Archive for Memories

When Death is Bad and Memories are Worse

Photos

I saw that picture of my mother and it jarred me . . .

Hospice agency web pages and pamphlets don’t highlight traumatic or difficult deaths.

While these unfortunate deaths do occur, they are infrequent. (But they won’t feel infrequent if you experience it.)

After the death, how do grievers start healing from those memories? The images of the final days (or more) include triggers for all the senses. Often, it’s not only a “mental picture” a griever recalls. There are smells, tastes, feels, and sounds that abruptly surface. And with certain deaths, it is not being there that fuels the disruptive recollections. Absence can be as tormenting as presence.

My mother died in 2013.

Like many others, I was reviewing pictures of Mom to post comments about her birthday on social media. Maybe an old black-and-white snapshot? Maybe one with just Mom and me? Maybe a collage of photos depicting various decades? While searching, I double-clicked on a tiny image in my computer’s photo file. Mom’s final hospital bed filled my screen. Read More →

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In Praise of Words and Music for Patients

“I’m still praying the Lord’s Prayer with him,” one of our hospice chaplains said about her patient.

This person’s illness had made it difficult to communicate anymore. Most of his decisions were now made by his loved ones. Often it comes to this, where our beloved spouse or parent and grandparent can no longer effectively communicate. Sometimes it is because of cancer, and a “sudden” turn for the worse means a patient easily conversing in the morning transitions to someone incapable of talking by the evening. Or the patient slowly walks the darkening, years-long road of dementia, eventually unable to speak or comprehend words.

But with many of these folks, certain words, songs and memorabilia will trigger a positive, life-affirming response. As the chaplain reported the situation, when this patient was asked if he wanted to pray, he gave an affirmative nod and then, as the chaplain began, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” the patient joined in.

Did he fully understand the prayer? Probably not. 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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