Monday, March 26, 2012

Reclaiming Fifteen Minutes

Hospice sent a little information packet reminding our family that we might be experiencing the second phase of grieving. They explained that this second phase of grief can happen about six months from the date of your loved one’s passing. I would say that many in our family are experiencing this just lately. Some of our family members are experiencing anger. Jamie has been really sad. I think that the experience at the temple really fits my entrance into the second phase of grieving.
I have had dear friends working with me and helping me through lots of different modalities for example: massage, cranial, homeopathy, flower essences, oils, supplements, and ESC plus, my own self processing. However, these modalities cannot take the pain away. I still have moments of deep sadness.
I did have an amazing “ah ah” the other day that I wanted to share. I was telling my friend that I feel like everything for me was moving in slow motion. I have been experiencing lapses of time where fifteen minutes are all of sudden gone. I was with Penny in Arizona in January and she experienced it with me several times. Anyway it has been annoying. Most of you know I have issues with being late most generally. However, over the years I have done a lot of processing about time, and my tardiness had greatly improved until the last several months. I was talking about this to my friend.
I said “I am always fifteen minutes behind.” As we worked on clearing it I could see myself connected to a strand of time that linked me to the day that Lindsey passed. I could see that part of me was clinging to her. It was like having the gas on and the breaks on at the same time. I knew I had to move forward without her and yet I couldn’t leave her behind. I felt like a rubber band being stretched from that day forward all the way to present time. The resistance had been getting harder and harder to balance.
I immediately saw me sitting by her bedside. My hand was touching her heart right by her breast. I could still feel the warmth of her body even though she had stopped breathing. The people in the room had filed out and the mortuary was there to take her body. I was asked to leave the room so that Josh could have a few minutes alone with her. I indicated that I wanted to go back in and be with her to say good bye. So I stepped out of the room. Josh must have finished saying goodbye to her and then the mortuary had gone into the room. I must not have been paying attention.
They proceeded to carry out her out on the stretcher. I was upset and at the time did not know what I needed therefore I could not language it. I have thought about this off and on since that day. But, I tried to tell myself that it was good enough and that I should just let all this go. As I started to process this I realized that I hadn’t taken my last few moments with her.
So six months later this realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I had only wanted a few more minutes with her, I wanted just fifteen more minutes with her so I could say good bye with just Todd and I and Lindsey. Somehow everything happened so fast and I never got that time.
I have continued to lose fifteen minutes over and over again. It has been a little bizarre. Thank goodness for the process because I knew immediately that I could reclaim those fifteen minutes by playing out in my mind what I had wanted to do on that day for exactly fifteen minutes. I knew that it could be just as real now, even if I hadn’t been connected or present enough to create that moment for myself on that day.
So I imagined my last fifteen minutes with Lindsey. I saw myself at the foot of her hospital bed. I imagined her feet which, I could see so clearly in my mind, it was if I were right there. The memory of that day has been etched in my mind forever. I saw how dry they were. I remembered how many times I had rubbed her feet with oils and lotion and given her a foot massage. I remembered how much she loved having her feet rubbed, especially when she was suffering or couldn’t sleep. I looked directly at her toes, in my mind, and I remembered how much she enjoyed having her toe nails painted. I imagined touching her feet for the last time and saying goodbye to her feet and toes.
In my mind I looked directly at her ankles and I could see the shape of her calves. She had grandma Mardee’s ankles and legs and they were beautiful. I remembered her knees and her thin thighs. I remembered that for a few weeks up to the day she passed, that she hadn’t been able to walk and she hadn’t gotten out of bed. I said goodbye to her legs that weren’t able to work anymore.
I remembered her tummy and how distended it was from the drugs and how sad it was to see it so misshapen from her beautiful figure. We had worked so hard to keep her colon clean and working over the years. And then to see all the effects of the drugs and what they were doing to her body, yet feeling torn because we knew we were using the drugs to keep her from suffering. She had been so thin after radiation and now her tummy wasn’t even her own. I thought of the times she had changed sizes because of drugs and treatments over the past 11 years.
I still recognized her tummy. I said goodbye.
I remembered her hands and her wedding ring. In spite of the steroids, her fingers remained slim. Lindsey had beautiful hands that I held so many times. In remembered her hands playing the piano, and the guitar. But I especially remembered her playing the violin. She played so beautifully. In my mind I said good bye to her hands.
I looked in my mind’s eye at the necklace she had been wearing now for several years. I remembered how many times I had helped her take that necklace off and put it back on again when she had MRI’s or other treatments plus, all the times I had helped her shower or bathe. I thought about all the times I had helped her dress and how much care we had taken for her body. I said good bye to the necklace.
I remembered her face swollen from steroids and her thinning hair and the few wisps she still had on top of her head. I could see the scar where she had had surgery three times and the dent it had left in her head. I said goodbye to the surgeries she had had over the last eleven years, the radiation treatments at age eighteen that had caused such severe burns. And then I remembered the day when I heard her scream as she stood in front of the mirror as long strands of hair fell out into the sink, I remembered us both crying and me helplessly trying to offer comfort. I said good bye to that place on top of her head where the hair never grew back.
And then I focused on her eyes, knowing that I would need to say goodbye. Even though they were closed that day and it seemed as if she were sleeping, I could remember her eyes. I remembered her long lashes and the shape of her eyes. I remembered how they would twinkle when she would laugh. I remembered their specific color and the blue green light that flickered inside letting us know she was in there. This memory wouldn’t be so important unless you had seen the last few weeks of her life where the light was dimmed and she didn’t seem to be present.
And then allowing the tears to flow in this visualization and having to accept one more time that she would never wake up and I would never see them open again. I said goodbye to her eyes.
I guess as a mother it was some need of mine to say goodbye to every part of her body so that I could understand that she wasn’t in her body and that she was leaving us. In my mind everything had happened so fast towards the end and as she passed I facilitated everyone else being able to say good-bye and I just wasn’t present enough on that day to facilitate my own closure.
And so in my visualization, just before I would let them come in to take my baby, I would see me laying down next to her and holding her one more time. And stroking her hair and her face and touching her hands. I had just needed a couple more minutes with Lindsey. . . fifteen more precious minutes. . . and yet I know in my heart that if they hadn’t come in and taken her I wouldn’t have been able to let her leave the house.
I know it happened exactly the way it needed to. After having gone through this fifteen minute visualization I felt so much better. I had gone back in time and reclaimed my fifteen minutes. Those minutes are mine now and I don’t have to experience them being taken from me ever again. Saying goodbye helps us come to closure. Time issues have to do with in completions.
So, here I am saying goodbye in the best way I know how. I think grieving is the process of saying goodbye over and over again. I think it takes us a long time to let go, I have only been able to let go fifteen minutes at a time.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Power to Comfort Part II: Messages of Love

I appreciate everyone’s response to the last blog post "The Power to Comfort". It has been exciting to hear from all of you. It is really hard to share some of my personal experiences, but I know writing about them is helping me. So thank you for reading and listening to me as I share about my experience with Lindsey. Some days are just harder than others and I do have happy days, they are not all so sad.

However, like the last blog post, there are some experiences that are profound. I try to reach beyond my own need for privacy and pride and share what I have experienced, only to honor the presence of God in my life. It is when I see His hand, even His tender mercies, that I can move into greater acceptance that Lindsey has been called home.

It is in these tender moments that I can begin to make sense of all that has happened. When I see that He is aware of my grief, and He is offering comfort in the many ways that He has, I feel remembered, buoyed up, and I can feel His arms around me. I can hear Him whisper, reassuring me that she is okay and that there was some purpose in all the suffering that we witnessed. In some of my deepest grief, I have felt Lindsey’s presence with me.

I think the hardest thing is that she and I can’t talk, giggle or laugh together like we used to. My heart aches and I just want to hear her, touch her hand or be close to her and it is so hard to try to hear her voice through the silence of separation. I can only hear it every once in awhile now.

I have to reach beyond my capabilities to connect to her soul. Sometimes in my reaching and in my straining I connect to nothingness. Oh, cherish the times you have with your loved ones. Make your time with them count. Make sure you create meaningful memories, because when they are gone, all that you have left is the strain of your heart reaching out to hear their voice through the silence of the grave.

Lindsey left me many messages of love. As I am sorting through her things, I am finding old birthday cards from her to me and her handwriting brings tears to my eyes. We have pictures and photographs, certificates, and her diploma from BYU. There is her blanket, her clothes, her make-up, the dried flowers from her funeral, and her wedding dress. All these things remind me of her and send messages of love to me as I remember the essence of who she was here.

But, believe me, all these things are not my Lindsey. I do try to be at peace with her story and God’s plan that I know we all agreed to, but my heart just wants to hold my daughter again. I think in my mind just holding her one more time would help, and then I would be okay. And then I remember back to her sick body and how miserable she was and I think to myself "How can I be so selfish?" Surely she needed to be released. And then I move to some place inside me that is trying to accept that she couldn’t stay here anymore, which is in direct conflict with the emptiness in my heart that can never be filled. . .

When I am gone I want to leave something behind so that those who love me will not have to strain to remember my voice or feel my love for them. I want to leave as many messages of love as I can. One way I want to do this is by compiling stories of the "Power to Comfort". It will bring many voices together; we will all leave a strong message of love that stands as a witness of God and His power to comfort in small and simple things, even through the faith of mothers and daughters.

We can unite in telling our stories that God lives. In spite of our burdens, or sacrifices and hardships, we can bear witness that He is among us, that He has not forgotten or forsaken us, and that He has the power to comfort, even beyond the separation caused by death, through the power of sisterhood.

I am reaching out and encouraging you to record or write down an experience you have had either offering comfort to someone or having someone else offer comfort to you. If you are thinking about submitting a story please do it! I really believe it could bless the lives of many women. As you are considering what you might contribute, please know that the process of writing it down gives you an opportunity to heal and be reminded of the feelings of love and comfort you had during that experience. These books will then serve as an invitation to the rising generation to become a source of inspiration and comfort.

I plan to eventually compile three books. The first will include contemporary stories from mothers and grandmothers presently living. The second book will be our mothers’ and grandmothers’ stories that have been passed down to us. These stories will be what we remember as well as what we can gather from our family about their lives. And the third book will include the stories of our daughters and what life is like for them. I would like each book to have 30 – 50 stories.

Suggestions for stories:

The stories could be a short essay or vignette between 500 – 1500 words or a whole chapter. My blog length is 600 to approximately 1000 words. You can submit more than one story. You can decide if you would like to use your name, or another name.

June 1 will be the deadline to submit your stories for the first book. These are the stories from your own lives. This will be a project we can all be proud of. A portion of the proceeds will be used to reimburse the publishing costs and a portion donated towards scholarships - offering processes and emotional health education for women and children.

Retelling our stories gives us an opportunity to glean even greater treasures from our experiences and share those treasures with other sisters. Maybe in sharing our stories we can illuminate the future for the young girls coming after us. Maybe we will remind them about the value and virtue of womanhood and the importance of listening to intuition and the guidance we receive from God. This collection of women’s stories will be in celebration of the partnership between women and God and what can be created when we come together through "The Power to Comfort."