On death and dying

Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 02:08 pm
It's been 3 weeks ago today. 21 days.

He was in the hospital for 23 days before he died. So just that long.

I don't want it to be 21 days ago. It seems more fitting that it be 2 or 3.
Like he's diminishing.

I was sitting at an intersection an hour ago, at the top of a interstate overpass.
My gps told me my destination was a mile away. From the elevation I could actually see the distinctive sign of the place I had to pull in.
I thought "That's what a mile looks like. It's close, but not really close. If I were a 1/4 mile back I might just see the sign. If a where a mile an a half away I wouldn't see it at all.

That's how I feel about time passing day to day.
But....the perspective is all wrong.
While I miss who he was when he died, that's not who he wanted to be, or who I wanted him to be.

Who I genuinely miss is the man he was before we married, and the man he was for the first 6 to at most 10 years of our marriage.
Before the physical stuff became so bad. Before depression got the better of him. Before a lot of things.

He's not that man of the first 6 years years....but at the same time he's not the man of the 26th year. Because both those men and all the men in between are memories.

I miss the man who protected me, and made me fell precious. I don't mind the man that he was at the end, when I had to take care of everything.
But I hate the man who at some point I can't pinpoint made the conscious choice to give up and not try any longer, leaving the burden on me.
I really resent that man. Just as much as I long for the 1987 version, the 1990 version, even the 2002 version, a frightening time, as it was new to me seeing someone so strong and powerful weaken.

I'm not talking about normal aging process. I mean the self destructive behavior. It's too private to go into.

I've talked about it here and there. He's not that man any more either.
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Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 02:18 pm
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

John Keats, dead at age 25, of tuberculosis
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Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 02:22 pm
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Alfred Tennyson, dead at age 83, of influenza
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Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 02:32 pm
To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt thou go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.
Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world—with kings,
The powerful of the earth—the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun,—the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods—rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean’s gray and melancholy waste,—
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.—Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings—yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep—the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life’s green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man—
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those, who in their turn shall follow them.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

William Cullen Bryant, who wrote the poem in 1811 or 1812, aged 16 to 18 years of age; he died at age 83, of complications from a fall he suffered in Central Park
Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 04:40 pm
I love Thanatopis.

Thank you set.
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Reply Sun 2 Feb, 2020 05:54 pm
I had hoped you might appreciate those.
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Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 11:09 am
Has anyone felt strange, disturbed, conflicted or other emotions about going to pick up up the cremation ashes?
Or did you feel something postive?
Or no way at all?

I got a call an hour ago they are ready, so I'm going by around 1:30 to get them.

I had already looked online briefly to look at urns and smaller containers to give to a couple people. I just can't get with that traditional urn, and was laughing at some of the more "personalized" ones.

I really just want some sleek, non fussy boxes or containers that aren't strange angles like an urn. I guess I'll start looking.

I feel strange about having them in the house.
Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 11:57 am
Now I have not gone and picked up ashes myself but my step mother in law has ashes of my husband's dad. It is in a simple box urn. I have not looked at it closely (they live across the country from me) but when I last was there - you can see it is in a simple wood box like container.

Now of course not personally having something like this I cannot say how I would feel if it were someone close like a husband, but I can understand how you might feel strange about having them in the house. It is kind of how I felt about it. They did spread some outside his cabin in the mountains where he loved to be - to me that seems right, but to have them in a box in your house - seems strange.

I know I am an odd bird -- I wonder/worry about things that I do not think other people do. One of the things I worried about is what happens when she is gone - what do you do with the urn/ashes? Pass it down to another family member and then what after that --- I wouldn't want them just to be "thrown" away after say 50 or more years when someone family member acquires them.
Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 01:22 pm
Interesty point Linkat. One that bears consideration.

I just pulled up to the place and have some time to kill. Figured I’d look to see if anyone responded. Glad it was you.

Places like this I think tend to be in the outskirts of town. This place is in a little industrial park. Makes sense. So o had a little drive to get here. No big deal.

But suddenly, when I was about 3 miles away, and I’m not sure if I said it out loud, I may have, but I at least strongly thought “I’m coming to get you Kirk”. It felt......nice in a way.
Like “ok, I know you were dropped off there, and I’m coming to pick you up.”

I think driving home I’ll feel like he riding with me. Maybe we’ll stop for lunch. He can stay in the car.
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Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 01:33 pm
Oh! Your point about keeping the ashes “forever”?

Yeah, I mean the immediate people you knew may want to keep them. But honestly beyond that, no one cares.

I’d read the ashes are bad for the environment So what else is new? They eventually will end up somewhere.
I read that plants won’t grow where you scatter them.
I had been looking at a house on a real estate site that has a very small backyard. The owner had made a lovely kinda Japanese type garden, mostly rocks, pavers, sand, etc.
I thought “well crap, I can’t really gave anything growing because I’d only be here half the year, and not during the scorching hot summer. Maybe I’ll scatter the ashes on any ground there and it’ll keep weeds away. “

Ok, I just saw a woman walk out with a box. I guess i’m Up next.
Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 06:34 pm
I find I like having them in the house.

Not in some spiritual, sentimental or metaphysical way.

Just like knowing what's left of him physically is in the house. The container is still in the gift bag type thing they give you, with the ashes inside. Also the death certificates and certified copies. In a couple days I'll start working on stuff for which I need them.

I've got him sitting in his favorite chair, where he almost always sat. I'm gonna leave him there for a few days.

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Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2020 06:42 pm
Here is something very strange.

I don't attribute any meaning to it, but it's weird.

He went into the hospital on 12/21
He died on 1/12.
That's 22 days later
Got cremated on 1/21
Got the ashes 22 days after death

My birthday is 12/2
His was the 21st (of August)

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Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 06:07 am
My mother-in law's ashes were distributed at a scatter park, set aside for just such observances.  Hers was the first cremation I had experienced, and I felt uncomfortable handling her ashes.  My father's ashes were buried, and I sometimes visit the graveyard to walk around the pond and look at the swans.  Sometimes I feel close to him there, and usually a little melancholy, but I always feel more - thoughtful, when I return to the car.  I had no part in deciding how to handle their remains.

A girlfriend ended up with the ashes of her long ago ex.  He committed suicide a decade after their ultimate split, though they remained friends in their way, and his note was addressed to her.  John's remains are still in the box, on her bedroom closet shelf and she doesn't know what to do with them still, many, many years later.  I cannot imagine doing that, and for me the idea of a nice urn on the mantle gives me the shudders.  Mr. Joe on the other hand retained a small portion of his mom's ashes in a small, pretty ceramic thing he found, and they are still at the cottage.  Privately, I didn't like it, but it must have brought him comfort, and I was/am on board with that Smile

It wasn't until a few months ago when I held the plastic bag that held my brother's ashes, that I understood the intimacy of that kind of interaction.  I took a moment to feel the weight in my hands.  I hugged them, and wept. We scattered them soon after in a landscape of utter beauty. I'm glad for it.

Borat Sister
Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 07:59 am
I’ve never actually been given ashes, even of animals.

My sister died when I was 8 and kids didn’t seem to go to funerals way back then...at least there didn’t seem to be any thought that I might go, or like to go.

Question were discouraged though I did get one in,,,I wanted to know what she was wearing in her coffin. In fact, later studies of grief for work revealed that people didn’t believe children grieved at that time!

I assumed my sister was buried but, as I said, in my family, no discussions or questions were welcome, so I didn’t know where.

My mother died when I was fourteen and I was having a “ceremonies are bullshit” moment and didn’t go. I was aware she was buried and knew where, roughly, but I didn’t feel bodies were important.

My father was cremated, but I felt vaguely that he should have some sort of plaque or something, so the funeral home kept his ashes while they looked at the cost of that.

They discovered that he’d purchased a grave big enough for all of us and must have planned to be buried there! He’d never mentioned that to me, but I felt sort of bad that I’d cremated him.

The cost of popping his ashes into the grave was exorbitant, so I did briefly consider taking a trowel and digging a wee hole for him myself, but it seemed a bit mean,so I paid the full amount.

I was shocked to discover he’d never, in the 24 years since my mother died, bothered to add an inscription to the grave stone for her to the one for my sister but it seemed reasonably emblematic of him and their marriage, so I wasn’t that surprised after a while.

The funeral people handled the interment of the ashes in the grave, so I never handled them.

Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 09:00 am
G'morning Joeblow.

Agreeing with everything you've said, especially regarding the intimacy of it.

This is an extremely intimate thing, and not to be rushed.
There is no rush, he's not going anywhere, and I'm not under any deadline to make a "decision on what to do with them"
I don't have "to do" anything with them.

They (the ashes) are sufficient unto themselves.

They aren't clamoring to have some scattering ceremony, or being put up on "a mantle" (who the **** has a mantle anyway? That actually cracks me up)

I don't know. It's human nature I guess to want to make a ceremony, occassion, some kind of marker out of everything. There's got to be a deadline and time schedule for all of it in our minds.

Why? So we can rush on to the next thing? Decide what we're going to do at the 1 year anniversary of the death?

In the case of a death, all the pageantry (massively promoted by the funeral industry) that's developed isn't really about the dead, or the living, except for the living whose pockets are getting lined. I could say the same about the wedding industry, but that's an entirely different subject.

The stark facts are the grieving of someone's death, accepting it and how life is going to develop from here on out, is 100% an intimate matter. It isn't done during some 40 minute funeral ceremony, or when these imagined big group of friends and family are all gathered together for the purpose of "coming to terms"

Sure tears are shed when talking to friends, even when having to bring it up to strangers the tears well up depending on the emotional state of mind at the moment.
But the true work is occuring quite naturally, without a schedule. It happens in the moment when you go to make coffee in the morning, and realize the particular kind of pod he liked is almost gone.
You don't stand there and make some kind of movie scene about it. "Oh, the last Peets Coffee Major Dickenson Blend" posing/pausing poignantly to consider this.
You think it but while you're popping it in the machine and then going to pee while it brews.

Even if you made pre funeral arrangements for yourself, at the time of your death you are putting an enormous strain on at least one person. I say bullshit about "family decisions" One person ends up stepping up, prompted by whatever the funeral home guilt tripped that person into doing. They say something that amounts to a call to action, and anyone else that could be involved say "oh yeah, that's what we'll do" and uncomfortable/painful moment is gone.

All this, in a perverse way, is done to avoid the Real processing. That's done alone, during totally everyday moments where to casual observer it looks like you're watching TV, making scrampled eggs, sitting in class, working on a spreadsheet at your job, etc.

Truth is, his ashes in that plastic container can sit in its entirety or in part in that armchair for the next 10 years, or get moved to a closet, or tossed somewhere (or nicer term "scattering").

They are sufficient unto themself.

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Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 10:09 am
@Borat Sister,
Borat Sister wrote:

I felt vaguely that....


Any vague feelings arise from thoughts of "um, isn't there something that everyone says is supposed to happen, or I'm supposed to do now?"

My property manager in San Miguel de Allende had emailed me sending her
condolences, cc'ing everyone in her office. She's a lovely person.

Someone else from there then emailed me saying that, with my permission, they would offer a Mass for him.
Now I was raised a Catholic, and had heard that phrase all though my childhood. But....I was never really sure what that meant. I mean, I even remember them talking about it in religion class, but it just made no sense to me (still doesn't)
I actually just looked it up again (that and "mass cards") and the explanation was the same. To me though it just looks like a way to hand some priest guy some money and he says someones name during something he was gonna do anyway.
Don't know how this is supposed to "repose their soul" when they're either in heaven already and are having a really good time, or burning in hell and up shits creek. Purgetory? I vaguely remember some nun saying that for every rosary or I guess mass said for someone X amount of time is taken off their stay there. So who comes up with this timeline? She seemed pretty definate about the amount of time, whatever it was.

So, I emailed them back at the time, and politely said that I really didn't know what that meant, that neither one of us was religious, but that if that was something they felt they wanted to do, it was fine with me.
She responded "I understand" so I guess that was the end of that.

Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 10:37 am
I know everyone finds something that can be comforting for them.

I find these lamented cards we had made for my dad and grandmom's funeral comforting and I carry them in my purse - to the point they are a bit ragged even though they are lamented. It has a picture on one side - my grandmom's is of roses which she loved my dad's has a stairway with it looking like it is going up to heaven with a garden surrounding it - I picked that one out. He loved gardens. On the reverse side has a small picture of them and a verse that fits them. Just having the cards and seeing them when I open my purse.

I see that my girls have kept theirs as well.
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Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 08:13 pm
I went and picked up my mother in law, she was in a little black plastic box...name and date on a white sticker, quite plain, a little underwhelming perhaps.

Picking her up I felt like it was over...almost.

My wife has yet to lay eyes on the box, she's not ready....it will be a year in March. Oldest daughter wanted to see it, just said....ah.

She paled in comparison to Melissa's m-i-l....but she was a right proper bitch. I've only cried once (and I am an emotional person normally...creative types....artists ya know...typically not terribly stoic) and that was while talking to my sister in law....neither of us were upset about her mother....we were discussing how shitty she had treated her mother...their grandmother.

Sometimes I kinda feel bad that none of us really cared too much, she was my m-i-l for thirty years and I feel almost no loss whatsoever. I think the worst part of it all was my wife's childhood friend fell into a coma for nearly a month then died not too long after her mother died.
Reply Wed 5 Feb, 2020 10:52 pm
Yep. Same black box here. Ashes inside a sturdy plastic bag inside.

On the sticker below his name it says that "this temporary container is not intended for the permanent storage of cremated remains."

Well unless the thing gets dropped out a 2nd story window I think this plastic is gonna last a good long while

Don't feel bad about not caring that much. You feel what you feel.

I know I've told this but a one point I was seeing a psychiatrist because I'd been seeing a therapist for almost a year, and finally was able to handle the idea of taking Zoloft for anxiety and borderline OCD (btw, if what I have is borderline I don't know how people with full blown can survive)

Anyway psychiatrist has to order that, and monitor for a while. I really liked her.
On my I think 2nd to last visit we were going over how I was doing, and I shared my cat Lulu Abromowitz had died. I got really emotional, saying how all a pet ever does is love you, no matter who you are. I cried and blew my noise etc.
Right at the end of the visit I suddenly remembered..."OH! I forgot to tell you my mother died." I couldn't muster up anything about that, and said so. I added what you just said about feeling bad that I didn't feel bad...at all.

She asked me why and I said "Well....uh....everyone says you're supposed to feel bad"

She replied "Yes, they do say that don't they."

That was such a watershed moment for me in my life. I don't have to feel anything just because "they say that, don't they"

I hear how children want to love and please their parents, even when they are treated badly.

I never felt that way. Even when I was pretty young I would think (not in these words, but the feelings were the same) "You treat me like **** every day and I'm supposed to love you?"

Don't ever feel bad that you don't feel bad. The person in question probably never did anything to earn those feelings.
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2020 12:54 am
My Dad felt a responsibility to take care of everyone.....when we returned to the States he brought his mother to our new home so she could be cared for. She was evil incarnate, when I was a young as 5 I could hear her on the phone telling (who knows who) what a worthless woman my mother was. I remember one night after being put to bed, that evil bitch called my Dad into her room...I can still remember her voice as she told my Dad that the priest who came to deliver communion was having wild sex with my mom in the basement. All I heard was her outrageous slanders and my Dad saying "right', "of course', 'sure, that's what happened"................................I remember crying myself to sleep because I didn't realize my dad was sarcastic...................it had to be 24 years before I ever spoke about it.

Winnie, had a stoke a few years later, she was way too big (340lbs and a bitch) for my mother (5'2", 110 lbs) to handle.......she had to be admitted to a nursing home...she got kicked out of two, before she settled..............I was so freaking happy she was out of the house.........I'm not sure of the time line, but I might have been 12 when the phone rang around 3 AM, a female voice asked to speak to my Dad......I woke up instantly and was thrilled.....I practically skipped into their bedroom to get dad to pick up the phone........all I heard him say was, "Oh", "what time?", "No, I'm not driving over", and that's all I remember .......... it was like a curse had been lifted.

I saw the damage she did, I was happy she was gone...not ambivalent, just really really happy.....

Geez, Chai, I haven't thought about that woman in years...it's nice to shed a little more pain.......don't ever feel guilty about relief.....

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