One of the things that happens with writing a personal book about terminal illness, is that people tell me their stories. Part of why I work so hard to “heal,” is so that I can be present for other people as they grieve.
There are so many stories to share and they effect me in so many different ways. One family in particular has been giving me quite an education about things I haven’t experienced or heard about before. And they challenge me to figure out how to help them grieve because their situation is so unique.
Their loved one died from a MRSA infection. I have heard of that, but have never known anyone who has personally dealt with it. You can’t imagine all the added horror that is heaped on top of the already tough job of losing a human being. Spending those last precious last days, hours, and finally minutes while you are scrubbed up and covered in all kinds of barriers to prevent infection, sure changes the atmosphere of that time together. I can’t even imagine. I crawled right into bed with Tim the whole time he was sick, in treatment, or in the last stages of the dying process. This family was robbed of that.
They were told after he died that all of his belongings, including medical equipment would need to be destroyed. Incinerated in fact. As an organizer who goes into people’s homes and tries to help them de-clutter, I know how hard of a time people have letting go of “things.” But try to get rid of things that belonged to a person who is deceased, and it is almost impossible. It is a very, very difficult thing to do. One of the things that helps immensely, is when you can adopt a “pay it forward” mindset. Knowing someone else (maybe even someone you know) can use things helps to let them go. I remember being excited when I found out about how the Lyon’s Club can use old eye glasses. I had found so many pairs of Tim’s around the house that I didn’t even know he had. Donating them made me feel great inside and I knew Tim was smiling about it too.
This family? Robbed again. They thought they had to burn everything. How the hell do you find the strength and energy to do that?
We decided to do some research. It appears that the information they were told may have been incorrect. One of the worst things about accepting our mortality is how powerless we are. It is rough on us Westerners to not have control over things. When I decided to jump into research today, I didn’t know how much time it would take. But boy, was I aware at how pumped I was when I actually made progress. I bounced around a whole bunch of places and websites til I finally hit the jackpot with someone in the Erie County Health Department. He was a wealth of information, was friendly and compassionate. I couldn’t send an email fast enough to that family.
Hopefully this information will help them get back some of those things about the grief process that can help us get through it. No, it won’t bring their loved one back. Nothing will do that. Their hearts will still be broken. But maybe now they can start to create some “sweets” from thier “bitter” situation. I call that progress 🙂