Outliving your own History

I am a huge fan of the show “Highlander”.  For those too young to remember or if you didn’t watch, “Highlander” was a tv series spun off the 1987 film of the same name.  It follows a race of people called Immortals.  They are possessed of something called a “Quickening” that enables them to live forever.  That is, unless they have their head removed from their body by a sword.

The series traces the main character, Duncan MacLeod, a Scottish highlander (thus the name of the show) born 400 years ago in Scotland.  He has lived to, then present day (mid 90s) and has group of immortal friends of varying age.  He also befriends and falls in love with a cast of mortals as well.  Each week, there was an immortal bad guy that usually met a grisly, though well deserved, end at the hand of Macleod of one of his immortal band of friends.

What “Highlander” also did was examine, sometimes in uncomfortable detail, what it was like to live forever.  To outlive your family, your friends and your own history.  Many of the characters were fleshed out to look at just what it was like to deal with the grief of not only losing your connection with friends and family, but by doing this, losing your own identity.

It was a great show and I loved it.  It spawned website after website filled with fan fiction, and devoted followers.  I even went to a few conventions and met some of the actors.  The draw was obvious.  Put aside the hunky main character, the attractive co-stars and lovely sets and you still have a compelling tale of the immortals themselves.  The mere mystery and pain of immortality.

The show resonated with me in a way that no other show has since.  I longed to step into their world where death, though real, was not something an immortal had to worry about for themselves.  I longed to have lived in those past times and see the things they did with a bullet-proof, immortal and ageless body.  But as the show examined and as I have grown older, immortality would be mind crushingly lonely and heartbreaking.  It is a curse more than a blessing.  As I have aged, I fave found that living forever, for me, would be devastating.

Case in point.  I lost a cousin this week.  She was 58, only 9 years older than me.  She was one of my first contacts with an “older” girl.  She became a teenager and dated when I was an impressionable, starry-eyed tween with allusions of Hollywood, fashion and disco.  It was the 70s after all.  She handed down dresses to me, played Barbies and was just an older version of what I thought a hip teen was.  Along with my half-sister, she was a role model of what burgeoning womanhood was.

She was also the first cousin in my little group of childhood that has died.  I’ve had other cousins pass, but none that I was as close to growing up.  Ironically, the last few years- decades really- I rarely saw her.  I rarely see many of my cousins anymore.  I guess that is the way things are in our modern world.  Facebook, is about our only contact.  That and funerals.  She had moved away and I hadn’t seen her in probably 8 years.

I wanted to write how I felt about this, but it has become less a loss of her now as it was then.  That may sound heartless, but it’s hard to quantify a death when they aren’t part of your daily life.  It made me think that as I have lost an Uncle this year, an Aunt four years ago, and now her that living brings a sense of outliving your own history.

Like Duncan Macleod, my life goes on and I drop friends and family along the way.  The list of high school friends mount and so do others.  It’s the way of things, I know, but it begs a question.  Are you the sum of your history or are you constantly recreating it?  Is life just your memories to be plucked away as people die, or are you continually refreshing what your history is?

Back to Duncan and his friends.  Duncan was very sad many times and serious.  But he was also tender, giving, loving and grabbed hold of life by the ears.  He recreated his history over and over.  So did his immortal friends.  The ones that survived, that is.

So what can we take from the fabulous highlander and my story?  Though we mourn the loss of what was and those that made our history, we can’t let it hold us in place.  One day, it will be our turn to join that ranking of memory.  We are part of someone else history.  So grieve appropriately, but always remember what the show “Highlander” taught.  People are always alive in our memories, but to survive, to live, we need to continually make new history every single day.

Make your history count.  Live on.  To quote Methos, a “Highlander” character, “Live.  Grow Stronger.  Fight another day.”

Christian Life Love

Never Underestimate Grief

Last night I felt like such a fraud.   I’ve been on this blog saying how happy I am that my mom is in a better place, that she has told me she is ok, yada, yada.   Well as Easter has approached, a holiday that my mother LOVED, I find myself getting more and more depressed.

The last two days I have done something I haven’t done in months.  Cry uncontrollably in the shower.  The shower is a great place for crying, don’t you think?  I mean, you are already wet, you already look like junk, why not cry too.  Plus, you can’t be heard in there very well.  Perfect crying closet.

When my mom died, I had this crushing guilt over her final days.   My mom started having pain in her legs and all over her body, she began crying constantly, couldn’t stop.  She would call out all the time and pull at her legs.  Her swallowing became non-existent as well and she couldn’t hardly take her meds.  I found out later that this had been going on for several weeks, from my dad.     The only thing that would quiet her and give her some relief was drops of morphine, adminstered through a liquid in her mouth.   She was very sensitive to medicine, but hospice told us that the morphine was so light and such a small amount, that it would only make a person sleep.   Well, when they told us that the pain she was going through was the dying process, we relented in giving her more morphine.  This is common for people in their final days/hours, but I couldn’t get over the idea that maybe we were accelerating her death.   Hospice told me over and over that there was nothing that could be done and that if we took her to the hospital, they would try to use heroic measures such as feeding tubes (she couldn’t swallow), vents (for breathing) or intraveneous morphine (stronger than what we were giving her.)  My mom said many times she didn’t want a feeding tube, didn’t want to go to the hospital, didn’t want any of that.   She had a do not rescussitate on her living will.   She stopped swallowing, could not take her meds anymore, pills that, in essence, were keeping her alive.  So really, nothing could have been done more to help her at this point.

But I still feel like I didn’t do what she wanted.  I still have moments where I wish she could have told me what she wanted.  When her swallowing stopped, her ability to communicate stopped too.  She was crying as if she was trying to tell me something, but I never could get out of her what it was.   When I finally told her, after a couple of days, that they told us she was dying, she calmed down.  I think she just didn’t understand that this was the final fight.  She didn’t have to struggle anymore.   For someone who had lived through a terminal cancer diagnosis in her 20s, breast cancer in her 40s, heart disease in her 50s and 60s, just laying down the fight is hard to do.

My husband asked me the same questions I ask myself.  What if she had lived through this crisis?  She would have been in a nursing home the following week, and my mom didn’t want to go to a nursing home.   My wonderful husband also said, “God takes us in His own time.   You second guessing God?”  Sage advice from my hubby.

I guess my biggest issue is that I was unable to be at my mom’s side every minute that last 7 days.  I was there, don’t get me wrong, but for the most part my husband, my two uncles and my sister sat vigil.   My dad and I, after years of constant caregiving, and some of the hardest months in our lives,  just couldn’t watch it anymore.   I feel like I abandoned her when she needed me the most.  I still carry that with me, though I know, deep down, my mom has forgiven any weakness I might have shown in those last days, and knows that I did my best.

What I am saying is never underestimate grief.  It comes in lulls and bursts.  I have just had a burst.   My friend, who has lost both her parents, told me that the “firsts” are the worst.   First Easter, First Birthday, etc.

I discounted that early on, but not again.     I know somewhere my mom is trying to reach across the great divide between this world and the next and comfort me.   I will take all I can get right now, Mommy.  I’m sorry for my mistakes.   I did the best I could.

If I made some that I shouldn’t have, I guess she can admonish me in glory.  We’ll have eternity to commiserate about every detail.

Somehow I don’t think she plans to do that when I see her again.   Just not her style


The Green Monster

Jealousy?  No, not that green monster.  The monster is fear.  Real or imagined, fear can paralyze you.  It’s one of the major regrets I have now, since my Mom has passed.  When she was alive and free of MSA, just fighting her normal day-to-day battles with heart issues, I worried about her every minute.  I worried about if she was ok, called her all the time.  Now this didn’t happen all the time, mind you, but I did obsess about it some times to the point of ruining vacations, work days, and all sorts of time I will never get back.  In this case, it was imagined fear.  My mom was fine.  This past year, when I traveled to the Mayo clinic with my Mom and Dad, just about this time last year actually, I found out what real fear was.   I found out my Mom really was dying this time, and that no amount of doctor intervention would help.  A miracle would do it, but God had decided this was her last battle-something I realized after a few months.

Lately, the green boy is back.  I don’t have my Mom to obsess over, so I have turned it onto myself.  I have been concerned for some time that my Mom’s disease might be hereditary.  Though it states in the literature that in 95% of cases its not, my family has a tendency to fall into that 5% all the time.  My Grandfather died of Parkinson’s disease combined with several strokes.  His brothers all had some sort of neurological disease.  Either Parkinsons or Alzheimers.  My mom was my grandpa’s only child and I am her only child.  So, you do see my concern.

So lately I have noticed little things that remind me of my mom’s issues happening to me.  All of them could be explained by stress, possible perimenopause, and several other things.  But my mind has leaped to the possibility that I will be another MSA stat and that I will be one of those young people who get this dreaded disease.   I have a talent for leaping to the worst possible conclusion because in my lifetime, many times, it always seems to be the worst possible thing.  My mom was told she was going to die more times than I can count, after all.

What makes it different this time is that I have her experience to bring some of this into perspective.   Worrying does no good.  If you get it, you do.  There is no cure, so knowing ahead of time really isn’t going to make things any better.   So each time I accidentally drop a cup, feel my fingers wanting to move a little too hard on my mouse when I didn’t expect it, or I trip over something (usually my cat!), or can’t find the word for something I am trying to say, my mind tends to think, “Oh no, is this the start of it?”

Who knows.  If God intends for me to be another in our family to die of a neurological disorder, then I will, right?

But, God?  I’d really rather not.

Green monster wins again I guess


Spring Time! Spring Time?

I’ve always liked spring time.  Not LOVED it, but I like it.  I can hear the collective gasp from lovers of sunshine and warmth after a long winter.  Let me explain.

When I was a child, I was deathly afraid of thunderstorms.  Let me rephrase that.  I had a pathological fear of thunderstorms.  If it was a lovely spring day and a dark cloud came up, as they are wont to do, I would go into my bedroom, draw the blinds and watch the tv, hugging my map of Indiana that my parents had given me to track the weather advisories.  Don’t worry, they weren’t enabling me, they knew I was a control freak and it helped me to know where the pesky storms were every second of their trek through Indiana.  So, as winter would go away, I knew one thing.  It was time for tornado sirens, storm watches and my eyes glued to Bob McClain the local weather man.  Back in those days, we didn’t have the weather channel and buff Jim Cantore out chasing storms.  We had a guy in a studio in Indiana, with 1980s technology showing us where the storms were going.  “Swoop” McClain was my connection to sanity in those days.

Well to those of you on the edge of your seat, I “did” grow out of my fear of storms.  However, one thing you realize when something scares the living daylights out of you, one has a tendency to learn quite a bit about that thing.  At least, that’s what I did.  Know your enemy-that was my policy.

This has changed quite a bit, since the invention of the internet.  Now you can google anything you want and know far more than any person should ever know about a topic.

I was thinking back before the internet the other day, pondering if I would ever have gotten over my fear of storms, if I would have had 24/7 weather channel and google at my fingertips.  There are so many people now with obsessive tendencies that get their feeling and thoughts ramped up by the almight google.
While I was tracking those storms, I had an encyclopedia at my fingertips as well, to look up symptoms and such.  Born to be a researcher…that’s me!

When I heard on the radio that they were no longer going to be printing Encyclopedia Brittanica, I took a pause.  For my generation, and those just a little older than me, the world has really changed.  Would I have ever thought when I watched Star Trek:  The Next Generation in the 80s and 90s that the “PADD” Picard read from would now be in my possession?  That books were becoming things of the past and all the worlds knowledge (good and bad) was at my fingertips as long as I typed in the right search word?

I don’t know about you, but I kind of miss tracking my storms  on my paper map of Indiana and watching for Swoop McClain’s weather forecast.

It taught me this.  Today’s fear may be tomorrow’s misty nostalgia.


Trauma: The plight of the adult orphan

I think I have written about this before, but I can’t recall, so here goes.  When you go to google and type in the word “orphan”, you get a long list of websites dealing with this topic.  99% of these websites deal with young children and their plight at being orphaned.  Now, I don’t despel that this is a horrible thing.  One of my major fears as a child was that my parents wouldn’t come home one day and I would be on my own.

As I grew up, stories of how close I came to losing my Mother were told to me with staggering regularity.  My Mother, as readers of this blog my know, fought a battle with Hodgekins Lymphoma in her 20s and early 30s.  My mother was given months to live several times.  She survived to raise me, and passed in 2009 of a disease so far away from Cancer is beggars the imagination.

One of the things I heard over and over again, from very well-meaning people, was “well you had her a lot longer than anyone ever thought you would.”  Really?  Would you go up to a 10 year old, pat her on the head and say, “well at least you had your Mommy 10 years.  What more do you expect in this world?  Suck it up, buttercup.”  Probably not.

But that’s what adult children who lose their parents feel like.  I have read stories of people who have lost their parents, the parent was in their 80s, and despite the advanced age of the parent, the child feels just as alone and lost as that 10 year old child.

Losing one’s parent is the natural order of things.  It’s expected that your parent will go before you do.  But what is lacking among the public, HR departments in employers, and even medical professionals, is that losing a parent is just as traumatic to a 65 year old as it is to a 10 year old.  It’s still your parent, its still the person that was your lifeline to the past, its still the person that connects you to your family.

The effect is even worse for the person who has lost their last parent.  I can say that I am not at that point yet.  I lost my Mother about 4 years ago, but my Father is still living.  My thoughts go to when I will lose him.  I don’t dwell on it, mind you, but when I sit and think about the grieving process, it comes at me full force.

I know there has been scientific research on this, some books published (not very many), but I feel like there is much to this story that hasn’t been told.  I’ve always wondered if I could write a book like that.  Maybe I will.