Remembering Our Dead

“Whenever another loved one dies, all the others that went before her rise up to be counted.”

–woman in an online support group for people with cancer

Tell me about your dead. List their names, write an essay about them, or paint a portrait of one particular person you loved who has died.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    On November 5,1958, I died giving birth to my second daughter Sheri Lynn.
    Peaceful bliss drifts through each cell. Jerks of awareness penetrate between globules of tired tissues. Convulsive quakes keep awakening the conscious and unconscious parts of my soul. Floating freely now, everything is at peace,no aches, no pains, no worries, no cares. Everything that has gone on before, my whole life is now bundled up into a total complete whole perfect package. I was what I was, now I am what I was. I can see clearly now for the first time ever colors I never knew existed, sounds I’ve never heard, people who are familiar and strange. The smells are awesome, kind of resemble a flower warehouse. I feel complete, total, yet empty;but not lonely. This is the best I’ve ever been My body is totally whole and perfect. Everyone is peacefully smiling. What comes next doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine anything above this. This is the peak of the Pyramid, Nirvana, Heaven! Thank God I’ve arrived.

  2. Deanna Lagroix says

    We buried Dianne this past Saturday. She was well-loved, gone far too soon at age sixty-seven. I see her smile and the crinkles in her cheeks as she’d approach and say hello! Dianne’s profession was that of Teacher but her exemplary career was that of wife, mother, joyful grandmother and friend.
    She became my friend only after our sons, at four, bonded into best buddies forever. Through the years, while the Dad in her home wrote the house rules in a more rigid frame, the boys and their Moms connived to work out sleepovers at one house or the other. Dianne faced the tasks of mothering six children born in close succession and then took on the added challenges of a difficult mother-in-law who shared their home.
    When these years passed on into retirement for Dianne and her husband, they moved to cottage country and the new interests of their choosing.
    First, it was breast cancer, a remission and the reprieve for three years. Filled with hope and a joyful anticipation, Dianne welcomed new daughters-in-law and grandchildren. She fed them and danced with them at every visit. She deserved many more years of happiness. That beast called cancer returned to ravish her body but not her spirit. Her message to her family and all of us at her memorial IS, ‘life is changed not taken away”. Her remains lay in an urn, beautifully carved by her husband, over the last weeks of her life with him. Rest in Peace my dear Friend.

    • says

      Deanna, I’m so sorry for your loss. She sounds like such a good friend. And welcome to our community here. We’ll all be thinking of you this week and your beautiful friend.

  3. Kim Tyler says

    Sitting at my desk, I look at the bookshelves in front of me. One entire shelf is a photo memorial to my losses. I see a sepia snapshot of my Dad in his 40’s (in the 1940’s). He stands alone on a snowy country road. He wears L.L. Bean lace-up rubber boots and carries a rucksack and a New York Times under his arm. His hair is thick and lustrous, and his wire-framed glasses glint in the reflected light. The photo of my mother is also from that time. She sits on a porch step outside a brown-shingle cottage, holding me, a chubby, smiling baby, out on her knee. She wears a light colored dress and cardigan sweater, and her hair is curly, with a comma-shaped spit curl on her forehead. I like to see her holding me, even at arms length like this, since I don’t remember her being affectionate as I grew older.

    My beloved and artistic mother-in-law, Sarah, stands in a sunny garden wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat that slopes down towards her shoulders, and a stylish beige linen dress. She is smiling as she looks down towards a table filled with party food. Behind her, other wedding guest stand with their arms around each other, looking towards the trees. Anne, my “other-mother”, in a faded black and white photo, squints into the sunlight outside the kitchen door of the farm where I grew up. It must be a Sunday in 1964, because she uncharacteristically wears a skirt (church days only) and is holding in her arms a St. Bernard puppy, our beloved Hannibal.

    My brother-in-law, Glen, kneels in front of the Taj Mahal, grinning in his jeans and dark sweater. He smiles broadly at the camera, handsome in his brown mustache and trim body. He doesn’t know he will die on a train in India, a few hours later, of a massive heart attack. My youngest and sweetest brother, Dick, handsome with his greying temples, stands before a pink dogwood tree in full bloom. He wears gold-rimmed glasses and a pin-striped shirt under his navy crew-neck sweater. His body is full of cancer, but he smiles nonchalantly in this photo. He loves having his family around him at this wedding celebration for his son. I miss him so much.

    My dear friend Kathleen beams from the photo used for her book of poetry, published just before her death at age 44, also of cancer. She is radiant, teeth snowy white, dark arched eyebrows and glistening red lips, juicy with life and health. My young friend, Mary, the first person I lost, sits by a lake in the Canadian Rockies, gazing out over the chilly green water, as the mountains blanketed in purple lupine loom around the shore. Mary died of cancer at age 26, when I was 29. She had just married another dear friend, who cared for her lovingly during their brief year of marriage.

    I look at these photos of my loved ones who are gone, and then at the photos of my living loved ones, arrayed on the adjoining shelves. I wonder who will be next? Perhaps it will be me, the oldest of all in our family now. But for today, I’m very much alive!

    • says

      Kim, I read this last week and was very moved by your tributes to those who’ve died. I could see each one clearly in the snapshot you provided. And I’m inspired by the way you honor them and keep them in your field of view. Thanks for sharing their lives with us.

  4. Ana says

    I’ve been so incredibly busy the last few weeks that I’ve missed a few writing prompts. But it’s good to be back…although, I felt I had to move out of joy and into darkness to write for this prompt.

    I believe there are happy deaths (those who die whom you’ve had a healthy joyful relationship with. The death is still painful, but you’re grateful for the relationship). Then there are the not so happy deaths, where you’re left conflicted with the amount of unhappiness they produced and lack of real resolution…

    Hilda (my mother died of cancer – 63 years old)
    Her parents (my mother did not know who they were, so therefore I do not either. She was one of twins, given up at birth to neighbors down the road)
    Victor (my father parkinsons) (my mother and he had an affair) (we met once when I was 14 for fifteen minutes) (I found him a few yeas ago within 6 months of his death) (he was married to another woman with whom he had 7 children, that’s when I found out about my mother’s affair with him) (some secrets don’t go with you to your grave)
    His parents (I never met his parents nor know their names)
    Harry (my oldest brother) (our relationship ended after my mother and he had a dispute – I was 8 years old the last time I saw him)(my mother gave birth to him when she was 12 – he was raised by another family)
    Canelo (spanish for cinnamon) (my male dog)
    Princess (my female dog)
    Angel (we met in a school yard when I was 17 and became instant friends – died due to diabetes related causes at 38 years old)

    I never had a healthy relationship with anyone on this list, including the dogs; all were dysfunctional. They are the dead in my life. That’s why it’s so important for me to continue working on seeking and having healthy relationships, particularly with women. Also, for the most part, I have no sense of where I truly come from. It would cost tons of money to hire someone to do a family tree, and I would not have much else to give as a lead beyond the above.

    I’m not sure if anything I’ve written here really makes sense, but it’s what came out. Funny how these deaths still live in me. Like poverty/homelessness, how it affects you is hard to shed no matter what you do. Vigilence, vigilence at every corner. And compasion and love. I’ve done a ton of work around them, so I’m not dragged down by them for the most part. But, when my life is not the way I wish it, or when I reflect on how my life’s turned out in certain ways, I am saddened. I reflect on my life at times with gloomy dirty glasses as if I have not accomplished anything. That, is so far from the truth. Glad you guys/gals are still here.

    When I leave work today, on my long train ride, I will embark in a gratitude list. That’ll clean those dirty glasses right up.

    • Ana says

      Sorry — I clearly did not read the prompt through carefully, as you asked for “person you loved who has died”. Perhaps I am fortunate as I have not lost anyone who I have loved. But the fact is for too many years of my life there was no one to love. But then I find myself asking, what kind of love do you mean? I cared for Angel very much, I could even say I loved him, but it was not a clear/clean love, it was unhealthy. Can love truly exist in the midst of unhealthy. Maybe this is some kind of freudian slip, where what’s really being revealed here is a person who actually did love, or wanted to be loved, or needed to be loved, by these people and didn’t. And now I have a love inside me to offer that is still waiting for a father, mother, brother, etc. to give it to, but that will never truly be fufilled because they are dead and even if they were alive, they would still be who they were and I would still not receive the love I deserved to receive or give. Wow, reading this question the way I did has really sent me spinning a bit. Sorry for all this…

      • says

        Ana, I think when I posted the prompt, I was reflecting more on our relationship to people who have died–and to death–other peoples’ and our own. Sometimes we have a strong, powerful experience when someone dies that we didn’t even know personally. So “loving” the person isn’t a qualification for having experienced grief or loss.

        • Ana says

          Thanks for the clarification, Laura. Of course you’re right, I don’t have to love someone to experience grief/loss. I think when I’m in the midst of grief/loss, I’m also searching for love though. Your prompt continues to provoke thought, especially now that it’s clearer. Journaling more about it is my best solution. My relationship with death is long standing. Funny thing to say but true. I grew up being dragged to more funerals than weddings. Death was always around, common. I was constantly prompted to touch the body in the casket – it was something one needn’t or shouldn’t be afraid of. And, up until about 13 years old I thought people who died came back. And you tried not doing bad/wrong things so that you could come back to a better life. I also thought I already had lived a few lives already, but was not clear as to why I thought that or what those lives were like. It was quite a shock to be told that once people die that’s it, you don’t come back. Later in life, as I investigated that memory and those ideas, I was brought back to where it came from…which inevitably brought me back to my original spiritual path: Buddhism. I remember feeling like a person who had been lost and finally came home. Now I have two schools of thought on death, and the one I was told of at 13 haunts me on occasion.

    • MaeMae says

      Ana – Bravo !!
      Amazing story…MANY lives are so messy and difficult but we are NOT encouraged to share these dark facts as it spoils the Happy Face people need to carry every day to get through life.
      I cringe every time I hear the phrase “Get Over It!”
      This is our life to LIVE… not to “get over”. It is absolutely worth the effort to reveal the darkness – expose it to The Light….let others know they are not alone in their pain.
      Compassion exists for a reason – as does Love.
      We can hold firm to those Virtues – expect it & ask for it – even in the face of the opposite. That IS the way of the world.
      Thank you for sharing!!!

  5. kathy adams says

    my dad died in 1989; boy did I love him. he was a quiet, gentle soul. He worked himself from morning to night and provided the best for our family. My mother stayed home with us and kept the house. I remember one time being angry at my mom, I crawled up in my dad’s lap and asked him, “could we divorce her?” Other great times with my dad were quiet times in his garden; he had no weeds, lots of tomato plants though, he would pull weeds and I was out there as his favorite dog pointing out the tomato worms, squealing like a girl – along came my dad with pliers in hand to pull the worm off the plant. Quiet, wonderful, loving memories. 20 yrs later, I still will plant tomato plants to remind me of my dad, I just have to be brave and get the tomato worms off myself. boy, do I miss him. Our yards were also spotless, NO weeds and I try to do this with my yard but he was the king of the yards, I just try. We could be together, no words but love flowing and a quiet understanding about “us.” The song by Mike and the Mechanics came out just a few weeks after my dad passed away and the line that says, “I wasn’t there the day my father passed away” is so true and also the part of “the gleam in my newborn baby’s eyes” what precious memories. God blessed me with these memories, the tomatoes I grow today and give away – an amazing man – blessed by him and yet so missed. He will greet me at those pearly gates and we will hug again.!!!!

    • Ana says

      Kahty – I can really feel the love, thanks for sharing this. It always warms my heart reading stories like this.

  6. Debbie says

    Yesterday we remembered the recent dead. My sister-in-law, whom some of you may remember I wrote about not too long ago, died early Sunday morning. Yesterday, the immediate family and very close friend gathered to celebrate her life and meaning to all of us. It was incredibly beautiful and sad at that same time.

    For those who may have missed me over the past couple of weeks, I will be back soon. The past two weeks have been full of supporting my family and logistics of moving, which just happened to coincide with my sister in law’s rapid decline. I have remembered, and held close to my heart, some of the comments shared with me by this community, when I posted of her impending death in April.

    Be back soon. Take Care – Debbie

    • Ilana says

      Oh, Debbie- My heart is with you. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Your family is truly blessed to have you supporting them through this difficult time. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Debbie, I’m so sorry for your loss. I have missed you but am glad to know how you’re doing. A move on top of your sister-in-law’s death, that’s quite a lot at once. I’m glad you know we’re here for you. Take care, okay?

  7. says

    dear bloggers, somehow an erroneous post came up saying that my sister in law had died…thankfully it isn’t true. they’re all healthy and doing okay! but thanks for the condolences anyway. and for your sharing hearts.

  8. Ilana says

    As Much Today as Yesterday and as Much Tomorrow as Today

    As a child, my world was so full of uncertainties. I was always frightened of what Andrew was going to do next. In addition to physically and sexually abusing me and my younger brother, he controlled my family. Trips were put off because he had to be cajoled into the car. The family sat in fear listening to a baseball repeatedly hit the wall of his bedroom. That meant something was cooking. He destroyed things and as I realized as an adult, he destroyed people. He destroyed me. Everything was dependant on Andrew’s mood, including my parents’ love for me. I was always being told to “step around” and “don’t make waves”. If he hurt me I was asked, “What did you do to set him off?” It was easy to blame the quiet, terrified little girl. My parents were so scared of their oldest son that they would take anything they had to away from me to appease the monster. So it seemed to me, even their love.

    Sometimes it seemed that no one was safe from the wrath of the giant. But that wasn’t true. There was one man whose behavior remained unchanged by the crazymaking. Nothing could change the way he felt about me. Grandpa Zack loved me as much today as yesterday and as much tomorrow as today. I could feel it in the way he looked at me. I could hear it in his voice. Grandpa Zack had polyps on his vocal cords. The result was a raspy, husky, voice. He was the only one who called me by my full name. I will never forget how his voice sounded as he pronounced it. I am now sorry that I have not shared my real name with you. Then you would understand. My name is in Hebrew. It is long and difficult to pronounce. I’ve always gone by a nick name and as an adult I allow no one to use my full name. Grandpa Zack always called me that, though. One day he called me by the shortened name everyone else used. I said to him “Grandpa, you are the only person in the world who is allowed to call me by my full name. You are NOT allowed to call me Ilana.” He understood and never did it again.

    Grandpa Zack took pictures of us. Of all the photos I have of myself, the ones Grandpa Zack took are the most sincere. You can see the fear, you can see the haunted look in my eyes and yet you can see the trust and safety that he inspired in me. He took us to the museum. He took us to the aquarium. He had us sleep over at his condo and fed us homemade waffles in the morning. I drew pictures and they stayed on his walls for almost two decades. When we finally took them down as we moved him into an assisted living, I was so touched that he had kept them all those years. My mother insisted that he had simply forgotten they were there. Now I believe she was wrong. He kept them there because he loved me.

    When I was in college we would talk on the phone for hours. He asked about what I was studying. We talked about wonderful books he had read and then given to me to read. I remember the chocolate stains on the pages. Grandpa Zack was as much a fan of chocolate as me but even more messy than I was. And the stories. How I loved the stories of the history he lived through. Grandpa Zack was only 4 years old when his family left Brabroisk, Russia, fleeing anti-Semitism. He told the stories from a child’s point of view with a smile on his face; packing up what little they could, the boat, the dreadful conditions and the tenement houses they lived in but Grandpa Zack laughed. He laughed about the coffee someone had convinced him was soup. He laughed about the neighbors who thought they were being kind as they fed him ham which is forbidden to us as Jews. He laughed about the fights where the children threw melon rind at each other.

    When I lived near enough to Grandpa Zack to visit I didn’t go to see him as often as I should have. I was living with my very abusive and controlling fiancé. I had a phobia of getting lost in the big city if I tried to drive there by myself. I have always regretted that I let those things hold me back. I would have had more time with my Grandpa.

    Then I moved to another state. I went to graduate school and met my wonderful Zander. Zander is not only a kind and gentle man but he is also a nurse practitioner who specializes in geriatrics. Contrary to my judgmental ex- fiancé, Zander was not disgusted by the symptoms of old age. Instead he was respectful, caring. I pointed proudly to the man I loved so much. “Grandpa, this is Zander. We are going to be married.” Then it came out. The beautiful, joy filled smile that has always meant so much to me. Grandpa Zack knew I had finally found a good man. “Mazal Tov!” (congratulations) He cheered, in his unique, raspy voice.

    That was the only time that Grandpa Zack and my Zander were together. He died not long after that meeting. My fiancé and I were visiting my parents and my mother came to our room one morning. “Grandpa Zack keeled over last night.”

    “What does that mean?” I asked, rubbing my eyes. “Is he going back to the hospital?”
    “No, Ilana.” Zander said gently and put his arms around me. “It means he died.”

    It made no sense to me. Grandpa Zack had always been there. How could he be gone now? At the funeral my cousin, Grandpa’s only other granddaughter, told me that he had demanded of her, “Why are you and Ilana putting off your weddings?” We were both engaged and he had wanted to live to see us married. Sometimes people know when there isn’t much time left and my grandpa wanted to live to see me happy. When we were told that Zander, and her fiancé were to be pallbearers along with our brothers and male cousins she and I pitched a fit. We insisted on taking their places.

    When we got him to his grave we took off the gray gloves and lay them on the casket as instructed. I watched them lower it into the ground. “Goodbye Grandpa Zack.” I whispered. No one would ever again call me by my full name. That wasn’t true. Plenty of people would but it would be against my will, without my permission. That was Grandpa Zack’s special name for me.

    PS. There are a hundred more memories of my wonderful Grandpa Zack but at the piece was getting too long I had to leave them out. Suffice it to say, he was truly a special man.

    • says

      Ilana, what a beautiful tribute to a remarkable man. I’m so glad you had him as a stabilizing, loving force in your life. I’m sure his presence made a huge difference in helping you become the woman you are today. He was your life raft in chaos and you’ve portrayed him so vividly that I feel as if I had the benefit of his kindness and love, too.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura. That is quite a compliment and I do love to share anything positive I can. You’ve given me a challenge. There are so many writing projects I am working on now but Grandpa Zack has been sitting on my shoulder a lot lately. One of my characters even comforts another by singing “Tumbala Lika” a Yiddish song that always reminds me of him.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I’m so glad you chose your Grandpa Zack to write about. He sounds like the kind of guy I would’ve loved. Despite the pain you were put through by others, I’m so happy you have had two wonderful men in your life and that they met; whenever I get a couple people together, whom I love deeply, I’m always a nervous but happy wreck. :)) I also hope to hear more stories of your grandfather sometime and how it felt to have that amazing connection between you two. Sending you and Zander a hug.

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Terry. Yes. Grandpa Zack has been a great source of strength to me. He will most likely appear in my future posts. I agree with you about being nervous when people you love meet. I never forgot that beautiful smile and how it seemed like he had quickly decided how he felt about Zander and given us his blessing. It’s such an amazing feeling to share that with people who understand. PS. I accept and honor your hug and send it back to you ;)

  9. says

    P.S. I hope you take the time to continue writing your stories about him, whether or not you post them here with us. Now that that channel is open, take the time to record a tribute in words. Say it all. Put it down. Preserve him and his kindness for future generations.

  10. Donna Aceves says

    When I read this prompt, I quickly filed it away and said to myself, “I’ll get back to that one later.” It’s been at the edges of my mind ever since, refusing to be filed away. On this morning’s walk I realized I’m going to need a whole notebook for this one……….there’s so much to write about.
    Thanks for the provocative prompt. It’s gonna take awhile.
    Donna

    • says

      You’re welcome, Donna. I think it’s good to take the time to tell those stories and to bring the dead back to life on the page. And I look forward to you sharing anything here that feels appropriate to share. I love the sacredness of this space, regardless of its public nature. And as always, it will be a treat to read your words again.

      • Ilana says

        The “sacredness of this space” How beautiful. It does mean a great deal to me and the caring and safety it provides does indeed make it sacred. Thank you both for honoring how much heart goes into each response.

  11. Bobbie Anne says

    My sister passed on and I remembered her with a flower donation and this poem:

    SISTER’S SUICIDE

    On that fateful day
    you decided to
    leave behind
    family and friends
    so shocked when they
    heard the tragic news
    wanting to know why

    Oh sister don’t you know
    when you took your life
    hearts were broken
    changing everything
    you are missed
    life goes on
    waiting for no one
    time passes on

    So sister
    why did you leave so soon

    • Terry Gibson says

      I echo Laura’s thoughts and feelings, Bobbie Anne. I am so sorry for the loss of your sister, especially to suicide. I used to attend an agency called SAFER, which counselled me as a suicide risk. They taught me that the pain left behind is a horrendous one. I hope this beautiful tribute–with your final question of “Why?”–helps you, even if only until you are in need of writing and sharing more about her. Thank you.

  12. Terry Gibson says

    Please note: This piece is not finished and, as I am not feeling well, it may be a little rough. Will continue working on it, though I regret that the overall affect I’m aiming for will be lost somewhat with it posted piecemeal like this.
    *********
    Unfortunately, I have experienced more than my share of death. The list goes like this: my maternal grandfather in 1971, four classmates in a drunk driving accident in 1978 (one of whom I worked with), my paternal grandfather in 1981, my Dad in 1990, my oldest brother Tom in 1992, Mom in 2000, my stepfather several years after, maternal grandmother in 2005, Steve in 2009, and my youngest brother Mark in 2011. Today, I will focus on Steve.

    Steve Explains the Big Issues

    Karma

    My brother was full of stories. Nothing pleased him more than to tell tales of events that occurred in the family prior to my awareness. For instance, Catherine, my Dad’s mom, was not a very nice person; she was cold and a bit snotty, so I never really took to her, although it was completely different with Grandpa. Anyway, they lived on a farm just before they opened their floor-sanding business. Steve told me that when he and Tom visited them in the summer, Grandma would make them ice cream cones, invite them outside, and then proceed to the chores–wringing the necks of chickens and slaughtering pigs right in front of them. The impact of these gruesome events on my young brothers was unmistakable; Tom and Steve never forgot it.
    According to Steve, the day Grandma died, she sat down to breakfast alone, since Grandpa was long gone by then. Her plate was full with two pieces of buttered toast, scrambled eggs, and a few slices of bacon. “When they found her,” he said, taking a long haul on his smoke, “… those damned strips of bacon were wrapped tightly around her throat.” Steve immediately burst into giggles. Yes. They were grown-man giggles that sounded just like Mom’s and mine. Suddenly, I could almost hear those pigs celebrating, having tasted sweet revenge. Steve’s eyes danced, as he lit another cigarette, and watched my face contort in disbelief. I burst out laughing so hard, I convulsed and fell off the bed, taking down his blue Mexican blanket with me.

    Interpersonal Relationships

    My brother was so likable and genuine; he seemed to cast a magical spell over people. Dr. Ford transferred Steve to the Elizabeth Bruyere Palliative Care Hospital a few days before I flew in from Vancouver. Yet, when Bob, the male nurse, wheeled him into the room on a gurney, the two of them seemed as if they had known each other a year. “Nice to meet you, Terry,” Bob said, shaking my hand. “This guy sure loves hydrotherapy.”
    Steve’s face was swollen and red. His eyes were glistening with excitement and, most likely, his strong morphine patch. I too was excited about our visit: I loved him so much. “Yeah,” he said, with his words trailing off. “. . . a good guy.” He motioned to Bob, while speaking to me.

    The news spread quickly that a young, handsome, and sweet man, with almost a full head of hair, had been admitted to the floor; the older women dropped by his room to dote on him and he loved it. The hospital staff invited me to stay in the small family room, just around the corner from Steve. Each evening, we had dinner together, then he’d take a snooze, during which time I put the “Gibson Family” sign on the door, converted the sofa to a bed, then collapsed into a chair. This was but a moment of refuge from the reality outside that door; I’d cry, if I could, rest my sore and burning feet, call home or call my therapist.

    At 7:30 sharp, I went in to hang out and watch TV with Steve. He okayed me rubbing lotion on the cracked, dry and yellowish skin of his right hand, which was three times the size of his left. A few seconds later, two nurses struggled to enter the room at the same time; it was like watching an episode of “All in the Family” where Meathead, Archie, and Edith tried to squeeze through a doorway all at once. I smiled, knowing these were the best nurses and caregivers ever.

    I was sensitized to the routine by then so I plunked the tube of lotion down on the nightstand and stepped out of the room while they changed him and helped him into fresh pajamas. Five minutes later, Tracy opened the door. “It’s okay to come in now, Terry.” I went back in and chose a chair as far out of the way as I could get, without infringing on the other patient’s space. I was smack in front of the fan and felt some relief from the scorching heat. Kicking back, I watched the coordinated efforts of each nurse as they prepared to change his bed.

    They hoisted his ninety-eight pound body up off the bed in something that looked like a body sling. The nurses did this with great skill and care–a few inches up from the bed, six inches, and then about a foot. Next, Tracy shifted him slightly to the side of the bed. He was only a foot to the left but I know it felt like miles to him. I was nervous too but mesmerized by the scene. Steve’s eyes darted from Julie to Tracy and then back to me. He smiled, then feigned terror, as he was completely at their mercy or lack thereof.

    “So . . . Steve . . .” Tracy started, “who did you say is your favourite nurse?”
    I burst out laughing. Steve’s face was priceless. He looked like an unshaven child who knew he was in big trouble. A comical tension ensued, broken only by the snapping sound of crisp white sheets being unfolded, shaken out, and spread on the bed.

    “Yesterday, you implied it was me, honey,” Julie said. “Remember? I got that extra ice cream for you and Terry last night.” Steve signalled that he had given up. What else could he do? “I even nabbed some anniversary cake too.” She grabbed the old sheets into a huge bundle and dropped them into the hamper.

    Tracy interjected. “But I saved you two extra cans of butternut Ensure. You loved that!” She punched the pillows with a little muscle.

    “Well,” he said, in a somewhat garbled fashion. “… I know better than to get into THIS.”

    We all roared with laughter, except Steve. He was doing his scared puppy dog look, which was his facility for begging. All the while, the nurses were sniping at each other, pretending to bandage bruised egos and stamp out jealousy. Who did he like better? Nobody was sure, but it was so clear that he was theirs. His arched eyebrows and grimace would have pleased any onlooker.

    “Please,” he said. When they finished, they swung him back in position and slowly lowered him atop his bed. “Thanks a lot.” The look of relief and amusement on his pale face was precious.

    • says

      Terry, I loved meeting Steve. I hope you’ll keep working on these pieces between now and the Commonweal summer retreat, and that you’ll bring them there with you.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Laura. I will be writing lots more about him in future. Bringing some of it along to Commonweal sounds great. It’s hard to capture the funny stuff amidst the horrors of what was happening to him. But I’ll be doing it or trying awfully hard.

  13. Diane says

    Just about everyone has died: my last living grandparent passed last month, my father last December, my mother thirty-three years ago, my parakeets– Opal and Claire– in the spring of 1974. My ability to walk has been slowly leaking out of my body for 30 years now. I lost– well, left– my husband six years ago. I don’t know how to live without loss. Losing my father made me not want to.

    But there is still my sister. When I told her that I wasn’t feeling very attached to this life anymore, she hit me in the chest, her eyes full of tears. No, I can’t leave her, even if she is a bully.

    I am numbed by it. I’m tired of being the good one. But that will never change. The best I can do to rebel is engage in risky and risqué sexual encounters with near strangers. It feeds me. It exists only in the moment. Nothing to lose because nothing is made.

    Oh, this beautiful, lonely life…

    • says

      Dear Diane, Welcome to the Writer’s Journey Roadmap blog. Thanks for trusting us with such tender, painful parts of your life. Please keep coming back.

      • Diane says

        Thanks Laura. I have a much longer piece about the night of my mom’s death, but I think it’s too long for this blog. I hope to visit the site often. It has already been healing to me to read other people’s stories.

    • Bobbie Anne says

      Diane, Live this beautiful life for yourself, not your sister. You are worth the love and attention of God. You deserve to be here.

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