Monday, August 21, 2023

Before and After

The following is a post on what has become a series.  If you have been through a death of a parent, consider this what the young'uns call a 'trigger warning' as it deals with the raw emotions of an unexpected death which may include cursing and not holding back my feelings about my experience.  If you are new here and want to see the posts leading up to this one, you can start with posts on July 7th and go forward.


When the phone rang at just after 5am that horrible day, the Mr answered it.  The man on the other end said "I'm sure you know why I'm calling."  The Mr said he did and he was my husband and the chaplain said he had to speak to me to tell me.  When the Mr handed me the phone to talk to him, he began getting ready so he was in the bathroom as I was getting the news she was gone.  I called her sibling and threw back on the clothes that I wore a few hours before to get ready to leave to go see her.  I was very calm because of how we sent her off with her favorite songs seeing she was trying to sing with us and surrounded by pictures and love.  When the Mr came out, he mentioned something about getting the call so we could say our goodbyes.  (The nurse said the night before if they noticed end of life changes, they would call so we could get over there.)  I paused a moment, gave him a soft smile and said "hon, she's gone." The look of shock on his face still breaks my heart.  He thought we'd get to see her one last time alive and send her off and we did, hon.  We did.

From that point on, life shifted into before and after.  I remember looking at the banister and that it needed cleaned and I thought "that dirt is from when she was alive."  Even now as I type, my nails long enough to catch on the edges of the keys, I see the peeling top coat.  A coat I applied a week before her ordeal began.  This top coat has witnessed the horrors, had Mom's hair dance on the top of my nails as I stroked her forehead until she fell asleep and been held by her hand in laughter, tears and the faint squeeze she was able to give her last day.  It's yellowed, worn, split, peeling and I know it needs to come off but the thought of doing it strips one more part of her from me.

Everything cuts in this finite way that the Mr remembered from when his dad died 20 years ago.  He said "your brain just does that" and I replied "well, my brain is an asshole!"  There were reminders all over the house of what we endured for weeks as we went on this hellish journey with her in various stages of before and after.

Leftover tea bags from when she was alive that we would drink trying to decompress from the latest horror of the day.

Papers and items she gave me at the start of it all she'd been putting off decluttering in the hopes of her making it back home to a cleaner house to recoup from chemo.  All of this represents the hope we had and the broken hearts we now carried because she never even got the chance.

The yak bin full of medical supplies the hospital sent with her on discharge to the God awful facility that we suspect accelerated her death.  This represents the panic we had when we grabbed it along with everything in her room when we 911'd her out of there.  It got thrown under the dining table to get it out of the car.

Then the after.  The remnants of scraps from putting together her memory boards, something that was always her job for funerals and reunions.  She loved putting them together to tell a story and picking out just the right colors and embellishments even if they were simple.  This represents the love, stress of trying to make her proud as I was up until 2am every night and sense of accomplishment when I thought I might have done something close to as good as she would have.

The dying flowers of condolences from her service.  If I throw them away, it'll have been too long since I saw her last and now have to deal with never being able to see her again.  I spent hours on her social media doing screenshots of birthday and anniversary greetings, little uplifting quotes she would use to start people's days or weekend, recipes she wanted to try (or hoped someone else would think looked good enough to make so she wouldn't have to 😝) and anything in between.  

A table full of 5 weeks worth of "I'll get to it later" that seems too overwhelming to ever deal with so we just eat our meals in a spot no larger than where our plates will fit and ignore the rest for now.

These physical things are all I have left to her connection wise.  Reminders of hope, horror, love, panic, nostalgia and grief.  Now I begin the arduous journey of 'firsts' that those of us who have lost someone  know all too well.  With Grandma dying, it was a relief because she'd been unavailable to us for years and it seemed like hell on Earth for her to live that way.  With Mom dying...I can't believe I just typed that.  With Mom dying in this horrible, unfair, torturous way she did, we all feel robbed and she did too because she said it in so many words.  No time to process the news for any of us.  Attention diverted to things taking away the time we could've spent with her instead of trying to get the people who failed her in that month to even respond to us.  Trying to comprehend how she was here to start one month and not here to start the next when she seemed perfectly fine.  It took me three days to shower after she died.  I didn't want the lips that kissed her forehead, the hands the rubbed her hair and forehead before and after she died or the cheeks that leaned gently against her to be free of her.  When I finally did shower, as the soap lathered and took the last cellular bits of her off of me, I sobbed.

Now we have these physical things that we have to deal with; these reminders that are too painful to throw away but some too painful to keep.  The pain the past week has been visceral, suffocating, soul crushing and my eyes feel like they're never going to recover.  I am in constant pain emotionally and physically.

We're in the after.

And the after effing SUCKS.


If you or someone you know is going through a grief process, you may find these resources given to me by a friend helpful:

Crisis Text Line or text 741741

Books I'm currently reading:

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  1. I don't have any words that are adequate enough to help and I can only imagine what you are feeling. Know that you and the Mr are in my thoughts.

    1. We really appreciate it, Sarah. Sometimes just knowing that is enough to help! ❤️

  2. Being in the after does suck. I'm glad you went through the memories of posts on social media though because it's those memories that help in the long term that will sustain you. I know they'll never quite be enough but they will keep you going enough to some day live a full life again and honor her.

    1. So many posts about appreciating life and cherishing people that I never saw that cut me like a knife now. I was stupid to not realize we're not all promised old age and my procrastination is costing me.

  3. The after is such an awful place to be. There is no escaping it and it weighs on you like bricks on your chest. Keep feeling and keep sharing, because there can be a bit of comfort in that. It doesn't take the pain away, but you can know you aren't alone in the abyss, and that others are thinking of you and here to support you. Love you lots. xoxoxoxo

    1. It really does help. Those kind words of "I don't know what to say but this sucks" mean much more than being unacknowledged hoping I go back to what I was before. I know I will get there but getting there with support is so much better!


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