Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Millard Suburban

Part of my new career is talking about death/dying and grief/loss, and part of the goal is to help improve the medical system. I admit, I am hard to please when it comes to hospitals and doctors. It’s not because I’m cynical and picky, but I do honestly believe that our system is very, very broken.

When I went to Punta Cana for four days, so many people told me I needed to go for a whole week. Boy, would I love that. You barely get time to drop your guards down and it’s time to return. But I’m a single mom, a therapist, and I help take care of my dad. I just feel like I can’t be gone longer than that. And sure enough, there was one client emergency and my dad ended up in the hospital. Sigh.

Anyhow, I have to say, I love Millard Suburban Hospital. Dad has been there three times since April. Of course no person or entity is perfect, but I really like these guys. When I got the text about Dad, I started in right away. First I had to handle a situation for Frankie because obviously Dad wouldn’t be staying with him if he was in the hospital. Next was sorting out what was actually going on. Dad does his best to understand the medical stuff, but sometimes things get mixed-up. Everyone who was local was visiting him and trying to talk to doctors, but there was some confusion.

I called the hospital and explained my dilemma of being Dad’s medical advocate (as well as legal and financial) but that I was out of the country. I got a call back from the nurse practitioner. She remembered me and Dad from October’s stay. I immediately felt better. She did her best to explain what was going on. She also said he was stable and I didn’t need to get on a plane and come home. She also said she would call every day and let me know if there was any change.

She did exactly that. She even remembered to say “Happy Birthday” in her message on the day of my actual birthday. (She is turning 50 this year too!) She also had the surgeon call me directly. He explained things to me even further. He was able to clarify some of the more confusing aspects of what was happening, which turned out really just to be a clarification of terms. I told him that I was returning home Tuesday night but not until midnight. I asked if there was any way to keep Dad there until Wednesday so he was not released to his apartment where he lives alone. No problem.

He did exactly that.

I really appreciate this hospital. I figure I do enough complaining about all the bad stuff that happens, I wanted to acknowledge the good stuff that happens. I think I would like to go there if I ever have the need to be in a hospital. Thank you to all the staff who took such good care of a man who all of his family love very much. And thank you for bothering to care about a 50-year-old who was on a much-needed break. You put my mind at ease, which all the beautiful paradise-like sun in the world couldn’t have done if I was worried about my father. Kudos!

(P.S. For those of you that follow me on Facebook, yes! This is the same surgeon that I met in person when I got home and could barely concentrate because he was so handsome… Just another perk of the hospital!)


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Re-connecting

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to have not one, but two birthday parties. I mean hey, 50 is a big deal, right? The first night was at my favorite Mexican restaurant and we had about 25 people come for dinner. After we went to a bar that had a dance band. My friend laughed and said I was one of the youngest people there but we had a great time. That night, someone came up behind me to wish me a birthday and I had to stop and think. She reminded me she and her partner used to be clients of mine. I was so very happy to see them. I was honored they would take the time to come up to me, and I was truly thrilled to see they were still together. Later, I watched them dance together and they were just delightful to watch. Made my heart warm.

Darcy's 50th birthday-Darcy, Catherine

Darcy's 50th birthday- Michelle, Darcy, Cathy, Catherine, Onalee, Carla

Darcy's 50th birthday-Catherine ,Missy, Michelle, Onalee, Darcy, Karen

Toward the end of the evening, one of my students from the master’s program showed up. I know she drove a long way. She couldn’t even stay, but she wanted to say hello and give me a hug in person. I couldn’t believe it.

The second night, I had an informal gathering back in Niagara county where I grew up. Almost 25 people came that night too. This group was my family, friends, and mostly high school friends. It was a mini-reunion of sorts. I figured most of them will be turning 50 this year too, although some of them had already beat me. Most of the night was filled with people I don’t get to see very often. One of my closest friends from high school (although she went to a different high school) totally surprised me by coming. I haven’t seen her since… well, I don’t exactly know when. It’s been a very long time. She looked EXACTLY the same, hadn’t aged a bit.

A couple of the girls I was a cheerleader with. That brought some laughs and eye rolls. One girl was a year older than me and I was pleasantly surprised to see her as well. But the real shock came when she told me she reads my blogs and loves them. She said I write with honesty (or something like that). I had no idea she even read them or knew I had a blog. I was so humbled by that. And today when I was weary and didn’t feel like writing, I remembered her comment and it brought a huge smile to my face and enthusiasm to write.

Another girl I didn’t recognize at first. She reminded me she had moved in our later years of school. I had plenty to drink throughout the night, but I was aware enough to remember several comments she made throughout the night. She was truly grateful to have connected with me on Facebook and then be invited to our get together. She had such kind things to say about me and how I behaved in high school. There are actually some traits I seem to have carried on into adulthood and they are actually GOOD ones. So many things we hope we grow out of. She also made my heart warm to think that I could make others feel good without even knowing I was doing it.

One of my friends organized most of this. Created the event, bought cupcakes, you know the drill. She has been having a really tough time lately, but in spite of that, she made sure I had a great birthday. I hope to return the favor soon when her birthday arrives. I love you girlfriend!

I could go on and on. My deepest thanks to all of you who sent cards, gifts (even though I said no gifts!), drove out in the snow, or drove a long way to be part of my milestone birthday. Whether I see you often or once every few decades or so, I appreciate you. I love people, I invest in people, people are my priority. Whether I mentioned you specifically in this blog or not, I was humbled by all the outpouring of love and friendship. Don’t ever think when I fall into the abyss here and there when my depression gets the better of me, that I have forgotten the treasure of friends. I don’t. I swear, I don’t, not even when I’m down and out.

Hugs and kisses to all!


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Turning 50

Yesterday I was talking to a client and mentioned being 49. I gasped and said, “Oh! Crap, I forgot. I’m 50!” I’d been dreading turning 50 for about six years. Who knew that it would be one of the best birthdays ever?

For about a year, I have been trying to plan a trip away. I mean a real trip. Not visiting relatives or friends (although I love those trips too) but someplace warm and sunny. Punta Cana was the ticket. I had three friends go as well, all from different states. Closest thing to paradise I have ever seen. I was only gone Friday-Tuesday, and two of those days were mostly traveling, but I think we made the most of it.

My friends made sure most of the places we had dinner knew it was my birthday. The whole weekend felt like my birthday and it was a blast. First, there are the swimming pools with the swim-up bars. Who wouldn’t love that? img_20170203_151847232

Isn’t that ridiculously gorgeous?

On my actual birthday, there were only three of us left. We weren’t going to do excursions, but we decided to do the party boat so that we could go snorkeling. They take you out to the ocean and feed the fish so they are swarming. I didn’t really have anything to compare it to, but I was delighted. I obviously couldn’t take pictures of that part, but here we are on the boat. (By the way, there was plenty of music and dancing on the boat as well.)

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The surprise came when we headed back. I thought we were finished but instead they parked us in shallow waters with about ten other party boats. Everyone got in the water along with a raft floating in the middle with alcohol and food. It’s hard to see in the picture, but there were gobs of people all over the place partying IN the ocean!

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I mean, what a riot!

We got back to our resort exhausted, more than a little tipsy, but feeling like we had the time of our lives. As if that wasn’t enough, I went back to my room to shower and change for the evening and found this:

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I couldn’t believe my friends had brought all those things on the trip with them (balloons, banners, cards, gifts) and then somehow arranged to get into my room and surprise me. I was like a five-year-old again. I meet people all the time who aren’t stressed about their age. I’m not in theory, but in reality I do usually get depressed. I think it is because I am not where I think I was going to be. And unfortunately, thanks to depression and some unexpected hardships, I’m not always happy about where I am.

This year was a blast. I was literally in paradise with perfect weather, socializing with people from all over the country and world, and some of my dearest friends. This weekend I will not be in paradise, but I will be with many more of my dear friends celebrating and I’m sure that will be lovely as well. Welcome the big five-zero! Happy birthday was literal this year… happy, happy, happy. Love you all!


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Delayed Reaction

Frankie celebrated his twelfth birthday last week. For those of you that have been following us for a while, you might remember that one of the things that Tim did before he passed away, was to write birthday cards for Frankie until he turns 18. Tonight, Frankie and I read his card together.

But here is the thing. We just read it tonight. His birthday was the eighth. That was twelve days ago.

I was talking on the phone to a professor from one of the colleges that is going to book me to speak at one of their interdisciplinary training days. During that conversation, I remembered the card. Frankie was camping with his aunt so that brings us to the late date in reading it.

At first, I was quite distraught. I felt horrible and guilty for not remembering the card on the day of his birthday. What does that mean? Tim is still a part of our lives every single day. A few days ago, my friend and I were playing Yahtzee and I came across one of Tim’s score sheets. I recognized his perfect handwriting immediately. I showed it to Frankie and then I noticed the date was 1998. That was two years before I even met Tim. It caused me some teary eyed moments. It always gets to me when the reminder is unexpected. My friend told me later that she saw my face and was worried that the night was going to be ruined for me. But it was a few minutes and then it passed.

The point of that story, was that seeing his writing didn’t jerk my memory about the birthday card either. It wasn’t until the phone conversation I had later.

When I sat down with Frankie and the card, I asked him if he was upset that I forgot about it earlier. Of course, he had forgotten about it, too. He was not upset with me. He liked the card. I think I saw a little mist in his eyes, but it was a good shared moment.

I’ve been processing all of this. I’ve seen the look on a face or two when I’ve told the story. A couple of people looked like I was feeling- surprised that I had majorly screwed up like that. But it did start to occur to me, that maybe this is a positive thing. We love Tim. We miss him. We think about him every day. But maybe we are also starting to move on, just a little bit further. Maybe it is good that we are not hanging on in the same way. We are remembering him, but are also living in the present. Frankie agreed with me. Rather than being angry with me, we shared a moment of being thankful for Tim’s incredible thoughtfulness, but felt free to be moving on at the same time.

Or maybe I’m just rationalizing a major screw-up.

But I don’t think so. It was a good night.


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Surprises

If you have ever struggled with depression, you might understand that guilt is also an emotion you sometimes feel. Frankly, you feel guilty for being depressed. Truth be told, I have very little to be depressed about. I have an amazing life.

Turning 47 last week was great when we did the star thing for Tim. We had about 14 people show up, and then several of us went out to dinner afterward.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette told me about a month ago that the Saturday after my birthday she was taking me out. I wasn’t going to know where, but I was to tell the church that I probably wouldn’t make it to church in the morning.

Frankie had a hockey game at 3:00. One of the things I usually whine about is having to go to games by myself. It’s not so much that it’s awful, but there is something about being around all those families that makes me sad. Colin is always there but he stands at the ice rink and doesn’t interact with me.

I’m pretty slow on the draw these days, so it took me quite a while into the game before I realized that it was no coincidence that so many people came that day to see Frankie’s game. I think there were 14 people there. I finally got that Brigette had arranged it all. My brother even came and he hasn’t come to a hockey game in the four years his nephew has been playing. Only Brigette could pull that one off.

It was amazing. I was so happy for Frankie to see all those people there too. We got in the car and Brigette explained that she wanted to find something meaningful for me and she knows how sad I get when I go to his games alone. I thought it was an excellent surprise. She truly got me, and she knows me well. It was extremely meaningful.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Then she told me she was taking me to dinner. Anyone that knows me, knows that food makes me very happy. We had reservations somewhere at 5:00 but again, I had to wait and see where we were going.

We went to a nearby restaurant and headed to the banquet room. Brigette said she was planning an event for someone else and wanted to check out the room before we ate. Made total sense to me.

Again, 100% shock to walk in and find a room full of people there for a surprise party for me. I could have fallen over. I kept saying, “But I’m only 47” and they all kept saying, “You get nothing when you’re 50 so enjoy it now.” Couldn’t believe it. I was astounded.

As if that wasn’t enough.

Brigette had several of my friends and family who were out of town call throughout the night. They obviously couldn’t make it in person, but they let me know they loved me and wanted to part of the special night.

As if that wasn’t enough.

A few of us then moved upstairs where there was a band playing. It was one of those nights that we were the group everyone was looking at. People- men and women alike- came up and said happy birthday. They bought me drinks. The band sang to me. The band had me come up and sing a chorus with them to a song because they had been told that I sang. And once the guitar player gave me the guitar and I plucked out “Jingle Bells,” the only song I know. Everyone laughed.

It was amazing. Who has friends like that? I do. Lots and lots of them. Trust me. I don’t take them for granted. I know how lucky I am. And I shouldn’t ever feel sad if I could just bask in that love all the time.

But I do struggle with depression. And I do feel it in spite of all that goodness. Today though? Today I choose to just remember the love and the special day and night I had. The day I felt like the luckiest queen in the world! Thanks to all of you…