Posts Tagged ‘death’

I look at elderly people and I see their white hair, their bent backs, their limps, some of which are slight, others more distinguished. Often you can see the pain on their faces. They have lived full lives of which we can only imagine their stories.

Some people look at the elderly and feel a deep sense of compassion, perhaps even mustering up stories which the said person may or may not have lived. When I see the elderly, all I can think is, “I don’t want to live to be that old.”

I think this is sad and I feel guilty about it, yet it does not change. My great grandmother was 106 when she died. I remember her. I remember the special toilet that was assembled for her use. I remember that she could no longer see to do her precious embroidery. She could not boil water or even peel an orange. She couldn’t even make it to the restroom without assistance. I don’t want to be like this.

I had a very brief period in my life in which I was humbled enough to the extent that I was completely reliant on others. Like my great grandmother, I needed help just to make it into the restroom and to get on and off of the toilet. I could not bathe myself. Although I used a walker, I could not even manage it without assistance. I could not dress myself. If it involved my legs in any manner, no matter how slight, I was not able to do it. I was a self-sufficient, 36 year old single mother who lived in a town with some friends and absolutely no family. As was usual for my personality, when I realized that something was terribly wrong, rather than calling an ambulance as I should have, I drove myself to the hospital – the whole time trying to reach someone at work to let them know that I would not be in.

For three weeks, my parents moved in with me. They left their home, their friends, their jobs, to come and take care of my children and I. Once I was well enough that I could at least shower on my own (with the use of handicap contraptions), my mother returned to her job. My father stayed with me another three weeks and would have stayed longer, but I finally kicked him out.

I had to buy all new makeup for my new medicines caused problems with the old makeup. I had to buy a new car because I could no longer get in and out of my SUV. I had to buy new clothes to accommodate my ever swollen leg and the weight gain that would follow. It’s been over a year and I’m still in the recovery stages. I have permanent damage and will likely struggle for the rest of my life, but I can at least fool those who don’t know me into thinking all is well. In fact, I believe that most of my friends forget that there is anything wrong with me.

I take this relatively short period of time and remember with dread what it was like to rely fully on others and I am reminded again and again that I don’t want to live like that. My circumstances were temporary, but an elderly person only continues to get worse. I want to die while I’m still actually living. Is that really so horrible?


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It’s been a tough year, a year of survival and many, many challenges. In my years of teaching, this has hands down been the worst year ever. I could go on and on about what made the year so tough, but it is a long list and not easily stated. I’ve had my eyes on the end all year. It has been my focus. Survival and the ability to make it to the end. 

I don’t know how to put these things into words because it is such a hodgepodge of feelings and thoughts. You see, having had to focus on the end all year, I thought for sure I would be happy once the end finally arrived. Friday was the end to my year with my students and it isn’t a happy feeling after all. I am happy that we (my teaching team, the students and I) all made it, but I am not happy to say goodbye to these kids. I will walk into my empty classroom on Monday to finish packing up for summer and posting grades. It will hurt my heart to walk into that empty classroom. The desks are stacked, the student’s self portraits are down, art work and student papers have been removed. The classroom is practically bare and ready for the next group of kids. 

Recently I looked out my classroom door and noticed that there were about 30 5th graders hanging around talking. I opened the door and loudly and sternly shouted, “GO HOME!!!” A look of horror fell upon the face of nearby adults and siblings were startled to hear a teacher yell like that. The 5th graders, however, had a completely different reaction. They turned, saw it was me, and immediately came to me for a group hug and casual conversation. They knew that I was not serious and laughed at me stating, “Oh Ms. H.” It was funny to watch this unfold. I knew that the kids would know right away that I was kidding. I had not anticipated the reaction of others. I knew that they would wonder about it, but I didn’t expect their looks of horror, followed with a quizzical glimpse and then smile upon smile. 

I taught about ten of my 33 students last year as well. It is especially tough to say goodbye to those kids. We have deep bonds and most of them I am somewhat involved with their family as well. This year, I have helped students work through social issues, I have been a shoulder to cry on for several students who found their parents divorcing, other students had parents in and out of the hospital, a mother had cancer and I was a part of the diagnosis, the chemo and the radiation treatments. The student brought in the device that was inserted into her mother for chemo treatments. I was there (in the student and family’s life) when Mom was diagnosed and I was involved when Mom had her very last treatment over a year later. I was a part of the life of a child that walked out of the courthouse with only the clothes on his back into his mother’s care. The school was able to provide clothing until Mom was able to get all that she needed. I went to baseball games, softball games and birthday parties. I listened as they talked to me about their latest crushes and shared who their current boyfriend or girlfriend was. I watched the physical transformation from child to young adult. I listened to children cry that they don’t like their Mom or their Dad and why they felt that way. I received hug after hug after hug. A known gang member began to call me Mommy and continued to do so all year long. He was insistent that I was his “other mother.” Together, we laughed and we cried and today I realize just how very attached I am to these students. They are amazing kids and I love them. I hate to see them go. 

I laugh with my kids, I share with my kids and I cry with my kids. They are so deeply rooted into my life. I couldn’t help but tell a few of them that I love them as we said our final goodbyes. I don’t usually let myself express love to my kids. Occasionally I find myself giving a kiss on the forehead, but this year, I knew that I had to tell some of them that I love them. I knew that the craziness of their home-life and the raging hormones of a pre-teen left some of them wondering if anyone loved them and I could not let them leave without hearing me say that yes, I really do love you. 

How can I not be sad to see these kids go? Kids that know that when I “yell” I am only playing. Kids that know they can get a hug from me at anytime, kids that like to stand around and talk to me about nothing. Kids that have opened up and let me fully and completely into their lives. Goodbye guys. I WILL miss you!

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We began by talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and how it appeared as if he knew he was going to die on the day that he actually did. We had an in-depth conversation about slavery, Washington DC, and President Lincoln. We talked about President Washington and even Obama. We talked about death and how it is ultimately inevitable that we all die. 

Somewhere in the midst of our deep conversation, my daughter paused to state, “You know, we don’t have your normal dinner conversations. We don’t talk about ‘how was your day’ and ‘did you stay out of trouble?’ We talk about this deep, random stuff.”

I’d never thought about it before, but she’s right. We aren’t your typical family by many standards. We don’t tend to piddle in the small talk which is somewhat ironic because I consider myself very involved in my children’s lives and my teen daughter is pretty open with me.

I have my children 24/7, for better or worst and as such we really are a close family. A typical day consists of the three of us sharing our one bathroom to get ready for school and work. All three of us then pile into the car and head off to begin our day. My son attends my school and spends the morning in my classroom with me until the bell rings and he leaves to begin his day. My daughter catches the bus at my school and takes it to her school. 

During the day, my daughter and I will text each other messages during recesses and lunch. I usually check in with her to see how her day is going. She often asks me to bring her a coffee knowing full well that not only is it not possible, but I wouldn’t anyways. We have segmented conversations in which I get a glimpse as to how things are going for her.

Having spent roughly half an hour with me before school, my son and I generally see each other once again at lunch time. Although he pretends horror at my appearance, I have been told on good authority that his face actually lights up when he sees me and that what we have is a little game. We have finally agreed that I will not kiss him and in exchange he will give me a side hug. At 8 years old and in second grade, he is too embarrassed to be seen with his mother. 🙂

After school, my son and I spend another approximately two hours together before we pick up sister. During this time, he and I have had our small talk. Once I pick up sister/daughter, she and I have some more small talk as we drive home. Once home (or out to eat), the dinner conversation begins. We have great conversations. I love how deep our conversations go, how anything is fair game, how both my 15 year old and my 8 year old are comfortable and capable in having these conversations. 

Life is good.

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She died. I knew I would be sad the day that it happened. I relied on her. I could tell just by looking at her that she was feeling old, getting tired. I knew that one day I would approach her and she simply would not respond. Today was that today. On my birthday, of all days, she has passed on. 

I was on the phone with my mother when I discovered it. I was calm. My mom had no idea what was happening. I turned on the water and flipped the switch. I heard a gentle hum, but not the usual triumph and swirl. I got down on my hands and knees. I looked underneath her for that magical reset button. It took me a little bit to find it, but I finally did. I pushed the little orange button several times and tried the switch one last time. Alas, the same gentle hum was the only life I could detect. Defeated, I shared the news with my mom.

She suggested that I put a stick into her and rotate the blades. I tried, and again, no luck. Just for the sake of it, I also tried the reset button a few more times. I tried pressing and holding. I tried pressing and pressing and pressing some more. Nothing worked. We checked the fuse box just to be safe. I am feeling confident that her time has come and for my birthday, I will be purchasing myself a new garbage disposal.

garbage-disposalLet the fun begin! I did some quick internet research and discovered that all garbage disposals are essentially made by one of four companies. The Insinkerator seems to be the most common. The main differences are based on horse power. Tomorrow, I will try to get her to start one more time before beginning my search for a replacement. Afterwards, I will then have to decide whether I will install it myself or call Keith, my dependable and affordable handiman. 

Happy Birthday to ME!!!! Every gal wants a garbage disposal for her birthday, even if it is a day late.

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Death stares us in the face on a daily basis. We don’t realize it. We go on with our lives not thinking twice about anything. If you are my age and think like I used to think, you know you aren’t invincible, but you simply don’t think about how life can take one turn without warning and you are staring death in the face. 

Last year, life was going along like it always does until one morning when I woke up knowing that something was drastically wrong. I found myself in the hospital for 5 days, mostly in the ICU, surgery the day of my admittance, recovery period where I was out of work for several months, I had to use a walker, I couldn’t even stand long enough to take a shower, so much more…nine months later, I’m still in my recovery stages. The life that I knew changed over night. I wasn’t in a car accident, I didn’t have some major accident, I had a DVT – Deep Vein Thrombosis. Simply stated, I had a blood clot that ran from my ankle, all the way up my leg into my vena cava (the vein that joins both veins in your leg and meets in your abdomen) and starting to go into my right leg. 

At the time, I knew nothing about blood clots. I knew “old” people got them and that you can die from them. That’s the extent of it. I didn’t know that roughly 300,000 Americans die per year as a result of DVTs. I didn’t know that anyone can get one. I didn’t know that there were blood conditions that make you more susceptible to receiving one. I didn’t know that I had one of those conditions (Factor V Leiden). 

I now live with Post Thrombotic Syndrome  or Postphlebitic Syndrome (same thing, different name) and my life is forever changed. I am trying to get my strength and flexibility back. Everyday things such as shopping and even sitting or standing has to be done with much consideration. Leg cramps, coughing, dizziness, all of these things can now result in a trip to the hospital as I never know if or when I may get another DVT. 

When I was admitted to the hospital, my children were 14 and 7 years old. I am a single mom. Our world primarily consists of just us. I am my children’s care taker 24/7. They do not have weekend visits with Dad. They don’t go away for weeks or even nights at a time. Grandma and Grandpa live several hours away. We have no family in the area although we do have wonderful friends. My children and I are a tight family. Needless to say, my events terrified them. 

I had an incident of concern yesterday and my daughter, although trying to be strong, was barely holding herself together. I was puzzled by this. I knew that whatever was going on was not a big deal, I just needed to get it checked out. She finally admitted to me that the day she went to the hospital, the very first words she heard was from the surgeon stating, “She’s lucky to be alive.” 

I was fine the night before. I wasn’t fine the next morning. While I live with the physical results of my disorder, I think it is my daughter who has suffered the most. She knows and understands that I really should have died. She lives in fear that I just might. How do you comfort that? How do you convince a child that you are safe when the reality is, we just never know. 

I fully believe that I am alive so that I can continue to mother my children. I will not tempt this fate, this second chance at life. If only I could erase the burden of fear that my daughter now carries…

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