Sunday, March 13, 2011

Paint It Black

Paint it blackIt’s been a rough few days, and there are still more to come.

My stepfather-in-law was recently diagnosed with Stage III lung cancer, and is not doing well at all. He’s not strong enough to handle either chemo or radiation, so the goal now is to make him as comfortable and as pain-free as possible. In the short-term, the plan is to pick him up at the nursing home in a couple of weeks, bring him home to enjoy a NASCAR race and a martini with his son and the rest of us, and take him back after a couple of hours. We got together Friday with his son and daughter-in-law and had an honest discussion about some very difficult subjects.

Friday was also the day that my Dad had his stroke a year ago.

Another family member (no longer family by marriage, but still held in high esteem by many of us...I won’t say who it is out of respect for their privacy) is seriously ill and in the hospital recovering from surgery. The recovery isn’t going as well as planned, and all involved are very concerned.

Today was a meet-up with my family at my Dad’s grave site. While there, I also went over to my Cousin Donny’s grave, my paternal grandparents’ grave, and an uncle and aunt’s site. After that, we all went to grab a bite to eat and happily had some laughs and discussions...of course, some of the discussions were about an unsolved murder from 1904 that my sister was researching at the museum, as well as the death and destruction in Japan and the fears of a nuclear core meltdown. Good times, eh? We then watched a slide show that my niece put together. I was dealing pretty well, but I got pretty choked up at seeing tailgating pictures from when we took Dad and Cousin Shane to a Notre Dame game. You all know that was one of the special things that Dad and I shared. We were sports buddies and that was always one of our topics whenever we talked. Unfortunately, my niece included pictures of his service at the cemetery, and that was like a punch in the gut. I didn’t want to see that...didn’t want to see the looks on all of our faces as the flag was presented to Mom.

Paint it black2Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death. I know the first year is the hardest, and I know it will continue to get better and less painful. Mom told me that one of my sisters told her that she has a hole in her heart. I understand what she was saying, but I don’t feel that way. I still miss him like crazy, but he will always be in my heart.

[Side note: I’m curious what you guys think. Do you often visit the graves of loved ones? Mom and Dad were always big on that, going around to various relatives’ graves on Memorial Day. I’m kind of not that way. I still miss the ones that have gone on and always will, but I think of them every day. Visiting their grave isn’t a necessity for me. Having said that, I’ve got an idea for something I want to put on Dad’s stone. More to come.]

Anyway, I’ve been in a very dark place for a few days. I’ve felt at times that I was surrounded by death. This is unusual for me, and I know it will pass. (There is probably a certain measure of winter fatigue setting in, too.) In the meantime, I’ve tried to handle things the best I can. I know I haven’t said the right thing all the time, and as John Mellencamp sang, if I’ve done any wrong, I hope that I’m forgiven. I know there will be more tough times ahead, but I can only continue to do what I can to help others to get through them. As for myself, I have to turn my head until the darkness goes. And it will.


  1. {{{{{{BETH!!}}}}}} Hugs for you! What a rough day! Thank goodness for morphine+ativan- your father in law can at least be kept comfortable. Been there. Not fun.
    Momma G was not big on visiting graves, so we didn't do it often. If we happened to be in a cemetery where family was buried for another service, we would sometimes visit other graves, but there was no ritual to it. After becoming the adult, I seemed to be at the cemetery way too often, so I could make sure things had been installed and maintained as they should have been. I keep thinking I need to make a trip to check on things, but it doesn't seem important. Momma and Daddy don't really care if their marker is crooked, as long as their memories are still intact in my heart!

    Much love to you and your family during this difficult time...

  2. best wishes Beth..sounds like things are difficult, but you seem to be handling it well..i'm also not a grave visitor...take care & know if there's anything i can do to help, please let me know..


  3. Beth, I wish that there were words that I could write that would convey how deeply I feel for you and your loss and your current family stresses. I can share that I don't do the grave visiting thing very much. I put roses on my mother's grave for her birthday and on mother's day but I don't visit regularly. She is always with me and I don't feel the need to go to where her bones lie in order to feel close to her.

    I wish you and your family comfort and peace in your time of struggle.

  4. Big hugs, Beth. I'm glad your family got together and had some laughs afterward.
    As for me, I was never into visiting graves, but I am now drawn to visiting my mom's. I can't really say way. I just want to visit. I know that sounds odd.


  5. My thoughts are with you at this challenging time. My not living in the vincinty of where my loved one are buried solved the question of what I do for Memorial Day. I do remember the experience of losing people close to me, but I was brought up not to be afraid of death and to be happy for that someone moved on to their reward...

    ... which evidently that they got to 'sleep in' forever!! I hope that you are feeling better and that this cloud passes quickly and uneventfully for you and your loved ones.

  6. I'm so very sorry for the bad times you're going through right now. My thoughts are with you.

    You asked how the rest of us handle this stuff. For myself, I can say I've been blessedly spared from much of the ceremonial parts of death. My family doesn't believe in funerals or memorial services of any kind. When my parents passed away, at first I thought it might be a bad idea to completely ignore the usual rituals (at their request, of course), but in retrospect, I've come around to being in favor of doing nothing -- a quick cremation and no ceremony whatsoever. Years later, I don't feel I've suffered from having no mourning rituals, and I intend to request the same for myself.

  7. Boy, does it ever rain when it pours.
    These are tough days for you and your family, but I can tell you that it does get easier, while not exactly better.
    My mother was not buried. She was cremated--both she and my dad, and I agree, never wanted graves and gravesites. It's just not for us.
    The goal was to have my mother's ashes scattered at sea four years ago soon after she died. But my dad couldn't part with them, and so he kept them in the house--in a lovely wooden box, not some pseudo-flower pot. Now, my father is moving on with his life, and he's decided he can let go of these last pieces of mom, and will have her ashes scattered at sea this summer.
    My sister is quite upset about this, though we all knew this was the plan. She wants some of the ashes, and asked if I wanted some.
    I said No.
    My mother isn't in the ashes or in the box, and she won't be scattered at sea. She's in me, and will always be there; she's in every part of my day every day, and I don't need urns and ashes or headstones to remember her.
    That's just how I see it.
    Anyhow....ramble much......I'm thinking of you and your family as you deal with these tough days.

  8. I think there is comfort in visiting someone's gravesight and talking to them as if they were still listening. The best thing anyone can do when a loved one passes is to remember the life not the passing. My thoughts and love wing there way to you and Ken. Prayers on the smoke for Ken's stepfather. (Hugs)Indigo

  9. Sending you some hugs and good vibes.
    It's been a sucky Winter, hasn't it?

  10. I rarely if ever go to my father's grave. It just reminds me of what is no longer physically with me. Besides, I think about him every day, and I don't really think he's there in the grave.

    I also found that while the first year after was tough, I found the second to be worse, because I remembered what it felt like when he wasn't there as opposed to when he was. Don't know if that makes any sense, and I'm sure every person has a unique experience dealing with the loss of a parent. You seem to be dealing with it very well, which is a credit to the type of relationship you had with your father.

  11. sending you a huge will be in my thoughts, as always....

    though my grandmother's grave is 4 hrs away when i go it is almost spiritual. She is buried in the side of a Kentucky mountain in an area that is so beautiful it is breath taking.

    I am so sorry for what you are all going thru with your step FIL also.

  12. Yikes - all these things at once just can't be easy.

    But you'll get through it. If there's one thing I've learned from reading your blog, you are one tough cookie.



  13. There is a saying that it never rains but it pours...that seems very apt for you and how you have been feeling these last few months. I am especially thinking about you today. Take it easy and think happy thoughts..
    As for visiting graves, like the majority of the comments it's not somthing I need to do as my loved ones are always with me...just a thought away...However I think it was different for the genaration before us. I remember when my Mum, Aunt, and a friend used to go for a walk to the cemetry to visit...old friends !!...with that in mind when my Mother died and we took her ashes back up to Scotland and had them laid by Dad (who never wanted cremated)we had a seat placed near their grave so folks can have a seat when they do visit...
    Love Sybil x

  14. I'm a modified descendant of my mom & dad, and I do keep to some of their reliance on rituals, like visiting the graves. Sometimes with skeptical detachment, and other times with a real yearning for some connection. But I am not into sententious diatribes about how you HAVE TO visit the grave to show respect, or bring a grave blanket, or...whatever. We all show our love & respect in our own ways.

    I'm sorry this is such a hard time in so many ways for you. It can make everything seem so charged with potentially negative signification for a while. I hope it passes into something much better for you soon.

  15. I'm sorry to hear you are going through some dark times right now. I'll keep you & your loved ones in my thoughts & send out some good karma for you. I do not visit gravesites often. I could probably count on one hand how many times I've gone to my fathers. I feel they are in my heart and I have a hard time with people being put in the ground. It's a wierd thing with me. Take good care & I wish you peace my friend.

  16. Hugs to you and to Bucko.

    My mom's and dad's remains are in very hard caskets in side-by-side "drawers" in a mausoleum that sits in the center of a big cemetery. Both their families have in-ground graves that spread out on either side of them over an acre or so. When I do get back to NC to visit, I get to drop in on everybody at the same time.

    Still, being an atheist, I just don't put as high a value on those visits as some do. I commune with the memory of my parents and deceased relatives in my head...hourly. It's hard to get home; thank goodness I carry it so easily in my mind without having to drive so far.

  17. It has been a rough couple of weeks, glad we have each other and The Critteh :o)

  18. I am so sorry about your step-father-in-law and your other relative. I hope the one is able to enjoy the time he has with his family and that the situation will improve for the other. I do visit graves, but it isn't a morbid or sad thing. My parents' house is only about a half mile from the graveyard where most of my more immediate ancestors (and a lot of ancient ones, as well) are buried, and it was always a thing I liked to do to walk down to the cemetery a few times a year and walk around noticing this aunt or uncle or cousin or grandparent and either asking questions of Mom or Dad about them or sharing stores. Now that Daddy is there it is more special to me and a bit different in a way, but still a peaceful and comfortable thing to do. I visit maybe once a year now, not necessarily on the anniversary of his death or Memorial Day, but just whenever I'm visiting at Mom's and have the urge to go to the cemetery. So for me it isn't a "special occasion" type of thing to do or a mandated thing, but it's more like a random "visit", if that makes sense. My kids like going there, too, so maybe it's just something weird about my family?!? Anyway, I hate that you've had a rough couple of weeks, and I hope it doesn't get any worse. Take care, and hang in there! (My Dad has been gone almost 9 years now, and I still avoid videos that I know he will be in. I feel you there! I can handle pictures, but I can't imagine how I will feel hearing his voice. I guess I'll break down and face it eventually.)


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?