Tag Archives: grief

Shakespeare Didn’t Corner the Market on Tragedy

photo from Star Telegram

Shakespeare did not corner the market on tragedy.

The play that has been unfolding in the past month here in Fort Worth is worthy of a Shakespearian nod along with the best of his works.

Last month there was a two vehicle accident in the middle of the afternoon. The driver of a pickup veered into the path of an Escalade EXT. The teen age driver and one of his passengers was killed. Another passenger was seriously injured. The driver was drunk. He had left school at lunch time to purchase a 32 oz. bottle of malt liquor. He was seventeen. The dead girl and the injured one were both fifteen. I’m sure they were probably excited to be with “an older man” who was showing off his skills of being able to drink and drive at the same time. That was a fatal flaw in their thinking.

As if that were not enough of a tragedy, the event took another life yesterday. The teenager had a friend who tried to stop him from driving. The newspaper article does not go into more details of how the friend tried to stop the driver. In any event, the friend failed in his efforts and instead decided to follow the truck to make sure his friend and passengers arrived home safely. He witnessed the fatal accident and tried to help, but it was too late. The girl died at the scene. The driver died the next day.

The friend was left behind with a terrible sense of guilt  . He blamed himself for the death of his friend. He had failed to prevent the accident. His self-reproach was unimaginable.

The teen age years with their normal angst are hard enough to navigate. Adding to that the death of a friend, for which rightly or wrongly one takes on full responsibilty, is a load that few people can handle.

The friend succumbed to the pressure.

He died a few days ago from a self-inflicted gun shot wound to his head, leaving his mother and a younger brother to find him.

He also left behind another who claims he was the young man’s “best friend”.

The clerk who sold the boy the malt liquor was arrested in a sting. The mother is left with her grief. There was no gun in the house. She will always wonder how he was able to obtain it.

The boy had returned some borrowed clothing from his “best friend” and talked about what good friends they were…like brothers. The friend is now probably wondering why he didn’t pick up the signals that the boy was saying good bye.

The teen age years are difficult enough to get through without the addition of guns and alcohol. The DARE program presented by the police just isn’t enough. They try to teach the kids tools to help them through the gauntlet until adulthood is reached. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes not.

Do I have the answers? Certainly not. I have felt blessed every day that my son made it through those years of drinking and driving in spite of me more than because of me.

Tragedies happen. If someone knows the answers to how to keep drivers from drinking, teen agers from obtaining guns, and friends from committing suicide because of the guilt, I hope s/he comes forward. We have been involved with these problems too long.

I’m certain Shakespeare with his command of language could even come up with a quote that would wake us up to the fact that what we are doing is not good enough. Enough is enough!

My knowledge of Shakespeare in extremely limited. The quote that kept running through my mind as I read the paper was this:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep:
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to…

It is sad that the friend who tried to help decided “not to be” and all too sadly, “there’s the rub”.

Namaste  Attic Annie

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We Have Only Today

I was watching TV last week and came across an episode of 8 Simple Rules. I never watched it when it was on the first time. I soon realized what was happening. The wife played by Katey Sagal was deciding she couldn’t sleep in her bed because it was the first night after the funeral of her husband, played by John Ritter. Since that was the only episode I have seen, I realized the series was using the death of Ritter as part of the script. I remember how quickly he had died. On the series, they took the attitude that life goes on.

Last week a member of the choir sang two solos during church. He has been through some very rough spots in his life but as he sang, it was obvious that he was in a very good place. Things were coming together for him. One of the songs he sang was Carolyn Arends song “New Year’s Day.”

I buy a lot of diaries 
Fill them full of good intentions 
Each and every New Year’s Eve 
I make myself a list 
All the things I’m gonna change 
Until January 2nd 
So this time I’m making one promise 

CHORUS: 
This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 
This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 

I believe it’s possible 
I believe in new beginnings 
‘Cause I believe in Christmas Day 
And Easter morning too 
And I’m convinced it’s doable 
‘Cause I believe in second chances 
Just the way that I believe in you 

This will be my resolution 
Every day is New Year’s Day 
This could start a revolution 
Every day is… 

One more chance to start all over 
One more chance to change and grow 
One more chance to grab a hold of grace 
And never let it go 

He’s the type of guy who can really make others feel good. We believed him when he sang of changing and growing and grabbing grace. He made  us all feel good. He made us believe that every day we should resolve that this is our best day. That was Sunday.

Yesterday morning he posted on FB for his friends to pray for his daughter. She had stopped breathing and was rushed to intensive care in Tennessee where he had spent days at Christmas. She was on a ventilator. He updated last night that neurological signs were not good. An hour ago he posted that his daughter was with her mom among the angels in heaven.

The 8 Simple Rules script had the teenage children talking about the last things they said to their father. They were deep in grief for suddenly losing him.

I’m sure my friend is in deep mourning for the loss of his daughter. As far as I know she never regained consciousness. I wonder if he remembers his last conversation with her.

Our lives can be as normal as ever and then suddenly without warning everything can come to a screeching halt. Both the show and my friend’s loss brought that home to me. We are not able to always have that last moment to say good bye.

My father and I were not on the best of terms. He was in the hospital and I should have gone to see him even if it would have been out of a sense of filial duty. However, I really didn’t feel like it. I remember exactly where I was when I decided I would wait until the next day. After all, the doctor had said he was doing OK.

About six hours later we got the call from the hospital that he was dead. I did not take the time to say good bye. I can’t remember my last conversation with him. Those times during my senior year in college were few and far between.

I had that one day. Only one day. To tell my father I really did love him…to ask him if he really did love me. I let that opportunity slide by.

I talk with my son a couple times a month and email him a few more. If you have adult male sons you know this is very normal. He is living his own life. But one thing I have realized that we do more often is end up writing or speaking “I love you.” He often initiates it. He is able to do something I had great difficulty in doing. He is teaching me the importance of letting him know and his letting me know that we love each other. It is then that I realize we have only today. If I die suddenly he will remember that the last time we communicated he ended the conversation with love. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Things we own can be taken away in a heartbeat

This letter arrived yesterday in my inbox. It was sent by a man in Joplin to his sister who was a friend of a friend of my friend who forwarded it all the members in our Sunday discussion group. News travels much more quickly these days.

I have temporarily given up volunteering at the hospital for health reasons. I cannot imagine what it would be like if that hospital had been hit the way his was. I don’t know how often they have emergency preparedness drills. I hope it is often. Being prepared is the best way to handle any disaster of this proportion. My heart goes out to everyone in Joplin. Every time the tornado siren sounds in my neighborhood, I know what could possibly be the result. One never knows. This man certainly did not. Please pray healing for all those affected by this storm.

I just received this letter which was passed on by a man named John, who works at Freeman Hospital in Joplin.  What a horrific tale John tells.  Sharron

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Date: Tuesday, May 24, 2011, 3:21 PM

ok everybody.  here we go.. what a ride it has been.  I just woke up from crashing finally..

I was at work at Freeman hospital when the tornado hit.  I was the ONLY mantanaince man on the evening shift.  the alert sounded.  said it was a warning for carl junction which is 10 miles north of where we were.

I started all the generators.  10 of them.  just in case… when the storm hit  we did  not realize what had happened only 1/4 north of us at St Johns.  not until the caravans of people started coming in.   St Johns took a direct hit.  blew out all the windows, then had a gas leak and an explosion.   the tornado was about 8 blocks wide and went through Joplin.  west to east.. never left the ground.  residential… business… residential… main business.. residential.

we had people coming in pickups with wounded.. cars with all the windows blown out.  people on boards, doors, tables.  we emptied 4 conference rooms of the rolling chairs .. about 100.. to use as wheel chairs.  we had 4 triage areas going full blast.  one at each entrance.  people were lined up for 10 blocks or more just to get to our driveways.  we had just gone through an earthquake drill last week, so every one knew their supplies were.  it was calm chaos.  hundreds of wounded,  covered in blankets, sitting in chairs, lying on the floor in rows.  blood every where.. new chairs coming now for sure…. the nurses and doctors were great.

our phones were out instantly… the cell towers were inundated, couldn’t get out.  we couldn’t call for reinforcements.. they just started showing up.  from every where.. emt’s, nurses, doctors, local and even from out of town.  the few in the kitchen started making sandwiches,  we brought out all the blankets we had, brought up rolling supply carts of bandages, cases of bottled water.

formed small groups of volunteers to manage traffic so the ambulances could get in and out.  school buses of injured started coming it.  truckers were bringing in semi loads of injured.  no lights in joplin, we have a six story tower and all you could see were blue and red lights everywhere.

I personally took the 1st six bodies and started a temporary morgue.  The stories people were telling were beyond belief… we had probably 10 or 12 dogs running somewhat loose in the hospital that people had brought in with them.  smoking in the hospital on a no smoking campus. cries of pain, sorrow and yes even joy when people would find loved ones.

The situation in town is way WORSE  than you see on tv.  I came home in the dark and did not know where I was because of the destruction, untill I came to a round about in the road and realized I had gone a mile too far.  I couldn’t get through to Sandy on the phones and people started coming in from the area I lived in with horror stories of total destruction.

the home depot you see on tv is just blocks from us… finally another employee came in and said his mom was ok.  and she just lives two blocks from us.  the tornado just missed my son by two blocks as well.  My daughter in law is a therapist and has no office building to go to anymore.  her father is a dentist who has no office building to go to anymore.

Joplin will take years to rebuild.  kinda like the twin towers.  you can actually see all the way through town, end to end.  the high school is gone.  a major business street, going east and west on the east of town is flat on both sides of the street for two miles.  nothing left standing.  thousands of people have lost their homes, and their possessions, AND  their income because their places of employment have vanished off the map.

on the other hand, THANK THE LORD,  I have my home, my possesions and my job.  I never had to serve in combat, but surely this has to be somewhat similar in relation of chaos.  I kinda know what the Japanese must feel like after the sunami now.   yes I know some of the dead in joplin personally.

Freeman hospital still looks kinda like it did that night.  we still have STUFF everywhere.  the floor is still dirty because joplin has virtually no water pressure. we barely have enough water to run our sterilzers for instruments.   only two bathrooms work in the hospital.. don’t know whey they do… the water company has SO MANY broken pipes in houses that are gone, that they can’t get the pressure to come up.  a large area of the roof blew off and the rain collected and ran down inbetween the layers of roofing and into the areas full of pipes and wires and is still dripping and of course the rain won’t stop so we can fix the roof.  we have buckets all over the halls and even have a couple of areas of rooms we can’t even use because the water keeps coming out of the ceiling area.  we have removed hundreds of ceiling tiles that have gotten wet and were coming down anyway.

the fire alarms keep going off all the time because the  wiring system is getting wetter and wetter with all the leaks.  we have to check each alarm to make sure there is no fire and then silence it.

PLEASE PRAY FOR US.  A LOT OF PEOPLE’S LIVES ARE CHANGED FOREVER.
MINE IS. AND I AM ALRIGHT.  THANKS FOR ALL THE CALLS, SORRY THE PHONES STILL DON’T WORK VERY WELL.  WE ARE ON A CURFEW DUSK TO DAWN WITH NATIONAL GUARD AT HUNDREDS OF INTERSECTIONS.  A 15 MINUTE DRIVE TO HOME  TOOK  ME AN HOUR.  ONLY MY FREEMAN BADGE LET ME THROUGH.  MAYBE I  WILL WRITE MORE LATER.  NOW I’M GOING BACK TO SLEEP.  JOHN

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For my “sister” Sue

I have not blogged in almost a month. During that time I have had to endure a number of events regarding my health and my heart mostly relating to the loss in my life. My last blog was written March 12 when I prepared to visit my cousin. She was the true sister I always wished I could have, not the sibling that I ended up with.

I did travel back to my hometown to see her. I stayed with another cousin from the other side of my family who was gracious enough to offer me a bed. Part of me wanted to stay longer than three nights, but the controlling part of me said my stay would be unwelcomed after that. I firmly believe in the saying “Fish and guests start to smell after three days.”  I can’t help it. I have to go.

I did see my cousin. I didn’t get the hours alone with her walking down memory lane refreshing our memories of our times together as I had so hoped. Our time alone was limited by others dropping in to see her. I was too tired to see her on Monday afternoon. The train ride was an event in itself that I will blog about some time soon. I spent the time visiting with my hostess cousin and her two daughters. I was the “girls'” first babysitters when they were newborns. Now they are in their 50s with grandchildren of their own. I hadn’t seen them since the mid 80s.

On Tuesday I did have about three hours with Sue while her husband ran errands. The time was filled much of the time by the hospice nurse. Sue napped and then the grandkids arrived after school. The next day about 1/2 hour after my arriving, a group of her friends arrived to hold a “birthday” party for her. They all left after a couple of hours except one who decided to visit. I tried to be subtle an hour later trying to get her to postpone her talking until she came back the following week. I pointed my head towards Sue and hoped she noticed that Sue had fallen asleep while she talked. She smiled and nodded and was quiet for about five minutes before Sue opened her eyes again.

I finally got up enough courage to ask her to come back. Sue and I had some family things we needed to discuss. She no sooner left than Sue fell asleep again. I let her sleep. Then the grandchildren arrived again along with one of  her sons who took off early to come see me, and her husband. I couldn’t force myself to say good bye. All I could do was say “Later”, kiss her forehead and smile as much as I could. I returned to the train station the following day. The next two weeks her son kept me informed by email of her status. I called her twice. Both times there were others in the house who had come to visit her and her husband. Our conversations were short. The last time she was on Vicodin and didn’t even sound like herself. I tried to ask her about her comments of seeing Jesus watching from the window. She said she was told it was probably just the drugs but she preferred to think what she saw was the real thing. I tried to ask her how he looked. “Was he dressed in modern clothes or was he traditional? ” I asked. “He looked like Jesus,” she replied.

Today a short service is being held for Sue along with a visitation. Sue transitioned Monday morning. She left me filled with regret that I had let so many years pass when we could have been closer somehow. I could have spent the money on long distance calls. I could have spent the time writing letters. I could have managed to visit her more often somehow. My life is full of could haves. Deciding to stay in Texas caused a separation that will never be filled.

Sue was there all the time if I had bothered to reach out. But I was a very busy teacher. I was a single mother. I spent ten years with CFS and fibromyalgia. I didn’t enjoy writing letters. She was a busy wife and a busy mother. She was very active in her sons’ lives. For several years she struggled on her own life path until thirteen years ago with an addiction. Her time was also filled.

Since I retired seven years ago I had the time to get closer. She had a plan that allowed for much cheaper long distance so she would call me. She finally got a computer so we could email. We saw each other at our cousins’ reunions and I visited her several times. We finally bridged the gap between us and became closer.

There is a guest book on line. I’ve been following the entries. People from many surrounding communities are leaving comments. Sue was quiet and unassuming. But the people who got to know her found a treasure. She, because of her life experiences, became quite a counselor to many others. She was always there with her brownies and cookies and casseroles whenever she felt there was a need.

I think she always felt “less than” because she didn’t graduate from college. She had some problems that I cannot remember ( I was in college myself at the time) and ended up with having to take one more course to complete her requirements for her B.A. I don’t remember the whole story but she called it quits instead of enduring that last semester. The world lost a great early education teacher. She taught in a private school for a few years then became a full time mother, never returning to college to obtain the needed piece of paper. Sue would have filled the love tanks for many children. She was just that kind.

Now Sue is gone. I tried several times to write this blog but it always ends up the same way. I type until the screen turns blurry and my nose starts to run.

I did not intend to blog today about this topic, but here it is. The idea for today will have to wait. This is in honor of Sue. She was the one person I could count on to read what I had to say. She seldom replied on the blog but we would talk about things I had written on the phone. She was my cheerleader. She was disappointed on days or weeks when I stopped writing, saying she missed her “Blog fix”. She was an avid follower. Many times I wrote just for her opinion. Somehow blogging knowing she is no longer reading does not seem the same.

She will be missed. She was one who did not hide her candle under a basket, even though her candle in many ways was a small one. It still gave out great warmth to those who found it. The world is a little bit darker this week. People who knew her will think of her and their hearts will feel a little bit heavy. They will sigh and swallow and perhaps shed a few tears. God, if only all of us could leave the world the same way. “Later, Sue.” Namaste. Attic Annie

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For those to whom American holidays are not happy

Not ours but could have been

I started writing this blog July 4th. I had to edit the first sentence. My cousin said she was hoping I was finished “floating nowhere”, my last blog. Hopefully, I can get back on track again soon.

Nine days ago our little community held its annual 4th of July parade. I don’t have any idea how long the tradition has been going on, but it’s been happening as long as I have lived here, almost thirty-three years.

It’s a time when my neighbors bring lawn chairs to sit along the parade route. Since I live on the corner, the parade comes north past my house and turns the corner so it passes right in front of my house. This year three other neighbors joined me along with a friend whose father participates every year with the other citizens who are on patrol. She waves to him as he passes. Their relationship has been rocky for years but she still tries to connect once in a while.

Other neighbors stood on my lawn facing  the other street. I didn’t recognize them. Perhaps I should have been more friendly and walked over to introduce myself but my yard is big and they seemed too far away. At that point I was only two weeks out of surgery and every step seemed to take the energy of twenty. My dog Ri-Leigh very calmly and patiently sat by the side of my chair as I remained seated.

The fire engines went by, the Marines with the flag, the boy scouts, the mayor in a convertible,  and a variety of decorated cars. There were a multitude of children and even two dogs. Traditionally, wrapped candy is thrown to the spectators. A large portion of the neighborhood Baptist church joined the parade this year passing out tracts and coins engraved with the ten commandments. I missed the sheriff’s mounted patrol this year.

I looked across the street and there was Maxine and her husband. He is now walking more and more often with a cane which is quite understandable since he is getting nearer to 90 every year.

I crossed the street to talk with them after the parade passed by, but by the time I arrived, he was already heading indoors again. A man who used to live next to Maxine came home after 40 years to watch the parade. He was there before I was. He and Maxine reminisced  about the early days in the 50s when he played with her sons.

After the old neighbor  left, Maxine turned to me. “Hugh (her husband) left kind of fast,” I said. She replied, ” It gets harder for him every year. He’s probably inside with a glass of wine.” I asked her what she meant.

It turns out that the Fourth, Memorial Day, and Veterans’ Day are all days that send Hugh back in time to memories of friends lost during WW II. He was a navigator in the Army Air Corps during that time. He starts to think about the men who would go out on missions and not come back.

Maxine said that during that time of war nothing was ever said to any of the men in camp about the missing men. They were there one day and never mentioned again the next. “The men just sucked it up and kept on going.” As a result, all these years since the end of the war, Hugh has been sucking it up and never really openly grieved about the loss of any of his friends.

He led a successful life, retired from a successful job, and raised two very successful sons who married and are raising their own children who have no inkling what it is like to lose someone and never again mention their names.

Every patriotic holiday for Hugh now brings back these memories. He can’t help it. They come unbidden. As hard as he tries, he cannot enjoy the days set aside to commemorate his war buddies. He still stands and salutes when the flag passes by but he is not alone. His friends are with him every year and the friendship bonds they share call to him more every year.

Hugh spends time with his wine and the friends gradually go away. These are friends who flew away with the bombers at the beginning of a raid and never returned. There were no bodies to bury. But that didn’t mean they disappeared. You cannot dismiss someone with whom you were very close that easily. Not talking about them does not mean you can or even should try to force them from your memories as soldiers were often asked to do.

I have no idea if the practice of just moving on is still prevalent in today’s wars. I hope not. In Hugh’s case, probably just hearing the name of his friends and being allowed a moment of silent meditation might have gone a long way in healing the wounds that occurred during his time of war. It would have at the least, acknowledged that these men once walked the earth and meant something to somebody. That might have helped.

Maxine says that Hugh enjoys the parade. He hasn’t missed any for many years. But, year after year, his friends come to watch it with him and for awhile he slips away quietly after the parade to spend some time with his buddies.

Namaste. Attic Annie

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