Seeing Beyond The Veil…Part I

four-generation1There are so many mysteries that we can never know while confined to this existence. I have always been fascinated by mysteries and now I have one that has had my attention for the past few days.

As I have written in past posts, my husband’s mother has the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. I have come to believe that everyone who has memory loss or what was once called “hardening of the arteries” or ” senile dementia” is now given the Alzheimer’s diagnosis….truth is, this condition can only be diagnosed and confirmed by autopsy. I personally believe that it is a pharmaceutical ploy to get people to want their doctors to give them the new drugs in the hope that something can stop the progression of this condition.

I, personally, do not believe that these drugs do anything other than cause terrible side effects for those who suffer from loosing their memory and identity. Both of my “in-laws” have taken the drugs and both have not improved. They also suffered from side effects that compounded their quality of life.

It was last Christmas that my husband and I traveled the 2 hour trip because his mother’s dementia worsened and it seemed a sure bet that she was leaving the hospital and going into a nursing home. On Christmas eve afternoon, Mom’s mind cleared and she knew her surroundings in the present. This avoided the nursing home entry and we all rejoiced to “have her back”. She was released from the hospital that day.

My husband and I were at his parent’s home when she was returned. As she came through the door, she seemed to relapse into the fog of confusion and began to talk about her mother, who has been gone since 1967, and a sister who is in a nursing home in Chicago.

After witnessing this, my husband took out of the house for a walk.  I knew that he went to walk through the tears that had welled up into his eyes. He loved his mother and he just couldn’t bear to see her like this.

This episode didn’t last too long and by the late afternoon, she knew where she was and she was back into the present. This was a Christmas gift that we hoped would last, but it slipped as the days and months progressed.

autumn-mystery1From that time to this, Mom has walked farther down the road of dementia and so has Dad. It is a surreal world that they live in. Many things are a sad comedic situation to watch. Yet, they seem to find contentment that is derived from each other’s presence.

Their journey only deepens into  obscurity. When my husband died, Mom had moments where she could grasp what had happened, but they were only fleeting. When my aunt talked to her after the service, she mentioned me to Mom. She replied, “I don’t believe I know her.” My aunt told her that I was her son’s wife then the conversation turned to something else.  My aunt knew that there was not much more she could say or relate to Mom.

I called a few times after my husband’s passing. It was clear that neither Mom or Dad knew who I was and I tapered off contact. It caused pain upon pain for me and there was nothing that I could do to enrich the quality of their lives.

This past Sunday, Mom fell in the kitchen and broke her leg. The break was severe enough that a total hip replacement was necessary. The effects of anaesthesia on the brains of the demented is devastating. They seems to loose so much ground in the land of reality. So it was with her.

I did not know about her fall, but Tuesday evening, I called my husband’s brother and asked, “What is wrong.” He told me about the situation and that this was definitely the time that Mom would be going into the nursing home. He told me the details and then we said, “Goodbye.”

During the night, I dreamed of my husband. The events in the dream were sketchy, but I definitely knew it was him. It was a dream of him. I was relieved. I needed to dream of him.

When I woke up on Wednesday, I recalled the dream and I felt a need to represent my husband at this moment in the life of his mother. I knew that Dan would be there if he was able and I also knew that he would be there even if he wasn’t able. mom-russell-and-her-new-wig

I called my brother in law and said that I knew the kind of pain that comes when you have to place a parent into a nursing home. I explained how heart wrenching it was on my sister, but she and I made the decision together. We also went to the nursing home and signed the papers together. I told him that this is easier if you don’t have to do it alone. I told him that I would come up and be with him, I would represent his brother and we would walk this event together.  His brother said, with relief in his voice, “Thank you.”

So, on Friday, I drove the 2 hour trip and met my brother in law. He showed me all of the paperwork and told me of Mom’s present condition. He said that she didn’t have any moments of lucidity and that Dad had stayed the night at the hospital because she was so frightened. She is a “sundowner”

That is a term used in the nusring industry to describe those whose dementia worsens at sundown. I have witnessed some to be lucid throughout the day only to slip into the fog of dementia as sunset approached. It is a common effect of the disease.

The doctor said that Mom would be released over this weekend so I wanted to go and see the facility.  While there, I was able to talk to the Director of Nursing. I asked about the training for the nursing assistants regarding a fresh post op hip replacement. I discussed the concern over Mom popping the hip replacement out.  This is common if a patient crosses their legs or if they fail to have proper alignment while they are in bed. I asked if there was enough staff to cover this fresh surgery. I also asked her how this facility was going to deal with the complication that Mom’s dementia presented.

Most dementia patients do not know that they have a broken leg or a condition that prevents them from walking. So, the patient will try to get up and walk to only fall again and exacerbate the original injury. This can lead to a second surgery which, in turn, causes more deterioration of the mental condition.

I asked her how close Mom’s room was to the nursing station and what was their care plan regarding prevention of pressure sores. I finished with the comment that this case would be “a squeaky wheel”. The DON smiled. She understood what I was saying.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is an old saying used in the nursing home industry to categorize patients whose families are always present and have no qualms about complaining about the care that their loved one receives. I purposely wanted her to know that this family and their friends would be coming in to see Mom at all hours of the day and night. I believe that my comment was understood as a forewarning from the family to the facility.

I found that the best way to ensure good care is to let the facility know that we would have no qualms about insisting on good care. Even though I cannot be there often, my husband’s daughter will fill this void. She worked in a nursing facility in her town and she has training in dementia. Ensuring Mom’s care  was another purpose of my 10 hour trip.

After the meeting, I left my brother in law and went to the hospital to see Mom.  Her sister was sitting beside her bed calming her fretfulness. I entered her room expecting her to not know me.

“Hi, Mom.”, I said. I told her my name. The first thing she said was, “Dan is here. I have seen him.” I thought nothing of this. Then she said, “And so is your brother.” She then turned to her sister and asked, “Is the funeral over?”

By that comment, I was convinced that she knew who I was and how I was connected. But what caused me to pause and think was her comment that she saw my brother.

The aunt thought nothing of what she said because the aunt was unaware that Mom knew my brother. Her memory of him would have been from when they lived down here and pastored my church.

My brother was my husband’s employer. My brother was the one who taught my husband how to drive a semi and by doing that, my husband always had employment.

Dan spent a lot of time at my brother’s house. They both loved cars and,  when my brother bought a 1970 purple ‘Cuda that had the highest performing engine that Mo Power ever produced, Dan was the first person that he showed his new car to. That was an honor. My husband and my brother were so very much alike.

For Mom to recognize my brother in her room, it meant that he had to look like he did in 1970…

My brother has been dead for close to 20 years When I entered her room, she saw the two men that I loved most. Both are dead. In her dementia, could she be seeing “behind the veil” that is between this world and the next?

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I Am Thankful

harleydThis is the first Thanksgiving without him.

Last year, he was in ICU on Thanksgiving day. He was so disappointed because he had looked forward to seeing his children and, as always, the food at the family dinner. Oh, how he loved noodles, oyster dressing and all the desserts.

He loved to cook and he loved to eat. He never was able to eat the Thanksgiving meal that was frozen for him to eat when he got out of the hospital that year. He was not able to eat like that again. Cancer took that joy away from him.

As I looked back, I can see that it was at Thanksgiving that his final days began. From that holiday onward, we spent more of them in the hospital than we did at home. Each one was shadowed by a complication or a family problem.

But, I choose to not have these difficult and painful memories be my focus on this day of Thanks. I am choosing to be thankful.on-the-road-again

I am thankful that he chose to stop by that day 18 years ago at the family business. He was looking for my brother. Instead, he found me. After 25 years, our paths crossed and I am grateful that he didn’t just keep on going down the road, but he came back to see me and eventually he moved back to the area.

I am grateful that love came back with him and he added so much to my life, especially to the holidays.

I am grateful that this new joy filled a longing that I had since my childhood. I was so full of hurt after a painful divorce and believed that I would never know love in this life. He proved that I was so wrong.

Through him, I had a renewed hope and joy.  I found a new family when we “blended” our lives and our children’s lives. They made the holidays a wonderful new experience for me. It was because of his love that the holiday season took on a new delight that I never knew existed. I am grateful that, even though we didn’t get the rest of our lives together, we lived a “lifetime” in those 18 years that we did have.

But most of all, I am grateful for his love and the way he cherished our marriage and me. Being cherished was so new to me that it took five years for me to trust that it was finally a part of my life.

I choose to be grateful no matter how my heart “feels”. As my sister pointed out, I could have lived my life never knowing what true love was. He taught me to love myself as myself because he loved me for me.autumn-rainbow

I bless God for blessing me with a love that I never knew was possible while still on this earth and by knowing love, I know the true meaning of the word….

Thanksgiving

And I will give thanks………….

The Angel Came To My Friend’s House

Many of you have come to know my friend, Frank. He writes 2 blogs, Within Crepusculum and Four Chances.

Frank and I met through our blogs. We both happened upon each other’s blog early on in our blogging endeavors and discovered that we had many shared experiences, especially those that occured in our childhood. With that shared history and our love of writing came a great admiration and friendship that I deeply value.

Frank is a remarkable person. He has faithfully cared for his elderly mother for years. The last few months have included care at home with a ventalator sustaining his mother’s life. As a nurse, that speaks volumes to me about Frank’s character. The average person would not have been willing or able to do this for their loved one.

Frank has written about his devotion and love for his mother. Her influence on his life was a lasting one and was a major influence in his life choice for a career. Because of her, Frank achieved a very successful career.

His education for this talented career began in his mother’s kitchen. He writes of his memories of being in her kitchen learning everything that she could teach him. There is no better place to learn anything about life than at the feet of a loving parent.

Through his posts, I developed a deep respect and admiration for his mother. She loved life and she looked forward to tomorrows rather than dwelling on the things in the past. She was a remarkable woman.

Many of those who come to my blog regularly have been fortunate to “discover” Frank and are faithful to visit his sites. But, Frank is unable to post at this moment in time.  

With inevitable expectation, Frank lost his mother this past weekend. His heart is breaking and I am asking that you all support him and his family with prayer and kind expressions of understanding for this devastaing heart loss.my-utmost-for-his-highest

His last post was about seeing Death approaching the door to his home. He saw dread and fear. Finally, he was able to see “Dying Grace” also found his home. His poem was so moving.

This has been a long journey for my friend. Now, he sets out on a new path after the years of care giving. Please remember Frank at this time in his life…his loss is great.

Dreams, Flashbacks and Reversals

At first, I was afraid to sleep because I might dream of my husband. I know that may sound strange, but when I dream, the feelings in the dreams can stay with me all day long and I do not need that kind of distraction as I go to work…I must have full attention to detail.reflection1

Now, I am a little troubled as to why I am not dreaming of him. I seem to long for a glimpse of his face even if it is in the land of half light and altered conscienceness. I always believed that I would see my husband again in my dreams.

The flashbacks are totally different. They are triggered by so many different things that provoke a memory. They can totally undo me for the day. I will not be thinking on anything related to my husband and, before I can get a hold of myself, I will see his eyes filled with tears or that horrible rug burn that was on his face. I really hate the flashbacks because they are filled with pain…. his pain.

My counselor says that these kind of things are normal and that they will diminish as time goes on. She says that it is the mind’s and heart’s “radar” sending out sonar waves to test and see if these events are true. It is the “bounce back” that confirms that he really is gone and I am really alone.

Sometimes, I feel like saying to myself, “Make up your mind and quit this signal sending. Just get on with it!”, but I am not in control.

The reversals happen without warning. I will receive something in the mailbox addressed to him. I cannot answer a question about something that only he has the answer. Or I am totally unaware of where something is or what was done with it. These cause a horribly painful reverse mode.

With the flashbacks and reversals, I cry as if he just died and I feel the true depth of loss when I think, “Dan would know where that is or how to do it.”

I grow so weary of going forward and backward, of wanting to step ahead, but afraid of leaving him behind…I am just weary of emotion upon emotion and pushing myself to get through demanding days of work.lifes-merry-go-round

I want to get off of this Merry-Go-Round for a couple of turns, then I will get back on it again. That is what I tell myself. But, again, the sonar comes back and “pings” that this kind of thinking isn’t reality.

I can’t get off for a couple of turns. I am here on this round about ride and here I will stay until I am able to think on him without tears…I doubt if that will ever happen.

I miss him…

The Geese

statuesque1

It was a moment that struck me as picturesque. The newly harvested field of corn seem to blend into their gray colored feathers. The only contrast was the black bands around their necks. They were standing perfectly still. This in a field that was a  bounty for the flock standing at attention.

I expected to see them bow their heads and begin feeding on the loose kernels of corn, but instead, they were like soldiers outside Buckingham Palace; erect and still as statues.  What was their focus of vigilance? It was curious.

For me, scenery with geese was nothing out of the ordinary, but I am at a loss as to understand this concrete like behavior. They just stood there facing toward the east.

After 40 minutes or so,  another flock of geese began to circle overhead. Their cries and calls seem to stir the statues in the field. Both the statues and the fliers called back and forth until the arriving band landed on the pond behind the field.  They all began to stir. Those on the pond first and then those in the field began to move and shift into a preflight mode.

In a few minutes, all rose from the earth and circled the pond and field a couple of times. With an unseen signal or a specific cry was sounded and they were off. The lot of them were flying in a predetermined direction. I watched until they were no longer in sight. I was spellbound.

Awestruck by their percision and the timing of the gathering of the flock, I stood amazed by the way they waited on the others to arrive. How did they know that this smaller band was coming?

As an afterthought, I realized, for a moment in time, my thoughts of sadness and loss were suspended to observe one of God’s wonders. sunset-and-geeseI am sure there are those who know much more about the habits and migration of geese than I, but this was so curious to me.

As I contemplated the autumn scene, I wondered as to why they were still here?

 Everyone, even humans, know that the days of ice, snow and unrelenting cold are about to descend upon us, so why are these geese waiting? How did they know to wait for the smaller band of travelers? Why were they not  south  already? Why were they so still and facing east? So many questions about what I witnessed and no answers, but I don’t know if I really want answers. I was lost in wonder.

The first thing to capture my attention was,  while standing in a field filled with food, the total lack of motion by these large birds. I was astounded; not a ruffle of a feather or a bob of their head. How can any living creature stay that still and silent for 45 minutes?

But, the greater mystery is how  were they able to capture my attention and distract me from my constant feeling of loss? For those 45 minutes, I was transported from my loneliness and dread over the approaching holiday season to an attentive observer of that present moment.

After the geese were gone for a while,  i realized that I appreciated those minutes of wonder. I became aware that I found relief from my grief. Because of my curiosity over the behavior of 20-50 geese in a newly harvested field of Indiana, I was mesmerized by the curiosity of the moment.

I think that I saw a glimpse of clearing in the fog of grief in those 45 minutes. I needed the reprieve and comfort while I pondered a mystery that was before me. It gave me hope. Hope that I will begin finding my way out of these continual shadows that live in my heart…

Leave it to God and His creation to fascinate me!  I have always been entranced by the outdoor “Cathedrals” I find in his Creation. I have thrilled to the Majesty of the Red Rocks of Sedona Arizona and I marveled at the wildlife in the wilderness of Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. These were my heart felt places of worship. 

Just as it was here where my teenage heart called out to God with the intent on knowing Him. Now, I may again, walk pastures and fields in open conversation.  I know that He will meet me here. This is where I first opened my heart and my mouth and walked and talked with my God. It was in His Creation, not a man made building, that my awestruck heart came to know true worship.

Maybe, it will be as it was then.  Maybe it will be in this place of security and familiarity I will be able to call out to my Creator, my Lord and Savior and end this silence between us.  Maybe, it will be in the midst of these woods that I will lift my voice in keening of my mourning and finally give my inner pain back to the One who holds our sorrows?

I know that My God and Creator can do nothing until I am willing to release this pain. It is not His lacking, but my unwillingness to let go.

In a strange way, I may be afraid that I will loselife-mates2 the final part of my husband that I carry inside of me. This pain is one of the few things that exists that is shared by our hearts. Yet, I know that my husband would never want me to keep company with him through sorrow. He loved me too much to have me stay this hurt.

As with geese who mate for life, I too must make a choice as whether to stay with my fallen mate or leave for the life-giving horizons.

new-sunSomehow, I realize that I have stood perfectly still while waiting for him to somehow join me again so that we may continue our flight together. Now, it is the changing of season and I must either stay by his lifeless body and eventually die, or I must join the others who are flying to a new destination…

I suspose I could do a little online research and become more knowledgeable of the habits of geese, but somehow, I don’t want to spoil this learning observation that I received from the Heart of Creation.

Maybe, it is a beginning of a sunrise out of this long sunset and night that I have been living. Maybe, it is a little wind beneath my wings.

He’s Your Saving Grace…

I recieve daily emails from a site called GriefShare…today’s mailing began with this quote…”Although your mind knows the facts, your heart is often reluctant to accept the death of someone you know and love.”

That is something with which I have been dealing. There are days when it seems that my life with my husband never happened…it was just a dream…and now, I am fully awake with the devastation.

The mind does all sorts of gymnastics to protect itself from such unbearable reality. Then, the fullness of it floods in on me and I am overwhelmed with such pain, disappointment and sorrow. It is such a cruel dance.

As I was driving home, I heard this song on the radio. It was if someone had a secret window into my heart and truly saw the endless hurt that it held.

I admit, that I do not feel the comfort of God that the songwriter sings. I am numb to the spiritual side of my life and that disturbs me alot, but nevertheless, it is the truth.

It is my hope that I will feel the “saving grace” and fully understand the “Peace” that she sings.

In the meantime, I am filling time and space. I intellectually know that this isn’t the best thing to do, but it is the only thing that I can do at this time.

it is too much to comprehend at this moment.