For those that have been following me for awhile you might recall the post I did about my mother's death in February called Sweet Sacred Experience.
I wrote the blog a week after her funeral so the experience and emotions were very raw. I also talked about how I want to expand the conversation about death and dying.
In that post I said,
You may have a very different experience or view of death. Even my siblings that were with my mom have very different experiences and thoughts on death and dying. As part of my grieving process and to expand the conversation about death and dying I want to blog about my thoughts and experiences.
There are many topics that are hard to talk about.
A friend of mine is going through a very challenging pregnancy and just posted on Instagram about her pregnancy
In her post she said,
I wish women spent more time talking about the crazy things they go through trying to conceive, pregnancy, and onward so we can all have realistic expectations and appreciation for it.
Her friend responded,
There is so much more that needs to be shared and opened up about in regards to motherhood and pregnancy and so much is still taboo....Every situation and person is different and so every experience is going to be different for a multitude of reasons.
I believe we can substitute death for pregnancy and the same would be true.
There is so much more that needs to be shared and opened up about in regards to [death] and so much is still taboo...Every situation and person is different and so every experience is going to be different for a multitude of reasons.
I want to share my experience with my father's death. It has been three years since I went home to be with him for the last time. In September 2016 I didn't have a Steem account so I want to blog about it now.
One of my very favorite pictures of my parents
My instagram post September 26, 2016
"I cried as I took this picture. Their love is so strong. After the children said goodbye my dad said my mom's name "Kathy" then leaned over and held her hand."
On the flight to Oregon
On September 23, 2016 I flew home to be with my family. I knew that my dad was sick and having test to determine the extent of his cancer.
My nephew was getting baptized and so I decided that I would fly home and go to the baptism and see my dad.
My flight included a layover in San Francisco. I called home and talked to my mom to see how things were. I can still vividly remember standing in the airport and her telling me that my dad was on hospice. What? My dad that was so active and climbing the mountains with me and working in his shop. He was now on hospice care?
My brother Jeff and Dave also flew to Oregon that day and we met up and drove to my parents home together. When we arrived my dad took us out to his shop.
He tired easily so we went in so he could sit down and talk.
My dad was struggling to talk and went to bed. He didn't talk anymore and a few days later he was bedridden and within a week he died. If you feel like you should go see someone--- go! Don't wait. I had a prior commitment to be in Utah and I really thought I had at least one more Christmas with my dad. I am so glad I went home when I did.
Lesson learned: Go be with your loved ones when you feel you should
My mantra for 2016 was Release Expectations. Little did I know when I picked this mantra earlier that year year that it was going to be put to the test.
My Instagram post on September 27, 2016
My view on the front porch as I thought about expectations. I've been doing a lot of yoga the past few months and one mantra I really like and have been working to incorporate into my life is to release expectations.
Releasing expectations about how my father should or should not die, releasing expectations about how my mom should or should not grieve. Releasing expectations about how I should or should not grieve.
I want to experience things for how they are not for what I think they should be. It will take a lot of hard work and concentration.
One of the most difficult times was how we were to medicate my dad.
He was not one for taking much, if any, pain medication as we were growing up. So my sister and I really believed that he didn't want the medication at the end of his life. My mom was fully convinced that he wanted medication, as he had been taking it for his hernia pain recently. The struggle to understand each other and my dad, who could not longer express himself verbally, was very hard.
Here my sister is giving my dad a shake. He loved ice cream!
My sister-in-law Jodi and I were giving my dad medication in his orange juice and being sneaky about it. When my sister brought back the shake he was very leary about taking it thinking she was also giving him the medication.
Now, three years later, I am in a better place regarding the fact that I tricked my dad into taking the medication he clearly didn't want but that my mom wanted him to have.
From a pamphlet hospice gave us called When you are Grieving: A guide to understanding loss
You might feel guilty for something you did or did not do before the death. Acknowledge what you could have done differently. But also accept that you cannot change what has happened. Try to let go of feelings of guilt and forgive yourself.
We wanted to be close to my dad.
We held his hand, read to him, sang to him, talked to him, sat in silence with him. My mom played the piano for him, which he loved!
One very interesting thing that I learned is that hearing is one of the last senses to go. In my dad's case he was hard of hearing and had hearing aids and his hearing got better as he was dying.
Lesson learned: Be very careful and sensitive to what you say as you are in the presence of your loved one.
I wanted to be with my dad as much as I could. To go and sleep, exercise, cook and eat meals was hard cause that was time away from him. I also knew that taking care of myself and giving other family members time to be with him and to take care of him was important.
I cried myself to sleep often. What was my life going to be like without my dad? He had been a constant in my life and was such a great cheerleader for me. He believed in me and trusted me. We had become closer in last few years of his life as I helped him write his autobiography. I also went hiking with him each time I went home.
I made myself get out of the house and go on walks and get exercise.
Whether they were short walks close to home or longer walks with my brother downtown. I knew that being away for a little bit and moving my body was healthy.
My journal entry for September 26, 2016
It's been a couple of long days and nights. I am so glad that I'm here to help mom, espically at night. Scotty is on his way and I called Jay to ask him to come too. I hope dad can die soon. He's in so much pain. Last night he was very restless and selpt on the floor in the hallway. That was really hard for my mom, and his anger. Bless her with and understanding heart. Bless me to be kind and patient.
Kristen is sitting with dad while mom and I take naps. Scotty and Jay are on their way. The hospice nurse was here and with the way dad is breathing she said he is actively dying and it will be in the next while. I think she thought 12 hours. My dad is leaving. I'm going take a nap and cry myself to sleep, like I have a lot lately.
I'm sitting by dad's side. Mom is on his other side in and out of sleep. The afternoon light is coming through the windows and dancing through the willow tree. Kristen came in. She says she doesn't mind if she is not present for his death. I want to be with him. Like a birth I've heard death is also a spiritual experience. He is doing so good, much calmer than he has been the past few days. We haven't given him pain meds since 11:50pm. He tells us he doesn't want them. My dad is dying. I'll miss him. He hasn't said much so when he said my mom's name "Kathy" and held her hand as they laid on the bed together I cried and cried as I took a picture I will always remember.
My dad is- strong, obedient, faithful, priesthood holder, creative, determined, loving (mom has struggled when he was mean lately) loves mom, pride in himself, won't let us help him much, funny, loved, good home teacher, bears his testimony, Holy Ghost is his best friend, love by people that know him, wants to provide for my mom, wants to leave a legacy.
This post really explains how I was feelings and some of the things I mentioned earlier.
While all deaths are going to be as unique to the person dying and way the loved ones react to the situations will vary I hope that hearing a little about my experience his been insightful and might help you talk a little more about death and dying.
My instagram posts from September 30, 2016
I am going to end by quoting Joanna Gains, Magnolia Journal, issue 12
That every piece of our identity- the broken, the sad, the hard, just as much as the fulfilled, the good, the happy- is stitched together to make us complete.
Inviting into our lives the entire palette of human emotion isn't always easy. Somewhere along the road to adulthood, it felt simpler to leave behind a willingness to allow sadness to wash over us, to sit in grief, to invite disappointment to linger while we contemplate where its really coming from. In its place, many of us picked up a resistance to shield anything that might make us less than happy. I don't want to come across like I don't believe in happiness, because I do, but when it becomes the sole pursuit of our daily lives, I can't help but wonder what we might be missing out on in the process-the potential to learn more, through our failures, through sadness and grief, about who we are and all that we can offer this world. It seems to me that we can go through life taking steps and in held breath or we can lean into the fullness of who we were made to be, for better or worse.
There is so much to learn about death and dying and grief and grieving. For me making the death books for my parents, journaling during and after their deaths, and blogging has been very helpful.
I invited my friend Stacy to join me on Saturday to paint with the paints I inherited from my dad. It is important for me to find ways to remember and honor him and I think this will be a wonderful way!
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