Category Archives: Grief

Happy 100th, Mom!

An annual ritual here of wishing my Mom a happy birthday. Today would have been her 100th. She passed away on November 7th, 2005.

Her death hit me rather hard, despite being expected. “Anticipatory grief” does not prepare you for the real thing. At least, it didn’t do so for me.

This isn’t going to be some long, poetic, inspirational post on Moms and losing them. Any such stuff will remain private for the time being. I do have a novel-in-progress that deals with that, although it is on a back burner dimly lit.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

The stark realization that it could all end

I think that one reason why we feel pain when someone dies, be it person or pet, is that the pain of the loss connects us to the reality that there is more to life than just the “here and now.” Someone was here, is now gone, and we can’t just visit them or email or connect with them online. No phone calling. They’re gone. There may be “something more,” and at a level that differs amongst all of us dependent upon the depth of our spirituality and religiosity. And if you don’t believe in an afterlife, then oblivion awaits and that scares you. The result from either belief is numbing and expressed through sorrow over the loss. For believers, we long to cross that chasm because we just know that the “something more” is better than the “here and now.”

The stark realization that it could all end….

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Death sucks.

Death sucks.

Someone, be they a human person or an animal person, is in your life for years, then they’re not. And it’s not like they moved to some far off strange place like California, where you can still email, Skype or Facebook with them. The distance they travelled is measured not in miles or kilometers. But in time.

It’s a wide chasm. We may take a few more years or decades to get to the point where we can cross it. That is a part of the chasm separating those on the other side from us. But forgetting the amount of time between now and when we die, that chasm is just huge. They’re in eternity. We’re not.

But there’s a hole left behind. That space in your life that they filled is now empty. They are no longer there. That space can’t be filled by anyone else.

This post was caused by the death of our cat, “Mr. Onyx,” whom I nicknamed “SpeedBump.” He died this morning. He’s the black kitteh in the picture. The cutie on the right is his girlfriend, Jerrie. Nice headshot of him is right after.

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I nicknamed Mr. Onyx, “SpeedBump,” after his penchant for laying right between wherever anyone was sitting and wherever a doorway is, as well as slowly walking down the hallway before you.

We don’t know how old he was as we didn’t get him as a kitten. His previous human died from cancer and untreated alcoholism and we took him in as no one else could.

He lived with my wife and I for almost exactly 6 years.

He is survived by two other kittehs, Jerrie and Ninja.

He had an amazing impact on our lives, bringing much joy, love and FUN into them.

We will bury him in a Mary Garden, next to our house, and we’ll plant stuff around him that would attract the birds and bunnies he so loved to watch from the patio window.

Where are our beloved pets, after their death? That is for another post. But Mr. Onyx’s death is really hitting me. The death of a pet in not inconsequential.

Pets matter.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

On this date in 1995 my father died

Feeling a little more melancholic than usual, perhaps as this is the 18th anniversary of my Father’s death. So, a repost.

NOTE: This is reposted from an earlier date:

On this date in 1995 my father died.

He and I weren’t very close, (“fathers and sons …”) generational and attitudinal differences separated us.

As a result, I didn’t really grieve over his death. I mean, I was saddened and did feel the loss, but I wasn’t ripped apart by his death like I was over my Mom’s 10 years later.

This relative lack of impact was aided by the fact that I was 2,500 miles away and hadn’t seen him in 4 years.

I went home for his funeral, and reconnected with the family, but when I returned home to California I continued life as usual. I had started drinking heavily to cope with life’s problems a year before (failed romance) and my drinking picked up a little more upon my return, so that may have softened the need to grieve in a sober manner.

The point of this is that although I wasn’t too close to Dad during his life, I am much closer to him now. That would seem strange to non-Catholics, but for believers with a knowledge of the Communion of Saints, that shouldn’t seem strange at all.

Death doesn’t end a life. Death is just a passage from this life to another. This life is temporary, everything “is”, and then passes away to dust and a dim memory. The life after is eternal. Whether that life is spent in Heaven or Hell depends on what you do in your Earthly life.

There is a connection between those of us still here on Earth and those deceased. It is called, as I referenced in a previous paragraph, the Communion of Saints . (Via New Advent.) This is comprised of the “Church Militant” (those still on Earth), the “Church Suffering” (those in Purgatory) and the “Church Triumphant” (those in Heaven). Only the souls that have damned themselves to Hell are excluded.

“Communion” implies a community, wherein the members still can relate to one another. This relation is conducted by the means of prayer. We pray to the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering for their intercessory power with God. We can somehow sense their presence (although admittedly that “sensing” may be wishful thinking).

They are there to help, comfort and console us. We are separated from them by the chasm of death, but that chasm can be crossed eventually by our own deathly passage.

I said earlier in this post that I am much closer to Dad now than while he was alive. I have grown to be much like him, at least with regard to the practice of my Catholic Faith. (I still haven’t taken up woodworking as a hobby, nor returned to fishing as a pastime, but may in time. I do enjoy yardwork, like he did, and love baseball, too.) I understand him better as the years progress and as I grow older.

To anyone who has lost a parent (or anyone beloved) to death, fear not. They are not gone from you permanently. Consider them as just having moved far away, and the distance you need to travel to meet with them again will take the rest of your life.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Mother’s Day and Polkas

I noticed on my Facebook that there are a few people who are who are experiencing their first Mother’s Day without their Mom. Prayers ascending for them…

On my first Mother’s Day without mine, I did an odd thing. When I was growing up, Mom played polka music every Sunday before Mass. I lived in central New York State, and there were a number of ethnic radio programs from the various Syracuse, Utica and Rome stations. With a relatively large Polish-American populatiion, there were a few hours of polka programming each Sunday.

Mom used to wake me up to that way. Like clockwork, every Sunday at 8:30AM I’d be contentedly sleeping in my bed, and then WHAMMO!!!!, flung a few feet in the air to the riotous sounds of “In Heaven There is No Beer, That’s Why We Drink it Here,”  “Roll Out the Barrel,”  “I Don’t Want Her You Can Have Her, She’s too Fat for Me,” and various other classic polka tuneskis.

Needless to say I grew to dislike polka music. Until 2006, my first Mother’s Day without Mom. I felt compelled to hunt down a radio station that played polka music. As I now live in the Buffalo, New York area, with a larger Polish-American population than central New York has, it wasn’t hard.

And so on that Mother’s Day, I listened to polka music for the first time in over a quarter century. And…

…I liked it! It was nostalgic for me and also therapuetic. The healing process that I needed after her death in November 2005 was really helped along.

Polka music is routinely derided and dismissed by people. But, screw ’em. It is toe-tappin’ “happy music.” A great cure for depression. So, it all sounds the same. So does rap and  pop.

I think I’ll go to the living room, turn on the stereo, and blast a local polka station. My wife is still sleeping, so it might wake her up! I’m sure she’ll appreciate the old family tradition. 😉

Later…

 

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Withdraw to a deserted place

Matthew 14:13: When Jesus heard of it (the death of John the Baptist), he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.

(Via USCCB.)

In this excerpt from the Gospel Reading from today’s Mass (18th Sunday in Ordinary Time) Jesus was saddened by the death of John the Baptist. the Son of God felt the loss of His cousin and grieved. He needed to withdraw, be alone and more than likely spent the time in prayer and meditation.

The fact that Jesus needed to grieve over His loss is a hope to those of us who have lost loved ones to the separation of death. We are not alone, in what can be the loneliest of times for those who continue on.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Blessed are they who mourn

An excerpt from the Gospel for today Mass on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time has comforting words for those suffering the loss of a loved one:

Matthew 5:4:”Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

We are reminded in Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14: “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”

(Via USCCB.)

We who have lost loved ones to death are to not be sorrowful like those who have no hope in the afterlife. We shall be comforted, either by our hopeful reunion with them in Heaven, our by our realization that they are not really separated from us forever. They are still a part of our lives, for death only separates them from us by time. Time passes, and just as those who have gone on before us have travelled through the passage of death into the afterlife, we shall hopefully follow.

We yearn for them. We miss them. We long to be with them. Let this yearning be a way to burn away here on Earth the sinful tendencies of our lives which only increases our separation from them, and from God.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

Mom’s who are no longer among us

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

November 7th: a Death and a Rebirth, Part 2

Earlier today I wrote Part 1 of this post.

This “rebirth” part is difficult to write, as the birth pangs were years-long, torturous and the result (which is still developing, in a way) was inconceivable at the beginning.

The rebirth was in essence that of a “new me” slowly being born. Not in the born-again context of Evangelical Christians but in that a large part of me died when Mom did, and out of the ashes of that life a new person arose.

The symbolism of this was apparent when I went through grief counseling and I discovered major parallels between that and alcohol recovery work. Just as I am being reborn during my recovery from alcoholism, so I was experiencing a rebirth in trying to establish a “new normal” without Mom around.

The “new normal” is a term in grief work which means that you have to establish a new rhythm to your life without the deceased in it. The dead person was a part of your life, and that person is no longer in it in a physical manner. A part of you is now missing and somehow you have to account for the missing piece. How will you go on living now? What will pass for “normal?” What will the new “ordinary life” look like and how will you get there?

It wasn’t easy. I had wanted to die. I felt that my mission in life was over now that Mom was gone. I didn’t consider myself particularly good at anything and so I thought I existed to care for Mom when she got old. I prayed for death. Not in a suicidal wish, just that God would take me home.

The Lord had other plans. He stomped on me and put the crushed me through a wine press. The fermentation process took a few years and various people came and went while seeing me through it.

And “through it” was key. You have to go through grief, work through it for if you avoid or defer it you will suffer greatly later on. Much like a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t completely clean up their past or face resentments. You refuse to deal with things, then they will deal with you.

And I trudged on, through the grief and the soul-scorching aloneness I felt.

As I said three paragraphs ago, various people came and went through my initial period of griefwork. All served a purpose and I was grateful to them. But stability was not a crowning achievement of my life in those days. I felt as if I was living in quicksand.

More, later today or early tomorrow in Part 3.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"

November 7th: a Death and a Rebirth, Part 1

Tomorrow, November 7th, will be the 5th anniversary of my Mom’s death.

Today in 2005 was her last full day alive on Earth. I sensed it would be as she lay in her hospital bed not responsive to eating or drinking anything. Her energy levels just seemed markedly lower than in previous days. The day before, November 5th, she seemed brighter and more vital, relatively speaking. There was a family reunion in her hospital room as my siblings, her grandchildren and in-laws, some whom she hadn’t seen in many years gathered about.

Once the family reconnection was over, it looked as though she was comfortable with all that. She saw her people.

There was a storm in town that night, and a major power outage in the area, so I spent the night in her hospital room as the old house of hers was darkened. There was little point in staying there and the hospital had generator power, so…

If I recall correctly, she drifted in and out of sleep all night long. She was not communicative anyway.

About 6:25 AM the nurses arrived for her morning vitals and such, and I saw outside that power was restored to the town so I decided to go back to the house to wash up and have breakfast.

At 6:28 AM I leaned over her bed and told her that, along with the news that I’ll be back in an an hour or so.

And then I said “I love you, Mom.”

She softly, barely a whisper, replied, “I love you, too.”

I turned and left and went down the hallway to the elevator the the ground floor. After I exited the hallway and started to make my way to the parking lot I heard the hospital doors burst open and the voice of a nurse cry out, “Sir!?!?” I turned around and she was beckoning me to return.

In just the couple of minutes since my departure she had died.

I have the feeling that my Dad, who had died in 1995 was waiting to greet her as she went home and wanted her to himself as he escorted her to Jesus. (The fact that nurses were present is irrelevant, they were there for their job. I am family and there would be a symbolic notion for Dad wanting me elsewhere. I had been her caregiver and now he was taking over.)

So. My Mom died.

(Disclaimer: I do not mean to “canonize” my Mom. I understand that she might have spent some time in Purgatory. But due to the possibility that time flows differently in the afterlife, and we are discussing a dimension that is eternal, who knows what exactly transpired subjectively for my Mom just at 6:30 AM on November 7, 2005.

I write this disclaimer due to the common practice at funerals, Catholic and others, of automatically assuming that the deceased wind up in Heaven right away. Purgatory or ***GASP*** Hell is never discussed. Admittedly I am not open to the idea she is condemned, as she devoted her life to serving the Lord and her family.

Subjectively to her she may have spent some time in Purgatory, maybe objectively to us, if we were able to observe, hardly any time at all. Such may be the ways of eternity.

Part 2 will be later today.

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"