Thursday, April 29, 2010


As of May 1, 2010...

...Blogger will no longer allow FTP publishing. Updates to this blog, which I intend to continue, can be found at This section of the journal will also remain at in its domain directory, so accessing links should not present a problem.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Silence Explained

    Sometime shortly after publishing the last post, I joined a grief support group sponsored by the hospice organization that tended to my mother and me during the last months of her life. As I am about to mention in a post over at The Mom & Me Journals dot Net, although regular readers of these journals know that I'm not a Support Group Person, turns out I am a grief support group person. I've learned since there are a variety of ways that grief support groups are handled. One in my area is more focused on counseling than the one I'm in. Another is a formal, time limited group that is highly structured, featuring exercises designed to move the aggrieved along more quickly than if left on their own. Mine is low key. It focuses on expression and validation of grief. I've also discovered that attending a grief support group seems to soothe the need to write about the experience of grief, at least for awhile. At this point, though, I'm thinking that those of you who might be considering such a group after becoming a survivor of a death of harrowing consequence (not all deaths are like this, you know...I've endured other deaths that aren't, including my father's) might enjoy some inside information on grief support groups.
    I'd been considering joining since soon after my mother's death and had talked about it with the hospice grief support counselor who began monthly check up calls to me (as all survivors of those dying under the auspices of her hospice organization receive) in January. As I'd mention this possibility, my counselor would say, "Take it as it comes. You'll know if and when you're ready." At the end of May I was either ready or curious, I'm still not sure which. My group meets once a week for one and a half to two hours. So far, there's been only one session I didn't feel like attending. When I explained myself at the next meeting, there were nods all around. Everyone seemed to understand that, occasionally, you just have to to it alone.
    One of the reasons I put off attending was fear that all I'd be able to do was sob. I felt it would be more comfortable for me to do that alone. At my first meeting I did, indeed, sob. A lot. So, though, did many other members. One member, in particular, habitually seethed with grief throughout my first four meetings. She'd curl into a pseudo-fetal position in her chair, refuse to remove her sunglasses and just, well, grieve...sometimes audibly, sometimes silently. To my surprise, I much appreciated her reaction. I realized she was doing exactly what I wished I had the courage to do. Her public trial gave me a curious confidence about grieving and helped me break through the social barriers of which we're all aware in this society that dictate The Rules of Polite and Non-Intrusive Grieving. That break through opened the gates to relief.
    Timing attendance in a support group is tricky. A few of our members have been comfortable beginning soon after the death but most delay joining for some months, as did I. An incident at our last meeting illustrates what can happen when someone attends who isn't ready. A woman who had just lost her husband within the last few weeks attended with a woman who had become a companion to the couple and continues as the woman's companion. It was obvious, during introductions, that the widow was still stunned by her loss. She looked it. The rest of us could feel it and kept a concerned eye on her as the meeting proceeded. She offered the barest details of the reason for her presence then shut down. About a half hour into the meeting she announced that she didn't feel the group was for her and she'd decided to leave. Now. All of us understood. A few assured her that although our group is, ultimately, a safe place, she should follow her instincts. Her companion didn't argue. Although we only barely discussed the woman's departure, it was obvious that we all knew that she was confounded by the camaraderie and the breadth of emotions that exhibits itself spontaneously in such groups: The knowing laughter; the spontaneous tears; the relief; the joy that, in some mysterious way, comes from confessions of grief, confusion, guilt and anger. I wasn't ready for that for some months. Some are. Most aren't. This woman wasn't. We saluted her courage for realizing this and acknowledging it to the group.
    I've always known that expressing my troubled feelings helps me come to grips with them. I am still surprised, though, that the process (which I think is fairly universal) is mostly infallible, especially in regard to grief. At one meeting I felt driven to mention that I found myself marking time until my own death and fairly often looked forward to its approach. No one had mentioned feeling anything similar during my previous visits so I announced this with trepidation, concerned that members would jump in and try to "change my mind". Instead, member after member solemnly nodded their recognition. Since then, although the feeling hasn't diminished much, it's significantly easier to bear. Grief is definitely an exercise in endurance...long distance endurance. Having this confirmed by a community of active grievers is helpful.
    My group has the following guidelines:
  1. Although it is fine to talk about one's group experiences outside of the group, using names and obviously identifying specifics are forbidden when describing to others what took place within the group.
  2. Listening is important. Interrupting and aside conversations are discouraged.
  3. Advice is discouraged. Grief, in my group, is recognized as a highly individuated process. It is fine to mention strategies and resources that have helped one in one's own grief journey, but it is not fine to dictate to others what they should do; nor even suggest that anything "should" be done or "should" be experienced. Recognizing common ground is different than insisting that everyone be on common ground. Curiously, one of the men in our group has traveled through his grief over his wife's death to the point where he feels called to prescribe strategy and technique. He is much loved and accepted by the group. At one meeting, while he was pedagogically instructing the rest of us on how to get through difficult experiences, our facilitator reminded him that he was "pretty messed up" for some time after his wife's death and he needed to be careful about "becoming impatient" with others in regard to how they are handling their grief. This incident has caused me to wonder if this is a common grief landmark, especially while basking in the elation of having passed an especially challenging stretch: I wonder, for instance, during a period when the pallor of grief is fading and life appears more promising, when people look back in impatience with the time and energy they've expended, the pitfalls they didn't avoid, if it is natural to be convicted with the intention of alleviating, for others, their own difficulties. I wonder if and when that will happen for me.
    Some grief group experiences and observations I've collected:    Other grief observations, not necessarily group related:Two of the Three Reading Selections I Brought to My Support Group:
  1. Excerpt from the screenplay for the movie Yes
    If and when I die,
    I want to see you cry.
    I want to see you tear your hair,
    your howls of anguish fill the air.
    I want to see you beat your breast
    and rend your clothes and all the rest
    and, sobbing, fall upon my bed.
    I want to know that I am dead.
    I want to know I'm part of you
    and that you cannot bear me being torn away.
    I want to see you dressed in black
    with red-rimmed eyes from sleepless nights of grieving.
    I want to hear you protest at my leaving.
    I want to see you in each other's arms and wailing,
    see you kick a chair and punch the wall
    and see you moan and fall upon the ground and scream.
    I want to know this isn't just a dream.
    I want my death to be just like my life.
    I want the mess, the struggle and the strife.
    I want to fight, and see you fight for me.
    I want to hear your last regrets, the things you wish you'd done and said.
    In fact, I'd like that just before I'm dead.
    Don't let them put you off or make you go,
    or say it's bad for me or makes it hard for me to leave.
    It won't be true.
    I want to see you grieve.
    Don't let me drown in silence, so pious, so polite.
    Let's make a lot of noise.
    A different kind of light will fill the room.
    I want my death to wake you up and clean you out.
    And, as I end, I'll hear you shout, "No, no, no."
    But I will go.
         --Written by Sally Potter; copyright 2005
    This excerpt ushered in a discussion about how we like to imagine that as death approaches (and, after death, assuming we believe in an afterlife) we will not want our remaining loved ones to grieve for us, nor do our dead loved ones want us to grieve. I've always questioned this. Many of the members of my group also question this, now that they're in the thick of grief. Why shouldn't we want our loved ones to grieve for us? Why, in the world, would we want our life to have so little discernible impact on others that they are able to pick up and carry on as though nothing has happened? Many of the members of my group agreed that this attitude has much to do with triggering feelings of personal guilt for the aggrieved over how long and how hard grieving is and how much of an impact it has on "the rest" of one's life.

  2. Should There Be a Day
    [My sister sent this to me a few months ago telling me that she thought this might express much of what I was feeling. She was right, and I responded that I was still waiting to see the core of the rose. I continue to wait for this.]

    Should there be a day
    when you are not
    and I am yet with breath,
    what shall I say?
    What shall I ask of death?
    Come get the rest -
    the half of me that stays
    shallow of heart, hollow as a bone?
    Or shall I determine to forget
    delight entombed, alone,
    follow the foggy way
    of self-deceit and let
    the sun of truth go out?
    I do not know. I must pass
    the answer by. But if one tree
    allows itself to rise,
    one spear of grass to spike,
    one rose to show its core
    then surely what of me is you
    must grow beyond your night,
    keep faith with what you were
    and, more, be constant, whole and move
    within the light that was your gift of love.
         --by Julia Cunningham from The Shadow Heart
    Later, I suspect.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I guess it's no longer true that I don't feel my mother with me.

    Tonight, I feel her here with me as strongly as if she were sitting in her rocker, leafing through her tabloids, turning to chat with me now and then, or respond to something I mention to her...
    ...I'm sitting on the floor working on my computer, a warm cup of decaf spiced with a dash of rum, a couple dashes of pungent pumpkin pie spice and cream instead of half & half to give it that "toddy" feel...
    ...she's sipping on a cup of cocoa which she refused earlier in the evening with a dismissive, "It's too sweet," but, now, it's the witching hour, 0300, we should both have been long in bed but we're not, it's a good time for cocoa...
    ....she leans toward me, smiling slyly, and says, "Now, if our neighbors across the street get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, glance out their window and see our lights blazing at this hour, they'll think..."
    "...we're having a party!" I quickly interject...
    ...she chuckles and winks at me. "Aren't we?!?"...
    ..."We must be," I agree, "why else would we be up at three in the morning?!?"
    ..."You know," she says, turning to gaze out the cathedral windows, "I don't know why, I've always loved this time of night..."
    ..."So have I," I say...before I continue typing...
    ...ah, I miss you, Mom, you're here, I can feel you, you're presence is making me smile, and I miss you, and you're here, and I miss you...

Note:  This post was originally published over at The Mom & Me Journals dot Net in my three am bleary minded stupor. It belongs here. I intended it to be here. So, I'm duplicating it here.


Saturday, May 9, 2009


P.S. to the Mother's Day Post...

...I wrote very early this morning at the main journal, something I forgot to mention:
    While I was waiting in line at the Post Office, yesterday (always try to avoid the post office on the Friday before Mother's Day), to requisition a U-cart for transporting (Mom's and) my food donations to the managing office, I noticed a display of the two types of Passport applications and, having nothing better to do and being in a line of people who didn't seem particularly amenable to casual chat, decided to peruse a copy of each (application in person and application by mail). Strange but true, although the geographical parameters of my life range over half the globe, including crossing U.S. political borders, I've never needed a passport so I've never had one. As I read the application an alternate mind-track teased me with travels in and out of the U.S. that I've considered since December 8, 2008: Wandering the world to research how elders are incorporated in a variety of societies; Seeking work and residence in a socially democratic country with a decent universal health care system; Learning a new language (several possibilities have arisen since Mom died and I'm continuing to investigate which to pursue first) then visiting the country in which the language is spoken in order to sharpen my skills; acknowledging and taking up the invitations of a few online journaling friends to visit them and their areas; visiting famous high rain areas like Milford Sound, New Zealand, and Mt. Wai'ale'ale, Kauai.
    Once I'd been admitted to the post office office (sorry, I couldn't resist the redundancy) I noticed a camera set-up through an open door into another area. After the impromptu Food Donation Celebration wound down, I asked the office manager about applying for a passport. Aside from reviewing the obvious technical information (hours applications are accepted, who to approach first, etc.) she offered me several helpful tips:    Although I'm sure the passport application display has been ubiquitous at our local post office since the USPS became an "agent of application" on behalf of the U.S Department of State, I think it is not incidental that I didn't notice it until five months, to the day, of my mother's death. I think it's also a landmark in my grief process. By chance, the Hospice Grief Counselor called me Thursday. As we chatted, I mentioned to her that between her last call and this one I'd begun to read through selected books on grief, especially pertaining to losing a spouse, since I identified more with this than with losing a mother. I also told her that, around the time I decided to do some in depth reading, I wondered if I might be a candidate for "complicated grief" and wanted to read more about that.
    "You're not," she said, and went on to clarify that people experiencing complicated grief tended toward silence. She didn't find it necessary mention that grief silence is not my problem. It's obvious.
    I told her that I was aware of this because one of the books I'd checked out was what amounted to a text on "Complicated Mourning" by Therese A. Rando, the contents of which clearly indicated that the chief hallmark of complicated mourning, blocked mourning, didn't apply to me, although I was finding the book extremely helpful in understanding my grief process. I asked her if she'd heard of the book. Only cursorily, she mentioned, but as we discussed the book I realized I hadn't absorbed as much from scanning through it as I thought I had. When our conversation ended I opened the book and reviewed its peculiar and distinctive definitions of, among other aspects of loss, mourning. Rando, in Chapter 2, which includes a section of "Definitions", Rando devotes a little over three pages to defining mourning, versus a little over a page defining grief. She distinguishes the definition included in her book from the traditional definition of mourning, "the cultural and/or public display of grief through one's behaviors", thusly: She emphasizes "the psychoanalytic tradition of focusing on intra-psychic work, expanding on it by incuding adaptive behaviors necessitated by the loss..." [all quotes from Treatment of Complicated Mourning copyright 1993 by Therese Rando].
    In addition, she devotes a majority of the chapter to a further, meticulous elucidation of mourning, including "The Six 'R' Processes of Mourning". As I reacquainted myself with these, I realized that my food donation experience, including my writing about it afterward, fell into a variety of categories:    Although I've listed these categories in order, my experience of them through this one experience was all over the map, another accepted hallmark of mourning: The processes, as observers of grief and mourning have labeled them for better understanding, don't happen in any particular order, nor do they necessarily end; they evolve, sometimes into another process, sometimes into a regurgitation and/or refinement of the same process.
    The main reason why I wrote the post to which the title above links is that, after yesterday's food donation episode was over and I was reviewing the experience, I noticed a new and distinct difference in the way I am handling my mother's death. It feels like a movement, although not necessarily along a grade like "better/worse", "higher/lower" "more/less competent". The reason I took note is that, previous to yesterday, I've experienced my grief process, for lack of a better analogy (although please assume that this one isn't exactly right, either), as centrifugally closed. Yesterday, I felt as though I'd begun to spiral...not out of anything, but to an area that, hmmm...allows me to reach for more...does that make sense?
    Specifically, yesterday was the first time since Mom's death that I "talked" to her for so long a time and with so much concentration. I didn't feel as though Mom was "there", in the same sense as I took for granted that she was "there" with me when she was alive, at home and I was out doing errands. There was none of the palpable psychic impress that her alive existence engendered in me when she was at home and I was not. She was, however, with me in a way to which the phrase "in memory" does only paltry, demeaning justice. I'm at a loss for words, here, but I suspect that other survivors will understand what I mean.
    It's the first time I can remember, too, that I've taken an "alive" and common episode in our lived together lives and adapted it successfully and joyfully into my present survivor experience. Finally, as I did so, I autonomically leapt from adapting an old experience to considering new experiences that have nothing to do with Mom's and my lived together life. It felt hopeful...not as though I was leaving anything behind but as though the world around me was widening in a way I hadn't expected.
    That's a Survivor's Mother's Day with which I can live. Gladly.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Palliative Care Grand Rounds 1.4 is up this morning!

    I've already announced its debut over at Mom & Me but, since this is the umbrella journal that contains the posts I submitted to (and that were chosen for) this edition of PCGR, I figured I'd better announce it here, too.
    It's a grand, grand round...hosted at a unique and interesting blog, Dr. Thaddeus Pope's Medical Futility Blog. The unadorned description of his blog: "This blog tracks judicial, legislative, policy, and academic developments concerning medical futility." Very unassuming, but, while you're there checking out PCGR 1.4, consider taking a look at what his online journaling offers. It isn't often you run across a medical blog written by a lawyer. His posts are easily negotiated, contain pertinent links and will surprise you at their applicability to the medical part of your life. It doesn't all happen in hospitals and clinics, Virginia.
    This month's issue of PCGR is loaded (as they always are) with incredible posts. I've just begun working my way through this PCGR edition. There's enough there for a whole month (or a whole day, if you do it in one fell swoop) of great stuff pertaining to "palliative care, hospice, end-of-life, pain and symptom control, grief, and communication in the medical realm." At one time or another, that includes each of us.
    Go there. Now!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Awaken, dress in clothes left by the bed last night, go to the bathroom, drink some water.

Life goes on.
Greet the kitties, pet and talk to them while opening up all windows and glass doors with screens on the outside.
Life goes on.
Stretch and walk for about forty-five minutes, this morning around some of the side streets off Butte Canyon Drive.
Life goes on.
Come home, shower, perform other cleaning and lubricating rituals, dress in clean clothes and decide not to do yoga today.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a piece of toilet paper to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Make coffee and stare out the kitchen window at the indigenous shrubbery and the early morning birds.
Life goes on.
Put out food and freshen water for the kitties for the day.
Life goes on.
Clean out litter box.
Life goes on.
Drink very strong coffee with lots of half and half and a little honey while taking my supplements, perusing the latest issue of The New Yorker and talking to the kitties.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a tissue to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Fix Arcadia door screen.
Life goes on.
Peruse local newspaper while the kitties tease the paper and me and we converse.
Life goes on.
Check list of things to do and select some for the day.
Life goes on.
Deliver books to friends and chat for a bit.
Life goes on.
Return a book to the library.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and wipe the tears with my hand.
Life goes away.
While waiting for the bank to open to deposit two checks, have a lively conversation with six strangers about politics and old movies.
Life goes on.
Buy a larger intermediary compost bucket, a mallet and some wildflower seeds at a local hardware store.
Life goes on.
Greet the kitties on my return and catch up on the apart-parts of our day.
Life goes on.
Go outside and admire an extraordinary stand of Butter and Eggs wildflowers in the front yard, then transfer food scraps from the small intermediary compost bucket to the larger one.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and wipe the tears with my hand.
Life goes away.
Return to the house and clean the kitchen sink with the help of the kitties.
Life goes on.
Remember that I need to pick up some screen clips and cedar chips at the hardware store and record them in my Companion Notebook.
Life goes on.
Toast and eat an onion bagel with onion and chive cream cheese, drink some pomegranate juice and take my midday supplements.
Life goes on.
Pet and talk with the cat who's crawled onto my lap.
Life goes on.
Write a check for a bill, enclose it in an envelope, stamp it and take it to the mailbox.
Life goes on.
Talk to a friend regarding a new approach for her query letter.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a tissue to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Spend some time in the yard deciding what to leave, what to cut back and what to pull up, discover some new budding wild flowers and check them out thoroughly.
Life goes on.
Return to the house and continue reading a library book.
Life goes on.
Play with the cat who's tearing through the house.
Life goes on.
Watch the first few minutes of yesterday's recorded television news and decide to delete both programs without further watching.
Life goes on.
Vacuum the living room, getting it ready for some furniture moving.
Life goes on.
Move the futon couch in the living room into a different position and set up a book shelf to help organize the usual floor clutter.
Life goes on.
Sit in my newly reordered surroundings and move books, papers, pens, etc., to the bookshelf with help from the kitties.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a tissue to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Experiment with a different, more flexible set up for my computer equipment.
Life goes on.
Get the mail from the mail box and drop the junk into the recycle bag.
Life goes on.
Decide to watch a movie I'd DVRed some weeks ago that I enjoy, Meet John Doe, decide to watch it and settle onto the couch with my feet up in a position that will attract kitties, which it does.
Life goes on.
Can't get into the movie and shut it off after 20 minutes.
Life goes on.
Notice that I'm hungry, go into the kitchen and decide what to eat for dinner.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a tissue to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Decide to eat a nuke-baked potato with Parmesan cheese, some steamed broccoli and Brussels sprouts with a home made Greek Feta dressing and while waiting for these to cook wash and stack the accumulated dishes from the day.
Life goes on.
Discuss the merits of people food versus kitty food with the kitties who sniff everything I eat, then eat and take evening supplements sitting on the living room floor with my food on my "Meal Table Box" and my kitties snuggled on either side of me.
Life goes on.
Take empty dishes to sink, wash and stack them.
Life goes on.
Turn on computer, play five minutes of Montana while the virus software scans the hard drive, check my email addresses, clean out the junk, consider responding to a few but don't, catch up on a few blogs, write a few comments, write a blog post, check to see if the movie I ordered yesterday for my brother-in-law has shipped yet, which it has.
Life goes on.
Pet a cat sitting in my lap and discuss the advisability of not clawing at the computer keys.
Life goes on.
Feel like I need to move so go out, gather up some grass straw from the yard, put it in the wheelbarrow, put the intermediate compost bin, filled with food scraps, in the wheelbarrow, head to the back of the property, add all the stuff to the primary compost bin, wet it and mix it with a pitchfork.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and wipe the tears with my hand.
Life goes away.
Scan through programs I've DVR'ed on TV, looking for something interesting. Decide to watch last Friday's Bill Moyers Journal.
Life goes on.
Look up a few things on the internet from the show that have piqued my curiosity.
Life goes on.
Roughhouse a bit with both cats.
Life goes on.
Continue reading yet another library book, this time one from which I'm taking notes, which the kitties help me take, while sipping a cup of herb tea to wash down my before-bed supplement.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and grab a tissue to wipe the tears.
Life goes away.
Decide it's time to sleep for the night and head into the bathroom to perform sleep prep ritual.
Life goes on.
Decide whether I'm going to sleep in my bed or on the couch tonight, check my emotional under-state and decide on the couch.
Life goes on.
Strip, drop my clothes on the floor next to the futon couch, set up the pillows, comforter and kitty magnet blanket, talk to the kitties as they excite themselves about the prospect of sleeping on the couch with me then slip onto the couch.
Life goes on.
Talk to and pet the kitties as we settle in around each other, getting blankets and positions set for optimum sleep arrangements.
Life goes on.
Place my arms in a comfortable position, primp the pillows and lay my head down.
Life goes on.
Notice that the back of one of my earrings is stabbing my head, lift my head, remove the earring, place it on the floor underneath my clothes and settle back down.
Life goes on.
Think about my mother and wipe the tears on the pillowcase.
Life goes away.
Fall asleep.
Life goes away.
Life goes on.


Monday, May 4, 2009


Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore.": Part 3

    Here's one that I spaced. It's been with me for exactly a week. It has, in fact, provoked a fair amount of wondering and ruminating, a need to ask a question of three of my sisters, one with whom I've actually been in contact but forgotten, both times, to ask her. Maybe the reason I spaced mentioning it here is that I'm still working on it outside of here...or, you know, it's still working on me.
    It's from In Treatment; Gina: Week Four. "Yes, I'm a fan, are you surprised?" she asked, smiling wickedly. Toward the end of Paul's session with Gina, his psychotherapist, she is urging a very reluctant (middle-aged) Paul to see his father, who is old and ill. She uses a variety of approaches, trying to work him to an understanding of how important it is for him to see his father even though, and especially because, there are a variety of highly sensitive unresolved issues between the two men which were cemented into their future history when Paul's father left their family to marry another woman when Paul was young, leaving Paul with an emotionally compromised mother who committed suicide when Paul was a teenager. As I recall, there has been no contact between the two men since that time. Paul's brother, however, has been keeping Paul informed of his father's decline through old age. I'm going to repeat some of the leading-up dialog in order to give a sense of where the conversation has been before it comes to the piece of dialog which struck me, the last piece of dialog spoken by Gina, which I'll bold and italicize:
Gina: Have you seen your father?
Paul: I, I, I don't know how he is. Jesus, I...
Gina: Did you go to see him?
Paul: No, I didn't go to see him. I meant to, and...
Gina: Why not? Is he better?
Paul: I don't know. He may have...he may have taken a turn for the worse. He fell a couple of times in the hospital so they moved him into another room. He may have a fever. And I'm getting all this from and, and I'm getting all this from Patrick. I was busy preparing this week for, for, for the deposition. That was a treat. Let me tell you.
Gina: So you didn't go to see your father.
Paul: No, I didn't. And if you don't stop nagging me, I won't.
Gina: I'm not nagging you, Paul. I'm reminding you that bears do not live forever. And this bear, with whom you have very many unresolved issues, is dying.
Paul: My brother says he's dying. That doesn't really mean that he is dying.
Gina: Would you rather just get a call that he's dead?
Paul: Let them call my fucking brother!
Gina: Paul, you may think that you don't care about this, but you do. You know, if you didn't care, why would you have reacted this way when I brought him up? Paul, please sit down. know you say you're not getting what you need from anyone but it's worse than that. It's as though you're a baby; and you woke up from a nap, and you started crying, but nobody's coming in to see what you need. And so you cry louder. And you shake the bars of the crib. And still nobody comes. The only problem is your father is there. He's in the room with you. But your anger at him is so profound that you can't see him.
Paul: My father can't help me now.
Gina: No, no, he probably can't. But until you acknowledge his presence in your life you're not going to understand anything about him. And you'll continue to shake the crib.
Paul: The crib? What are you talking about? I'm a grown man.
Gina: Well, of course you are. But what you haven't been in a grown son to your father. And until you do that, part of you is always going to stay a baby; or, at best, a teenager waiting for your mother to die.
Paul: My mother's already dead.
Gina: That's right. What you're afraid of, it's already happened. Neither you nor your dad could stop it. And the only thing you can do now is hope to heal this wound so then you can move on. Paul, we both know what it's like not to be there at the end. It's something you don't get over. Ever.

    Until I heard the last three bolded and italicized sentences of this dialog, it hadn't occurred to me to wonder if any of my three sisters had any feelings about not having been with my mother when she died, nor having been with her, at all or more than briefly, during the last months of her life when all of us knew she wouldn't be around much longer. The unofficial downhill slope of Mom's life started without any of us, including my mother, realizing it when she caught the flu in mid winter last year. It became official when she was diagnosed with lung cancer and the decision was made "not to treat" on May 21st of last year. From then on one sister and her daughter visited a few times through the summer and fall and she and her husband visited over Thanksgiving weekend.
    I have often wished that I had been at my father's bedside when he died. The last time I talked to him I knew he was dying. So did he. We both knew it would be the last time we'd speak to one another. Although we didn't acknowledge this in words, the profound understanding crackled through the phone lines and changed the timbre of both our voices before we said "I love you" and "good-bye". The wish that I had been at his side when he died, though, has never been a part of my grief over his death, nor has it become a regret.
    As my mother negotiated the last months of her life I kept all my sisters informed, on the phone and through my journals. A couple of times throughout the last five and a half months of her life, when Mom had a bad couple of days here and there, I'd call my eldest sister and alert her that I wasn't sure Mom would be alive the following day. Until the call I made to her on December 7th, 2008, at 4:44 pm MST, I was always wrong.
    Over the last week, though, since the above mentioned show aired, I've been wondering, do any of my sisters wish they had been "there at the end"? Certainly, even though I was only a bystander in each sister's relationship with our mother, I can say with confidence that none of those relationships was anywhere near as fraught with psychological pitfalls as the father/son relationship portrayed in the In Treatment; Gina: Week Four episode. Still, I wonder if any of my sisters feels somehow unfinished with our mother in a way they may not have felt if it had been easier for them to be here when Mom died? I wonder, too, if there was anything I could have done to make it easier for them to be here. Each of my sisters, at one time or another during Mom's downhill slide, had expressed to me that they all knew Mom was well taken care of and that, since Mom felt as though they were here, or had just been here, or were on their way, thus giving Mom a sense that she was always surrounded with family, primarily because I was here and she and I talked about family all the time, each of their concerns had to do with making sure that they were here for me when she died...and they all were. One of my sisters, as I remember mentioning, expressed an interest in viewing Mom after her death but changed her mind on her way here and the viewing was canceled. I never questioned her change of mind. I trust my sisters to know what they want when they want it and to know when they no longer want it, and to be clear about this.
    It has occurred to me that, since I was with Mom through her last breath and beyond, and, as well, since I wrote so meticulously and promptly in my journals about her entire life while we were companions, her last few days, especially Mom's last, and then, quickly after, her last hours, they may have felt as though they were here. I hope so. But, still, I think its a good idea to check in with each of them on this...just in case something remains unexpressed that each of them would like to say. If there isn't, they'll let me know.

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