Tagged: grief

The Last Picture

On May 28th, 2014 at around 8:30am, my mom took her last breath. I put my hand on her chest and left it there until I could no longer feel her faint heartbeat. She went out of this world with all but one of those she brought into the world by her side. A week prior was the first diagnosis she’d received; colon cancer, stage four. It wasn’t my mother who received the news first, it was me. Six days later, she was gone. She didn’t drink, smoke, and ate rather healthily, but cancer couldn’t care less.

During the last week of my mother’s life on earth, there was sadness, forgiveness, togetherness, and lots of remembering. I listened as each family member reflected on their own unique relationship with the matriarch of our family.

Last fall was when my mother began to experience pain in her side and lower back. For ten years, she left her diabetes diagnosis go untreated, and when she finally went to the doctor for her pain, she argued with them about further testing. If you knew her, this certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to hear, as she was a stubborn woman. Knowing what we know now, it’s very possible that my mother would still be alive today had she gone in for extensive testing and treatment. However, that’s not what my mom wanted. Her lack of action to seek the medical attention her body was requesting may in fact be the only selfish act my mother carried out; maybe.

A month before she died, she had a liver scan that indicated she had dozens of lesions, which immediately concerned her doctor that not only did she have cancer, but that it hadn’t originated in the liver. When she called to tell me, I asked her how she felt, and she said without hesitation, “excited.” When I asked why she was excited, I already knew the answer; “because I’m ready to see Jesus.”

Over the course of the next four weeks or so, I spent as much time with her as possible, and watched as she hurried to do things for family and strangers alike that demonstrated her selflessness and concern for others. She struggled to do right by her children with what she was leaving behind, as she wrestled to manage the pain in her ailing body. She said many times that she knew she was going to die, but I’m not sure if she believed it, or wanted it so. I know I didn’t.

Not only was I her youngest child, I was her only biological son. As a boy, she instilled in me the values I still hold true today. Be honest, fair, just; forgive those who wrong you, turn your other cheek, help those who can’t help themselves, etc. When I became a man, and began to evolve spiritually and mature mentally and emotionally, our relationship changed, but never did the mutual love and respect we had for each other. My father’s death, my divorce, and the death of my faith were the three things that greatly challenged our relationship, however, we made it through all of it by communicating how these life events shaped what we needed from one another. In all my years as my Mother’s son, I’m grateful that I never allowed our differences to compromise the relationship that begun when I was just a boy.

Here is what I wrote and recited for my Mom’s Eulogy:

If I only had One word to describe my mom it would be…Selfless

Never did she live a day without serving others. Even in her passing,
she served those closest to her and remained concerned with those who
depended on her stability most.

She lived a life of purpose. A lighthouse to her family, friends,
church and community.

Her faith was immovable. Even for those who didn’t believe as she, her
genuinity and conviction was irrefutable and undeniable. She was in
love with the one who loved her most, and who have her purpose.

She served family and strangers without prejudice. She was a giver.

She was strong. Not only could she outwork most men in the room, she’d
do so without one complaint.

She was rich. She would always remind us that her father owned the
cattle of ten thousand hills.

She was wise. Life experience, street smarts, and some attitude made
her a person of interest. Never have I met a person that knew her that
didn’t love her, respect her, and was touched by her testimony or act
of kindness.

To the family:

She is gone but not forgotten, for she lives on in us. I can see her
in each of you, in me, and those who will only know her through the
stories we tell of how they remind us of her. My challenge is that we
become half the woman she was. For us, for our children, and for her.

No words will take away the pain, or the loss, and time has met its
match. So we grieve. Our hope is that what she believed so deeply is
true.

Since her death, my heart is filled with sadness. That she will never meet my soon to be born son August. Never will she sleep in the room we built just for her. Our Tuesday afternoon calls have ceased, and there is now a hole in my heart that I will attempt to fill by sharing stories about her with those who will listen. Whether I see her again is something I am unsure about, but then again, all I have to do is close my eyes, look in the mirror, or in the faces and actions of my children to see her legacy live on. In honor of my Mother, we’re naming our son August.

Son of an Addict

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My Dad died September 21, 2005.  He was 66 years old; I was 27.  His passing devestated my Mom, and ultimately led to our family becoming even more estranged.  I never knew my Dad was the glue that held our family together; I never knew he was my hero.  Today would have been his 75th birthday.  I think of him often, possibly even daily.  I miss him.  I miss having a Father, especially now that I am a Father.  So I reflect.

Growing up, my Dad wasn’t a big part of my life.  We seldom played catch, or spent quality time together.  He took me hunting a few times, and occasionally we’d go fishing.  We didn’t watch sports together, and although he did attend many of my games, he never took a genuine interest in me, or the things I was interested in.  You see, my Dad was an addict, and his addiction robbed him, and his family of many things, however, somehow, he managed to function in society, build a business, provide for a family, and most of all, he loved us.  I vividly remember watching him so desperately try to get back all he’d lost in his dying hours.  I swore I’d never let anything come between me and my family, but I did.  I am the son of an addict who for the past 15 years have too battled with addictive tendencies and selfish behavior.  I am my Father.

I remember feeling angry at him for many years, and even at times today because of the life he chose.  He wasn’t there for the birth of my kids, he wasn’t there through my divorce.  But I got over the anger, and now I just feel sad.  Sad, he’ll never meet my wife Ashley, who would have been his trusted ally.  Sad that our children will have to learn of him through pictures on the wall and memories we share of him.  Even now, I weep.

I’ve made many mistakes since my Dad’s death.  With the business, my family, and myself.  However, in the past few years, I’ve grown in as many or more ways.  For the first time in a long time, I feel happy…I feel fulfilled.  I’m learning how to live life to the fullest, to speak my mind with love on my tongue, and be comfortable in my own skin.  I’m beginning to see the good that came from the bad, and people let me tell you…there are good things to come.  At my Dad’s funeral, I read a poem I wrote.  It reads as follows…

I can only imagine… what life will be without him.
Shoes too big to fill; an act too hard to follow; a life never to be outlived.
A great man; a captor of the hearts of people.  Filling every room he entered with an energy only described by experience.  A mystery to many, a legend to all.
As he epitomized the American dream, generosity never escaped him.
Simplicity was his suit, hard work his trump.  A leader’s leader, a deal-maker, a lover of life.  Hard-nosed, but loving.  Opinionated, but kind.  Confident, but not arrogant.  Proud but not boastful.  A patriarch.
Never will he be replaced, and life on earth for those who knew and loved him, will never be the same.
However, pushing through our grieving, we must celebrate.  Because in death, there is life, for all those who believe.  He believed in the one who came that we may have life; that is Jesus Christ.  He accepted the free gift that is available to all of us.  But like you, I still wonder, what is he doing now?
I can only imagine.

Although some things have changed, all of the things I wrote about my Dad nearly nine years ago remain true.  He was an incredible man.  He touched the lives of so many through his huge personality and generous heart.  Although he wasn’t the type of Father that coached my little league baseball team, I learned a lot about life, and although he and I were very different in some ways, we are similar in many more.

He was funny, generous, and very affectionate.  He’d cut my fingernails in church, and take me for grape juice when I was suppose to be in trouble, and of course, he’d smoke on the way to and from.  He taught me how to sell, and always said…”if you learn how to sell, you’ll never be out of a job.” He was right.  He taught me how to make it on my own by telling me no, however, I always knew he would be there if I really needed him.  I could go on and on about my Dad, and probably will for the rest of the day with family and friends.  When you lose someone, all the things that drove you crazy are exactly the things you miss most.

So Dad, if you can here me.  I love you.  Dad, I miss you so much.  I still pick up the phone to call you before realizing I can’t.  I miss your laugh, your heart, and sitting on the porch with you.  I miss picking you up for breakfast.  I wish you could meet Ashley, Kyson, and Sariah.  Oh and Dad…Ashley’s pregnant!  Ashley told me not to tell anyone, but I can’t stop.  I’m trying very hard to be the man I want to be; a loving Father and Husband, but I often fail.  I took over the business you built, and did some cool things before having to sell the company.  It was a very difficult decision, but I didn’t have much choice.  I’ve tried to look after Mom, but she seems to be handling herself fairly well.  I know how much you loved her, and she talks about you all the time.  Dad, I’m not sure if Heaven is real, but I sure hope it is, so I can see you again.  Life on earth isn’t the same without you.  I love you Dad.