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Coming to Terms With Saying Goodbye

Some days it’s easy to ignore the realities life throws in your direction. Other days, reality hits you so hard it’s difficult to breathe.

As I was lying in bed last night, I thought about what it would be like to lose my dad. He’s always been there, calm and ready to listen. My mom and I talked on the phone yesterday. He seems to be doing better, almost as if nothing happened. But something did happen. We just don’t know what or how much damage it may have caused. Maybe it was nothing and we’re making it out to be more than what it really is. But what if we’re not?

She talked about finding his life insurance papers and needing to start making funeral arrangements. Sounds grossly morbid, but when my grandmother died, she had most of it already planned (burial plot, casket, funeral home, etc) which made the process for my mom and my uncles a little easier to bear. So I suppose that’s what she’s doing as well. It may help in the process of mentally dealing with the impending loss.

I was born to parents who didn’t want me so my adopted mom and dad took me in when I was just a baby. They’re all I’ve ever known. My dad started a new family after the death of his first wife. He supported my mom in the decision to adopt two children and start over late in life, even after having four children of his own. My mom always said he was so supportive. He would get up early in the morning to get me out of bed and walk me around their apartment and tell me all the stories about the photos hanging on their walls so that my mom could sleep just a little bit longer.

The age difference between my mom and dad has become more pronounced over the last several years, but even more so now. He looks like an old, sickly man instead of the strong man he used to be. It’s terrifying to imagine what losing him will be like. Maybe we’re all getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe he’ll be fine for a long time still. Who knows? With all the advances of modern medicine, people still die of terrible things while taking dozens of pills until they finally just give up. Sounds deeply depressing, but it’s true.

I talked to him on the phone last night, and he didn’t even mention that anything had happened. Denial maybe? Or he just doesn’t want to talk about it because it’s scary thinking about the future. I desperately want him to call my cell phone and leave a message. After last week’s Postsecret update, so many people have voicemails from lost ones so that they can remember them and hear their voices. The cell phone carriers also work with people to get those messages saved so they will have them forever. I want that.

Thinking about the past, there aren’t that many photos of us together. We weren’t much about taking photos when we got older. Regret surrounds me. All the what-ifs and should-haves. I get the sinking feeling that the sand is slowly coming to an end in the hourglass.

It brings me back to the death of my grandma a few years back. It was the only death I had been keenly aware of and I was present for the last few hours of her life. I remember it vividly. We knew she was sick and wasn’t getting better. She took a turn for the worse when I was getting ready to visit my college of choice for undergrad. It was a Spring day in April 2004. Spring was coming and the forsythia was blooming. I remember thinking how beautiful it was and how she would have loved to see them in full bloom. We got back late that night, and I went to visit her in the nursing home. It was like I entered an alternate universe seeing someone I didn’t know gasping for breath. It was horrifying.

I’m scared. I’m not ready for this. Not yet. I really didn’t think it’d be so soon.

 

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Mom

mom's suicideJune 7, 2020 at 1:00am, an hour before my shift at work, I got a phone call no one wants. It was my dad: I answered.  “Mom died” he said tearfully.

I felt my stomach drop. Impossible. How could she be gone? I was stunned. I immediately stood up, gathered up my work stuff (knowing that I wouldn’t need them that morning) to meet dad at the hospital.

Mom had been in the hospital for a UTI for the past week. Her condition had been stable but she was pretty out of it. Because of the virus we were unable to see her in the hospital or at all because she lived in a nursing home. We had done window visits, and dad talked to her on the phone, but it wasn’t the same. I attempted to Facetime with her (earlier that week) but she was pretty out of it  My mom had MS, so her health was always on a roller coaster. I kept thinking how we managed 3 years since the last hospital incident when things were close then. I thought we had more time.

The drive to the hospital (also my employer) was a blur, I was trying to reach family members to let them know what happened. All I knew is that her oxygen levels had dropped. “There had to be more”, I thought. I made it to work hurrying into the office to deposit my keys, tell my coworker where I was going, and grab a mask. I met dad out in the ER and we hugged. Going up to the floor where mom was seemed so unreal, like a dream, a really horrible bad dream. I felt nauseous and almost like I was back in time to when my sister died 7 years ago and we went to see her, then almost 20 years ago when my grandfather died. I was not ready for this.

When we approached her room the nurse was so kind, just explaining what happened (the same thing my dad had said), and the nurse added that mom kept saying “Go away” to her. That gave me indication that she knew it was her time, she was tired, and my sister was waiting for her.

 

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A Story of Loss

I thought it would be my salvation when the doctor gave me the test results.  I was twenty and my life was going nowhere. I should have known it would be a disaster.

I thought it would save me, though.  I had seen him with his kids. I had seen how happy they were when they were around him, how he seemed to dote on them. He looked like a good dad who would never harm any child of his.

I thought that when he knew he had another child growing in my belly, he would stop hitting me, that he would want to love and protect this child as much as he did his other children.

I was excited when I told him. Smiling, thinking that he would be excited, too.  He asked me how far along I was. “Three months,” I said. “I’m three months pregnant.

He looked at me for a long time, saying nothing. I could not read the expression on his face.  Then …

He kicked my baby out of me. He planted his foot repeatedly into my belly until I lay there in a pool of blood, mourning for the child that would never be.

My baby, my baby. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry that you had to die so violently, while you were supposed to be safe and protected within my womb.

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What The Hell Happened?

cancer love storyWe met when we were twelve. My wife Kimmy was always healthy. She never smoked, only occasionally drank, she exercised and ate all the right foods. She hadn’t seen a doctor in six years, always joking, “I’m waiting for the big one!”

She went in for gall bladder surgery on 10/19/10. I assured her she’d be fine. My wife passed away fifty-five blurry days later on 12/13/2010.

When I realized how sick Kimmy really was, I told her, “Dammit Kimmy, why couldn’t you be a mean, bitchy woman? Then I could be rejoicing right now!” But she couldn’t be mean or bitchy. Not her nature. She was so sweet, so positive, right up until she died in my arms.

miss her so much. I was a train wreck that she’d lovingly pulled out of the gutter, cleaned up, and helped exercise my demons. She made me what I am today.

And now, in my new, traumatic, bizarro world, I can no longer keep track of time or what day it is. I walk around feeling stoned. I question; I second guess myself. Did I kill Kimmy? I go back and forth, replaying this in my head.

St. Patrick’s Day last year, we lost our ten-year old Lab/Aussie pup, Zona. That dog was part of the family. Our kids adored her as much as she loved them. That dog allowed them to ride her, use her as a pillow; anything the kids wanted. We took her to the vet. She had to be put down. My children were inconsolable. Kim and I looked at each other and she said, “you go, you held Cajun while she passed on. I’ll stay with Zona.” An autopsy revealed wide-spread cancer. My stoic Zona never let on.

Now, looking back I wonder, did Zona’s cancer (in some crazy way) pass to Kimmy? What if I had stayed in that room?

———–

I regret that I was so uptight about money and our financial situation. Kimmy would say, “I’d love to go to the beach.” I’d show her our bills, explaining that, “It’s not a good time.” Kimmy wanted a beach cruiser, and I’d nod, knowing we didn’t have the money. Kimmy wanted to replace the broken stereo in her car, and I explained that we could not afford that either.

Not right now.

When she died, the community helped with bills and groceries and medical expenses. Now we can go to the beach, only Kimmy’s not here to go with us. Dammit, I feel responsible for being so focused on money problems. I should have just taken her to the beach.

————-

While Kimmy was so sick, I did everything I could to help: showers, dressing her, feeding her, doing the cleaning, even giving her a Lovenox injection twice a day; to combat the blood clotting issues caused by the demon cancer. She called me her knight in shining armor. She told me that I was saving her. But I wasn’t, I couldn’t; I wanted to believe I could.

I wonder, did the Lovenox help? Or was I making it worse?

I don’t know.

I do know that Kimmy was an incredible wife, mother and friend; the type of person you wanted to be around. Positive, upbeat, energetic. She was an excellent cook, such a nurturing mother – and I can’t help but think of how sad, how tragic this is for them. Cody 13, Autumn 10 and Antonio, especially Antonio, 7; all motherless.

What the hell happened?

Now, our family is closer than ever, although it’s out of necessity. Our glue, our mentor, the love of my life, the mother of my children, our motivator is gone – ripped from our lives so quickly – but we try to remember her positivity. We comfort each other because we know she believed she was going to Heaven. I tell the kids, “we need to smile and remember the wonderful times.” These little ones have responded so beautifully and remarkably, standing up for each other, and for me. They try to keep our morale up and her memory alive.

In the dark of night when I cannot sleep, I replay the whole nightmare, over and over:

What could I have done differently? I should have seen that she was sick. I should have. I could have…why didn’t I?

And, I cannot shake this feeling. I was not Kimmy’s knight…I did not ride off into the sunset. I did not save the girl.

I’m the bad guy.

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A Letter I Can’t Send: I Never Should Have

Dear J,

I don’t know how to begin to say a proper goodbye to you.

I love you. I didn’t mean to love you; it just happened. Curse of having too much heart. I can’t call you “the one who got away” because I always knew that I never stood a chance. I had no idea what I was getting into when we started this. I’d never expected to become attached to this impossibility.

There are no words to describe how I’m going to miss you.

You’d say things to me, sometimes; things that almost made me believe that what we shared was so much more. That what we had was more than the promise of sex – sex that never happened. When you almost cried after I hugged you, I understood. I know that feeling.

Wish I could take you with me, but we both know that it’s an impossibility.

In a way, I’m almost glad to leave you behind; really, I’m glad to leave this whole situation. I hope that by moving away, you can salvage your marriage. Your wife deserves better this; better than what we have been doing. So does your beautiful baby girl, whom I love without ever having met.

You’re the hardest of all the people I’ve had to say goodbye to. I hope my move is easier for you than it has been for me.

If you do ever come East, well, you’ll know where to find me and if you ever need anything I’m here. I know I’ve told you before but I’m going to tell you again: first and foremost, you are my friend and I hope that never changes. In twenty years, I hope we can look back at these past few months and laugh.

When you found out about Blake, your answer was perfect. So perfect. There was no ‘How could you do that?’ or even ‘I could never give my kid up.’ That was the day I stopped fighting my feelings for you and just gave in. I don’t know if I’ve thanked you for that reaction but now I am. Thank you.

I cried after I told you, there is no one single thing about you I’d take, each part meant nothing without the others.

Your eyes mean nothing without your smile. Your good heart means nothing without the fluffy cuteness. Your sense of humor means nothing without the real meaning behind it.

I believe you have so much more potential inside you and once you get your life together, you will go far.

Of course I want to know your story; to be part of your story, but I cannot. For that I am deeply sorry and sad. Maybe I will hate you for a few days, just for being so awesome.

Thank you for so much. You’ve taught me a lot about myself.

I believe in you. There are few memories that make me laugh like I have with you. It’s with such fondness I remember being semi-tackled just to get a hug. That means so much to me.

You mean so much to me. Stay beautiful.

Yes, I broke “the rules,” I know. Oh my!

With Love Always,

Me

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The Great Pandemic: Funerals Are For The Living

We at The Band Back Together Project are looking for your stories of what you’re going through in the time of the great pandemic. Please share your stories with us. You can use this to login, or you can send your story to becky@bandbacktogether.com or stacey@bandbacktogether.com.

Please share this around – we are none of us alone; we are all connected. You never know who’s lives you’ll change with your words.

 

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe in the afterlife, we believe that they are already in a better place, A place where the beauty of the flowers, the churches, and the songs pale by comparison. The love they feel far outweighs the love they feel from those in attendance of their comital.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

If we are to believe that there is no afterlife, then they are already gone. The end. Fin. They will not feel the love, appreciate the flowers, or hear the songs. Those in attendance will tell stories, feel the sweet release of a good cry, and maybe – just maybe – gain some semblance of closure. But those who have died will reap nothing.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living. 

Today, we gather to celebrate their contributions to the enrichment of our lives. We are there to comfort each other; to try to make sense of the loss of their light in our world. We fortify ourselves against the pain of their passing with hugs and sweet words of our loved ones, and words of our faiths.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

My aunt passed away today and amidst the concerns for the containment of CoVID-19, we are not permitted to attend the funeral. We want everyone to be safe.

Funerals are not for the dead; they are for the living.

I love you, Aunt Netta, and I will always miss your light.

Love,

Tonya.