Archive for Questions

Don’t Let the What-ifs Hijack Your Grief

What-if questions haunt us. After a loved one’s death, the what-ifs can feel like a vice squeezing our hearts. But they finally ease their grip as the clock keeps spinning and the calendar pages turn.

What if the what-ifs keep troubling us?

They can randomly and relentless disturb us, like odd noises jarring us awake in the depths of night. What if . . .

  • he’d quit smoking years before?
  • she had gone to the oncologist earlier?
  • they hadn’t given that last dose of morphine?
  • you hadn’t flirted with the passenger on the plane?
  • you’d said, “I love you” . . . instead of “Leave me alone?”
  • the family had attended church (or temple, synagogue, or…) more often?

Are what-ifs like an airborne virus? Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines disease as:

“a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.” [Underlining is mine.] Read More →

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On Saying as Little as Possible to a Hospice Patient

“We made a lot of mistakes,” the wife said.

Before I* could respond, she continued talking about how she and her husband had both worked seven days a week until they retired.

“Should’ve taken more Sundays off,” she mused.

Then she veered into mentioning communion in the Episcopal Church, which caused her hard-of-hearing husband to loudly announce, “We used grape juice, ya know,” referring to his Baptist-oriented childhood.

On they chattered for a few more minutes, with me listening, trying to follow their wandering, ever-expanding subjects.

Finally, when each took a breath, I asked her, “What mistakes do you think you made?” Read More →

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A Cursed, Crushing, Conflicted Concoction of Feelings

Long ago, maybe around Easter, with Dad, my younger sister, and me . . .

When my father bellowed and ordered me to leave his home, it was as if a double-edge knife had penetrated my heart. Like a rusty, bent blade, it twisted with the volume and intensity of Dad’s outburst.

One side of the blade was love. One, hatred.

We did not know then about his dementia.

Odd how, with those we love the most and the surest, we can experience such damning and damaging of reactions.

Dad’s unexpected roar came partway through a mundane visit home, where I balanced time with my parents while attending a conference. Fine! If he didn’t want me around—though I had no clue why—I could find a motel near the downtown conference, crash with a friend attending the event, or head home where my wife and pets would at least treat me with respect.

Mom intervened.

Odd to sit around the old kitchen table, with my parents now married for six decades, and to have your mother forcefully demand that her husband apologize to their son. Dad did. Looking back now, why wasn’t it obvious? He was hardly smiling anymore. His eye contact with others had become random and held no welcome or curiosity. At that table, Mom chided him. Mom warned him. Mom prevailed. Read More →

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