want him ventilated I don’t want him to die! Then the voice came again and told the nurse that Justin didn’t want to be ventilated so don’t do it unless they thought there was a reasonable chance that he would live and not need the ventilator. Who was this f*** voice and why was it talking!? Didn’t it know that he was my husband I got to make the decisions? Some where in the craziness that was now rolling around in my head I realized that the voice was mine and that I was the one saying these horrible words. The part of me that wanted to scream “I don’t care what he said I am not going to allow him to give up!” was trying to get out, but the more sensible voice kept talking first. The next thing I know I am looking at my Justin and the doctors and nurses are murmuring their apologies and filing out of the room. I remember the clergy man, the first phone call I received and not being able to say the words to the person on the other line. I remember sitting there beside his bed waiting. I had to wait for his mom and sister. But honestly I think I was waiting for him to open his eyes, to say something smart ass, to touch my cheek one more time. Why wasn’t he doing any of those things? Then the numbness was there and his mom and sister walked in. I don’t remember much about the rest of the day, phone calls, decisions that I probably shouldn’t have been making because I had no idea what was going on. I remember trying to tell our daughter, but she wouldn’t listen. I remember lots of people. Things were mixed up and jumble, my world was spinning and I couldn’t make it stop, I felt broken, drained, numb, and absolutely crazy. But this was nothing compared to when the numbness started to wear off. Searing pain shot through my chest. My heart felt like it was shriveling up, my lungs felt as though they couldn’t get enough air. How could I possibly survive? My rock, my anchor, my air, my very self had left me. I guess it was a good thing the numbness staid for awhile. I was able to make arrangements and talk to people, though I don’t remember much of what was actually said. But at night or when I was by myself the pain came. 

Hello world!

Hello World, seems an appropriate title for this is my first ever blogging experience. I am not entirely sure what to expect with this blog. Closure, the ability to move on, or maybe just a way to let out all that I am feeling without having to throw  something across the room, cry hysterically, or scream. Some people may read this and get excruciatingly bored and others might find it helpful. The truth is I am doing this blog for purely selfish reasons. I want to keep working on finding my new normal. Last year my life was turned completely and utterly upside down and inside out. It was like someone took the snow globe that is my life and shook it so hard that the glass almost cracked then set it back on the mantle to watch how the pieces would fall back to the bottom. I know some of you out there are nodding because this has happened to you, others of you are laughing or wrinkling your noses because you don’t quite get it. Either one is okay with me because, as I said, I am doing this for  selfish reasons. So to get to the point, I am writing this blog to tell a story. It’s my story and I am going to start in the middle of it because this when it all fell apart. My story is like many others out there, it’s a little sad, but there are much sadder stories. I hope that as the story goes along it will get happier. So if you’re reading this stick with me for awhile and maybe you’ll find something in my story that will will help you with yours, or maybe it will just be a nice diversion from your own story.

To begin it is January 12, 2011, it is 6:45 in the morning and I am hauling myself out of bed wondering who the hell would call me this early in the morning. It was definitely not someone I knew, ’cause no one I knew would call me before at least 8am. As I rushed for the phone a hard knot grew in my stomach, this is because I suddenly knew who would be on the other end of the line so early in the morning. “Mrs. Prather?” the voice asked, and of course as much as I didn’t want to I said yes. I was told to come to the hospital immediately because my husband had been found on his bed unresponsive.

(To digress a moment: I now find the word “unresponsive” to be the most horrific word in the english language and cringe whenever it reaches my ear.)

I threw on clothes from the night before and left the house running taking my sister’s car and barely seeing the road. I screamed and cursed at my husband as I drove. I yelled at him to not leave, to still be there when I arrived. In truth I am not certain how I got to the hospital or how I parked the car or even how I got to the right floor. I do remember a voice whispering in my ear, “slow down, it’s a red light, turn here, don’t forget the keys,….  Justin’s room was to the right as I got off the elevator and there were people rushing in and out and standing all around. I heard a high pitched whimpering as I stared into his room. I realized the sound was coming from me but I couldn’t make it stop. Someone asked if I was his wife and had me sit in a chair outside of his room. That was when all of the questions started coming. I only remember some of them.

I’ll tell you about the questions next time. At the moment I have to pause in my story.