Vic often said “I must be such a disappointment to you. I have done nothing with my life!”
This morning I read these beautiful words and so wished I could have shared it with Vic.
“This is to have succeeded” posted on June 4, 2013 by Dr Bill http://drbillwooten.com/2013/06/04/this-is-to-have-succeeded
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.” ~ Bessie Anderson Stanley
To laugh often and love much – That Vic did. She always had a smile on her precious face. Even when she was in dreadful pain she would try to smile. When she was in a lot of pain her laugh was shrill. Pain seldom stopped her from laughing… In 2007 I said to Vic that my life was sad.
“That is terrible Mommy. Why?”
I felt like hitting my head against a wall! What did the child think? In 2007 Vic must have had 18 operations; developed every hospital superbug in the book; developed septicaemia, had a high output fistula; developed Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome; spend months in ICU and survived having the ventilator turned off… Vic was op TPN (Total Parental Nutrition) for months…she had a massive open wound that we could not keep covered with a colostomy bag. It was too big and positioned very low down.
“I worry about you every second of the day baby. I worry whether you have vomited and how much you vomited; I worry whether you have been able to eat anything… I worry about your wound. I worry about your pain control….”
“Mommy, that is so sad. At least once a week the boys and I laugh so much that my tummy hurts from it…”
Vic in 2007
Vic loved unconditionally and with every fibre of her body. She gave everything! She was a wonderful daughter, mother, friend…She loved her family, her siblings, her friends and her boys. She LIVED love.
Her last words ever were “I love you Mommy”
… to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; Worldwide, intelligent people, respected and admired Vic for her courage, tenacity… We called Vic the “baby whisperer”. Children loved her. She loved children. Her only ambition as a toddler and teenager was to be a Mommy. She loved her sons beyond comprehension…
The Baby Whisperer
…… to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; Vic suffered a lot of betrayal in her little life. People got tired of waiting for her to die. “Friends” spoke about her “addiction” to pain medication behind her back… They used her illness as a weapon against her when she was at her most vulnerable. False friends (and loved ones) spoke their “minds” and condemned and judged Vic for choices she made… Because she was ill people thought they could say what they wanted, when they wanted.
….. to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; My precious child was so naïve. She refused to see the bad in people! The only time she got irritated and miserable was in hospital. She always found the good in people. She did not speak badly of people. When I was angry with someone she would placate me…point out their good points… She knew that if she voiced her own anger it would have driven me over the edge. Vic taught me unconditional love, forgiveness and tolerance. Vic brought out the best in me and the most other people.
…..to give of one’s self; Vic was a people pleaser. She would turn down MY bed!!!! She made sacrifices for each and every person in her life. Even in death she worried about other dying people who were less privileged than she was. I promised her at 2 am on the 16th of November 2012, a mere 2 months and 2 days before she died, that I would start Stepping Stone Hospice! She kept talking to me about Stepping Stone until she lapsed into a coma. We started on the 1st of January 2013 and Vic died on the 18th of January. Our first patient. Our first death.
…..to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; Vic left the world a better place. Her sons are monuments of the person she was; her dream of a Hospice has been realized.
……to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; With the 2010 Soccer World Cup Vic went crazy with enthusiasm; she bought every gimmick that hit the shops; she went of the “soccer train” in her wheelchair, she watched every single soccer game.
Vic loving World Cup 2010
……to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived Vic’s legacy will live on through her sons and Stepping Stone Hospice. Long after I have died, people will continue to benefit from Vic’s dreams and goodness.
—this is to have succeeded.” My angel child – you succeeded! You succeeded in life and with living. You made the world a beautiful place filled with goodness and hope. I am so proud of you. You lived life to the full. You made a difference! You lived a greater and more successful life than most people. You have put the world to shame. You are my hero!
It is a mere 850 days since Vic died. 2 years and 4 months seems so short… 850 days seems far more representative of the longing. It seems “longer”….
I woke up this morning with tears pouring down my cheeks. I so longed to hold my child. I know that the boys remembered too. Jon-Daniel posted on his Facebook “Appreciate your Mom, tell her you love her, make her smile – because the only time she ever smiled while you were crying was when you were born!” The first to “like” his post was his brother.
I imagined that the longing would get better. It doesn’t!
At first it felt as if I was overseas – away from the trauma of Vic being ill. I always felt guilty at the “reprieves” I had when I was travelling for work. Now I would give anything and everything for just an extra minute with my child.
It was hard standing next to Vic’s bed hearing her cries of pain. It was even harder seeing the despair in the eyes of her precious boys when they stood next to their mom’s bed helpless to ease her pain and fears.
So often over the years I wanted to run away. In the end, when Vic cried from fear of dying, I felt the need to put an end to her suffering well up in me. I put my hands over my ears and screamed in my head.
How do you answer your child when she cries “I am so scared”?
We have a patient at Hospice who vocalises her fear the way Vic did. Today I just held her. How do you still the fear of the unknown in a dying person? And NO!!!! It has nothing to do with religion. Everybody is scared.
From that dreaded moment when a patient is told they are terminally ill an avalanche of shock and fear hits them. It is called actually “named” – terminal fear. Vic (and Elizabeth*) fear dying, pain, saying goodbye, loss of control and mostly all-encompassing the fear of the unknown.
Vic’s overwhelming fear was that people would forget her – that she would be replaced…. Vic questioned her life’s worth. She did not work and in her mind that meant it that she had not achieved anything. That she would leave no legacy. No matter how many times we reassured her that she inspired hundreds of people worldwide, the fear never left. I hope that she now knows how powerful her legacy is! That hundreds of patients have benefitted from her death wish and, most importantly, that her sons are her true legacy.
I have witnessed that grieving starts the moment of handing down the sentence. It is a long and hard journey for the dying person, their loved ones and friends.
And, today that Elizabeth’s* fear rests heavy on my heart, I know that we will provide her a safe haven where she can relax into death. We will hold her hand and guide her family through this dreadful trauma of saying goodbye to a wife, mother, grandmother and friend.
I pray for wisdom and strength to handle the déjà vu of Elizabeth’s* final journey.
Yesterday the sun set on our tears and longing. This morning I lay awake watching the sun send it first rays through the silhouette of the oak tree in our garden.
“Rays of hope” I thought.
I lay there, my eyes still heavy with tears and sleep thinking how grateful I am that my child’s suffering is over…
Yesterday was a day filled with selfish sadness. All I could think of was how much I miss Vic; how empty my life is; how much pain we are in… For one day I “forgot” her terrible suffering. Her tears of pain and frustration. This morning I thought back to Vic vomiting pure, bright red blood, crying “Mommy I broke another vertebrae”.
So, today I will allow peace back into my heart. I will do my best to be a good back-up mommy to the boys. I will try to live with my pain. And when sadness threatens to overwhelm me I will force my mind back to Vic’s words “I can’t do this anymore”. I will remember the indignity that she lived; her tears…
I will remember my baby girl’s laugh; her beautiful eyes; the rich texture of her hair. I will honour her pure heart, compassion and goodness.
I will celebrate the fact that Vic is now free of pain, indignity and loneliness. I will visualize Vic running free in Heaven.
Rest in Peace my Angel Child. You are ALWAYS in my heart.
“The woman who creates and sustains a home and under whose hands children grow up to be strong pure men and women, is a creator second only to God” Helen Marta Fiske Hunt Jackson
Vic raised two magnificent young men. They have beautiful manners, they are respectful to their elders and especially women. They are gentle, compassionate and like their mom they speak badly of no one. They have a wonderful set of values and morals.
Vic had so little time to raise her boys. She spent most of their lives in a hospital bed or in bed at home. The boys grew up doing their homework in her room, helping her cook… Jared was four years old when he made his (and his brothers) bed. “Because Mommy’s back is sore”…
The boys are old souls. They have witnessed so much pain and suffering… They have lived with, and cared for, a dying mother.
There was almost a Godliness to the way Vic raised her boys. Vic taught the boys to love their Lord. It shows in their pure hearts. Her legacy lives on through and in her boys.
I am so proud of you my Angle Child. You did good!
“No one loses a child the way a mother loses one. We are the ones who first felt life, carried it and protected them, nourished them, sacrificed our bodies for them, held them first in our hearts, then first into our arms. We were not only connected through flesh, but on levels so deep, you really have nothing to compare it too metaphysically.
It is a love so raw, and so elemental that is just present – just there from the beginning. We have a link to our children that cannot be replicated. No one understands a grieving mother except for another grieving mother. No one else can begin to understand that void that surrounds us, shadows us, haunts us. Our children’s screams that we can no longer answer, their bodies we can no longer grab and embrace, their tears we can no longer dry, and their hurts that we can no longer make better. They then become our own unanswered screams, our bodies that become un-embraceable, our tears that can never be dried and our hurts that never stop. There are constant reminders of what we live without, and must live without until we die – sometimes it feels like it’s life’s cruel way of taunting us. The grieving mother is never whole again, never fully present, because a piece of her heart and soul leave her with her child’s last breath.”
May God have mercy on us…
I don’t know whether I ever posted this. I know that I was desperate to remember everything. Today I know I did not write enough, I did not take enough photos, I did not spend enough time talking to my child.
So I don’t forget…
Lucinda commented today “Again, I can’t add anything on to what others have said; I don’t know how you have the courage to make these posts.”
I sometimes wonder why do I blog? My whole being screams “so I won’t forget”. I want to remember every day, every spoken word, every unspoken word, every feverish touch. My friends have lifetimes ahead with their children…I don’t. They have many more Christmases and birthdays to look forward to. The chances are that their children will bury them… As a family we lived one day at a time. We were grateful for every morning when we wake up!
We have friends who lost their 17 year old son almost 17 years ago. I have not seen her in a couple of years. When I last saw her she said that it does not become easier with time. One just learns to cope with the pain and the loss. My friend had to walk away from her son. He was declared brain dead after a drunk driver drove into the car transporting him to a rugby match….
She said “I touched his big feet. I lay my head on his chest and I could hear his heart beat …. I walked away and his body was warm…” Steven’s heart beats on in another person’s chest. They, generously in all their pain, donated his organs and saved the life of another mother’s child..
Joan never had the opportunity to say “goodbye forever” to Steven. She said “Goodbye, have a good game. Love you!” Joan treasures the last hug, kiss, laugh… She holds onto it.
I want to hold onto every memory I possibly can. As hard as it is, I write so I will remember everything.
A lot of what I write I don’t post. It is too raw.
I hold onto Vic’s last words to me…”I love you Mommy”. I hold onto the memory of her beautiful smile, her brave battle, her devotion to her sons and family. I hold onto the purity of her heart and the kindness in her heart. I hold onto her gentle memories.
Never has the pain been as raw and the loss as real as now. For a couple of weeks I arrogantly thought that a scab was forming over the pain. Then it was cruelly plucked off.
In a weird way I am glad the scab was plucked off. I am glad that I am feeling that intense pain again. I am relieved that the tears are running over my cheeks blurring the words as I type.
I want to remember. I don’t ever want to forget. I want to remember my beautiful, precious angel child.