Want to Understand Mortality? Look to the Chimps


I read this earlier today and was deeply touched. I decided that I simply had to share this with you.

Want to Understand Mortality? Look to the Chimps

By MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER

Pansy was probably in her 50s when she died, which is pretty good for a chimpanzee. She passed in a way most of us would envy — peacefully, with her adult daughter, Rosie, and her best friend, Blossom, by her side. Thirty years earlier, Pansy and Blossom arrived together at the Blair Drummond Safari and Adventure Park near Stirling, Scotland. They raised their children together. Now, as Pansy struggled to breathe, Blossom held her hand and stroked it.


Illustration by Denise Nestor

When the scientists at the park realized Pansy’s death was imminent, they turned on video cameras, capturing intimate moments during her last hours as Blossom, Rosie and Blossom’s son, Chippy, groomed her and comforted her as she got weaker. After she passed, the chimps examined the body, inspecting Pansy’s mouth, pulling her arm and leaning their faces close to hers. Blossom sat by Pansy’s body through the night. And when she finally moved away to sleep in a different part of the enclosure, she did so fitfully, waking and repositioning herself dozens more times than was normal. For five days after Pansy’s death, none of the other chimps would sleep on the platform where she died.

This account was published in 2010 in the journal Current Biology, but it’s not the only time scientists have watched chimpanzees, bonobos and other primates deal with death in ways that look strikingly like our own informal rituals of mourning: watching over the dying, cleaning and protecting bodies and displaying outward signs of anxiety. Chimps have been seen to make loud distress calls when a comrade dies. They investigate bodies as if looking for signs of life. There are many cases of mothers refusing to abandon dead infants, carrying and grooming them for days or even weeks. Still, it’s rare to capture primate deaths, especially those of chimpanzees and bonobos, in detail. It happens just often enough that many scientists are starting to think there’s something interesting, maybe protohuman, going on.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/magazine/want-to-understand-mortality-look-to-the-chimps.html?pagewanted=1&ref=magazine&_r=1&

There is pain after death



On the 10th of October 2012 I posted this:

Two days ago I reblogged a post “Is there pain after death” written by a Dr James Salwitz. This post elicited some comments – mainly from Vic. Vic has started reading the odd post of my blog. In a way I am truly okay with it but on the other hand I find it difficult to blog my fears and emotions knowing that Vic may read the post. I find that I have become guarded in what I am writing. I am thinking that I should blog about stuff that may allay Vic’s fears….

Yesterday Vic asked “Mommy, I know what we believe in but what if there is more pain after I died?”

“You read my blog?” I asked.

“Yes” Vic replied.

“Sweetie, I believe that when the time comes our loved ones will be our guardian angels and hold our hands whilst we cross over….”

“I know that Mommy but what if I am still in pain… What if the pain does not stop?”

“Sweetie, the pain that continues after death is the emotional pain that belong to the loved ones that are left behind. That is what the post is about…..”

Tears welled up in Vic’s eyes and she said “I know that Mommy but what if I am still in pain… What if the pain does not stop? What if your pain does not stop?”

Andrew, http://lymphomajourney.wordpress.com/, commented as follows… “Even before one leaves, I always thought it more difficult on my family to watch me go through what was pretty aggressive treatment than on me.”

sbcallahan, http://thedrsays.org commented…”this is one of the difficult things about being the one who leaves. to know that your loved ones are going to suffer more than they already have is heartbreaking.”

“how to die? I have watched many die over the years and the range is as you would imagine. there were those that just could not let go and suffered every indignity to their body and soul. of course others went quietly with love around them. I have not decided if I want to be alone or with loved ones by my side. is there a way to make it easier for them? would they rather receive a phone call with the news or be at bedside? either way it will hurt them, not me of course as I am the one leaving. I would be lying if I said I don’t think of how I will miss so much. the thing is I have had so much, so much more than others and it seems selfish to complain. what they will go through is tremendous compared to what I will go through. I will sleep eternally and they will live. the best I can hope for them is peace of mind and future happiness. I want them to think of me and smile as I do now thinking of them.” http://thedrsays.org/2011/03/

I am beginning to think it is easier to be the person leaving than the one being left. I have always known that about relationships and breaking up but now realize that it is the same when someone you love is dying. My husband became suddenly angry and I knew there was something wrong. it is so unlike him to get angry over nothing that I was completely off guard. we had been watching the movie “steel magnolia’s” and he asked me what Julia Roberts was dying from and I told him kidney failure. later when he was able to talk, he shared that it had reminded him of my own kidney failure and near death. we live in limbo waiting each week for blood tests to know if I am back in failure or good for a few more days. I don’t really think about it and when he shared his fear my heart ached. The sad thing is I have no fear and realize more and more how hard this is for him. I know that he will be fine in the end but it is hard for him to imagine he will be fine without me. It is so much harder to be the one being left behind. http://thedrsays.org/2011/03/25/the-one/

Vic so often tells me how worried she is about the family. She worries about how the boys, her dad and I will cope. Whether we will cope…. whether we will be able to get over her eventual passing…. Andrew and sbcallahan write about their fears… for their loved ones. It is a fear that all terminally ill people appear to have.

My Mom died a bad death! Two weeks after major surgery she died an agonising death from septicaemia. We could see the gangrene spread…. She was burning up with fever and no amount of pain medication could dull or relieve the pain. God alone knows what went through her mind because she was ventilated. When my Mom finally died we were so relieved. We were relieved that her suffering was over. We were traumatized by the dying process not her death.

As a family we have lived with Vic’s pain and her excruciatingly slow journey towards death for the past eleven years. For eleven years we have heard her scream with pain, moan with discomfort, we hold her hair back when she is doubled up over a toilet bowel, vomiting until she fractures a vertebrae. We have nursed open wounds, changed colostomy bags…. We have watched our daughter and mother suffer the most horrendous symptoms.

So baby, if you read this post, know that we will miss you. We don’t want you to leave us behind but we want your suffering to end. We will continue to love you until we are reunited one day. You have to trust us that you will always be “my baby” and the boys’ mummy. But know that we will be grateful when your little body is freed from its pain and suffering. You will be at peace… You will not suffer more pain after death. We will mourn you but we will also be at peace… We will think of you and smile…

It is okay to let go my angel child.

Preparing for Vic’s death was not easy. It was however a breeze compared to the actual pain after Vic died.

In a way I supposed I almost romanticized Vic’s passing. I knew that I would miss her. What I did not know is how much….I did not know that my mind would block out the suffering beforehand.

I thought I would always remember her cries, her tears, and her pain. I did not realize that I would forget her cries, pain, tears…. I remember her shuffling little footsteps down the passage, her soft kisses on my cheek, her gentle nature, her laughter…

I thought I would be relieved that her suffering was over – Nothing and nobody could have prepared me for the huge void in my life.

Today I know that there is excruciating agony after death. For the living…

I wrote “We will think of you and smile…”

Vic, today I know we think of you and cry… selfishly I don’t have peace.

Chaka’s is not the same without you. Nothing will ever be the same without you my Angel.

I miss you so much!!!

It’s time to let him go….


1030577_850997“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
― Nelson MandelaLong Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

“When someone is dying, everyone has to wait. It takes time. All of us have a different timetable. Some wait mere hours. Some drag on for days, others, weeks. It is a lesson in patience.” Uma Girish – http://grammarofgrief.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/being-with-the-dying/

Today, in South Africa, Gracia Machel, is sitting vigil next to her beloved husband’s bed.  I have no doubt that she is holding his hand, waiting, praying…  Maybe she too feels that the time has come for Madiba to keep his head pointed to the sun and his feet moving forward to eternal peace and rest.

I wonder whether Madiba fears death? I have no doubt that he has fears for his family, his country…  He once said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

In this morning Sunday Times Newspaper the headline was “It’s Time to let him go”.  http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/  It is an appeal by Andrew Mlangeni, a longtime friend of Nelson Mandela, to his family.  No doubt it will be controversial and elicit a lot of discussion and criticism.

I agree with Andrew Mlangeni, it is time to let Madiba go…  There can be very little joy in his life.  This man has suffered so much in his life – it is time for his suffering to come to an end.

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”  Nelson Mandela

 

Bittersweet


100_9077I often wondered exactly what went through Vic’s mind in the final months of her life when she felt death sneaking up on her.  I know she was scared and lonely; she was heartbroken knowing that her boys would grow up without her….I am not stupid.  I know that Vic did not share all her fears and thoughts with me.  She was trying to protect me.

Today I read a bittersweet post.  I wept when I read the words.  It was as if I heard Vic’s voice…felt her fear…

Bittersweet
June 4, 2013 by sugarmagzz        | 6 Comments
 
It happens from time to time, I get a glimpse of my “old” life and for a fleeting second forget that I am dying of cancer. These moments are simultaneously wonderful and devastating. I might be out with a friend for lunch, pumping gas into my car, shopping for Owen, or doing dishes at my kitchen sink. It’s always random and for that brief moment I feel free, as though I’m flying and nothing is tethering me down. I feel like I did before, able to live my life without a shadow cast overhead. It doesn’t last very long because reality always comes crashing down, dragging me with it in its vice-like grip. In this moment of clarity — when it all comes rushing back to me — I can’t breathe. I’m ten again and I’ve fallen flat on my back off the trampoline — immobile, breathless, terrified.  This time there is no ground to break my fall, and so I’m left to kick and scream in mid-air with no one to hear me, no one to catch me. Alone and falling, falling so fast — past the memories that were supposed to one day be mine. I reach out to touch them and slide my fingers over their sparkling surface…
 
The look on Owen’s face when he sees Disney World for the first time.
 
The birth of our second child, to see again Andrew’s incredible capacity for the patience and self-sacrifice of fatherhood.
 
Owen’s high school and college graduation ceremonies, his wedding.
Ashlei’s wedding, the birth of her children, becoming an Aunt.
 
Retirement — relaxing on the dock looking out over the lake with him, my partner in life…reminiscing about the early days and arguing over chores, still.
 
Grandchildren.
I will not see these momentous occasions, they will occur without my physical presence.
 
I hope that there is more to this life, and that I can be there in some way, spirit or otherwise. I hope that my loved ones will always feel me near as they celebrate those unforgettable moments that life has to offer, but my sorrow at missing out on them is endless. I am so very grateful for the incredible moments I have been blessed to experience and I will hold them close until the end. When my time comes, I will take my last breath knowing that my time here was extraordinary, that during my brief existence I lived and loved as greatly as I could. I know there will be more wonderful memories to make before this happens, but everything for me is tinged with darkness — all of the good moments are bittersweet. Still I fight for them, even though they are broken and imperfect. They may not be the memories I thought they would be, but they will still be special.

Tonight I am doubting myself again.  I wonder – did I comfort my child enough?  Why was this precious child of mine condemned to a life of horrible pain and suffering?  She never truly lived!  Why did she die and bad people continue to live and prosper?  Why was she deprived of a future???  She was such a good person!!!!!

I want to hold her and protect her.  I want to tell her how much I love her.  That she is the best thing that ever happened to me.  That my life is empty without her.  That I understood her fears.  

I WANT MY CHILD BACK!!!

 

Compassionate friends say…


Sixteen years ago today, my beloved mother lost her battle against the septicaemia ravaging her tiny little body.  I woke up this morning thinking “well at least this year Mom has Dad and Vic with her…”

Christmas many years ago...
Christmas many years ago…
Vic and her Gramps and Moekie
Vic and her Gramps and Moekie

It was very hard for me to come to terms with my Mom’s death.  I spoke to her every day of my life regardless of where I was in the world.  I was a real “Mommy’s Girl”.  Mom adored Vic.  They were so close.

I was cruising (I know “surfing” is the correct terminology) the web looking at bereavement sites when I saw that on the 9th of December 2012  it was  Compassionate Friends 16th Worldwide Candle Lighting.  The 9th of December is my birthday.  It was a special birthday – my last with my precious child.  Worldwide bereaved parents were lighting candles for their dead children…This year I shall join them in sorrow – lighting up the world.…

I found a section “To the Newly Bereaved”.  It is now 4 months and seventeen days or 137 days since Vic died.  Am I still a newly bereaved parent or am I becoming a seasoned bereaved parent?

When your child has died, suddenly it seems like all meaning has been drained from your life. When you wake in the morning, it’s difficult to get out of bed, much less live a “normal” life. All that was right with the world now seems wrong and you’re wondering when, or if, you’ll ever feel better.

We’ve been there ourselves and understand some of the pain you are feeling right now. We are truly glad that you have found us but profoundly saddened by the reason. We know that you are trying to find your way in a bewildering experience for which no one can truly be prepared.

When you’re newly bereaved, suddenly you find yourself on an emotional roller-coaster where you have no idea what to expect next. Here are thoughts on some of what you may be experiencing or feeling (many of these will apply to bereaved siblings and grandparents):

Psychological

  • You’re in shock from what has happened and a numbness surrounds you to help shield you from the pain.   I thought I was going to lose my mind when Vic died.  The pain was unbearable.  Now numbness has settled in.  It is a survival mechanism.
  • You find yourself in denial. Your child cannot be dead. You expect to see your child walk through the door any moment.  No – I have passed this stage.  Vic is dead.  She will never shuffle down the passage again.
  • You see your child in the faces of others walking down the street.  No – Vic was uniquely beautiful.  I wish I could see her face on a walking body because that may erase some horrible memories from my mind.
  • You wonder how someone can feel this much pain and survive.  Absolutely!
  • Thoughts of suicide briefly enter your mind. You tell yourself you want to die—and yet you want to live to take care of your family and honor your child’s memory.  Absolutely!
  • You want to know how the people around you can go about their day as if nothing has happened—don’t they understand that your life—everything that meant anything to you—has just ended? Your purpose in life is gone.  Absolutely
  • You are no longer afraid of death as each day that passes puts you one day closer to being with your child.  Absolutely yes!!!!
  • Thoughts of “what ifs” enter your mind as you play out scenarios that you believe would have saved your child.  Yes
  • Your memory has suddenly become clouded. You’re shrouded in forgetfulness. You’ll be driving down the road and not know where you are or remember where you’re going. As you walk, you may find yourself involved in “little accidents” because you’re in a haze.  Absolutely
  • You fear that you are going crazy.  I fear I am…
  • You find there’s a videotape that constantly plays in an endless loop in your mind, running through what happened.  I try very hard not to think about it
  • You find your belief system is shaken and you try to sort out what this means to your faith.  Yes
  • Placing impossible deadlines on yourself, you go back to work, but find that your mind wanders and it’s difficult to function efficiently or, some days, at all. Others wonder when you’ll be over “it,” not understanding that you’ll never be the same person you were before your child died—and the passage of time will not make you so.  Absolutely correct!
  • You find yourself reading the same paragraph over and over again trying to understand what someone else has written.  Yes – it is scary.  I watch TV programs and cannot remember the show afterwards.

Emotional

  • You rail against the injustice of not being allowed the choice to die instead of your child.  ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
  • You find yourself filled with anger, whether it be at your partner, a person you believe is responsible for your child’s death, God, yourself, and even your child for dying.   ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!
  • You yearn to have five minutes, an hour, a day back with your child so you can tell your child of your love or thoughts left unsaid.  No, I have no unspoken words or emotions.  I just want her back with me!
  • Guilt becomes a powerful companion as you blame yourself for the death of your child. Rationally you know that you were not to blame—you most certainly would have saved your child if you’d been given the chance.  Thank God this phase has passed.
  • You feel great sadness and depression as you wrestle with the idea that everything important to you has been taken from you. Your future has been ruined and nothing can ever make it right.  My life will never be the same again.  I wonder whether I will ever experience true happiness again.

Physical

  • Either you can’t sleep at all or you sleep all the time. You feel physical exhaustion even when you have slept.  Have these people moved into my home?  This is absolutely true.
  • You no longer care about your health and taking care of yourself—it just doesn’t seem that important anymore.  Maybe….
  • You’re feeling anxiety and great discomfort—you’re told they’re panic attacks.  No
  • The tears come when you least expect them.  Absolutely
  • Your appetite is either gone or you find yourself overeating.  Oh yes! 

Family & Social

  • If you have surviving children, you find yourself suddenly overprotective, not wanting to allow them out of your sight. Yet you feel like a bad parent because it’s so difficult to focus on their needs when you’re hurting so bad yourself.  I am petrified of not being with the boys all the time.  I hate not being with them!  I am stressed when they are with their father or friends.  I am terrified of leaving them to go overseas…
  • You find that your remaining family at home grieves the loss differently and you search for a common ground which seems difficult to find.  Yes
  • You’ve been told by well-meaning people, even professionals, that 70-80-90 percent of all couples divorce after their child dies. You are relieved to find that new studies show a much lower divorce rate, from 12-16%, believed to be caused by the “shared experience” aspect of the situation.  We have gone through a very rough time in our marriage.  We have worked through it.  But I can see that it is a distinct possibility in a newly bereaved situation.
  • Old friends seem to fade away as you learn they cannot comprehend the extent or length of your grief. No…they faded away when Vic was ill and she did not die soon enough
  • Things you liked to do which seemed so important before now seem meaningless.  Absolutely correct
  • Others say you’ll someday find “closure,” not understanding that closure never applies when it is the death of your child.  Darn right! 
  • Fleeting thoughts of pleasurable activities bring about feelings of guilt. If you child can’t have fun, how can you do anything that brings you enjoyment?  Maybe
  • New friends come into your life who understand some of your grief because they’ve been there themselves.  Absolutely!  I have also opened up and made myself “accessible”.  Before, Vic consumed my life.   http://www.compassionatefriends.org/Find_Support/Personal-Note/To_the_Newly_Bereaved.aspx

Tomorrow I will share  “Finding the ‘new me’…”

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/12/10/another-birthday/

http://www.compassionatefriends.org

When the soul leaves the body


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auoJV4re3nU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auoJV4re3nU

When a child is born we laugh, cry with joy and celebrate; when a loved one dies we cry with heartbreak and mourn.  We spend a lifetime celebrating life.  Grief too deserves time, attention, honour and embracing.

Grief is painful, yet it gives us a glimpse of Heaven – afterlife… Life after death…

I have seen a quite a few people die.  Mostly very close family… my mom, my mother-in-law, my dad and my precious child.  I have seen strangers die – patients in TB hospitals, AIDS patients in hospital; a young man burning to death after a car accident…

My Mom died when she developed septicaemia from surgery.  She was confused from the raging fever and the infection ravaging her little body.  Mom knew that it would be her last surgery.  She said that she would not survive the operation and was prepared for death.  Mom died with my dad and us kids standing around her bed – taking turns to pray for her.  Like Vic she fought for life until death won the battle.

The day my mom-in-law died I sat next to her bed.  It was just the two of us.  I asked her whether she was scared.  She smiled and shook her head.  I know that she looked forward to death…to the afterlife.  Hours later when this gracious lady just stopped breathing her children and I were standing around her bed.  We were singing her favourite hymn.  Her death was gentle and dignified.

My Dad was not aware of the fact that he was dying… He developed Alzheimer’s pneumonia and gently lapsed into a coma.  My dad just forgot how to breathe.  If he was aware of the fact that he was dying I think he would have been surprised.  He did not “know” he was dying.  I know he would have been grateful that he had been spared that final indignity of Alzheimer’s.  He died the way he lived – with dignity and gentleness…

My precious child died fighting.  She had so much left to do.  She had children to raise.  Vic, like my mom, did not know how to not fight to live another day…

I suppose we all have pre-conceived ideas of how people should handle death emotionally and spiritually.  For years I would ask Vic whether she had asked God for forgiveness and mercy before she went into theatre for more surgery…Later in life I thought how stupid of me.  Vic lived a life, obedient to the greatest commandment – To love God with mind, body and soul….and her neighbour… I knew that Vic had made peace with God.  In death Vic requested Last Communion…  Her spiritual rituals were taken care off.

Vic said her goodbyes.  It was heart-breaking for everyone who loved her.  She needed to hear that we would honour her memory, not forget what she represented in life.  She needed to hear that her sons would remember her as their Mother and not use her as an excuse.  She thanked people over and over for their friendship and love; their caring and loyalty…

Nothing was left unsaid.    I read somewhere “something said or not said, something you wish you had done differently, can stick inside you like a splinter.”

The scenes of death that I have witnessed and lived through were sacred.  I saw souls depart from the bodies of my loved ones… I saw that there is more than life-sustaining organs to a body.  There is a soul…There is no comparison to the appearance of the body after the soul has left the body.

I saw Vic’s father’s soul leave his body five days before he was declared brain-dead.  I was standing next to his hospital bed asking him for forgiveness.  I realised standing there that I was not the only one who suffered from our divorce.  I realised that I too had caused him pain.  I spoke to him about God and Heaven – I prayed for him.  One bloody tear ran down his check.  He continued to breathe on the ventilator, but I felt his soul leave his body.

The willingness to sit at death’s bedside – to embrace the loss experiences in our lives – opens a window into Heaven.  I do not fear death.  I know when my time comes I will embrace death knowing that I will be reunited with my child, my parents, loved ones, friends…the ones I leave behind will eventually follow and join us.   When something leaves it goes somewhere.  It is a displacement of energy.

Now I am between birth and death.  Heaven awaits.

Some of my related posts and other great reads:

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/10/29/one-bloody-tear/
https://tersiaburger.com/2012/08/03/happy-birthday-mommy-3-8-2012/
https://tersiaburger.com/2012/07/18/487/
http://humansarefree.com/2011/03/russian-scientist-consciousness.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auoJV4re3nU
http://jimmyakin.com/when-the-soul-leaves-the-body
http://www.arachimusa.org/Index.asp?ArticleID=61&CategoryID=359&Page=1

 

Date of cremation….


I am busy with my child’s estate.  It is absolutely horrible!!!!!!

Today, 131 days after Vic died, I have to complete an insurance form.  The question I cannot answer is “Date of Cremation”.  I did not want to know!  This is another date that will stick to my memory until the day I die….  I had to send an email to the undertaker.  I await his reply.

I held my child death certificate and Notice of Death form DHA-1663A in my hands… On page 1 of 3 is Vic’s tiny little thumbprints, on page 2 of 3 – my thumbprint.  I am listed as the “informant”.  On page 3 of 3 the thumbprint of the Undertaker…

Form number DHA-1663A
Form number DHA-1663A

The darn certificates are smudged with tears now.  Oh well, tough luck!!

No parent should ever have to do, whatever executors have to do, for their child…  It feels as if my heart was ripped out of my chest! 

To-do list: OUTSTANDING FORMS TO SUBMIT

  1. DEATH NOTICE – FORM J294
  2. PARTICULARS OF NEXT-OF-KIN FORM J192
  3. INVENTORY – FORM J243
  4. ACCEPTANCE OF TRUST AS EXECUTOR
  5. CREDITORS LIST
  6. AFFIDAVIT RE EXECUTORSHIP
  7. SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
  8. INSURANCE POLICY CLAIMS

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO TO SUBMIT THESE STUPID DARN FORMS TO!!  I suppose there will be a website somewhere that will tell me.

I WANT MY CHILD BACK!!!!!

 

Jon-Daniel writes…I wish


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Jon-Daniel is going through a rough time.  He posted this on his Blackberry Status.

I wish there were visiting hours in Heaven.  Miss you my little angel.  We all do!

I WANT MY CHILD BACK!!!


Yesterday morning I teared up – again.  Danie asked “And now?  What’s wrong?”

“Just missing Vic” I said

“Shame” he said with sadness in his voice.  “I miss her too”

We spoke about how my grief had changed over the past four months.  Today it is exactly four months since my precious child died.  I keep using the words “death and died” and not the gentler “passed”…  I do that because death is harsh.  My child DIED, she is DEAD.  My pain is as real as it was 4 months ago.  My grief is however no longer as transparent as it was to the world.

Four months ago when Vic died my body physically hurt.  My heart was physically aching.  The pain was new.  Now my grief is in me, part of me as if it is a limb or organ…  My grief is hidden from the world. If I did not tell you, you would never know.

To the world – I seem to have adjusted to the loss of my child.  I am “functioning, smiling, carrying on with life”… People are so relieved that they no longer have to cope with my raw grief…

Earlier tonight I read this on Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/TheGrievingParent

“I never knew my mind could be dominated by a single thought every day for years and still not get in the way of the progress of my life. The hands on the clock continue to turn, and the sun rises every morning. 

Even though the grief is not on the surface, the missing is as strong as it ever was. We can’t explain it, but we want to share it. We might not break down, but the strength of the grief never fades.”

We just keep on living with it and do the best we are able to do.”

I miss Vic more today than I did four months ago.  I keep looking at photographs of the past couple of years so I can REMEMBER her suffering; I re-read my blog to REMEMBER her suffering; I keep trying to find solace in the fact that she is pain-free.  It is becoming more difficult to see the positive side of Vic’s death.   My mind is blocking out the horror of her suffering!  I am remembering the good times only.

I hear you say “It is good”  No, It is not good!  If I forget her suffering I will never accept the “need for her to die” element of Vic’s death.

The night that haunts my sister
The night that haunts my sister

My sister shared her heartbreak with me…She said that one night when she slept with Vic she woke up to hear Vic talking to me.  She said Vic was crying and saying “Mommy I am so sore.  I can’t do this anymore”  Lorraine said she kept her eyes shut and pretended to sleep because she could not deal with the moment… Why am I forgetting??????  On the 13th of November I posted “Will my poor baby’s hell ever end?  If there is a lesson to be learnt PLEASE God show me what it is so I can learn it!!  This has come to an end!” https://tersiaburger.com/2012/11/13/signposts-for-dying/

I want my child back with me. I want to hold her, tell her I love her.  I want to hear her footsteps in the passage; I want to hear her voice…

I WANT MY CHILD BACK!

I feel death coming closer…


Photo Credit to:  thegardeningblog.co.za
Photo Credit to: thegardeningblog.co.za

Today I read the post of a very dear blogger friend.  She is an unbelievably strong and resilient woman who is dying from congenital heart failure.  She is a medical professional who served her country bravely.  Sandra is married to an amazing man, and she loves his children dearly.  They are a great source of joy to her.

I have just re-read most of Sandra’s old posts.  It filled me with sadness reading her brave posts, an almost intellectual outlook on death… My friend is not a stranger to death.  As a medical professional she encountered death often.  Death in every form, indiscriminate of age, colour or creed.

Sandra posted : how to die? I have watched many die over the years and the range is as you would imagine. there were those that just could not let go and suffered every indignity to their body and soul. of course others went quietly with love around them. I have not decided if I want to be alone or with loved ones by my side. is there a way to make it easier for them? would they rather receive a phone call with the news or be at bedside? either way it will hurt them, not me of course as I am the one leaving. I would be lying if I said I don’t think of how I will miss so much. the thing is I have had so much, so much more than others and it seems selfish to complain. what they will go through is tremendous compared to what I will go through. I will sleep eternally and they will live. the best I can hope for them is peace of mind and future happiness. I want them to think of me and smile as I do now thinking of them.   http://thedrsays.org/2011/03/25/

When I read this post I recognised the same almost detached approach to death that Vic had…As emotionally intelligent people Vic and Sandra look at death and know that their loved ones are the ones who will suffer the loss.  Vic so often expressed her concern for her loved ones who would be left behind.  My friend does the same in her posts…

Sandra wrote:

I believe and hope that I will die with dignity,

we are not born with fear and so we can die without fear. I think a lot of us are not so much afraid of dying as we are of not being remembered. it is only human to hope that our kids will have some fond memory, our grandkids, friends and maybe even some people who just passed through on the way to somewhere else. I would like to think there will be some fond memories of me. Chris is going to have a memorial at our home (I think) for me. I have asked for a celebration of my life. remember me as I am a real person with some good some bad and some … that should maybe stay in the vault:)

http://thedrsays.org/2011/04/

Today she posted: “for tonight i am not going to lie to you. i feel death coming closer, i hear the bear growl.  at times i think i may see her but then she moves a little and we continue down this path.  the toxins are working their way through my body to the skin where they are sores that itch and bleed.  i have these toxins because my liver and kidneys are not working the way they should.  my liver is enlarged and causes great pain. it is like having the worst charlie horse you have ever experienced just under your ribcage on the right side of your body. of course the spleen takes up its chorus on the left side and the kidneys can be felt in more places than you think and may be different in different people.  i am so weak at times that just standing takes a monumental effort.  my arms and legs can turn to shaking jello.  sometimes my eyes won’t focus and my mind is hard to clear.  forget about reading or even looking at the temp control on the wall.”  http://thedrsays.org/2013/04/29/sex-lies-and-videotapes/

I am re-living Vic’s final journey with this precious, brave woman.

The purpose of my post is to thank Sandra for her friendship, support, guidance, compassion and advice over the past year.  Often when I vented about Vic being stubborn or ill Sandra would gently advise me from a terminally ill person’s point of view.  She opened my eyes to so much of my child’s emotions and personal struggle…  She knows because it is her journey too.

My friend is a medical professional and KNOWS what is happening in her body.  Vic knew too…

In November 2012 Vic started saying that death was close…she would not bounce back this time…and now my friend says “I feel death coming closer…”

Oh my friend what can I say?  I know the emotional agony that Vic went through when she was where you are now.  I wish I could give you some of my health.  I wish I could wave a magic wand, and you would have more time.  We both know I cannot do any of this.

Please know I hold you in my heart.  I am sad that your journey is almost over.  I am so sad for the dreadful pain you are in.  I hope you are having pro-active symptom control.

I want to thank you today whilst you are strong enough to hear my words. Thank you for your friendship, compassion and support over the past couple of months.

I think you are incredibly brave, and you remind me of Vic…Stubborn, compassionate, intelligent…amazing!  I hope that you will meet her when it is your time to cross over.  Please know that I treasure you as a dear friend.

I pray for a miracle, that you will have lots of time, pain-free days.  Know that you are loved and admired.  I wish we had met.

I am not saying goodbye – just thank you for being a wonderful friend

To all my blogger friends out there – please pray for Sandra and Chris….

100 days of searing pain….


Does time really heal all wounds? Mothers who have lost  a child to death assure us that “it will get better.” Friends and loved ones have started telling me that “it is time to get over it and get on with life.”

Researchers say that a mother never ceases mourning the death of her child. I believe this finding.

In those immediate hours, after my precious child’s death, time stopped.  My life ground to a halt.

At Vic’s Memorial Service I was amazed that people rushed off after the service and tea to meetings, to pick up children from school…I remember thinking that everyone had already moved on…

I stood next to the hearse not wanting it to leave.  I rested my hand on the wood of the casket…I wanted to pull my child out of that darn coffin and wrap her in my arms.  I was not ready to say goodbye.

100_7451

Today it is 100 days filled with searing pain and longing since Vic left home for the last time.

I have begun to mark time differently.  I count the number of days, weeks and months that I have mourned and missed my child. 

I know that every day that passes is one day closer to me being with my beloved child again.  I know that Vic’s suffering is over; I know that it is for the best that Vic’s dreadful pain filled life is over…. It does not make my mourning less.

So today I am burning candles for my child.  I am praying that my child is at peace.  I am praying for grace to endure this longing.  I pray that I will have the strength to continue honouring Vic’s memory….

I pray that I will be worthy of the trust she put in me to look after her precious boys.

On the surface it appears as if the boys are coping well.  I heard a comment from a teacher this week saying that, despite the trauma they went through with Vic’s death this year, they are actually doing better than last year.

100_7810

It was so difficult watching her suffering!

So today, once again, I say “Rest in Peace my beautiful Angel Child”

 

Eulogies


Some of Vic's flowers in church
Some of Vic’s flowers in church

Today I read a very moving eulogy that Denise, one of my blogger friends, posted.  It is a eulogy that she wrote and presented at her beloved son’s funeral. 

I identified with her emotions and every word she wrote.  I would like to share Denise’s words with you and also my eulogy with which I honoured my brave child.

Denise says:” I’ve added a page with Philip’s eulogy. It was my last gift to him. As I wrote in the introduction, I’m posting it so you can know him a little better. I’ve just re-read it, and I remember reading it out loud, with Phil and Natalie beside me. I remember that I’d spent the last two hours in my chair, non-stop sobbing. I remember my cousin Maria leaning over and saying, “If you don’t stop crying you won’t be able to read.” I remember my voice clear and strong. And when I was done, I remember being told, “I feel better because I know you’re going to be all right.”

Me and “all right” didn’t belong in the same sentence. But there it was. And here it is; I hope you’ll take a look.”

I encourage you to follow this mother’s harrowing journey with grief.  Please read her Phillip’s eulogy!  http://forphilip.wordpress.com/his-eulogy/comment-page-1/#comment-33

Much of the days, immediately after Vic’s death, is now a distant memory.  The emotions that I did record are hazy now.  I floated on a herbal tranquilizer cloud…  I cannot remember who all was at the funeral.  I remember who wasn’t…  I looked at the January 2013 photos this week and saw that her second eldest sibling did come and say her goodbyes.  I now vaguely remember her little girls being here, but I actually don’t remember!!

When Vic planned her memorial service she asked that I deliver her eulogy.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday after Vic died I cried and was unable to think straight.  I wanted to do the handouts myself but by Sunday evening I knew I would not be able to do it in time.  My mind was blank, and I could not get Microsoft Publisher to do what I needed it to do…  At 8.15pm I texted the undertaker and asked them to do it.  I would send them the content, and they would format my information.

I prepared a wonderful slide show of Vic’s life.  All the fun bits and the people she loved were in it with her.  All the highlights of her life were captured in PowerPoint.  “Never Alone” as performed by Jim Brickman and Lady Annabella would play as her coffin was carried out of the church.  “If tomorrow starts without me” would play before the start of the service.  The slide show would loop from 15 minutes before the service and again 10 minutes after Vic left the church for the last time.

The eulogy and thank-you’s would be done by me.

Strangely the “thank-you’s” was far more difficult to do.  There were so many people to thank that had loved, helped and supported Vic and the family over the years…

I actually don’t know whether I blogged on the service as such before, but if I have either forgive me or please move onto another post.

When I stood up to do the thank you’s and eulogy I thought “It is the 3rd eulogy in 18 months I am doing…”

As I stood up Vic’s boys got up and flanked me.  They bravely and stoically stood next to me supporting me as we paid our last respects.  I could feel their bodies tremble and occasionally I hear a stifled sound as they suppressed their tears.

The boys and I before the memorial service
The boys and I before the memorial service

We stood on the stairs below the pulpit.  Three steps below us Vic lay in a casket.  More than a hundred candles burning; her St Josephs lilies on the casket and a beautiful framed photo of her… I so wish someone has taken a photo…

Like Denise I was surprised by the clarity of my voice.  It was as if my voice belonged to someone else.  The steadiness of my voice belied the physical pain of my heart.

I said the following:

Where do I start?  How do I begin a farewell when I still can’t believe you’re gone?  How do I say goodbye to a part of my soul? 

The day you were born I experienced this UNBELIEVABLE rush of love.  I was smitten from the first second I lay eyes on you.

You came into my life and changed me forever.  Over the years people have complimented me for being a good mother but I truly cannot take credit for that.  You were born good, and great and amazing.  You were the one who taught me lessons in life.  I believe you are an angel God sent to teach me. 

You taught me love.  You taught me honesty.  You taught me to love unconditionally.  You taught me how to forgive and how to be strong.  You are the strongest person I have ever known.  You gave me strength when I was weak.  When times were sad and tough you reminded me to be grateful for the small things in life.  You taught me how to be myself.  Most of all you taught me about life and how to live. 

When you were diagnosed with Osteogenesis Imperfecta at the age of 18 months and the doctors told me I should wrap you in cotton wool and wait for you to die, you taught me it was more important to feel and grow like any other child than to have me hide you under my wing.   It was so important to you to live.  And that you did.  You gave birth to not one beautiful baby but two!  You mothered the boys the way you lived life – with a passion. 

You are the bravest person in the world.  You rewrote medical history.  You defied death for so many years… You mocked bad news and a poor prognosis… 

You made me so proud.  You have always been my greatest pride and joy.  At school you excelled as a pianist.  As a mommy you were an example to all.  As a dying person you were brave beyond words.

I’m not sure how I can live this life without you.  You worried about me just as much as I worried about you.  You told everyone how worried you were that I would not cope without you.  You fought so hard to stay alive.  You fought until you gave your very last breath.  You did not want to leave your boys.  You lived for your boys.

You often said you were scared people would forget you…

No-one will ever forget you.  You made an incredible impact on the world.  You left two monuments of your love and mothering skills.  Your sons will honour you every day of their lives with their actions.

The photo on teh casket
The photo on the casket

Your dream of a Hospice for Alberton has been realised in Stepping Stone. Thousands of people will benefit from your dream and compassion in years to come.  It is ironic that you were Stepping Stone’s first death… 

Two weeks before your passing you  started seeing angels.  You saw Gramps, Uncle Dries, your father and Auntie Marlene.  Then a week before your passing you said “My whole room is full of angels”  You fought to stay alive every single day of your life.  Eleven months ago you called a family meeting and told us that you had decided enough is enough.  No more surgeries.  No more hospitals. 

Over the past 11 months you made your final wishes known.  You planned your memorial service.  You spoke to the boys about what was important.  I personally got a long list of do’s and don’t’s. 

Just before Christmas you said you were worried about me. That you could see I thought you would bounce back again…You said you were dying…You could feel the changes in your body.  But like 95% of the people in this church today I honestly though you would bounce back and defy death once again!  

One week before Vic died...
One week before Vic died…

The day you were born you filled my entire life.  You were always my first and last thought.  I feel numb and as if I am in a bubble.  You will be happy to know that we have been surrounded by love and support.  But it still feels as if the world should have stopped because you left it. 

Vic, I miss you so much already and I don’t know if I can take this pain anymore.  But then I think, how can I be sad when I know you’re in a better place?  How can I be sad when you brought me so much happiness?   How can I be sad when God is already working miracles through you?  How can I be sad when I feel like the luckiest person on earth to have been chosen to be your mother?  How can I be sad when God gave you to me for 14,019 days, 20 hours and 15 minutes?  I thank God every day for the time we shared together. 

Baby, I promise you today we will be the support system for the boys you wanted.  We love them so much.  No-one in the world can ever take your place.  We promise we will keep your memories alive.  We will honour our promises to you.

So now we must bid you farewell.  It is your time to run, free from pain and suffering.  We will always love you.  We will never forget you. 

Rest in Peace my Angel Child. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnNK4Alwbsw

A fin
A final rose

Grief attack


Jared and his Mommy - 10 days before she died
Jared and his Mommy – 10 days before she died
I have sunk to a new low this weekend.  I had every intention to attend church this morning.  I woke up with tears streaming down my cheeks.  I must have had dreamt of Vic.  I knew that I could not handle the gentle arms and words of sympathy at church.
Maybe next weekend…
I would like to share this wonderful writing from a Facebook site – The Grieving Parent.  It articulates my feeling beautifully.
I had a grief attack yesterday and again this morning….

2 hours ago ·

  • After my daughter’s death, I learned that the first year’s grief doesn’t flow neatly from one stage to the next; it has multiple patterns, fluctuating cycles, lots of ups and downs. First-year grief will surprise you in many ways, but here are a few things you can expect.Expect sudden “grief attacks.”
     
    Practical matters demand attention in early grief when we are the most confused and least interested in things we used to care about. We must decide how to get through each new day. Some days, getting out of bed may take all the energy we have. Trips to everyday places like the grocery store feel so different. In my case, simple things like seeing my daughter’s favorite cereal on the store shelf brought immediate, excruciating pain.
    I call these unexpected reactions “grief attacks.” And unlike the response we would get if we had a heart attack while shopping, those around us don’t know what to do. We get good at hiding our pain, at postponing grieving for a more appropriate place, a better time.
     
    Expect exhaustion and disruption. Early grieving is perhaps the hardest work you will ever do. It is common to have difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite and blood pressure, tense muscles that are susceptible to strains, a weakened immune system.Many bereaved parents return to work, school, or other activities feeling vulnerable, less confident about their capabilities, less able to concentrate, distracted by memories, and flooded with emotions that disrupt thinking. For others, work is the only place they are able to concentrate- focusing on tasks helps take their mind off their loss for awhile.
     
    Those around us may have unrealistic expectations as we return to work or school. When one mother whose only child had died returned to work, her supervisor greeted her by saying: “I’m sorry about your loss but I want to talk to you about improving your work performance.” Expect to be stunned by the ineptness, thoughtlessness, and discomfort of some people, and to be thrilled and deeply touched by the kindness and sensitivity of others. Sometimes those you expect to support you the most can’t or won’t meet your needs, while others you weren’t that close to before reach out unexpectedly.
     
    Expect ongoing “echoes.” We experience so many emotions after our child dies. We may feel relief that our child is no longer suffering, then feel guilty about being relieved. For a time we may be unable to feel much at all. While learning to live with the hole in our heart and fatigue in our body, other responsibilities beckon. We must file insurance claims, pay bills, write thank-you notes, decide what we want to do with our child’s possessions, and on and on.Just when we think everyone surely has heard of our loss by now, the reality of our child’s death echoes back to us. A call comes from the dentist’s office about scheduling her a checkup, or we run into our child’s old friend who just moved back to town. Once again we must tell our story, respond to someone else’s pain, experience fresh waves of grief. Knowing certain events are coming, such as seeing the grave marker or reading the death certificate or autopsy report, does not prevent us from hurting. These are tangible reminders of the reality of death, while part of us still hopes it’s all been just a bad dream.
     
    Our child’s death causes us to re-examine our beliefs about the Universe, God, and how the world works. Your faith and belief system may comfort and sustain you during the first year or you may feel angry and disconnected from it. Remember that it is okay to question. 
     
    You may be drawn to people who have experienced a loss like yours and can understand some of your feelings and questions. This is one reason many people in early grief find comfort in bereavement support groups. But remember that no one can ever totally understand your grief, your questions, and what your child means to you. Like all relationships, each person’s grief is unique and complex.During early grief, you may want to stay busy all the time, avoiding painful emotions and the exhausting work of grief, hoping time will heal you. There’s no set schedule and no recovery period for grief. But time alone does not heal- it’s what we do with the time that counts. Take the time you need to do your grief work. But also take time away from grieving to do things you enjoy, to rest and replenish yourself.
     
    When our child dies, our hoped-for future dies, too.
     
    Beginning in this first year, and continuing on from there, living with your loss means taking on new roles, new relationships, a new future- without forgetting your past. Sometimes, life takes surprising turns. 
     
    Before my daughter’s death, I never would have imagined I would become so involved in grief support. It wasn’t part of my “plan.” Confronted with loss, we can weave the strands of our past into a new, meaningful future we never would have planned to live. Doing so is a conscious choice.
     
    Getting through the first year of your grief is like winding a ball of string. You start with an end and wind and wind. Then the ball slips through your fingers and rolls across the floor. Some of the work is undone, but not all. You pick it up and start over again, but never do you have to begin at the end of the string. The ball never completely unwinds; you’ve made some progress.
     
    My daughter’s spirit and our continuing bond of love gives me strength each day. May your child be there to help you during this painful first year, and in all the years to come.
    Jon-Daniel and his brave Mommy - January 2013
    Jon-Daniel and his brave Mommy – January 2013