Archive for February, 2010

Thursday, July 24, 2:16 AM

// February 27th, 2010 // No Comments » // From the forthcoming book "Losing Steve: One Mother's Journey Through Grief"

Wednesday, July 23, 2003 at about 3:26 PM our son died. After a day and a half struggling to breathe, mostly unconscious, I turned off the movies we had been playing for him and put on an his favorite Enya CD. About twenty minutes after that I noticed a change in him and I knew that he had taken his last breath. It was so quiet. Unlike in the movies, there was no big, dramatic crescendo to inform me of his passing. But a strange sense of peace seeped into the room. Not my own peace. This was floating in the room around me, separate from me. Perhaps it was the end of Steve’s struggle, or could it have been the releasing of his spirit and the joy he may have felt at his new beginning? I can not know. I put my hand on his chest to confirm there was no movement. I then called Amy, Nick & Jeremy.

We stood together at his bedside and Amy slipped the blood pressure cuff onto Steve’s frail arm. I barely noticed her turn to walk away after she pressed the button that would give us our final answer. Nick, Jeremy, and I watched intently, holding our collective breath, as the numbers ticked smoothly down to zero.

He was still so warm, had had a high fever since the day before. Later as I sat watching over him, I thought I heard him breathing. But it was only my imagination. I could even see his chest gently rise and fall, but it was just the oscillating fan disturbing the sheet that was pulled over his chest. As the color slowly faded from his face I knew, without a doubt.

Jeremy had pulled the sheet over Steve’s face after we took his blood pressure, but I couldn’t bear to see his face covered. It felt so suffocating to me, so I pulled it down to cover only his mouth.

I continued to sit alone with him awhile, five minutes, thirty, I don’t know. Time seemed meaningless. This house that has known so much rambunctious joy ~ parties, two births, a wedding ~ is now utterly still.

Dave and Marisa had gone to the Irvine Airport to pick up Nett and Chris. They all arrived here about forty minutes after Steve passed. Nett rushed in to see him after I tried to tell her he was already gone. Her day long journey has exhausted her. She didn’t understand me when I told her he had died. I turned to leave her alone with him as she sat next to him and read him a letter she had written to him earlier in the day as she flew across the country. As she sat with him she believd he was comatose. Once she understood, she said she knows he heard her. We can all still feel his presence around us.

Nick told me tonight that as we were checking Steve for any signs of life, Enya was singing “Orinoco Flow”. Sail away, sail away. He did. And I found out that moments after Steve passed my best friend, Jane, had called. When I called her back later to tell her Steve had died about the time she called me, she said she didn’t know why, but she felt so strongly at that moment that she HAD to call me. Now she knows why.

About fifteen minutes after Steve passed, Robyn was looking for an away message for her instant messaging page and the first one to pop up said “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”. Apropos for the moment!

I’m just too tired, too weary to go into greater detail here tonight.
I already miss my dear son terribly, though I know “he’s in a better place” and “no longer in pain”—-blah, blah, blah. I know all that but I miss him nonetheless.

July 22, 2003

// February 26th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // A Mother's Grief

As I sit at his bedside and watch him struggle to breathe I want to thank you, God, for my firstborn son.

Thank you for the joy I felt at seeing this scrawny, red, beautiful baby at just seconds old. Thank you for his laughter as a young boy — deep, deep from the core of his being. Laughter that bubbled up and overflowed onto all those around him. Thank you for his precocious speech at two years old, ready to carry on an enjoyable conversation with anyone he could, no matter their age. My friends would say, “That kid’s a trip” — high praise for a youngster in the 70s.

Thank you for his high spirits, though they sometimes brought him trouble as he reached his teens. Thank you for his physical abilities, his great co-ordination, and his first motorcycle at eight years old. Thank you for mud thrown from those motorcycle wheels plastering him from his sneakers to his grinning face, mud that turned his bright-blond hair brown. Thank you for his third grade teacher, Mr.Ozust, who understood him and his counselor, Dr. Lapidus, who helped him to understand himself.

Thank you for his sense of adventure and his ability to share it with others, like his little sister Amy. One beautiful autumn morning when he was nine and she was five he taught her a lesson about trust. As they passed through the ten acre field on their way to school, they saw in their path ahead the large California pepper tree with branches so dense you couldn’t see through them as they swept the ground in the breeze. As Steve and Amy approached the familiar tree he told her that today he wants her to go around on the left of the tree and he would go on the right telling her, “I’ll see you on the other side, I promise!” She was afraid and didn’t want to separate from the safety she felt with her big brother. The two sides of the tree seemed so far apart in her young mind. As she timidly reached the far side of the tree I can imagine her little girl joy and relief when she found him waiting there for her. He taught her a lesson that day about trust and faith. He was there for her even while she couldn’t see him during her long trek around the giant tree.

Thank you for the deep, loving bond between him and his only brother, Nick. Together these two were fun incarnate, spreading laughter wherever they went. Thank you for his loving concern and advice for Janiece, patiently and privately counseling her, trying to help her avoid some of the same mistakes he had made as a teen. She listened and learned.

Thank you for the way he would take Robyn, his baby sister – eighteen his junior, out shopping with him, together exploring the deepest recesses of their favorite thrift stores. And for the short time they had to play at the beach together at their joint hobby, body-surfing, after serendipitously on one of those forays finding wet suits that fit each of them . Then last December his head wound interrupted the fun and they had to hang up their wet suits.

Thank you that he added so much to our family, giving us his wife Annette to hold his place, and Lori, his ex, as a lifelong friend and family member. And for introducing Amy to her soul-mate, Jeremy.

Thank you for his children, each reminding me of their father’s youth in different ways. Nicholas and his bike and his adventurousness (always taking the more difficult path) and Christopher’s sweet disposition and his laugh, so much like his dad’s.

Thank you for his bad example and thank you more for his good examples. Early in his adult life he ran from You, from the burdens he thought You would place on him. But he grew and he found You and found the freedom that can come only through You. And now Lord, please forgive him for any wrongs and bless him with peace. Please accept him into Your rest.

Thank you, God, for my firstborn son.

July 21, 2003

// February 24th, 2010 // No Comments » // Mother's Grief

Amy came over today to hang out with Steve while I took Dave’s Aunt AdaD to the doctor’s. It was just a routine visit but I felt I really needed to get her to the appointment rather than reschedule. She doesn’t understand what’s happening here. I’ve told her that Steve is dying but she doesn’t quite get it. She’s the one that’s eighty years old. She’s the one that’s ready to go. How can Steve be going ahead of her? Besides, she can get very bent out of shape when I make changes in her schedule.

I was only gone a couple of hours and when I got back Steve and Amy were sitting out on the front porch at the picnic table, chatting and wearing smiles. When I joined them, I told Steve I thought he should come in since it was getting so hot out, and then turned to say something to Amy. She appeared to be stifling a laugh. I turned back to see Steve mocking me in fun. No way was he going to go indoors! He has always been an out-of-doors person. Why should I think he’d want to change now?

Looking back on the day, I am so glad I decided to take AdaD to her appointment. I may have lost a few precious minutes with my son, but Amy and Steve gained precious time together. Who knows how many more opportunities they will have for one on one brother and sister time?

July 19, 2003 10:00 PM

// February 22nd, 2010 // No Comments » // A Mother's Grief

My family all came down from Lakewood and Buena Park today for what will, in all likelihood, be their last visit with Steve. Steve’s strength seems to be failing him more rapidly since he came home from the hospital last week.

It was an extremely difficult day for all of us and Steve maintained the subdued demeanor he’s had since getting the news from the doctor that he has only three to six months of his life left.

We spent most of today day chatting with each other out front around the shaded picnic table where Steve spends most of his time. But at one point I found myself utterly overwhelmed with the seeming finality of this visit and I sneaked away to the back yard for a few minutes of solitude. My brother Tim found me there, leaning against the pepper tree, tears brimming in his eyes.

My family has always been close and Steve and Tim grew up together more like close cousins than uncle and nephew. There is the same six year age difference between them as there is between Steve and his brother, Nick.

After taking a moment to collect himself, Tim asked me, “How do I do it? How do I tell him goodbye?” I told him to just come out with it. Steve’s a straightforward guy. He doesn’t want us pussyfooting around.

But I was bluffing. I’ve known for twenty-eight years that I would outlive my son and I still don’t know how to say goodbye.

July 19, 2003 ~ 9:30 AM

// February 19th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // A Mother's Grief

I want to write my tale and see the words melt into the paper and disappear. I want to write it and then tear the words into tiny shreds and ignite the pieces and watch the smoke drift away carrying the tale with it. Go to sleep. Dream. Awaken to a new day where all of my family, each member, is in radiant health.

Instead, my denial is kicked, buffeted aside by painful reality. By visits from hospice. By the doctor’s words, “We can’t put the train back on the track.” “Have you given any thought to which mortuary you’ll want to use?” “Does he have any unfinished business?” Durable power of attorney?
Our son is dying/dieing/ I can’t even spell it!!! It just doesn’t look right to me on the paper. Dying. Die-ing. Steve’s body can no longer compensate. The diabetes has ravaged his once strong body and there is no more to be done but “make him comfortable”.

At a certain well defined moment during four of my pregnancies I experiences a sudden transformation from being pregnant to–“I’m having a baby!!!” I remember when it happened with Steve. I was almost eight months and  putting away freshly laundered baby clothes. As I held up a size newborn t-shirt  I could suddenly see and feel the real baby that would inhabit this tiny shirt. My Baby. With Robyn, my fifth and last baby, it didn’t happened until I looked down on the bed the second she was born. I think that’s what it will be like with Steve’s passing. I know that he will die soon – weeks, maybe months, maybe days. But I don’t feel it. I don’t see it. It must be denial even though I know it’s going to happen.

Three nights ago his death seemed imminent. He was unconscious, breathing sporadically, and his temperature had spiked to 104. Even the Hospice nurse who had dropped in for a routine visit thought the time was near. Jae and Robyn were home. Nick,  Marisa (his wife) and Amy came right over when I called. When Amy saw what was happening to her brother she called her husband. Jeremy immediately left the Saddleback Worship Conference he was attending this week. By the time he arrived 45 minutes later
Steve had managed to rouse himself from the stupor of impending death and was outside taking in the cool night air smokinga cigarette.
Not one to rush, Jeremy strode to the . When he saw us around the picnic table he looked at Steve. “Dude! You’re supose to be dead!”
“I needed a smoke before I went” Steve replied with his distinctive yet now mirthless chuckle.

Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel real. He has had so many brushes with death and turned around.

All I know is that we are all in God’s hands and when Steve’s time comes, He will be with us.

Paper Towels

// February 11th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I don’t use paper towels very often any more. In fact I have gone from using a roll of the heavy duty Kirkland towels a week to about a roll a month. Of those I probably use less than 25%. My family still prefers them to the cloth towels and napkins I use now. But I keep them in the house “just in case”.
Tonight a perfect just in case presented itself. As I looked under my kitchen sink to grab the dishwasher detergent I saw a thick amber color oozing its way under my sundry cleaning potions I store there. My first thought was “What in the world….” On closer inspection I saw that the fluid was draining from the cracked gallon plastic bottle of Dial Hand Soap. My second thought was… “Can this wait till tomorrow?!?” No. It surely can’t wait till tomorrow. This falls under the “a stitch in time saves nine” category. No matter how tired I am. Third thought? “Thank you Lord that I haven’t gone completely ‘green’ yet and I have a roll of paper towels just an arm’s reach away! Eight paper towels later the mess was gone and the towels were in the trash. Nothing to rinse out, nothing to over-suds my washing machine.
I am all for reducing my consumption of consumables, but tonight I am very grateful for paper towels!

Unpublished

// February 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

I have written a book chronicling my journey through grief after losing my thirty-one year old son to diabetes. I have been told, and I believe, that the hardest part of this venture is yet to come. To help me navigate these (for me) uncharted waters I will be attending this coming weekend’s Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego. There I hope to find direction as I try to figure out the next step in getting the book published.

My goal for this book is to help someone through the grieving process as the difficult questions come up. Questions like…will I ever laugh again…is it normal to feel in the pit one day, fine the next, and then back in the pit again later that afternoon…, and more. I am hoping that reading about my journey will help others on theirs and to let them know that there is sunshine on the other side of this new normal. It won’t ever be the same but it can be good again. And, yes. you can laugh again and be truely happy.

My list of credentials is short. I am not a health care professional. I have taken no Learning Annex classes. I haven’t even gone to Grief Support Groups. Yet. I’m just a mom that has been there and I have learned a few things on the way to help the transition.

Grief is a journey. And you can get through it.

Peace be with you,

Debbie

Beginnings

// February 9th, 2010 // No Comments » // Uncategorized

Some beginnings are short…like this one. Now that I have this pretty much figured out, it’s time to make dinner!