I was reading a text this week about a friend and how the family was together when their loved one passed. It got me thinking this morning about saying final goodbyes to loved ones and friends because it is so different every time. Covid brought on some circumstances that were impossible for families. Loved ones dying alone. Both of my better half’s parents passed during this time, not from covid but certainly affected greatly by it.
In one case the father was failing and couldn’t be seen for weeks at the hospital and for the life of him couldn’t understand why we weren’t coming to see him, because of covid restrictions. When he got to the hospice stage the choice was a facility where he still couldn’t be seen. The family brought him to one of the son’s homes and for almost 2 days the family got to say goodbye. But by that stage, it was limited because at that point he couldn’t respond to much at all. That time in the hospital when so much could have been shared had passed.
As bad as that was not seeing him for weeks before he passed and only through a window for months before because of covid lockdowns there was worse to come. We took the mother out of the assisted living so she wouldn’t be all alone with only window visitors and moved her in with family. That went well but after a few months, she started to fade. Despite her getting healthier after his death and getting back to her more normal self over the following months she took a turn for the worse and had to go to the hospital also.
Again nobody could see her. Pure torture for families. But those were the times. But she started to bounce back again after a few weeks and went to rehab. And the day she was going from rehab back to her nursing facility, she took a bad turn for the worse and was back in the hospital where we were waiting on a call to see her because they allow family in if it’s terminal. They didn’t think it was but a few hours later she passed alone. That was 2 years ago today.
After experiencing people passing in several ways with family and friends I had the following thoughts.
- If you loved a person deeply they knew you loved them. Being if you’re there with them at the end or not.
- I believe it’s what you do along in life that is with the person at the end, not if they squeeze your hand tightly or not.
- I have been with loved ones in their final moments and I’ve missed being with loved ones in their final moments. Again it doesn’t matter if you are there or not at the end. It’s all those times before.
- In some cases, you might think it’s better to be with them as they pass but that hasn’t been my personal experience. I found my dad dying at 9 in the basement and after dementia and a stroke ate my mother I had to watch her in hospice for 12 days before she passed. Both were sheer torture.
- In some cases, it is great to be with them. The few moments we had with my father-in-law at the end were punctuated by my very young granddaughter reaching out to his arm and just holding it and looking at him. Many of his children were extremely happy they had a few moments with him at the end.
- Some people beat themselves up over not being there and they really shouldn’t if they made their best effort or circumstances dictated it impossible.
- There are some passing that people will never be able to recover from. A loss of a child. A LONG term lifelong partner. There are some who can’t move on from the normal losses in life. These people shouldn’t be looked down upon because they can’t move past it or take longer than others. Each person’s grief is their own and nobody else’s. And how they deal with it in their timeframe is how they deal with it.
- Some like to remember the day and honor it and some don’t like to be reminded of it. Some honor in very public ways and other very privately.
- Some feel relief when a person’s long-term suffering ends. But then that relief turns to guilt for feeling that way. It shouldn’t.
- All can acknowledge it is part of the life process. But there is nothing normal about it and it is one of the hardest things to endure for many.
- Don’t feel anger towards people who are good at maybe moving on or compartmentalizing their grief or pain. Never assume they aren’t hurting just as badly but doesn’t show or share it.
Hello and Goodbye, Mom,
I found this draft below about my mother-in-law that I never posted, today is the anniversary of her passing and I figured I better share it now than never. I wrote it almost 2 years ago.
My Mother-in-law was laid to rest less than a week ago. A very tough time for her family and those she touched. I had the thought the day after she passed that this was the first time in my lifetime I had nobody to call Mom anymore. My own Mom passed almost a decade ago but I was blessed with a Mother-in-law that treated me like her own son. It was very comforting having a mother figure in the family to carry on.
Having someone to call you the best son or the best son-in-law was music to my ears. Of course, I was the only son and son-in-law so that made it kind of easy for them. But I tried like I wanted to be the best. I will miss many things about losing my father and mother-in-law this year. First just the simple truth, that generation is gone from our immediate family. We had 4 generations going for a while there, now we are back to 3 and that is where it will stay for a while. And the next great-grandmother and great-grandfather could be us.
I will miss her warm embrace. I will miss her question “how are you Mike” because it was asked with such conviction. And of course, the follow-up question of “how are the children” and in the last few years “how is that grandchild doing” and nothing less than a full dissertation of what had transpired between the last time we saw each other was required. How wonderful those simple questions are when the person asking hangs on the reply.
I will miss her during the holidays when the family would gather. I will miss stopping by their home for no other reason than to say hello. I will miss the stories of siblings and their children. I will miss her sitting in her favorite wing chair. And I will always see her in the favorite chair she had at our home for the last several months. I will miss seeing her and dad sitting on the front porch on the bench we got them. I still see the worry if she had enough food even though there were always leftovers. I guess when you’ve been feeding a small army all your life you might worry about those things.
I think about how touched she was by personal gifts. But it was seeing her family and friends that made her light up. She and Dad were both the driving force in the family’s faith. She was so humble and aware of those in need of help. For a very petite frame, she was full of love. Her many grandchildren have a void that only memories can fill now.
I can never thank her and dad enough for the gift of my better half. She completed me in this lifetime.
I remember holidays being forever changed when my parents passed and this is certainly no exception this year. We have been so busy till this morning that I realized I hadn’t gotten a live tree for the upstairs. That is a first in itself.