sometimes no word seem just right…
The last entry was about my dear brother in law, Tom, who was in a place of leaving us and going to that place we have no real words for…and he did pass away. He left us on March 22, 2014 around 8:15 pm. I was not with him as he crossed over, but I was there moments after it happened and I can attest to the fact that I still felt him; I still knew Tom was with me in a way that is not describable.
Death brings us to a place of our own thoughts about what it will be like; what did our loved one experience and mostly for me, was it scary at all? I asked Tom that question: are you afraid? He responded, “Not anymore.” I was not sure where the response ‘any more’ was coming from as he was in and out of consciousness. But I will presume it had to do with his own soul searching about leaving this place and going to another. I know I would have had many thoughts given the time available to me.
Given the time thing was actually pretty available as I sat with Tom during his last days. I was surprised at how fast the time went and how relaxing and soul refreshing it was for me. I sat sometimes all by myself for an hour or two, and sometimes I would be visiting with my family and friends as they came to do the same thing…be with Tom during his last time in this realm. Each of us there for our own moments along with him to say those things we hoped we had said along the way..and for those we did not. My one moment of great meaning for me came when I told him how much he meant to me and how I will always be grateful for the he welcomed me into his family. We became instant friends. Instant best friends as family members go…and while I married his brother, I gained a great friend in him as well.
I shared with him how he was my ‘go to’ person at all the family functions. Being with him was fun, safe and even a little risky..which I loved. Tom could bring the house down with his stories and his shenanigans. I shared with him how I loved our processing after each event and how we could definitely be catty…but that was also something I loved. I wanted to make sure he knew how much I loved him in those final moments…but not because they were the final moments; because of ALL the moments we had together.
So he passed. He passed in a dimly lit, grace-filled room with beautiful music playing in the background and two of his sisters with him. He passed on with not a lot of fanfare…perfect in every way as far as death goes. And even now, when I write these words I am aware of how awkward writing about death is. Realizing of course, we all die.
Why then if something that happens to us all, feel so awkward to talk about..to discuss much like we might about re-decorating our living room? I wonder if we could eve get to a place of being comfortable talking about our mortality in a way that might even shed some light on how to live?
It seems to me that by talking about something so important as death and what that means to each of us, that we might gain so much more into how we want this life of ours to be. How great we want things to be…and to reach that end and say ‘I lived the width as well as the length!’
I know I want to live both width and length. And yet what keeps me from that sometimes is me.
I am writing this on an airplane coming back from vacation with my husband. We just had a most wonderful time exploring both San Diego and Palm Springs. And what I am struck the most with is how much I thought about Tom and his final days. Not in a morbid kind of way; rather, in a way that allows me to be honest. To ask those questions about ‘What is this really all about anyways?’. ‘Have I lived my best life knowing I have lived more than I will?’ Do I enter each day as if it could be the last and therefore, enjoy even those small things that are joyful?
I hope so.
I know that while on vacation simple things like a gentle breeze on my sun-kissed shoulders and face was so wonderful as it danced on me like a feather and gave me goose bumps all the while. And I know that I was in awe of the majestic beauty all round me as I saw the wonders of a hillside projecting with the most glorious jagged ridges of rocks lining up and down the mountainside in varying colors of reds, golds, tans and white. Each rock was like an explosion out of the side of the mountain and yet gently lent itself to the landscape as an edge to small flowers, trees and river beds that wound up and down the sides like a map to a treasure if you followed them.
I was touched deeply by the breeze that came and lifted the sand not attached to the mountainside and danced and swirled all around me as if to get me to dance along with it. Beautiful palm trees swaying back and forth to a rhythm only they heard. It was magical.
I could not help but wonder if Tom was there in the breeze, in the winding river beds coming down the mountain side. And so I will choose to believe he was.
He will now be in all those things I find beautiful and magical. Just as my father is and just as my husband’s parents are. It helps to answer the question I have about ‘What happens after we leave this place?’ I will believe we become more apart of this place…
Remind me God, in those moments when I cannot figure out what to do next that I need just to look around and see what is there for me to take in. To remember to see the small and the big and to notice any small nudging to go a certain way…or when a wind starts up, to dance in it’s swirl. It might just be Tom wanting me to dance and have fun again with him.
In gratitude for all those special moments with my brother in law..with my friend…Tom
and in the end…
My brother in law, Tom, is beginning the end of his life. He is late stages AIDS…something we don’t really talk about anymore as a society. But it still happens. AIDS still take people’s lives. But that really isn’t the point for me. The point is I am starting to lose one of my dearest friends. I am starting to lose someone who has made a huge impact on my life; someone I won’t be able to find again no matter how hard I look. Or where I look.
There is so much story here that I could write for days at a time and never really be done. The story begins with the end.
I have been watching my brother in law slowly say his goodbyes. For me is it when we talked about how grateful I am for his quick wit and ability to take uncomfortable situations and make them seem fun(ny). I have never ever felt alone when Tom is around. Even in our largest of large family get togethers or having as many as 100 people in the same area, we will meet up with each other to discuss the situation we are finding ourselves in or to discuss the outfit that showed up or the way someone said something…obviously we would have done it better or said it better. Goes without saying. In those situations, it was always better with Tom. Except when it wasn’t.
We could also be the Bickerson’s make no mistake about that. No one could get under my skin more than Tom. We could be doing the same thing and I would get so angry at his decision on what food to make or how to serve things. I could spend hours deciphering his mannerisms or the way he would tell people off; even in jest. I could become enraged with him. Only it never stayed for long.
Within no time at all he would call and we would go over the latest restaurant opening up; or the news story about fashion or the way another family member said something. And lately, what was going on in Dowten Abbey. We could wile away the time on very insignificant subjects and to us it would become very significant. And there was the times he would share what he had talked about with his Spiritual Director; or how he was so touched by something someone said to him that made an impact. Those were the times when I felt the deeper connection. The one that kept our roots tight.
So I watch as he lays in his air filled mattress and see his bird-like legs covered only with a sheet so he doesn’t over heat in the somewhat hot room he is assigned to. I watch as he makes decisions to either move his hands or open his eyes. Both take so much energy. And I watch as he ever so slowly takes ‘thickened’ water to allow for some hydration to enter his slowly dying body. I am awestruck. But I also want to talk to him about all the new people I am meeting from his church and discuss who said what and talk about how I never imagined this certain person looking like they do. And I want to have Tom sit up and keep our somewhat awkward conversations going as someone starts to share some awkward story that has no relevance what so ever..and I want to snarkily discuss what was said during the day by someone who bugs me, just for the sake of discussing. I want it to go back to the way it was when we absolutely liked to discuss these frivolous things and yet it would all seem so important. And we move on.
I cannot believe the amount of Grace I feel I am in. I see him smile at times when someone says something funny. And I see him wince when he tries to move ever so slightly. I have felt the presence of others in the dark of night. I have sat in a chair with the lights dimmed and the hum of the oxygen machine going and I have felt the sweet power of Angels that gather around Tom as his body declines but his spirit is beginning to get stronger. I become surrounded in Grace. And I have become surrounded in sweet precious love.
Watching someone you love get to ready to pass on to the ‘other’ side of this life is something most do not have words for. And I am not exception. I have no words only feelings that I continue to have a comfort around. It is not that I am really that comfortable around people dying; anther, it is about knowing that someone you love is experiencing something so profound that you want to share it with them in a way that offers them peace; that offers them peace. All together you hope it offers them the support to move on and make that pass to the other side.
I don’t know how long my brother in law has, but I know this. I have not had enough time with him. It really is that simple. And yet how hard is that?
So what I want to say is I will miss him. I. will. miss. him.
In gratitude for sharing in Tom’s life in the end….
Getting to know you..all about you!
Aging…If pushed to answer how do I like getting older, it might depend on the day, but I might have to say sometimes..not so much. I mean really, who likes all the little things that go on with your body? At the end of the day you are just happy to get home, jammies on and get into bed so you don’t have to worry about those ‘things’ going on anymore. Or at least they can go on in the privacy of your own home!
I am a little over the whole I can’t eat anything without gas thing. Seriously, I am so cautious of what I eat taking care not to get anything that might cause a stomach disruption worthy of needing to be by oneself..if you know what I mean. And now I am even having to determine the right time to eat certain foods. Like last night.
I went out to dinner with my husband and some friends. I worried about the time we would be eating as any later than 7:00; then I cannot eat. Well I can eat. It will just be one of those things that will stay with me for most of the night. Then most of the early morning. And if I am lucky, things will ‘pass’ so I can at least get a few hours of sleep. When did this all happen? When did my body start to decide things for me and tell me when to get on a certain eating schedule? I don’t recall a meeting. I don’t recall hearing anything ahead of time that might give me a clue about my new body feature of not being able to eat certain foods…and now eat at certain times. It’s exhausting worrying about all of this.
The one thing I am thankful for is that fashion still allows for stretchy waistbands and that I can purchase them all in varied colors. I do remember ‘Charter Club’ pants in Dayton’s years ago that all had elastic waistbands..and it goes without saying, I thought they were horrific. Who would ever wear these? How old will you have to be before you wear those pants? Well the answer is somewhere in your 50’s. Mystery question answered. Sad.
So out and about in my elastic pants and if eating a proper time (before 7:00), and at a place that does have foods without gluten, onions, garlic and certain meats (sometimes I am not sure what kinds of meat I can eat so that can be interesting), or has foods without dairy, then, hey I am in! Or should I say I am out as in out and about!
So getting older can bring challenges..some known; some unknown…until before you know it, your body will tell you!
So here’s to hoping I am not quite to the senior time for dinner every time. Rather, I hope I just get smarter and figure out what works; what doesn’t and perhaps, I just have something to drink while out. In the end I could potentially save lots of money!
So here’s to stretchy pants, pro-biotics and having rooms to be in by myself..sometimes.
In gratitude for getting to know my body…again.