A second funeral in six months. The waves of sadness and guilt. If only we could have done something to help we wouldn't need to be somber and anxious this week, when summer is exploding with bounty all around us.
We are well past the midpoint in our lives, each of us the eldest of several siblings. However, his family is grieving the loss of a son and brother less than six months after having lost the younger daughter and sister.
She was full of caring, and became a nurse. But she also developed type 1 diabetes. She had two daughters and two step-daughters and loved the woozles and pooties that flowed through her life. Her second husband was an adoring, caring man, and for many years they enjoyed camping trips with family and friends. She was a jubilant grandmother.
Why then, could no one stop her when she ignored the rules of being diabetic. She loved cake, she yo-yo dieted, she drank diet soda until the day she went into coma. She wouldn't test. She treated the symptoms with pain medication. She would forget the insulin and other meds, and had several scares with infections in her legs and feet. She refused to care for herself as she had cared for so many others, then one day she fell and hit her head and never awoke. He family made a circle around her bed, but eventually they knew; she was gone, and had been gone for many days. Because she was so young, there were many people at the funeral home on that cool autumn morning.
All showed respect, but her close family knew; she had acted every day in ways that would break her body. The wave of sadness and guilt washed over her family.
He was the high school golden boy, charming and talented. He married his high school love after a few years and they had two sons. They both worked, and raised the boys, but he held a secret. He was easily addicted. At first to love and attention, later to tobacco and finally, other substances. He crashed his life, crashed his family, and eventually crashed his body.
He was rescued from death by addiction several times, but there was a siren singing, and eventually, his liver gave out. He was rescued again because his son was a match for transplant which he received, in exchange for the promise of loving his new liver and never poisoning it. His parents mortgaged their property as the neared retirement. His sons finished college and left the nest. Soon the singing became hypnotic, and he resumed the secret poisoning. We know that the life of a transplant patient is fragile, and we all suspected the cravings were being fed, but no one stopped him. He put the nicotine and the whiskey through his system and eventually, his kidneys failed. He tried to hide for days how bloated he had become, but, by the time he became incoherent and the ambulance was called, his other organs, including the precious gift of a liver, began shutting down.
He stayed on life support for weeks, sometimes improving, but unable to regain enough strength to respond to his wife and family. We do not know if he heard all the whispered "I love you's", and again the feelings began, "Could any thing have been done; why didn't we intervene?" The sad tide comes in again on his loved ones, his funeral will bring spoken stories of love, but each will be thinking of the effort that wasn't made.
I have been in their shoes. My first husband was addicted, but I was co-dependent until the divorce, and when he died, as I knew he would, I couldn't even attend his funeral because I felt guilty, that I should have tried harder to keep his demons from ravaging him. He was only thirty two, and died alone and bleeding to death internally from the ulcers aggravated by vodka.
My second husband was smart. Today he could move to a state where he would receive medical marijuana, but back then there was zero tolerance, so as he advanced in life, he gave up smoking and began drinking to get relief from the pressure; "you're so smart, why aren't you (rich) (educated) (successful) ?" As he began the drinking, however, he did become more successful; becoming a doctor, starting a practice, helping others heal.
At college we had the first shiver of what was to come. He started trying to drink with the young ones, but he developed atrial fibrillation, and had to do a 30 day inpatient detox before treatment. Stopping and restarting his heart worked, but he had to not drink any more and take heart meds. He didn't do that. He secretly began drinking again, and sometimes told me to remember to keep up the life insurance.
He got careless about his business and lost it, and became even more stressed about the debts that he owed. (I can still feel the wave of grief coming at me.) He lied to me, telling me that the smell on his breath was ketones from not eating (I found hundreds of Bacardi Limon singles when I cleaned out the garage to move). He went to NYC to find work as a doctor, and one week before he died, he found a job that he loved, that paid enough to work on the debt and reconstruct our lives.
I spoke with him that afternoon; he was full of enthusiasm. Around midnight two officers woke me up and told me he had died in a car accident. He hadn't been drinking they said, (but the a-fib probably caused him to pass out behind the wheel). No one else was hurt.
The world got syrupy slow; I told them I thought it would be troopers who would have come to tell me. They were concerned that I would be alone overnight, but I was already thinking about how to tell our son who was in his second semester at college, studying bio-chem so he could be a doctor too. I showed no grief, and have not shown much to this day; my wave of grief had crashed over me long before his death, and I had accepted the inevitability of his early death long before it happened.
Why then, in the case of so many deaths, do we act as though the grief arrives at the time of dying? We see the carelessness that some have with their own lives, we know the result of the unchecked addictions. That inevitable tide of grief swirls around our ankles early in the dying of so many.
The tears we shed when we are frustrated with a loved one's self destructive behavior start early, and we begin grieving for the future we will not have much sooner than the final hospitalization or accident. By then, our supply of grief has already been consumed by the sadness and the waste. Some of our dear ones will not love themselves and no matter how many of us love them, there is no way to slow them down. They follow their lurching paths to final rest. I am sure that grieving is already starting for many of us tonight.