Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Do You Grieve?

This has been a tough year. A little over a year ago my ex wife, Angela, was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease. It is a diabolical disease that attacks the body through its own genome. It slowly starts shutting down parts of the body that will never again be functional. Eventually, the lungs shut down and the person will die of suffocation.

When Angela and I were discussing her disease and the future of our two children something hit me. We had a nasty divorce with a great deal said and done that was purely hateful toward each other. I said, "Now is the time for forgiveness and I ask that you forgive me for anything I have done to hurt you. The past is the past let's move forward." At that point we both were in tears and we both promised to do whatever we could to help her and to make sure the kids would be alright.Angela had remarried and her husband and I got along well, so this went smoothly.

Then Angela started losing her ability to speak and swallow. She was given a feeding tube then was taken in for a tracheotomy and had her little keyboard she could type into and a computerized voice would speak for her. This "routine" procedure was complicated when they were removing the temporary tracheotomy tube to be replaced with a permanent one. Something dislodged and she fell into respiratory arrest, all of the while my son Nathan was at her bedside. This was followed by months in a hospital and then a skilled nursing center on a ventilator. She eventually was allowed to go home on her ventilator. Curtis her husband, my daughter Sarah, my son Nathan and others cared for her, letting her have a sense of familiarity. Then on May 22, 2011 I had the privilege of being at her bedside as she passed away. Her husband holding her hand on one side of the bed and me holding her other hand on the other side.

Throughout this time I was conscious of how different people face the death or severe illness of someone they love. Right now my wife Josephine  is in Ireland. Her father has Hodgkin's Lymphoma in his liver. My Mother-in-law has now endured two months of her husband of 50 years plus being in a hospital an hour away.  

Here is what I have observed and my recommendations for how to help in a time of need:
  1. Realize we all deal with situations like this in different ways. As a young teen, I watched as one by one my family died. At thirteen, I arranged the entire funeral for my aunt who raised me as a son. My grandmother had dementia and my father was over seas. So it fell on me. I have a defense mechanism to view death with a very unhealthy detachment. (At this point, my only blood relatives are Sarah and Nathan)
  2. Some people throw themselves into work or some other activity to push back the pain.
  3. Others become planners. They want to control everything surrounding the illness or death.
  4. Some have the "John Wayne" approach and just stuff it all inside, until they are alone with their pillow - they will not show vulnerability.
  5. While others get angry and release their pain on the nearest or most convenient target.
  6. Then there are those who become paralyzed with grief and depression. 
Here is where the difficulty comes in. As these and other coping mechanisms kick in, we can often find fault that others are not responding as we are. One doesn't care, another is too emotional, another is a "control freak" and the list goes on and on. This doesn't even take into to consideration of the will and how assets are dispersed - that is an entirely different mess.

My advice is to try and put yourself into that other person's position. For instance, the person who is angry isn't really angry at you. They are trying to process something that is overwhelming to him or her.

Realize each person is in pain and that by bickering it only pushes the resentment and pain further inside of each of us - taking it longer for us to heal. Sometimes that bitterness can destroy a family that should be united during this crisis. We lose focus of the person we are worried about or grieving. And all it does is violate the desires of the person we are there for.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Gmail - Inbox -

Gmail - Inbox -

The Road We Walk

Life is a journey - unfortunately, it is on a one way road. As much as I would love to be 25 again, I am stuck with being 58 with 59 approaching in October. I have often wondered what it would be like to be 25 again with the collective knowledge, wisdom and experience I have now. However, the road does not operate that way. So know I am stuck with a body that sees entropy at every corner but I know a great deal more than when I was 25. So, here I sit at a computer to share some of that experience that I can still remember.

Occasionally, I come to a fork in that road - that fork is a choice. That choice may be about a relationship, a job, a purchase or even an ethical decision. Based of what I know at the time that fork appears, whether I am 25 or 58, I make that choice. Here is where the hard part comes - remember I said it is a one way road. As I continue down this new road I have chosen, it appears I have made the right choice. As I continue to walk it occurs to me that maybe I made the wrong choice. It gets further complicated because since that fork, I have come to a dozen other forks and have made a dozen other choices. As I look back, I realize I made the wrong choice and maybe choices.

I talk to a great deal of people who seem to be standing in the middle of their road, no longer moving forward but just staring backward. They are looking back at one of those choices they made in the past. They have stopped walking and are paralyzed with regret. "If I had only. . ." That is the danger of the road. Many of us are living lives filled with regret and have stopped moving forward. We continually second guess what we have done and usually wallow in self-pity. You may be one of those people. You ask yourself,
"Why did I cheat on my spouse?"
"When did I lose control of drinking?"
"Why did I lose it at work and lose my job"
"Why did I try Meth?"
"Why was I so distant to my kids?"
"Why did I say that?"
The list goes on and on - each different because we all have our own road. More often than not, we are trapped back at that fork with no thought of what to do next. There isn't a person on this planet who has not made the wrong choices. How we deal with those choices is yet another fork in the road.

One thing I have learned is that I can not go back and change the stupid choices I have made in my life. I can try and reach out to people that those choices have hurt and ask for their forgiveness. But I am pretty much here in my road. What I need to do is turn around and stop looking back - with the exception of having enough brains to not make the same stupid decisions over and over. The the move Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone is talking to his son and has one of the best lines I have ever heard in a movie.

"It is not how hard you hit, it is how hard you can be hit and keep moving forward."

That line said it all for me. In my current life I just attempt to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. I know that there will be many more forks in the road and I pray that God gives me the wisdom to have learned from my mistakes and that I choose the right fork. If you are standing in the middle of the road looking back, please turn around and start walking. You are not alone on your journey, you do have others that have made similar mistakes and a God who loves you regardless of those decisions. Paul put it this way: 

"...But one thing I do [know] : Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13b-14 - NIV)

OK, you screwed up - we all have! Turn around and get on with your life. Commit yourself to making the right choices - by the way, those right choices usually are not selfish but rather help others.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Would We Need Help?

I started this blog because I have been around for almost six decades and found myself at high points that were indescribable and lows that had no bottom. A verse that always seemed to come to mind, I must admit more often during the lows, was Hebrews 4:16 - "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need." The words that I have often needed to hear were both found in this verse - "grace" and "mercy". The world is constantly crying out for justice, yet justice without mercy and grace can often be a cold and harsh platform for retribution and vengeance.

I would like to take this place on the internet to share with those who have found themselves in the valleys of life a glimpse of mercy and a place that will offer peace. I am not a psychologist but I am someone who has eventually reached the bottom and found mercy and grace. Even though I am a former minister, I do not intend to preach, but rather, share from my failures and inadequacies that there is hope and there can be peace.

Please stick around and come back from time to time and hopefully you will feel encouraged.