*Tell us about your first experience with death. Did it change anything in you? Did it change the way you saw yourself or the way you saw or acted towards others? Or was there some other more impactful moment when the reality of the fragility of the human body became clear? Or are you still unable to fathom the inevitability of death? Tell us about your relationship with the reality of death.
*Write a short story, poem, or share a picture or song that talks about when death became real for you.
*Any inspired offering that somehow relates to the reality of death.
So, as always I procrastinate it seems over the Seekers Dungeon posts, but this one really more so, firstly the death subject and the fact this again relates to my mother. I only had two counseling sessions over my mother’s death, it did nothing for me I just constantly cried and she just sat there watching me and I felt so much worse afterwards for it.
However, having been forced inadvertently by the Seekers Dungeon Prompts to face many emotions relating to my mother it might be that these prompts have done a lot more for me than the two counseling sessions that I had after her demise.
My first experiences with death
I had relatives die, when I was young, ones that I was not close to, so the impact was in all honesty neither here nor there for me. Most of this due to the fact that as a family there seemed to be no particular bonding causing unions between various members and as such I didn’t get to know many of my extended family, certainly not well.
My first experience of seeing a dead body was with my step grandfather. He had gone to hospital complaining of chest pains, they did a couple of tests and sent him home with a bill of clean health. He had a heart attack upon leaving, collapsing at the doors of the same hospital and died later that day.
I remember getting the call, driving anxiously over to the hospital, pranging my car on the way, getting let off because the other driver could see the stress on my face (was minor scratches) and rushing in to be with my mother, cousin and grandmother. I remember going in to a public room screened off, he was there, dead.
My grandmother told me to say goodbye, to kiss him, to touch him, everyone seemed to be doing it whether they wanted to or not, I don’t know. I didn’t want to neither go up and touch nor kiss him, but felt I had to. I knew my step grandfather, I was very fond of him, but again didn’t spent much time with him at all, so though I was upset it wasn’t that gut sickening moment when you feel your life is going to never be the same.
I’ve always been slightly self conscious or shy in public areas and found it incredibly difficult when my grandmother who I know adored my step grandfather, started wailing loudly, proclaiming love and the injustice of life and grabbing at my step grandfather, lifting him up, then proceeding to kiss him passionately on the lips, quite sensually and for me my gut instinct made me feel profoundly disturbed over this and I waited in the hallway.
My grandmother was an alcoholic and slightly dotty. I say that with affection, but it is the truth. She could not live without him and like a swan, just simply started to fade away after my grandfather’s death. I remember going to my grandmother’s funeral, feeling upset, but not in the way my cousin did whom my grandmother brought up, nor my mother, though I know for her there were always mixed feelings including sorrow with the kind of upbringing she had.
My next death
My step father brought me up since I was 3 yrs old. Though I was sent to boarding school for a fair amount of my schooling years and packed away over the Summer holidays to go and see my father, he was still effectively my male pivotal point in my life who taught me life’s lessons.
I would describe him as a complete eccentric, domineering, difficult, loud, charming, always spoiling for a verbal debate which inevitably ended up in a fight, in some areas too intelligent for his own good and in others shamefully ignorant. He taught me to stand up and fight for what I believed in and always to speak up, little did he obviously realize that that would come back and bite him hard on the foot when I reached my teenage years and started dating!
I loved my step father dearly, I feared him probably in equal measures, both passionately. I knew there was love there, but also a simmering volcano when it came to his own beliefs be they wrong or right. He was well known in the village and local town. The shop keepers would call him Sir, he would go in bearing gifts at Christmas for them and get massive discounts throughout the year, however low behold anyone who crossed his path as he would cut them down with the verbal ferocity of a fighting dog.
Things became difficult between us when I entered my ‘dating’ age and they never really simmered down, moving through altered stages of calm and stress with whatever was going on at the time.
He didn’t have contact with his two children, daughter and son throughout his life until his son hit 30 when he just turned up at the doorstep. Over time I saw a relationship be it difficult develop between the two of them and my relationship with him worsen.
It was at the point I was pregnant with my eldest son that things came to an end for our relationship. I fell pregnant, unplanned and very early within my relationship with my now husband. I had decided that I ‘could’ if necessary go through with it on my own. IE: there would be no pressure from my end for the man I had literally been dating a few months to marry me.
I kept my pregnancy a secret from my mother and step father until it was in my mind ‘too late’ to do anything about it for fear of the pressure they might put upon me had it been earlier on and the recriminations of my refusal. They had not even met my ‘boyfriend’ let alone bonded, it was all frenetic and so early on and the history of my dating never seemed to give for good parental relationships and I knew for sure this situation would be no different.
You see my step father was of the mind that he was not a racist. His justification being “there is one black man in our village and I gave him a lift in to town, you see that makes me not a racist”. That was literally not verbatim, but near enough what he said to me one day upon one of our many discussions or arguments on our differing views.
My first serious boyfriend was Mauritian, my parents were ‘fine’ i.e. tolerated it, until it became serious. We dated for two years in which time they systematically used to listen to my telephone conversations, have people in the village spy on us and constantly threaten to throw me out of the house amongst other things.
After this my step father developed some strange kind of obsession that I was indeed infatuated with as he would say ‘men of colour’ and during his many animated viewings of the Pakistani cricket team matches he would shout out “hey, here are some men you will like to come and watch”. I used to just roll my eyes and remain dumbfounded that a man with such intelligence could actually be so ignorant.
No, I am not obsessed by men of colour, I like rainbows and as such have dated all kinds of men in the past, it’s not where, what or why, it is who that matters to me. However it just so happened that my ‘boyfriend’ with whom I had got pregnant by was ‘black’. Not Indian which my step father might have found more acceptable, but ‘black’.
So we both braced ourselves, made the introductions and over lunch one pressing request was that we marry before the baby was due.
I could now go on to cover religion and my take on it and my take on other people who use religion to suit them when it needs be and not for the right reasons. But I won’t as this post is not about that, but I didn’t get married before my eldest was born, I had my reasons and to ‘us’ they were valid and important.
However, my step father disowned me the minute he realized that we were not going to ‘obey’ his wishes. Over a period of probably two years until his death he refused to see or speak to me. Over this period he died, never in my heart, but from my life. I begged, cried to see him, tried everything to change his mind, but he would not have it and his relationship bettered with his son for it I guess.
I remember him being in hospital, I knew it was cancer, I rang to speak with him, he refused and I knew time was rushing by. I remember where I was when he died, I remember just ‘feeling sick’ a numb sort of cold sensation washing over me. I phoned the hospital, to find out that he had in fact just died.
I was finally allowed to then see him, when he was prepared by the funeral directors. It didn’t look like him, I don’t know whether I cried but I know I had cried for two years prior and when it came to the funeral, I sat by with all his friends that I had grown up with and listened as I was excluded from the speech about his life, as if I had never existed and his son mentioned as if he had always been there.
I have no bitterness towards my step father, just the facts in my head and a great sense of loss, for he was a major influence in my life, he gave me many lessons of which I cherish, the biggest lesson was unfortunately our downfall.
The death that did and still impacts on me
My mother was the most cherished person apart from my children, in my life. She epitomized loving someone unconditionally, she had grace, kindness and a strength deep inside that kept her through with her head high amongst toils and troubles.
My mother was everything to me and someone I am sure that I took for granted. Though I knew she was suffering various ‘ailments’ over years which no one could quite put their finger on, I never really thought or wanted to think about her not being here.
Various types of cancer plagued her in her last two years, breast, skin and then finally though we had been told she was fine, it had in fact spread throughout to claim other organs.
It was the last 5 weeks of her life from the moment of knowing ‘something dire was happening’ to her eventual death that remains like a horrific nightmare in my days and dreams should it come to mind, which I suppose I try not to let it.
I think both of us were in denial even after knowing that she had a tumor the size of a grapefruit resting in her pelvis, though they told me it was terminal, they told me we had time, a year. But it was not to be, it was only a few weeks. My mother and I never discussed her impending death in any fashion, we denied or ignored it.
I watched her suffer what appeared to me the most horrendous death. When she started slipping downhill the nurses would put her on more medication to ease her pain. She went from being able to eat to having a drip. They told me that when she got to a point she was unable to drink anymore they would then stop all liquids altogether.
My mother had stopped eating, she would slip in and out of consciousness. She would wake, becoming vivid and loud, sometimes giving me quite a shock and a smile with a sudden demand of me and I elated in having my mother back be it just for a moment. Those moments stopped, she then became incoherent. I would go by signals, hold her hand, twitches of fingers and give her sips of juice all the while watching her chest as she would struggle to get precious oxygen in to her lungs.
Then the nurses told me to stop. They told me that they would give her enough medication so that she would not feel pain. I would cry and say, “but she is starving, how can I not feed her, how can you take it all away?”. They would explain that by giving her liquids was only prolonging her pain, that it was kinder to let her go this way. They told me they would give her enough drugs so that she would not feel hungry or thirsty, that she would be in a happy place until the time for her to leave.
I couldn’t reconcile this in my head, I knew I was sanctioning starving my mother. I would sit with her every day, I would cry, but I would try to be silent about it, as I was not convinced she could not hear me. I didn’t want to distress her. Who am I kidding? Part of me thought she must be lying there knowing what was going on, her mind active, wanting to talk, in a prison as her soul slowly left her just leaving an empty shell.
One day towards the end I again as always sat with her, I would tell her that I loved her, I held her hand, I would wait, wait so hard to feel a twitch in her fingers and I looked up and a couple of tears fell from the side of her eye. I cried, because I couldn’t begin to try and imagine what was going on inside her head that no one could answer or know about. How do we know how conscious a person is when drugged in such a way, what do they feel, what are they thinking incapacitated as they are?
The last day I headed over after having called half an hour before, having been told she had had a restless night but had been washed and was alright. I arrived in the room. I didn’t say this bit in a post before but I saw my mother. Her face was towards the door of her room, she was yellow, her mouth was open. She was emaciated, gaunt and like she had wanted to call out. I can never look at the mask of ‘scream’ as this is what goes through my head, my mother resembled this image, like she was screaming out but I knew she would not have been able.
I had a sense of calm, but it was denial, just for a moment my mother would not be dead, not until I said it, not until I let those emotions rush out of me. I put my coat down, took my bag off, I went over to her, I touched her and then I could not hold back. I ran out of the room, grabbed the cleaner who had walked out as I walked in, I was angry, had she not seen her dead, she was the only person in there, had no one been there for her in her last moments?
I felt such guilt over this.
I don’t know what happened to me after this. I seemed to go in to some kind of auto mode, I had registered her death in the same day, got everything organized with a timely ferocity. I guess I didn’t want to slow down to be in the life that would be so empty without her. My husband never asked how I was, I still resent him for this.
My father came to visit just before she died. It was at this point he told me he had never wanted to marry my mother, that he felt forced. I am not sure this was great timing? He did however promise me that he would be at the funeral and say something for me.
He wrote to me two days before the funeral, he wasn’t going to be there. I wrote back, I was disappointed. He wrote back saying he had never really liked me and didn’t want me in his life anymore and now he didn’t need to have me in his life anymore now that my mother was not around.
I lost at that moment a father I had never really had.
But it still hurts, both father figures pushing me out of their lives. I can’t help but reflect it upon myself at times that it is somehow showing something wrong inside of me that I have yet to recognize that has caused for such a reaction.
But it does always highlight the beautiful and loving nature that my mother had and still has in the memory of all of her friends.
How does this affect me?
I would wake up every morning and reach for the phone to call her, this habit was hard to break. Not hearing her voice no matter what she said hard to not hear any more. Not to be able to give her body that found cuddling so hard a little hug anymore very hard.
I still burst in to tears just thinking about her. I’m not over it, not sure I ever will be. I don’t have those images of how I last saw her plaguing my mind anymore, not every day and more happy images now settle in my mind and memories.
It left though a deep scar, one of paranoia at times, sadness, immortality, morbidity I guess.
You see losing ‘all parents’ sort of leaves you at the top. Now having suffered chronic pain I see my actions mirroring many of the things that went on with her. I have my moments of paranoia, thinking something else is going on with me, why am I undiagnosed, am I going to end up dying like my mother. These are my dark horrible thoughts I probably haven’t told anyone, why here? Because right now, it is faceless until I press the publish button, but it’s not the same as having to say it to someone and that is why it’s easier.
So it’s out there now, in the big old Ethernet, the good, bad and the ugly sides of one’s personality, things one normally keeps deep inside, seeping up to creep outside and wave attention grabbing hand!
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