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Those Who Go Before Us October 2, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.

The funeral for my brother-in-law was moving. I was assigned the task of creating a powerpint slideshow from old scanned photos. It was a good task for me. I liked it and it kept me busy. Besides, I was the only person who had any knowledge of technology, which frankly represents a sad state of affairs. When I am the the most technologically capable person in the house, the house needs help šŸ™‚

As I have pondered David’s death, I ahve pondered my father’s death as well. What’s the difference between life and death? It seems like a simple question on the surface – the dead are dead and the living are living – what else needs to be said?

And yet, where is David? He’s not occupying his body. We can say that he is in Heaven, andĀ I believe that is true, but how is he in Heaven? Where is Heaven? Just what is it that is going on there? Oh, I plan on going there and being with God in a different wayu than I am with God right now, but what does that mean?

I know that there are theories and theologies structured to answer these questions. But no one who comes up with this stuff has ever been dead and lived to tell about it.

AsĀ I get older and an important age like 40 is creeping ever closer, the meaning of death is changing. It is moving from the thing that will happen once upon a time in the far, far future to a thing that is only half a life away. It’s more familiar and more frightening, an inevitible fright for which I am somehow being prepared to face. It’s more mysterious and real. Death is an unusual mentor whose mentorship becomes more and more active as I age. One day, I know that I will walk with death and leave all others behind, just like David did, just like my father did.

And that is not the end. Just where is it that death will take me? Although death is an inevitibleĀ  and solitary travel companion, I tend to think that the journey, once begun, is quite short and then death leaves you alone forever. I am beginning to think that death plays only a very small, but essential role in a person’s existence – like birth. In minutes or perhaps hours, a baby is born, but then lives a life of 80 years. The birth was short in comparison, but essential to all other things that follow. I am starting to think death is much more like birth that it is, well, death.

Birth is merely a change of location. So is death. Once born, there is no return. Same with death. With birth one enters a never before known place to remain their for a long time. Is death so different?

Now, I do not believe in reincarnation, but I am starting to believe differently about death. It’s not that I long for it either – premature births are complicated. So are premature deaths. Longing for death is probably not healthy for most, but accepting it and preparing for it is probably a very healthy thing.

Oh, and one more thing about birth and death, what happens in one place has implications for what happens in the next. I want to make my life something of value for today, a benefit for the people surrounding me no matter who they are. How that affects the next life,Ā I am not sure, but I am sure that it does. I have a say in the next life today. That makes today pretty important.


New Grief October 1, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.

My brother-in-law, David, just lost his battle with cancer. We’ll be in Arkansas to join the family for the funeral. David was sufferin much with cancer and had horrific reactions to treatment. His death is very sad. At the same time, the extent to which he was suffering was great. He is no longer suffering.

3 Months of Grief June 28, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.

Today marks 3 months from the day my father passed away.

Last night I watched World News Tonight, with Charlie Gibson, and there was a story about the Navy finding a lost WWII sub. They interviewed the daughter of one of the men who died on that sub. She’s of course, in her 50’s or so, but they showed a picture of her as a baby being held by her father.

It was too much for me. I felt heavy, tired, sad. I ate dinner, but I wasn’t really present. My wife said I looked like I was going to go to bed early tonight. It was written all over my face. I ate dinner and went to my bedroom and closed the door.

I wept.

There I was in my mind standing next tom my father’s hospital bed watching him slowing shut down. For some reason they couldn’t keep one of his eyes shut, so there it was open. Eerie. I wept in my bed as I imagined myself weeping by his bed.

Then I was at the funeral. I see him in his blue shirt lying in the casket. He looks like a proud man, though so much broken.

I drift off from weeping toĀ sleeping.

At 8:28 PM, my 6 year old son wakes me up. I tell him that I am sad and he tells me there has to be some way to forget about being sad. He hugs me.

I wake up to tuck my kids into bed. My 8 year old daughter asks me to tell a “Grampa Jim” story. I tell them about how he worked full time as a janitor and also had an early morning paper route. He worked really hard to make enough money for a house and food. Besides my father’s sense of humor, it was his willingness to work his tail off in order to provide for the family financially that I appreciated. Ā 

I stayed awake for a while and then hit the sack at abut 11:00 PM, feeling much, much better.

More on Grief June 20, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.

There are times when the experience of grief is overt – crying, anxiety, sense of dread. But then there is the experience of grief that is under the radar. Sluggishness, both emotionally and physically, the sense of "I don't want to do that" or "I can't do that anymore" that aren't really in the thought realm, but more so residing in the underbelly of the heart.

Sometimes grief can feel like walking through a poorly lit meat locker, with huge beef quarters hanging frozen on hooks. You can move them if you push them, but then they swing right back with equal force. You can't just move them, you have to move yourself as well. And therein lies the rub. It is hard enough to move the world around you, but to move oneself is the chore of grief.

It is not that the grieved needs to grab those boot straps and start tugging, but rather the grieved need to be satisfied to sit in the meat locker for a spell. The cold will do you some good.

It is important while grieving to be aware that there are not only the obvious"symptoms" of grief, but there are also hidden or surprise "symptoms" as well. The grieved need ample permission (from themselves and those around them) to feel whatever, whenever. There is no set path for grief and there is no timetable. There are only some common ingredients (and then there are those unique ingredients, too) that can be expected at some point along the way. And "the way," is the rest of your life.

Imposing Grief June 17, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.
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Grief adheres to no schedule, nor does it consider situation. It is not influenced by consequence and give little regard to convenience. Grief is a force that wills itself into and out of one's awareness upon its own whims.

A fool believes grief is controllable. Grief brings about unwanted reminders of loss with surprising persistence. Unpredictable and without warning come these reminders in the form of tears, anxiety, getting caught in a daze, intense daydreams, intruding thoughts, agonozing feelings of confusion, and whatever else it decides is necessary.

All grief really wants is permission. Since it is unstoppable, permission is not needed, but permission helps the grieved endure the grief thrust upon him. Resistence of grief is like resisting an ocean wave or the winds of the air. Resistence is absorbed into the force of the grief. It must be permitted.

Wisdom whispers, "grief is your friend," and it sounds like a demonic curse. But Wisdom never lies. Those who grieve best listen to Wisdom and relent.

Father’s Day is coming and I have no father June 16, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief, Uncategorized.

This will be my first Father’s Day without my father. I won’t call him this year and apologize for sending the card Saturday and that I swear he’ll love it on Tuesday when it finally arrives. I won’t talk to him on theĀ phone for a few minutes sharing a funny story. I won’t tell him I wish I could be there. I won’t hear him say he loves me and that he is proud of me. I won’t hear his voice at all.

I am sad right now and I do not want it to be Father’s Day, even though I am a father of two wonderful children. IĀ am not ready for a day of celebration in which I have no one to celebrate. I just want to wake up Monday and plug along.

Maybe if I get my sadness out between now and then, the actual day won’t be so bad.

I know he is alive, but I cannot grasp him. I know he is near, butĀ I cannot feel him. I know that he is safe, but I do not feel safe. What I want is to be reunited, but I must wait. On days like today, I am already so sick of waiting.

My Health June 3, 2006

Posted by fajita in Exercise, family, Grief, Health, Weight Loss.

I went to the doctor the other day for a physical. He said everything looked good, for the most part, but blood tests would come in the next couple days. I told him about this cough I had at night and the weird sensation I had in my throat.

He figured I had acid reflux, even though I rarely feel anything in my throat. I am on Prevacid and the there is now no fried foods, chocolate, mint, and some other things I can't think of right now at night.

I got the blood results back today. Blood suagr is good, but my fears were confirmed. High cholesterol. SInce I am already exercising and it is still high, it looks like I will be needing some meds for it as well.

This is not a surprise, though it is a diappointment. My family has a history of this kind of thing. My cholesterol is actually hte lowest in my family, I believe, but still over 200.

I wanted to avoid this, but it looks like I will be headed to the doctor Monday to get some meds and a prescription.

I'm 36 years and I guess this is the time when I will begin accumulating ongoing meds. Does anyone know, do I qualify for Medicare part D? Ha, J/K.  

Two Long Months May 28, 2006

Posted by fajita in family, Grief.
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Two months ago today I stood by my father's hospital bed and watched him pass away. I wept, I prayed, I held his hand.

The years were not kind to my father. He lived t age 59, but he took and emotional and physical beating that aged him quickly.

He left home at age 16 because of intense family turmoil, mainly with his father. The oldest of a dozen, his leaving home gave him some terrific guilt, leaving the rest of his siblings to deal with teh turmoil.

He married and fathered his first child (my older borther) at age 17.  

Bankruptsy before age 30 because of a failed business attempt.

Worked lowly jobs 60-80 hours a week just to keep out of poverty.

Fell two stories off a an unsafe scaffold at his janitorial job onto his neck at age 39. Partially disabled.

Hit by a drunk driver at age 48. Massive 3rd degree burns, some brain damage, and multiple complications.

Terrible infection at age 55. Lost ability to live independently.

Two months ago, it all caught up to him.  

Dad, thank you for hanging on for 59 years. I could have used a few more from you, but I am thankful for the years I got. I am eternally grateful we found a way to reconcile and see eye to eye when I got out of college. I love you.