Tag Archives: death

Going out on that limb again.

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Okay, I know I said my last weird experience post was the finale but after I blogged them all… I realized it actually wasn’t. The following is what I wrote three months after my mother passed. Her wish was to be cremated but she never told me what to do with her ashes. Being an only child I agonized over the decision, but knew that part of her should rest somewhere in New Jersey where she spent some of the happiest years of her life. It was an emotional trip for many reasons, but what happened on this particular day really hit home.

Rivergirl

October 20, 2014

I knew….

The third day of our trip started much like the first. My husband was up before dawn and went downstairs for the free…. but barely edible… hotel breakfast. Think watery eggs and rubber sausage.

I took a shower and as I was getting dressed, realized I should do what I had been putting off.

The purpose of our trip was to bring my mother home and I’d been stalling with walks down memory lane. I knew I wanted to spread half of her ashes at the Jersey shore where we’d spent many happy summers. She always loved the sea.

I stood there in the hotel room, feeling sad… missing my mom…. and set about the gruesome physical task. There’s something surreal about holding the remains of your loved one in your hands. The weight of a lifetime.

Of course I started crying. Wondering if I was doing the right thing, doing what she would have wanted. The grief flooded over me like a wave…

And then, when the task was done and she was evenly divided, I smiled…. because I realized I had double baggied her and she would have loved that.

Remember her fondness for baggies?

After I wiped my tears, I reached for my purse which held my much needed makeup… and saw something on the table. The table that had been perfectly empty a half hour before when I stepped in the shower.

I gasped. And started crying again….

It was my mother’s white bobby pin.

She was such a pill about them. Would never use any other color and they’re harder to find than you might think. She hoarded them… and started fretting when she was running low. They were in every room of her apartment, in every pocket of every coat and every sweater she owned. She was never without them…

But I didn’t carry them. Ever. And I certainly didn’t pack one to take on the trip with us. Why would I? My husband didn’t put it there, he was downstairs eating breakfast. I suppose a random white haired maid could have snuck in and dropped it while touching up her ‘do while I was showering…. but I’m guessing the odds of that are pretty high.

There’s no reason on earth why a white Bobby pin should have been on that table… except one.

My husband walked in the room a few minutes later, saw me crying and looked lost.

He didn’t believe me when I told him…

But I knew.

I knew she was there with me.

I knew.

To this day I still can’t wrap my mind around what happened. A physical embodiment of spirit? Get the straight jacket ready and tidy up the rubber room, River is on her way.

It’s been 7 years since that crazy bobby pin appeared out of nowhere, and if I think about it too long I begin to doubt it happened at all. But then I walk into our bedroom and look on my bureau under my passel of Alex and Ani bracelets…

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Hello momma

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And I know.

I know it did…..

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Going out on a limb… part 6.

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This will be the last  I never knew River was such a loon unexplained experienced post. Strange things happen, and sometimes you have to blog about them. Which is what I did after my mother passed…. and now again because  Swinged Cat  asked me.

Weird event #6.

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Wow.

Added: Wednesday, July 9th 2014 at 8:54am by rivergirl

I have one more amazing experience to share with you, and for me…this was the most meaningful.

As I’ve said before, the people who work and volunteer at hospices are angels in my eyes. A more compassionate, caring set of individuals you’ll never meet. They were there for me at the worst time of my life…. even when I didn’t think I needed them. They walked me through the process of death and held my hand. Literally and figuratively. They offered a shoulder to cry on and a hug when words weren’t nearly enough. They shared their stories of helping others through difficult times and it ended up helping me.

One woman told me of a patient who had terminal prostate cancer. He was given 3 months to live and was surrounded by his large, loving, Italian family at all times. They came in rotating shifts, cooked meals, read books and played cards. One afternoon while his favorite grand daughter was visiting he told her he was a little tired and wanted to take a nap. She said, “Okay Gramps. But we’ll be right outside when you need us because we’re not leaving you for a minute.” 10 minutes later, forgetting her purse in his room, she snuck back in quietly and found that he was gone.

He needed to spare them the pain of his passing and chose his time.

Make of that what you will.

When you’re sitting in the hospice rooms… there are books, pamphlets and literature on dying scattered everywhere. They’re meant to be helpful, but for days I couldn’t bring myself to read them. Denial is a wonderful thing.

But as time wore on and things got progressively worse, I picked one up.

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It was written by a nurse who has witnessed numerous deaths in her career. And as hard as it was to read…it was also strangely fascinating. Because I learned that it’s a very defined process, death. No matter what your disease or illness….you will die in clearly recognizable steps.

Reading about the months prior to death I realized my mother had been showing the signs. She’d given up reading, which she loved. She’d given up the New York Times crossword puzzle, which she whipped thru in pen. Her appetite had gone from small to non existent. Her sleeping patterns had changed. These are all part of the process….the pulling away from life.

So I sat, I waited, I cried.

And then it happened. It was an afternoon when a social worker had come to talk with me. At this point my mother had been completely out of it for almost a week. You couldn’t wake her and she didn’t speak.

The social worker had gotten up and walked around the room, looking at all the photos I’d brought. We stood on opposite sides of my mother’s bed and spoke of my father and the strange experiences I related here earlier. I had tears rolling down my face when I told her I knew my dad was waiting for my mom. We turned, made our way to the door…. and then? My mother woke up.

Her eyes were as clear as day… and she found me across the room. I rushed to her side, leaned over her bed and held her hand. I told her I loved her. She looked like she was trying to say something…. but couldn’t. Her breathing became labored.  I leaned closer, kissed her and told it her was okay. That it was her time…and that I would be alright. I told her she would be with dad again soon.

I told her he’d been waiting for her a long time and it was okay to go. I told her he was right there with us.

And then the strangest thing happened. She turned her head, reached out an arm and looked right past me….in every sense of the word. Her eyes went completely glassy. Like a curtain had been drawn. Her breathing calmed, she smiled…and I knew. She’d found him.

She closed her eyes and went back to sleep, but I knew the best part of her was already gone. I’m sitting here with a lump in my throat and tears splashing the keyboard, but I tell you at that moment….I felt such an overwhelming sense of peace.

And grace.

I kept a bedside vigil for many more hours. And reread a passage in the book about what happens when death is near…

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Well, I recognized it…. and it was amazing.

She died later that night. A half an hour after I’d left.

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Going out on a limb ….part 5.

I’m just going to keep putting these out here until I run out. If you’re reading them and seeing me differently, so be it. I’m finding it quite cathartic…. and as Bon Jovi says, It’s My Life.

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Weird experience #5, another from my days in the hospice with my  late mother.

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The Crash.

Added: Wednesday, July 9th 2014 at 5:25am by rivergirl

As I said before, I brought a lot of pictures to my mothers hospice room. I hung them on the walls, taped them to the nightstand and tucked them in the tv screen. I wanted to surround her with love and happy memories.

There were many of me and my husband, and our pets and special times we had shared with my mother….

The nurses and staff loved it. They told me it lets them meet their patients in a different way, which considering the never ending sadness they deal with… I thought was very touching.

Most of the pictures were mine, but there were 3 framed photographs that had hung on my mother’s walls for 50 years… so I brought them too.

Here they are:

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Momma & her father

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My mother and her father on Jones Beach.

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My mother and father on their wedding day at the Stork Club.

And this one:

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A very old photo of my mother, in her 20’s, and her first love… Frank.

He was much older and very wealthy. He introduced a young, naive girl born to Austrian immigrant parents who lived in a cold water tenement flat…. to a world of art, culture and high society. They were together for many years, but never married. In 1957 he broke it off and introduced her to a junior partner in his firm….my father. They were married a year later.

I grew up knowing all about Frank. It was no secret she loved him and it in no way diminished the love she felt for my father. First love is first love. It never bothered me.

Now fast forward 50 odd years and her daughter is sitting alone with her in a hospice room waiting for the end. I cried. All day, all night, on and off for days.

During the first afternoon, I was sitting on the rock hard couch thinking about her life, my life and everything in between. I thought about my dad. About how much he loved her and what a good marriage they had.

And then I heard a crash.

The picture of my mom and Frank had fallen off the wall.  It fell face down on the floor and the glass was smashed to bits.

No one had slammed a door, no one had knocked the wall from the next room. There was no seismic shock or tremor that rattled the building. No airplane flew too low and shook the windows. It just crashed.While all the other pictures stayed right where they were.

Apparently while my mother loving Frank didn’t bother me….it clearly bothered my dad. And he told me so in no uncertain terms.

The photo stayed face down on a side table until I brought it home after she passed.

Call it coincidence if you want….

But I know better.

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Going out on a limb…. part 4.

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What is it they say? In for a penny, in for a pound. If you read  this blog I wrote a week or so ago about a strange incident with my father’s antique clock…. and if you didn’t think I was a total nutcase, please continue and blame Swinged Cat .

He asked me to share my weird experiences a while back and that means telling stories from one of the worst times in my life, the death of my mother. So here’s another of the odd moments in my life I can’t explain.

Tick Tock….

Added: Tuesday, July 8th 2014 at 4:40am by rivergirl

As horrible as the passing of my mother was, there were a few moments I will treasure….for very different reasons. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to share them here.

When we moved her from the hospital to hospice, she was in pain…but awake and relatively alert. It was a lovely place and I had visions of spending time with her in the gardens listening to the birds…

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Sadly, that wasn’t to be as the cancer was too far advanced. Her decline was so rapid, strong medication was required.

After the first night of listening to her cry in pain, I gave the okay for maximum morphine. She rested more easily, but was so heavily doped up she was unaware of her surroundings. The gardens and peaceful sculptures turning gently in the breeze were more for me… and this lonely bench near the woods became my salvation when things got too heavy to bear.

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I went to her room the next morning loaded with flowers, framed photographs and personal items to brighten her space. But again…. she was unaware.

I stroked her brow, held her hand, and told her I loved her.

Nothing.

In the 5 days she was there, she only spoke once.

“Whose clock is that? I hear ticking.”

I was confused, as there were no clocks in the room. It meant nothing to me at the time. Just the gibberish of a heavily morphined mind.

Or was it?

Those of you who know me, know I am not a religious person. The hypocrisy of the modern church makes me cringe. And when the hospice staff asked me if I wanted a priest to sit with me, I said no. The thought of the black crow of death hovering over me spilling platitudes did not give me the least bit of solace.

So imagine my surprise when a quiet, unassuming lesbian chaplain became my confident during our stay. She listened, she consoled… she was there. We spoke of many things…least of all religion. I ended up spilling my entire history with my mother to her and felt a giant weight lift from my shoulders. They say that the right people come into your life at the right times…. that statement doesn’t seem so trite to me now.

She told me she believed that everyone has someone who helps them pass over. And it eased my mind to think that my father was waiting for my mother at the end of her journey.

She asked me if my mother had spoken and I related that one meaningless phrase.

Her eyes got wide, she bowed her head and then just stared at me. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing…. until she reminded me of the story I had told her the day before. The one about my father’s broken clock ticking after 29 years of silence.

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Make of it what you will…. but that lovely little woman held my hand and said she knew it was my father’s way of saying he was there. Waiting.

Tick, tock.

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Going out on a limb…. Part 3.

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You’re back! Even though your eyes hurt from rolling so far up in your head? I appreciate that. Try not to think of me differently, I’m still the same margarita swilling, rock obsessed, chicken loving  Mainiac (capital M thank you very much) you know and love. This is just another quirk to add to the list.

So that was strange experience number two. My reading with a psychic. It seems odd all these years later to even admit that out loud, but the simple act of rereading my blog from that time has lightened my heart again. If I took nothing else away from that weird and wonderful night it was the fact that our loved ones are never really gone.  I truly believe that now…. and it’s a great comfort.

So here’s my last episode of that spiritual adventure. The aftermath.

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I think I opened the floodgates….

Added: Wednesday, January 30th 2013 at 5:29am by rivergirl

Since my experience last Saturday, I’ve told a few close friends about the psychic I saw and how she made a believer out of me… if just for one night. I was a bit fearful of their reactions… expecting eye rolls and chuckles. But I swear it was like they were all waiting for that particular door to open so they could tell their stories.

It was completely bizarre…. A totally no nonsense conservative told me of visitations from his late mother. An old girlfriend I went to school with and thought I knew everything about, admitted she’s been seeing a psychic for 15 years. A down to earth grandmother of 7 told me about her numerous feelings of deja vu. A man that works with my husband, the most rigidly analytical mind in the office, brought these books for me to read and confessed he is a devout believer.

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I skimmed a few chapters of these and think this woman is a flake……but whatever. It was the thought that counts.

I guess what really struck me is most people don’t feel comfortable talking about this subject until they know you’re on board.

So… I’m putting it out there.

I told you of my mind blowing re-connection with my late father. Are any of you willing to share your other worldly experiences?

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I’d love to hear your stories… if you’re willing to share. And yes, I have a few more strange things in the archives. Experiences from time spent at my mother’s bedside during her last days in hospice. Maybe I’ll post those as well….

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Well, I do love me some ‘shrooms.

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I saw an article the other day that made me look twice.

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I’m extremely environmentally conscious, so color me intrigued.

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Grandma = a nice Marsala sauce?

Stranger things have happened. ( To me anyway, you might lead a normal life. )

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All kidding aside, why not?

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$1,350?

We paid a lot more for my father in law’s coffin… and ain’t nobody going to harvest that for risotto.

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I’m on a roll…

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I forgot to mention this on the broken water line fiasco post, but my run of bad luck continues.

Yes, the fun just keeps on coming.

Torn meniscus in my right knee?

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No water or shower for three days?

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Rodents in open rebellion and probably surrounding the house as we speak?

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So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that just after the well was covered back up it started to rain…

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And our roof sprung a leak.

But wait, another sign someone has put an evil curse on yours truly?

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Birds are literally falling out of the sky in front of me.

Dismembered birds.

Pieces of birds.

Plop!

Right in front of me as I walked down the driveway to the mailbox this morning.

Whaaaaaat?

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Seriously.

Enough already!!

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One pregnancy too many.

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I fear for our old, always pregnant, doe.

She had a very late fawn this year and I think it’s taken it’s toll.

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We’ve watch her age and slow down over the past few years, but now?

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The poor girl is skeletal.

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She comes every night for grain and apples, and is now showing up during the day for lunch…. which yes, I provide. She literally just stands there, looking in the window and waiting to be served. How can I not?

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But I think this last Bambi was just too much for her, and I doubt she’ll survive the winter.

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Hopefully blue eyes will continue us to visit after she’s gone.

Life goes on….

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We celebrated a most remarkable life.

 

On Sunday morning we drove up the coast of Maine to say goodbye to a very special man.

 

 

The kind of man you meet once in a lifetime.

 

 

A humble man so good, so kind hearted and so generous of spirit… his celebration of life had to be held in an airplane hangar.

Was it because he was a pilot?

 

 

Maybe, but more likely it was because he touched so many lives no other space was large enough to hold the mourners.

A lifeline to the Islands

I stood in 90+ temperatures (pressed against a wall and wearing a mask) for over 2 hours. I listened to emotionally wrought eulogies…. and saw grown men openly weep when they tried to speak of what Kevin meant to them.

The outpouring of love and respect was almost physical. You could feel it, in the air and in your heart.

When the service was over and four planes from the airline he started, nurtured and bled for flew over in the missing man formation?

Spontaneous applause and not a dry eye in sight.

 

 

Fair skies and tailwinds Mr. Waters….

The world will be a lesser place without you in it.

Health or bust.

 

In the midst of a viral apocalypse, it’s hard not to think about your health.

Am I safe? Will I be infected?

And if so, should I be binge watching Netflix… or picking out a granite color and font?

 

 

Thankfully I’m a very healthy person. One might say boringly so.

I’ve never broken a bone.

I’ve never had the flu, an ear infection, strep throat, the measles, pink eye or a cavity.

I still have my tonsils, appendix and wisdom teeth.

Until I was 48 years old, I’d never had the chicken pox either.

And trust me…. when I caught them from the husband because he came down with shingles?

I was not a happy camper.

 

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No, those aren’t pimples….

And if you think it sucked having chicken pox as a kid? Try doing it when you’re almost 50. It’s not only Hella uncomfortable…. but dangerous to boot.

Matter of fact, it was such an oddity to present at that age, all the doctors and nurses stopped by the exam room to take a peek.

 

 

You know all those times in your life when it was nice to feel special?

That wasn’t one of them.

But aside from that week of polka dotted misery, I’ve been blissfully healthy.

Heck, I’d never even been in the hospital until a few years ago…. and naturally, everything that could go wrong?

Did.

Quite spectacularly.

Because if you’re going to screw something up?

My motto is don’t do it halfway.