Friday, June 12, 2015

LIght and Darkness: Social Gatherings Bring Joy and Pain

On Sunday, we'll celebrate Father's Day. As some things do, I've just truly realized the depth of loss on this day knowing my sons and daughter no longer have a father to honor on this day. No grandfathers, either.

The gauntlet has been passed, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post about attending funerals and how we seem to "move up" closer to the front and then into the front row as those dear to us move away from us and onward.

Another wave of realization came over me just  last weekend.

Arriving at an annual dinner function to honor a special member of the group, I looked for people I knew but saw infrequently.  

Usually seated at a table with parents from my sons classes, I look forward to catching up on what the "kids" are doing, where they're living, families, etc. 

I missed last year's event and was looking forward to this one to see people who once were so important in our daily lives.

Moving around the room in the pre dinner socializing, I saw one of my son's teachers, a woman I'd admired but not kept touch with over the years. She came up to me and we started to "catch up".

What a difference a year or a little more can make!  

She told me she'd never heard of MRSA before we spoke at the last gathering. 

Then came the shocker when she told me her husband was diagnosed with MRSA and survived only a few months. I'd at least had my husband longer than that. 

I'm not sure but believe we're close in age so to hear her tragedy mirroring my own, I felt the loss of my husband, again, knowing she'd also lost hers.

When you experience what is seen as a "rare" disease causing death, you feel isolated, you feel "different". 

Cancer, heart disease and other "afflictions", people grasp, they "know about" and they somewhat share your challenges. Not so with those diseases or afflictions we've been through, the MRSA and the Lewy Body Dementia.  

We still get puzzled looks and questions. 

Many people politely listen and then offer their condolences but I don't think they believe their lives can also be affected by these killers. 

Now, I'd found someone who had been a very close part of my life, of our family's life, a teacher who left an indelible mark in our youngest son's life through the ways she helped him along the way, who knew my pain, my suffering and my loss. 

I wish she didn't, I wish she hadn't had to endure and I wish her husband had not had to go through those times I know he had.

Turning to find another "old" acquaintance, we started talking. She had sons in my son's classes.

Then came the second wave of shock and awe, as I learned about another mother, of a son in my oldest's sons' class and someone I'd worked with. The last year I'd attended, I was seated next to her with her husband beside her and her youngest son, a close school friend of my oldest, and his wife also at our table.

Now, I'm listening to the tragedy of another life unfold through the voice of another Mom from our class.

A little over a year ago, this Mom, with whom I'd talked and who I somewhat envied because she was with her husband and life seemed so "normal" while I was just beginning to return to some of the things I "used to do" and places I would "usually go" with my husband or my mother, had experienced in less than two years tragedies mirroring yet surpassing my own.


The first year I attended this event, I felt so strange. A part of me was missing, my husband. 

We were a pair, a couple, together even when far across a room or standing talking with a group away from one another. 

This place had been our "second home" with our sons for eight years. We'd worked side by side and with others to develop and grow so many programs and possibilities.

At the many functions we attended together, some in this same area, I was usually the one "abandoned" as my sociable husband "worked the crowd".

I remember those first business meetings when I was so young and he was "climbing the corporate ladder". 

He didn't intentionally "leave me"; he'd just get involved and like a wave on the sea, as the person he was with and he moved to join someone else, there was a rippling effect as he moved farther and farther away until I lost direct sight of him. 

Sometimes, when we traveled for his business, he'd be in meetings and ask me to meet him at a pre-function where I'd find hundreds of people and where I was often one of the few females in attendance. 

In a sea of men, you'd think it would be easy to find your husband but it's not, especially when they're all dressed similarly either in jackets with dress shirts and ties or business suits. 

I always felt more "whole" when I found him and somewhat lost when I couldn't.

Fast Forward 

Now I was listening to the story of someone whose life paralleled mine but moved in a direction I am most grateful has not been my fate.

However, I often wonder what life would have been like without my daughter, so often a source of strength and continuity. 

Oh, we have our times, life is like that, but we have the same mother/daughter relationship I was so fortunate to have with my mother. That's why when I found out "late in life" I was expecting again I was overjoyed with the possibility and then the confirmation I was expecting a girl, a daughter,

But I digress.

My "old friend" with whom I'd lost touch as we often do when we move in different directions after leaving a group, had lost her youngest son to an accident while he was travelling out of the country. She'd had two sons, just as we had, their oldest being in the same class as our oldest.

Within just a few months that followed this tragedy, her husband passed. We had slightly longer, our double family tragedy lasted through many medical challenges and diseases that moved slower.

Now, I'm told, she's had a stroke and is living in an Assisted Living facility. 

Two stories of loss and extreme change. It comes with age, many would say. No. Just another episode in life.

I remember losses and medical challenges along this life's journey. 

The cousin with recurring Breast cancer and finally getting a double mastectomy.

A cousin whose mother died of Ovarian Cancer and she was thinking of having a hysterectomy when she suddenly passed totally unexpected of an Aneurysm.

A nephew's wife killed in a car accident followed within a little over a year by his own death in a car accident and suddenly our becoming Guardians of a little girl, their daughter, just a couple of weeks older than our own daughter.

The stories were many. The stories were varied. The losses were great and they weren't always after lengthy or long lives.

Light and Darkness. Joy and Pain. Life and Death. In many variations we move together, apart and back again as we weave this fabric of ourselves.