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To God


“To God, I hope you look after Auntie Vicky. She is very sick. Love Chloe Alexa Burger” My precious 5 year old UK granddaughter wrote this…her mommy found it in her school satchel last week.

To God

Dear God, hear the words of a five-year old.

We whisper your name…


Some days I sense Vic’s closeness. I sometimes smell her. But I cannot touch her. I cannot hear her voice.

The boys and I light candles for you my precious baby…

We whisper your name

The boys write your name in the sand…

You send us feathers from Heaven….

How we miss your brave smile…

How I miss reaching out and being able to touch you

Holding you my precious child…

Yesterday, today, forever……

I love you Angel Child!

Precious Gift – adapted



When times seemed too hard to bear and I felt like giving up
I saw your beautiful face, the twinkle of your eyes and things of such
The bond we created from my womb to the day you were born
Is a mother and daughter bond that can never be torn
With the strength and guidance of God and the blessings He pours down from above
I wanted to be the best mom I could be to you and embraced you with all my love
You were as precious as a flower and as gorgeous as a rose
You were specially made to the very tip of your nose
You were as sweet as honey; such an innocent young child
You were brighter than any star in the sky every time you smiled
I wanted you to be proud of who you were and strive to be the best
I taught you to put effort into achieving your goals and let God do the rest
I was always your mother, but also your friend
You are the most precious gift, that I’ve ever been given

With All My Love,

Mommy

Precious Gift © Sherri Lawrence

Source: Precious Gift, Mother Daughter Poem http://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/precious-gift-2#ixzz2bezERmvm
Family Friend Poems 

 

Where is Auntie Vicky’s skin?


Those of you that follow my blog will know that my UK grandkids are visiting. They are the cutest, brightest and busiest little girls in the world. They are a source of immense pleasure and joy in my life.

They left South Africa exactly two years ago. I cried for a week. In the two years I have seen them 5 times. In terms of international travel it is a lot but in terms of a grandmother’s heart it is not nearly enough. When they lived in South Africa we saw them at least once a week.

Osama (the eldest terrorist) is 5.5 years old. She is bright as a button and full of tricks. She told me, in confidence, that when she turns 6 she is going to marry her “boyfriend” Freddy… I tried to use the impending marriage as a bargaining tool to encourage her to help tidy up her room.

Me: “Sweetie if you want to marry Freddy you will have to learn to tidy your room. What do you think his Mommy will say if she sees your toys lying around? He won’t marry an untidy girl…”

Osama: “That’s okay Oumie. Then I will marry someone else…”

This little girl has a mind of her own. She is heartbreakingly beautiful. Her eyes sparkle with the joy of life and intelligence. She is also kind and caring (a little manipulative as well). She has me twisted around her little finger! She also has an amazing memory!

She was 3, 5 years old when they left South Africa.

She was so excited to visit South Africa and kept sayings things like “I remember your big (dining room) table; where will I sleep? In my old room?” She always throws in the odd “Do you remember….?” She remembers their South African home and her school. She remembers the sunshine. She remembers Vic.

“Oumie….why did Auntie Vicky die?” is her daily question.

Her mommy and daddy have told her that Auntie Vicky’s soul is in Heaven with “Baby” Jesus… She is happy that Auntie Vicky is no longer sick. The big question is however “Where is Auntie Vicky’s skin?”

This is a difficult question to answer honestly. If I told the little poppet that her precious Auntie Vic is lying on the antique sideboard table, in a little box with a brass plate on the lid, she would be distressed… So I sort of implied that she was buried…

“Is Auntie Vicky’s skin in a box (coffin)?” she asks

“Yes” I would say. “But remember, Auntie Vic does not need her skin anymore. She has a new skin and beautiful angel wings in Heaven.”

“Is Auntie Vicky a Zombie?” – She shivers and says “Oooohhhhhh, I am so scared of Zombies!”

“No sweetie, she is an angel.” I said

I am sharing an excellent guide to help

the young, understand something that most adults battle with! http://www.hospicenet.org/html/understand.html

Children’s understanding of Death is provided by Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut Bereavement Program. This chart is meant to be used as a guideline and not a checklist. All children develop at different rates and it is important to remember that the parents know their own child the best.

Newborn to Three Years
Child’s Perception: Infant/Toddler can sense when there is excitement, sadness, anxiety in the home; can sense when a significant person is missing, presence of new people

  1. No understanding of death
  2. Absorbs emotions of others around her/him
  3. May show signs of irritability
  4. May exhibit changes in eating, nursing patterns, crying, and in bowel and bladder movements
  5. Depends on nonverbal communications; physical care, affection, reassurances

Providing Support:

  1. Keep normal routines and structure whenever possible
  2. Be verbally and physically affectionate and reassuring
  3. Provide warm, loving caretaker when parent is not available
  4. Exhibiting healthy coping behaviors

Three to Six Years
Child’s Perception: Child thinks death is reversible; temporary, like going to sleep or when a parent goes to work; believes that people who die will come back

  1. “Magical thinking”; believes their thoughts, actions, word caused the death; or can bring deceased back; death is punishment for bad behavior
  2. Still greatly impacted by parent’s emotional state
  3. Has difficulty handling abstract concepts such as heaven
  4. Regressive behaviors; bed wetting, security blanket, thumb sucking, etc.
  5. Difficulty verbalizing therefore acts out feelings
  6. Increased aggression – more irritable, aggressive play
  7. Will ask the same questions repeatedly in efforts to begin making sense of loss
  8. Only capable of showing sadness for short periods of time
  9. Escapes into play
  10. Somatic symptoms
  11. Hungers for affection and physical contact, even from strangers
  12. Connects events that don’t belong connected
  13. May exhibit little anxiety due to belief that deceased is coming back

Providing Support:

  1. Keep normal routines and structure whenever possible
  2. Provide opportunities to play, draw
  3. Read books on death & loss with child
  4. Help to verbalize feelings and fears
  5. Help to identify feelings and reactions
  6. Be honest and tell a child if you do not have an answer
  7. Explain in specific, concrete language – not euphemisms; explain what has happened giving specific explanations about physical reality of death
  8. Gently confront magical thinking
  9. Make sure child does not feel responsible for the death
  10. Be tolerant of regressive behaviors
  11. Modelling healthy coping behaviors
  12. Avoid clichés; “At least you have another brother”, “You can always get a new pet”
  13. Use specific, concrete words – not euphemisms; Avoid “Mommy has gone to sleep”, “God has taken Grandpa”

Six to Nine Years
Child’s Perception: Child begins to understand the finality of death; some do and some may not.

  1. Sees death as a taker or spirit that comes and gets you
  2. Fear that death is contagious and other loved ones will “catch it” and die too
  3. Fascinated with issues of mutilation; very curious about what body looks like
  4. Connects death with violence and may ask, “Who killed him?”
  5. 3 categories of people. who die: Elderly, handicapped, klutzes
  6. Asks concrete questions
  7. Guilt – blames self for death
  8. May worry how the deceased can eat, breathe, etc.
  9. Continues to have difficulty expressing feelings verbally
  10. Increased aggression
  11. Defends against feeling helpless
  12. Somatic symptoms
  13. School phobia (especially if single parent)
  14. Continues to have difficulty comprehending abstractions such as heaven, spirituality

Providing Support:

  1. Talk with child
  2. Ask questions
  3. Make sure child’ does not feel responsible in any way
  4. Identify specific fears
  5. Provide opportunity for play, drawing, art
  6. Normalize feelings & fears
  7. Address distortions & perceptions
  8. Be honest and tell a child if you do not have an answer
  9. Help to cope with impulse control
  10. Help them share bad dreams
  11. Help them with positive memories of the deceased
  12. Model healthy coping behaviors
  13. Avoid clichés; “Don’t worry, things will be O.K.”, “You’re such a strong boy/girl”
  14. Use specific, concrete words – not euphemisms; Avoid “Grandma went to sleep and is now in heaven”, “Grandma was very sick and the sickness made her die”

Nine to Thirteen Years
Child’s Perception: Child’s understanding is nearer to adult understanding of death; more aware of finality of death and impact the death has on them

  1. Concerned with how their world will change; with the loss of the relationship, “Who will go with me to the father-daughter banquet?”
  2. Questions have stopped
  3. Fragile independence
  4. Reluctant to open up
  5. Delayed reactions – at first seems as if nothing has happened, then grief reaction May show strong degree of affect
  6. Beginning to develop an interest in rituals (spiritual effects of life)
  7. Disrupted relationships with peers
  8. Increased anger, guilt
  9. Somatic symptoms
  10. School phobia
  11. Self-conscious about their fears (of own death, remaining parents)

Providing Support:

  1. Encourage discussion of their concerns
  2. Provide & encourage expressive experiences such as writing or drawing
  3. Address impulse toward acting out and allow opportunity to identify their feelings
  4. Allow for regressive behaviors
  5. Be honest and tell a child when you do not have an answer
  6. Gently relieve child from attempts to take over adult responsibilities
  7. Model healthy coping behaviors
  8. Avoid clichés; Avoid “You must be strong so I don’t have to worry about you”, “Big boys don’t cry”

Thirteen to Eighteen Years
Adolescent’s Perception: Adolescent has adult understanding about death

  1. Death is viewed as an interruption. Death is an enemy
  2. Bodily changes emphasize growth and life. Death is a contrast
  3. Increased vulnerability due to many other changes and losses simultaneously occurring
  4. A sense of future becomes part of their psychology
  5. Increased risk taking in effort to reduce anxiety or to defy fate
  6. May intellectualize or romanticize death
  7. May act indifferent to death of someone close as a protection against feelings
  8. May show full range of affect or almost no affect
  9. Wants to grieve with her/his peers not adults
  10. May need permission to grieve
  11. Suicidal thoughts
  12. Represses sadness, feels anger, depression
  13. Escapes; drives fast, uses drugs or alcohol sexually acts out
  14. Denial – tries not to think about it, doesn’t want to talk about it
  15. Difficulty with long term plans
  16. Somatic symptoms
  17. Questions religious/spiritual beliefs

Providing Support:

  1. Don’t assume they can handle themselves and their problems without help, support
  2. Be available, but don’t push
  3. Help them find peers who will support their feelings
  4. Or find other trusted adults
  5. Give permission for regression
  6. Be honest and say when you do not have an answer
  7. Assist in relieving adolescent of burden of adult responsibilities
  8. Help impulse control toward reckless behavior
  9. De-romanticize death
  10. Discuss feelings of helplessness
  11. Model healthy coping behaviors
  12. Avoid clichés; “You’ve got to be strong to help your mother”; “You seem to be taking this so well”, “Now you’re the man of the house.”

200 days


Today we lit candles in remembrance of Vic dying 200 days ago. My mind keeps crying “No! It is not true!” The void in my heart and life shrieks “Yes, it is!”

I met with a new Hospice patient today. She is in her early 60’s, petite, bright, friendly, positive and so unbelievably brave! She is also in denial and dying.

“I believe I will wake up one morning and I will be healed!” she said

Her skin has discoloured from the chemo, her eyes are turmeric yellow and her belly is very extended. Her feet and legs are dreadfully swollen. I believe that she is close to death. Yet this incredible woman is determined to go to the office from the 12th of August until the 27th of August as her replacement is on leave then…. I doubt that she will live that long!

I sat there and it was déjà vu… It was as if I was listening to Vic planning next week, next month and next year…. I heard her husband encouraging her to write letters, finalising her will. I shared with them how Vic had labeled every piece of her jewellery, given strict instructions on what had to happen to her possessions, planned her own funeral…

“Am I correct when I say that I hear you saying your child died?” the patient asked.

“Yes” I said. “200 days ago today”

“I cannot believe that you can talk about your child’s death! You are smiling and look so normal” she said. “When our son died we could not talk about it. We cried all the time…”

“Death is not the enemy. I prayed for my child to die…” I said.

“It is okay to cry” they said

“I cry every day” I said

A Mother’s Love for her Sons


A year ago I posted this.  As I said in my previous post – Chaka’s 2012 is a separate story.  I am reposting the separate story…

I have been researching the effect of a mother’s illness on her children.  The boys are two beautiful, well-adjusted, honest and compassionate young men.  Vic’s illness has certainly deprived them of a childhood in the true sense of the word and prematurely matured them into compassionate, caring, young men far too early in life.  At the tender age of thirteen Jared was cooking for the family…  This must certainly have an effect on how the boys perceive relationships with people.

Now according to my research the boys have become what is called ‘parentified’ children. These children solve the problem of sick and inadequate parenting by taking care of their

parents. They in effect become     parents to their parents, giving to the sick parent what they need from the parent. Now the roles are reversed. This seemingly creative solution is unfortunately too self-sacrificing to be healthy in the long run.

“‘Parentified’ sons who take care of their sick mothers in order to cope with their inability to parent, struggle to suppress obvious needs for love and feelings of loss. They learn to work hard taking care of the needs of others and living off of the scraps that come in the form of reinforcements for their competence and reliability. Their needs for love are overlooked and overshadowed by everyone else’s needs.”  The boys, especially Jared, falls into this category 100%.  When his little girlfriend was hit in the eye by a hockey ball, he immediately went into caregiving mode,  At the time I thought it to be extremely unhealthy that he already has this caregiving character trait.  He used to always make the tea and offer to do so much around the house and for his Mom.

I have put a stop to this.  I pray it is not too late for the boys to adjust to a “normal” household…

It is however important for them to realize that death is a part of the circle of life and that it is not something dark and something to be feared but rather, if happening in a timely fashion, something that one can embrace. The boys appreciate and respect Vic as their mother.   Vic has raised her sons to be respectful.

“The power of a mother’s strength comes from her heart, from her unabashed, unconditional, and unwavering love for her child. There is, as J.K. Rowling wrote in her Harry Potter books, a magic in that love. No matter what happens, a mother is always there for her child. A mother’s love is never to be questioned, and – though she may not know it at first – neither is her strength.”

Vic literally rose from her deathbed to be there for Jared with his operation on Wednesday.  When my Mom died I related her final moments to someone jumping from a diving board into a deep pool, reaching the bottom and kicking to rise to the surface of the water for one more breath… only to sink again.  This is what Vic does.

Before Jared was wheeled into theatre he whispered into his mom’s ear.  She took his hand and said “I promise”.

Vic, drip in hand, walking with Jared to theater!

The surgeon said the operation would last two hours.  Vic dutifully went back to bed and rested.  One hour and forty-five minutes later she was, IV drip in hand, standing outside the theatre door, waiting for her son.  I begged her to at least sit on the chair, but she refused.  “Mommy, I promised Jared my face would be the first thing he sees when he comes out of theatre!”

It took a superhuman effort, but Vic’s love for her son drove her to keep her word.  It is true that no mother wants her child to suffer in any way, but life is unfair like that. So, we as mother’s do what we can to provide support, comfort, and protection. And we grow strong enough to bear their hurt as well as our own.  As Vic did.  As I do. Motherhood cuts deeply, brings you to your knees most days; but it also brings a strength that may surprise you.

The vicious cycle of anger truly rose to the occasions on Wednesday.  I got angry with Vic because she was not putting her health first!  I KNOW I would have done the same but it was terrible seeing my child do herself harm to be a Mother.  I want to wrap her in cotton so she would be spared that extra day…

Yesterday Vic said she doubted whether she would see the end of the year.  She is however adamant to be at Jared’s confirmation…one more goal…

Go Girl!!!

Well, Vic is home.  I am so grateful.  She is conceding that she is too sore and ill to go to hospital…Saturday Jared comes home!!

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I am a Shidu… I am a Shidu…


When a parent dies, you lose your past; when a child dies, you lose your future.

 

There are more than 100 million single (only) children in China, Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported in February. That translates into more than 200 million parents of single children.

Until 2012, there were “at least” one million families in China that had lost their only child, Xinhua wrote in a separate report carried by the Jinghua Times. About 76,000 families are added to the sad roster each year, it said.

There is a special term for the parents that has lost their only child….”shidu” family.

In the rest of the world the average woman gives birth to 2.75 children.

I gave birth to one.  My only birth child has died. I am a “shidu”

Today I am (again) desperately missing my child.  I feel as if I have lost my future.  I only have my past.  But I know that is not true.  I have Vic’s two amazing son’s to care for; 4 precious stepchildren; 9 step grandchildren that I love like my own…

Many years ago when Danie proposed I asked God for a clear sign.  I prayed so hard so direction… I explained to God that I was so scared of making a mistake that would affect so many people’s lives.  I asked for a clear scripture!

I opened my Bible and the scripture that jumped up at me was Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

I immediately went back on my knees and prayed again.  “God, thank you for the scripture you gave me but what about all the children?”

I opened my Bible and it fell open on page 793 of the Old Testament.  Isaiah 54:1-17 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. “Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. “

My answer was a prophesy…  Not only is my life filled with these precious people but I now also have Izak, Reuben, Nonthanthle and Shekinah to love.  I am blessed.

Does this however fill the void that Vic’s death has left?

I feel ungrateful for being in this well of despair whilst I am not alone.  I am motherless not childless.  The fact remains that I desperately miss my child.  My life is empty.  I have lost my future.

I am a Shidu

https://tersiaburger.com/2012/10/05/danie-the-wind-beneath-my-wings/