Feeds:
Posts

Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Veta Collins, beloved Mom

I was doing it wrong, and I knew it. It was one year ago today, my mom had just died, but I wasn’t crying.

“Something’s wrong with me,” I confided, oh so quietly, to those closest to me, a week later. They assured me there was no right way, no wrong way, to grieve. That it would come, when it was time, when I was ready.

Apparently, that time arrived at 9 PM last night. I was thinking about what state of mind I was in a year ago, waiting for The Call to tell me she had passed away.

The dam burst, and finally, the river of tears flowed. I wasn’t just missing her any more – I was mourning.

All day today, I’ve gone through it all again, remembering the sad details of the time between her stroke and her death, writing them out. If I don’t remember them, and acknowledge them, how can I let them go?

I was in a very precarious state, physically, by the time my mom died, two months after a hemorrhagic stroke. Those months were a nightmare, watching my strong, capable, and independent mom being broken into a mere shell of herself. I suspect the mourning got put on hold, subconsciously, so I could recover from the toll the physical, emotional, and mental stress had taken on my own fragile body. Those of us with ME, CFS, fibromyalgia, etc, have to carefully and frugally measure out our energy use, our spoons. (See Always Counting Spoons if you aren’t familiar with this concept).

But there was little I wouldn’t do for my mom. She had always been there for me, through my many mistakes in life, always ready to pick me up and help me out. We were best friends who spoke most every day, and had no secrets.

She was also a real rarity, because she believed in me despite my illness, and supported me both emotionally and financially.

You might think any mother would support a sick daughter, but that’s very sadly untrue when the illness is ME (myalgic encephalomylitis), CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, chronic Lyme. They are not understood even by many doctors other than a few specialists, and family, well, most family members don’t take the time to try to understand. I have a lot of friends ill with the same things, and very few have the support of their families, or only part of the family.

I was so very lucky, to have my mom until she was 89. She was still telling me about any article or show she saw where my illnesses were mentioned, still reading articles about it that I posted on Facebook, trying to understand better. She still listened to me moan and groan and complain when I needed to.

I had her, and I have my youngest daughter, who has a milder version of these damn diseases. She’s my caregiver, my best friend, my defender, intelligent and brave, and with a bit of her grandmother’s iron spine. You don’t want to piss her off anymore than you did my mom – her grandmother taught her well. I have my son-in-law here, too, who very bravely accepted the weight of being part of our family. It’s not an easy thing, being a caregiver to someone like me, mostly bedbound. But such is the power of Love.

I couldn’t get through this life without them, and I don’t know how my friends who have no family support do it.

I’ve been blessed, that’s for sure, and I’m so very thankful for my mom’s steadfast love and support. I will always love her, and I know she’s watching over me, loving me still.

Love never dies.

Shores of Avalon

Reflecting…
In some ways, I was relieved when my mom finally passed away. Seeing her the way she was, two months after a hemorrhagic stroke, ripped my heart out every day. She’d had the stroke in early September, and the months since had been filled with far too few ups, far too many downs, and devastating punches to the gut.

She was only affected physically a little, and that mostly passed. But her mind… That bore the brunt of the bleeding in her brain. That is what haunts me.

Dementia was just a word, without real meaning, until I watched, from a distance, as she slid further and further away. I wanted to go to her, in Houston, but I’m homebound with my own illnesses, and there was no way I could travel.

There were endless phone calls, trying to talk to her, and talking to her doctors, nurses, and my brother and sister-in-law, who were there. Hours spent researching, trying to understand the possibilities for recovery.

More hours went into hacking into her patient record at the hospital, pouring over the flood of lab and test results, learning a whole new area of medical terminology, translating that for family, and relaying it all to my eldest, who was deployed to the middle east.

I’d already spent 4 years being my mom’s patient advocate from a distance, intervening with doctors, calling, faxing, emailing, tracking her labs, researching her meds and demanding changes from doctors who were too busy to spend the time I was.

She was 89 years old. Every problem was written off as “just getting older.” How angry that still makes me. If they’d paid more attention, they’d worked harder to control her blood pressure, and sent her to the ER when her BP was incredibly high and she had a headache, the outcome could have been different.

After the stroke, my brother would bring the iPad to the hospital, so we could do video chats. They were difficult from the start, seeing my mom’s confusion, anxiety, distress, and fear. She didn’t understand that she’d had a stroke, where she was, or what was happening. Sometimes she knew me, sometimes she didn’t. The nurses said she was often combative, angry and afraid, cussing them out while they tried to help.

As the days turned to weeks, getting her to eat, drink, and take her meds, became nearly impossible. She went from hospital to nursing facility and back numerous times, with new issues cropping up, one after the other. She often would wander around, and had many falls.

The last video chat we had haunts me. My brother propped the iPad up on the table, so I felt like I was there, but I don’t think she even looked at me. Her face was gaunt, and her always beautiful skin was marred by large deep purple and green bruises, with more on her arms and legs, from her falls. Her eyes stared blankly, empty except for anger when my brother tried to get her to eat her meds-laced ice cream.

She wasn’t there. The spark of Love and Life that animated my mother, spilled from her over me for my whole life, was gone. I knew she would be appalled at her condition, and would never have wanted to go through all this. I cried that day, to see her so diminished, bruised and battered, who had always been so strong and imposing.

Making the decision to put her in the gentle hands of hospice care that day was easy. The doctors now said she had terminal dementia. Hospice would see that she was comfortable, allowed to slip away naturally.

The day after hospice took over, she went to sleep, and became unresponsive. My brother showed me her nice room on chat, with all her furniture, as she laid still, on the bed. No more IV’s, no more prodding her to eat, no more distress. Resting gently, she slipped deeper and deeper into a coma.

I thought she would pass away quickly after that, but she was stubborn to the end. Every night I went to sleep, so lightly, in case The Call came in. A kind-hearted hospice nurse told me it could “be a while,” and he had one patient who went 33 days in a coma, in what is basically a hibernation state. I had no idea someone could linger that long without water or an IV.

The waiting was hard, and very busy, helping to arrange a funeral in her tiny home town of Loop, TX, and keeping folks aware of developments.

My ill body was not taking all this well, and I was having some major physical issues. Too little sleep, too much laying in bed wondering how she was in the middle of the night, too little eating… I tried desperately to stabilize my own system.

My mom lasted 6 days. The Call I’d been expecting came moments after I woke up on my own, alarmed. We’d both always known when the other was going to call, and this final call was no exception.

Gazing over the mountains my mom had loved so much, I watched the dawn light creep into the day, as I had just enough time to say a final goodbye.

I felt her then, and I’ve felt her presence many times since then. And I always will.
She was truly my guardian angel in life, and nothing’s going to stop her from continuing to look out for me.

This, I know.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Pull up a chair, my tribe, and I’ll tell you a story, of the Before Times, which I rarely speak of – of my life before illness, which was an unusual one by anyone’s standards. It is a bitterly cold night here on the Mountain, 8 degrees and snowy, and gazing at that snow, so incredibly fine due to the very cold air, I see it sparkle in the deck lights, and am reminded of another snowy night, so long ago, almost half a lifetime now…

I remember…
…being a single mom living with my 7 year-old daughter in a very poorly-built log cabin, with no running water, in Ohio. I hadn’t planned to be there on my own… a marriage had recently ended badly, leaving me broken-hearted and financially-ruined. I found myself enrolled in college, learning to be a naturalist or forest ranger by day, and returning home in the evenings to a great deal of responsibility… “living rough” had seemed a fine idea when I was married to someone who people compared to the “Marlboro man,” but it was a daunting prospect for a woman alone…

After a long day of college classes that involved much hiking, near sunset on a bitterly cold Winter evening, I wearily climb the steep hill to the cabin, my daughter at my side. It is cold inside, too – the cabin is heated only by a woodstove, and, being incredibly drafty, requires a constant, roaring, fire, but the fire has been banked all day, down to a slow burn. I pile on wood and get it warming up, then move outside to chores as the daylight fades.

I break the ice in my rain barrels, and tend to my two horses, and feed far too many wolves. With what little energy I have left, I scrape together dinner for my daughter, and try to be there for her. I don’t do a very good job. My situation is overwhelming, is desperate, and I don’t know how I will get through it. I am deeply depressed, but trying not to show it.

But after she is tucked in bed, I pull my boots, coat and warmest gloves back on, and go back out into the biting cold to split wood. I have just used up all the already split wood to warm the house for the evening. Cutting and splitting the wood by myself is a never-ending chore, and I cannot get caught up.

The Moon is full and bright overhead, reflecting off the snow, and I can see my way clearly. I have no outside lights, so I glance up, thankful of the Moon’s brilliance. The snow crunches and squeeks under my boots, as it only does when it is so cold. I struggle to put a snow-covered log up on my chopping block. The splitting maul is lifted and brought down on the log with a well-practiced, if exhausted, stroke, and that moment is when the Magick happens, when everything changes…

The snow and ice on the top of the log suddenly explodes up around me in a powder-fine cloud, and every single flake, every single speck, sparkles in the moonlight with glittering rainbows, as it flies up around me and ever, ever, so slowly falls.

It is as if I have been showered with finely ground diamonds, or fairy dust, each speck shimmering with all the shades of the rainbow – deep blue, purple, scarlet red, fire orange – and the bright white of the Moon as they fall.

It is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and all because we were out of wood on a cold winter night.

I stand there in astonishment, as the cloud of glimmering diamond snowdust settles on and around me, and then gaze up at the bright Moon above me.

If I had needed a sign that even in one’s darkest hour there is Beauty, there is Hope, then I had surely been gifted with one, and I had, indeed, needed just such a sign.

It seems it is a fine and beautiful night for chopping wood after all, and I split enough for several days, laughing like a child as the rainbow-sparkling snowdust falls all around me and the glorious Moon shines down from above.

The memory of the unexpected and breathtaking Beauty of that night is a treasured one, and one I think of often. It holds and sustains me through the dark hours, and helps me find the Beauty, Inspiration, and Hope, to keep going… just as it did then.

The Moon is Magick and Mystery,
yes, and so are many other things.
If we but look,
there are signs and guideposts
all around us, pointing the way…
We have only to open our Hearts and truly See.

Read Full Post »

There is a lovely little book called “A Little Dog Like You,” by Rosemary Sutcliff, that sits always on a shelf above my bed. As one customer-reviewer writes:

If you’ve ever loved a dog, this book is for you. This slim volume is written and illustrated so that even a very young child could appreciate hearing it read, but any adult who considers himself or herself a dog lover will be enchanted with it. The book follows a dog through its life and, sadly, to its end, but the story doesn’t stop there. There is so much love between the author and her dog that the author is certain she hasn’t seen the last of her pup — and she’s right. You may need some Kleenex tissue for the final pages of the story, even though the book ends on a decidedly high note.

I believe we are all – animal and human animal as well – the combination of not only our environment, and experiences, and genes, in this life, but that even more, that an eternal soul lives in all of us, animates us, and gives us life, and contributes heavily to who we are.

It’s pretty easy for me to believe, to know, without a shadow of a doubt, in reincarnation, because I have always, my entire life, had past life memories. My earliest memories are not of this life – they are of a very horrible death in a previous life. That shaped my childhood in many ways, as I tried to sort out who I was, what had happened, and why no one else seemed to remember anything. (Had I been born in Tibet or India this would have gotten figured out much quicker, as no one doubts a child when they talk of past lives there. But I wasn’t, was I?)

Through my life – this life – I’ve been blessed with some wonderful experiences, often coming out of the blue, of connecting and re-connecting with soul-family, spirit-family. I think we are often reunited with those we have spent previous lives with.

When it comes to animals, that means that, given their short lifetimes, and humans’ long ones, we sometimes have the chance to re-connect in this life with those we’ve loved and lost.

Which, having been said, leads me to Kasha & Kyla, and our new pup, Kodi, and Shunka.

Longtime readers will know of the connection I had with my beloved black German Shepherd, Shunka, who passed away two years ago. I always knew he would come back into my life, or rather, his soul in another form – it would be him, but not him, because while the soul would be the same, he would have had experiences in this life that would lead him to be his own unique individual self.

Kasha is a very good example of that. When we found Kasha, in the Richmond ASPCA, I wasn’t looking for a dog – my eldest daughter, Terra, was. But there she was. I felt what I described as “the soul tug” when I told the story of finding Kodi.

Kasha seemed to know me, desperately wanted to see me and be with me, just as Kodi did, and I felt, looking at her, that she was the reincarnation of one of my wolf-dogs, Kyla. In the first days of having her, she exhibited some of Kyla’s unique canine characteristics, like sleeping in a particular position with her head hanging off of the bed – one of Kyla’s preferred sleeping positions.

There was also the matter of her “telling” me her name was Kasha – we had adopted her, and since she had been picked up as a stray, were trying to figure out her original name – trying out a slew of female dog names on her to see if she would come. But she didn’t. Until I sat down with her and stopped thinking about it, and she looked at me, and I heard the name “Kasha” in my head. I tried it. She came. And has come reliably to that name ever since!

But Kasha is, and isn’t, Kyla. As the days passed, she stopped sleeping with her head hanging off the bed. Some of the other traits unique to Kyla also faded away, as I accepted that she was, and wasn’t, Kyla.

Enter Kodi. Who seems to be, and not be, Shunka.

I really didn’t think he’d come back to me that fast. I thought he’d find someone else who needed his help. I knew, in a way I cannot really explain, when he was born into another body – Shunka’s spirit still came when I called, but it was slower, more distracted, and I could “see” that he was linked into a body.

When I felt the soul-tug with Kodi, I tried hard to not compare him with Shunka. Not to look for Shunka in him. To just accept that he was Kodi.

But then yesterday happened, and what an interesting day it was.

First, Kodi became convinced there was something under a pile of plastic tubs and a stuffed duffel bag in a corner of my room. He was going to excavate it himself, so I helped avoid general destruction, and then when I’d moved enough things, he stuck his head into the mess and pulled out a plastic squeaky ball that had been Shunka’s, a present to him on his last Yule (and which had likely been in the same place ever since he passed). Kodi carried it around the house and played soccer with it and generally enjoyed it for hours… this dog who didn’t even know what a toy was when we brought him home just over a week ago.

Then a couple hours later, Rhiannon came into my room, literally speechless. Kodi had been playing with his ball, but when it landed by a large rough quartz stone in her room, he chose to pick up and chew on the rock instead. Shunka was renowned for his love of rocks, and we still find rocks he dug up outside and brought in scattered in dusty corners.

Rhiannon and I had a talk, then, on the “forbidden subject:” about things Kodi had done that were so uniquely Shunka-like. The way a dog who didn’t seem to have had much time with humans reliably knows the command to sit the particular way we do it – with a hand signal instead of saying it. Wrapping himself around my head on my pillow. Seeming to know where everything was in the house. Seeming to know Kasha, and Kasha seeming to know him (she who really couldn’t stand my grand-dogs when they came to visit). Even the way he treated me as a canine, wrestling me, and the time he bashed his head into my lip, causing my teeth to cut the inside of my lip. Shunka did that many times.

There was only one way to really tell. And I hesitated to do it. I didn’t want to be disappointed. I didn’t want to expect too much.

But as Rhiannon and I sat talking about the two boys, who look so different, Kodi started barking & pawing at the door, because he likes to lay in the doorway (any doorway). I called him. I shooshed him, Cesar Milan style. Told him “no,” a word he doesn’t seem to respect a lot. Told him “stop it,” words he does seem to respect. And still he stubbornly continued.

So I did it. I said it. “Shunka.” One time. Not loud.

His response was instantaneous. He stopped his pawing, whipped around, a slightly quizzical expression on his face. He came, looked into my soul with his big brown eyes, and sat, looking up at me.

Tears ran silently down Rhiannon’s face, and swam in my eyes.

He is.
And he isn’t.

I feel very blessed. Twice blessed.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: