Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fragile

 
 I lost a beautiful friend to sudden death this week. In the blink of an eye she was gone. Her family and all her friends will miss her terribly.

It transported me to the moments and days after Jack's accident and the profound disbelief and disorientation we experienced as our minds struggled to grasp what had happened.

It got me thinking about sudden death versus the long goodbye. It does no good comparing them and wondering if one is better or worse. They both suck.

But I still thought about them.

In sudden death, I think perhaps it takes longer to get used to the fact that this is not just a bad dream, whereas with a slow descent there may have been time to start to process that death was coming. I bet the end is a shock regardless.

There's  a lot of pain and sadness that accompanies the fight to keep someone you love alive. Even one week after Jack's death, I was already conscious of the fact that we had never had to go to a hospital with him, never had to step foot in an ER or ICU, never had to make decisions about artificial means to keep him alive. Instead, he was here, then the police in our family room were telling us he was gone.

While I yearned for the chance to say goodbye, to make sure I told him, once again, that I loved him and that nothing between us was left unsaid, I felt the relief of never having to convince him that procedures and treatments that were scary or painful could make him better. That he'd have to stay out of school and away from his friends to avoid germs. That his body was failing but his spirit was strong. I didn't have to lose Jack by degrees the way too many parents do, with the losses piling up day by day until a small body can't take it any more.

I pondered whether the "Wham, Bam, He's gone Ma'am" aspect of Jack's death was part of a plan to spare us because Tim and I were so ill-equipped to deal with complications. Second opinions. Research. We are both the youngest children in our families of origin and we tend to get hopeless and exhausted, daunted by even the smallest of tasks.

I used to joke that no one in our marriage was able to return pants. Or deal with customer service reps. So I wonder how we would have held up if faced with insurance companies and treatment plans and specialists if Jack had had cancer rather than being in an accident. Would we have done a good job caring for him?  I like to think we would do what parents do, despite the fear and exhaustion. Fight for our kids. Buoy them up when we have nothing left in our own reserves. But I don't know. So maybe God was sparing us that, most likely not.

I will say I think that whole, "God only gives us what we can handle" thing is a bunch of crap. Do we really think moms and dads with kids with cancer want to hear the flawed logic that their kid is enduring so much because Mom and Dad are just so darn strong?!? No way.

Our family got the shock of sending a perfectly healthy child out to play and having him never come home.  Yet Jack didn't have to know he would die young. We never had to look in those huge brown eyes and say to him, "Jack, it's okay to let go." I guess I'm grateful for that.

But comparing is useless.

Death is death and there is ALWAYS something so wrong about a child dying, whether from an accident, murder, or a terrible disease.


****
I have dear friends who are involved with the following organizations. The first two come alongside families whose children are fighting cancer, by providing practical and financial help. The third funds research to find cures for Childhood Cancers. Perhaps you would be able to support them today!

http://www.stillbrave.org/home.html

http://www.fairygodmotherproject.org/

http://www.curesearch.org/

51 comments:

Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend Anna. And gosh, I've pondered that same question. And there really is no good way to say goodbye, is there? Or any way to really prepare for it. I guess we just try to put it in the most positive light possible at the time. Then it's just one day at a time, sometimes just one breath at a time.

Laina said...

My dad went to volunteer at our church's VBS one day, died suddenly while there and never came back home. The shock and suddenness of it was horrible, but we sometimes consoled ourselves in the fact that he was never sick or suffering in the hospital. He was just in the immediate presence of the Lord.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

I am so sorry to hear about your beautiful friend. ((HUGS)) I'm not sure either on comparing the two ways of losing the ones we love. I always think I would love to have the time to say goodbye but I also wouldn't want to see anyone I love suffer.

Beth said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Anna! You're such a wonderful philosopher. I have had similar thoughts about losing my children, but haven't been able to put words to them. These things are so hard to think about.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. grief is very complicated, isnt it? your post was very thought provoking.
We lost a loved one after a 2 year terminal illness. We grieved (to a certain extent) starting at the time of diagnosis. The initial grief is complicated and considers many things: that we've lost him as we know him, we anticipate the painful decline, and we mourn the life that will never be the same. At the same time, we support, we are caregivers, and we maintain hope, as best we can. So very Complicated.... There is relief when they are free of pain and "in a better place" but with the relief is guilt for feeling relief. It feels out of sync with the friends who have now gathered to "properly" mourn. Complicated again. Now, several years after we lost him, the memories of the ill patient in need of freedom from pain, gives way to memories of healthy and happy times, and so the grief evolves again, to feel deeper again as a result. It starts to feel more like a loss again. Like you said, impossible to compare. Both situations are very different. Both difficult to navigate. I think your book will help many people!!

Bridget McCarthy said...

Sometimes, I actually think I got off easy. She was always beautiful and always "her."

Lynnette said...

Your post was very interesting to me. I lost my grandson to SIDS two years ago and always the suddenness and randomness made the situation that much harder. No chance to prepare, to say goodbye. I don't think parents are ever prepared whether it is sudden or anticipated because of an illness or disease. The bottom line is it sucks for all concerned no matter the circumstances. I am sorry you have suffered yet another loss. Sending prayers and hugs your way.

Brandie Newsome said...

Hi Anna, thank you so much for your post and all of your post. It takes tremendous courage for you to share your thoughts on this blog. I sent my son to school on April 11th of this year and he died there. He was like Jack, thick hair, beautiful brown eyes and a big (I love life smile) He played baseball like Jack and would be 12 on the 4th of July. Your blog is one of the few things that bring me comfort because no one really understands what you are going through unless they have lost a child. He also had one sister, they were 2.8 yrs apart'. It was so weird to read your post, because I was thinking the very exact thing today, about the theory that god does not give you more than you can handle, I don't think that applies to my or your situation. I do want you to know that I feel like I have a connection when I read your blog during a time when it's hard to feel any connection at all. Also, I'm sorry about the loss of your friend. I have often thought that maybe Jack and my son, Alex, have met because from everything I have read about Jack, they would definitley like each other.

Brandie Newsome said...

Hi Anna, thank you so much for your post and all of your post. It takes tremendous courage for you to share your thoughts on this blog. I sent my son to school on April 11th of this year and he died there. He was like Jack, thick hair, beautiful brown eyes and a big (I love life smile) He played baseball like Jack and would be 12 on the 4th of July. Your blog is one of the few things that bring me comfort because no one really understands what you are going through unless they have lost a child. He also had one sister, they were 2.8 yrs apart'. It was so weird to read your post, because I was thinking the very exact thing today, about the theory that god does not give you more than you can handle, I don't think that applies to my or your situation. I do want you to know that I feel like I have a connection when I read your blog during a time when it's hard to feel any connection at all. Also, I'm sorry about the loss of your friend. I have often thought that maybe Jack and my son, Alex, have met because from everything I have read about Jack, they would definitley like each other.

Arnebya said...

Thinking of you.

Laura Perry said...

What I think, sweet friend, is that if Jack had needed you to make those decisions? You would have been the fiercest advocate the world has ever seen. Not a doubt in my mind. I've lost people I loved in an instant, and I've lost people excruciating centimeter by centimeter. I've lost a family friend to suicide, and a friend to murder. Family to cancer, a young cousin way too soon. In the end, pain is pain is pain, and loss is loss is loss. They might look a little different from one another, and bring unique complications- but there is no grief Olympics. No one wins in their loss. None of it's easy- just different kinds of hard. I am so very sorry for your loss, Anna. Holding space.

Alison said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend, Anna. I have the same thoughts as you do re: sudden death or the long-drawn out ones. It's impossible to compare or imagine, whether one would be 'easier' or 'better' than the other. Grief is grief. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Love this Anna, totally spot on. I decided when my brother died suddenly the best thing anyone can say is sorry. The best thing anyone can do is hold your hand and sit with you. I'm sorry about your friend. This kind of stuff just stinks. Sometimes life is hard.

Leire said...

The only good thing about all of this is that we do not get to choose how death happens.

I am so sorry for you loss.

I lost a brother before I was born. No one thought I woudl need to grief over his loss, but I do. Even if I don't know him.

I wrote some months ago about being pregnant and not having time to take photos of my growing tummy. I appreciate very much all the encouragement received from you and your community.

My son was born August 24th and I almsot died while giving birth after a perfect pregnancy.I almost lost him too. I suffered from postpartum hemorraghe to a point where my body wouldn't coagulate so had to be taken to surgery and to the ICU for 3 days. Fortunately I did not have to have a hysterectomy done.

These months have been difficult but I love my child so much. He smiles non stop and is the happiest baby in (my) the world hehe We are so lucky.

Well...all of this to say..thank you for the encouragement at that time. I wanted to share a bit of this happy mother heart with you all.

I could have missed it all and now I have a chance to live at least a bit longer.

I would love to talk to people that have gone through a similar experience. The emotional scars still hurt (well and the other scar too...I could do well with advice on that too)

Anna, thank you for making me a better person.

Maggie May said...

Anna I'm very sorry for the loss of your friend.

Heather C said...

So well said, neither is easy and God does give you more than you can handle all.the.time. It is how you handle it that makes a difference. It is not easy, it is a long, uphill struggle but you do make it through albeit a bit bruised for life. I lost my little brother at the age of 27 (2 years ago)to suicide. He suffered in his own mind but his death was very sudden to all of us, just not to him. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, feelings and reflections. It is nice to see someone else feels like I do.

Anonymous said...

Have been thinking of this very thing as a friend just lost her brother to colon cancer and recalling the sudden death of my own brother. You are right, both suck. Not knowing where the person stands before God would be one thing in favor of having time though. Thankful with Jack and our friend that is not an issue. Amy

Renee said...

Anna, you're right in that it's slightly easier to let go of someone who is dying from cancer. The grief is started, acceptance comes and goes. My brother died last year at 46 with a three year old daughter. He got his papers in order, did some videos for his little girl, told his wife he loved her and then he was gone. It is never easy to let go of a loved one. It is easier knowing that my brother and my mother are in heaven looking forward to seeing me. I am certain Jack is up there too doing everything boys do.
Thank you for posting these.

Andrea Mowery said...

I agree; comparing the ways we lose loved ones is useless. They are gone. I am so sorry for the loss of Jack, over and over. I know you will be able to be a comfort to your friend's family at this time.

Japolina said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

GG said...

I'm sorry about your loss.

My late husband died suddenly, with no warning. Some of the other widows/widowers in my bereavement group had lost their spouse after years of illness, and they all said the end was quicker than expected, and still a shock.
I agree that there is no value in comparisons. The worst grief is always the grief of the person experiencing it.

Jess @ Welcome to the Bundle said...

I am so very sorry about the loss of your friend. My mom died just 3 months after her cancer diagnosis -- a strange middle ground between "sudden" and "the long goodbye." There wasn't enough time to get past the panic and settle into acceptance, I think. I truly appreciate how thoughtfully and honestly you talk about death. Even 30 years after she died, I'm still trying to figure out how I feel, but reading your blog has been very cathartic.

Lisa C said...

My heart is heavy for you today. I'm so sorry for your loss.

The worst part of comparing the long or no goodbye is that in the end, it's truly goodbye.

One crazed mommy said...

I am so sorry to hear about your friend Anna - you said it best, though...death sucks - regardless of how it comes. I guess the only thing we can look at in regards to death is that we are all going to be there one day, and the hope that we will meet again on the other side helps us get through missing our loved ones gone too soon. I don't know which would be better though - I lost my brother suddenly in a car accident - I was 14 and thought he would live forever...I wish I could have said goodbye. But...like Debby said above - I wouldn't want to see my loved one suffer either. My brother died upon impact - for that I am grateful he didn't suffer...but still - death sucks! :(

LisaAR said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I remember hearing my mom and a friend of hers have this strange debate on the "sudden vs long goodbye" issue. We had just lost my dad to a several month battle with cancer, and her friend had lost her husband in a car accident. The woman who dealt with her husband's quick death told my mom that she was "lucky" because she got to say goodbye. Of course, we watched my dad be in agony and wither away, where his final days were far from lucid. It was sad to hear my mom's friend say that she suffered more, she hurt more--as if it's a contest. Both sides have pain. Both sides have loss. Both sides hurt. We all carry our own stories. As always, thanks for sharing yours Anna--my heart goes out to you.

Sue Hamblen said...

As always, your words paint such vivid emotional pictures. You're one inspiring woman, Anna!

Kerry said...

Love to you Anna

Sybil@PeaceitallTogether said...

I agree with everything you've said here. The is no way to compare one death with another. Yet, the point you make about each are compelling. I am the be-in-charge, never-give-up, fighter type, so I think I would like the opportunity to "save" somebody I love. But, it would be so hard. I'm grateful that even though there are many things in my life that I can't handle, God is there to support and sustain me...it's the only way.

Anonymous said...

I used to use the idea of 'God doesn't give you more than you can handle' to get me through things...mundane things in comparison to what you have gone through...but tried it out nevertheless. And then someone pointed out the fact that no where in the bible does it say that. (I have yet to verify that, but I'd like to believe her.) In fact, her theory was that God gives us MORE than we can handle to act as reminders to go to Him when things get hard. I'd like to think that some of those tragic events that bring us to Him are not meant to be 'reminders', but times when all the other reminders will help you find the comfort in staying closet to Jesus.

sweetpagene said...

I've always struggled with the concept of "God never gives us more than we can handle" too. I believe He often "gives" us more than we can handle because sometimes that's what it takes for us to turn to the Savior who will ease our burden or strengthen our backs to better carry the load. Love to you and your family.

Anonymous said...

I, too, lost a friend very suddenly. A week ago, I woke to a text that he was gone and I'm still in a state of disbelief. I am kicking myself for not reaching out to him, as I had intended to. Just one last time, to let him know that I was thinking of him.

The night of his wake, I did have a dream that I saw him and was able to give him a hug and a kiss and tell him that I loved him. My fervent prayer is that he knew how much he was loved and how many he was loved by.

Joyce said...

You speak great truth Anna! I am so sorry for your loss. xo

Meg McCormick said...

When I was 14 (32 years ago) my dad was dying from cancer. Around the same time, my best friend's dad left her mom and took up with another woman, who had two kids - in other words, he left a family with two kids for... another family with two kids. We used to debate which was the least crappy deal: That I no longer had my dad? I can never tell him I love him again - YOU could, if you wanted to, I said. She would counter, yes, but you KNOW your dad loved you and would still be with you if he could - mine is in the next town over, having chosen to be with another family, and that hurts. Like you, we never could decide which was "better" because both situations sucked.

While I suppose it's the lesser of two evils that we had time to "prepare" for my dad's eventual death, that was very small comfort to two young girls and a mother who much too young to be widowed... or to my grandmother, who told me on the night he died that no mother should have to bury a child - even a 41 year old one.

I take comfort in knowing that someday, we'll all understand why. I know your faith is strong and you are just as eager to understand as I am.

julie gardner said...

Sad, beautiful, true.
I'm so sorry you've had to write these words.

Jamie Reese said...

I have wondered about the sudden, unexpected vs the long, slow, painful many times. I am so glad that Sully didn't suffer. But, wow! A phone call at work saying your healthy 16 wk old was down for a nap and is now not breathing and they're doing cpr on him is, well, indescribable. Watching your child slowly weaken and in pain while fighting is, well, also indescribable. There is no comparing grief. What I've learned is that each persons grief is the worst for that person because it is what they are going through. Our stories are different, but our kids are still gone

Sharon M. said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend Anna. Just another reminder to appreciate the people we love and the lives we've been given RIGHT NOW.

Kathy at kissing the frog said...

Oh Anna, I'm so sorry about your friend. I, of course, know about the other side of death - the slow, drawn out, know it's coming thing. I think the initial shock of hearing the words "terminal cancer" is like the sudden death. I did certainly have time to imagine what Joey's death and funeral would be like, and I think that helped me tremendously. Of course, when I was in the thick of it, I wished that it would have happened suddenly. But you are right, my sweet friend - they both suck. Hugs and prayers to you and your friend's family.

The Hebbs said...

Anna-interesting how so many events take you straight back to the day your son passed on. The same feelings come flooding in. Almost crippling again, for me anyway. Death sucks. It's just not fair to lose a child...hey was wondering if you got my comment about my race I am holding in memory of my son Ollie who drowned too. I am teaming up with other families and trying to bring as much awareness as possible to water safety....do you want to be a part? Maybe your thoughts on water safety? Let me know. You can email me.
tiffanybhebb@gmail.com

Justine Selzer said...

Great verbal expression of your heartfelt love and loss.
God bless and comfort you and all who grieve.
The book or movie HEAVEN IS REAL may be useful to some.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the things people say at the moment of crisis can be EYE OPENING. Well meaning but really inappropriate. Like the phrase you mentioned but another one is "God needed another angel." I have two thoughts about this genre of comments. One is, I suddenly noticed that when someone says something like this, it is so very irritating (at times infuriating) that it has actually snapped me out of my grief (distant past) for just a couple minutes. But in those few minutes the grief went away! And that was a relief! (Yes, the grief was replaced by anger, but that's OK. Anger feels better than grief.) So it can sometimes be a plus (sort of). The other thought is that platitudes and cliches come out when people are overwhelmed and don't know what else to say. So it's hard to fault them. (Although the one you mentioned is PARTICULARLY maddening.)

It would be useful produce a small pamphlet of things NOT to say when someone is grieving.

A very dear friend of mine said the following when my father died suddenly many years ago, when I was 20: "It happened perfectly, right before the semester began but after my vacation."

Now THAT is so inappropriate you just have to laugh hysterically. (BTW, I'm still friends with her. She doesn't hear what comes out of her mouth sometimes.) E. in VT.

Kendra HeadlessMom said...

Loss and grief are so complicated, whether sudden or prolonged. Fragile is the perfect way to describe it. Hugs to you this week, as always. Also, thank you for those links. Off to check them out now.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I think a lot about the same things you express in this blog post. Your post was like a commentary that sometimes runs through my head. I don't know if one is easier or one is worse. They both suck tremendously. I also feel the same way you do about being a 'third/last child'. I do feel like a crumble--that the most minute decisions can paralyze me at times. However, I am certain you would have been the strongest advocate and undaunted if this was something you needed to do for one of your children.

Even the most scattered of us can pull it together for a loved one. Ironically, when my dad had a recent terminal illness scare I was the one of the three siblings that did deal (alongside my mother) the most with the hospital. I was the one to drive my mom home and take them both home the day of the release. I was the one that spent that first dreadful night in the hospital with him even though I was told visiting hours were over. I was the one doing every research imaginable. Anyone would have thought it would have been my sister, the oldest, who seemed to be in disbelief/denial. Life is unpredictable anyway you look at it. We sometimes suprise ourselves and life is a never-ending surprise to which none of us know the ending.

I love your writing. It is so raw, honest and compelling..does that make sense:). I look forward to your book. Best, NoVa Mom Jen

laura@imnotatrophywife.com said...

Did Anna enjoy a glass of wine. If so, toast to her life lived this weekend. Beautiful writing... I find a pop in for a visit about every 8 weeks- when I am ready for a cut and color! Jack gave you an amazing voice. laura

Heidi Cave said...

Maybe it's strange to say that I loved this post, given the content, the heartache, the questions in this post. I loved it for those reasons. I've asked these questions, had the same thoughts. Your writing, your voice are powerful and wonderful and needed. Thank you, Anna, for your honesty and courage.

Lady Jennie said...

I have no wisdom next to such loss - whether a parents loses suddenly or slowly. It's awful all around.

My thoughts and prayers are with your friend's family right now.

ella said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend, Anna.

Princess Kate said...

The way you write must be so therapeutic for you. I know for me, it always makes me think and reflect on really all the important stuff in life.

So sorry for your loss. still here thinking about you and your family EVERY day.

Princess Kate said...


just checking in to let you know that I'm thinking about you today.

IrishRN07 said...

Beautiful post, Anna. I never bought into the "God only gives us what we can handle" nonsense either. It seems wrong to imagine God would "give" us tragedy or pain. But I do absolutely, positively believe that He gives us GRACE. He gives however much grace we need to bear whatever life brings.

Deb Werrlein said...

"I think that whole, "God only gives us what we can handle" thing is a bunch of crap. Do we really think moms and dads with kids with cancer want to hear the flawed logic that their kid is enduring so much because Mom and Dad are just so darn strong?!? No way." So true and so well said.

Bluebird49 said...

I know that waking up to hearing my healthy daughter had died in her sleep at age 31--perfectly happy the night before and laughing on the phone to me about something I've now long forgotten--was traumatic and shocking. Now that I've had this long--15 years--to soak that in, I do think I would never wanted to see her suffer for a long, sad time--knowing that she would die anyway. She had an undetected heart problem, nobody knew about but God, and perhaps the x-ray tech who got her name wrong at the hospital..or the nurse who thought it was my x-ray instead of hers that showed an enlarged heart.She always said she wanted to die in her sleep; she was granted that wish, no matter how hard it has been on her little boy, and us. However, watching my mother die a slow , painful death was awfully hard, too.
The thing about God giving us more than we can bear is left up to everyone's interpretation, I guess. I'm still here. We're all still here. For some reason, I think we're still here...but maybe, just not doing with this "thing" what we're supposed to be doing with it, I guess. Maybe you are--maybe you just have, Anna!
Sherry's Mom