by Constance Meloche
My story is not unlike anyone else who has posted here. There is a point in time when looking back it played out like some Sunday night made for T.V. Hallmark Hall of Fame Special. In the first scene, the heroine seems to be enjoying a wonderful life. Her smile is bright and sunny as we catch glimpses of her rich and full existence. There are no indications of an ill lived life. No previous struggle appears to have touched her. She is living the dream. The door bell rings or perhaps the phone. She answers. It is then that you know. In a split second, her smile melts into a deep frown; her eyes are full of shock and horror. You know it’s bad, really bad as you are left hanging waiting through the commercial break.
Fast forward through the standard funeral scene, where tender words are spoken and promises of keeping in touch and helping you through this difficult time are made. The heroine returns to her empty house and sits alone, in the quiet, numb. Even if she is surrounded by a house filled with family and noise and distraction, she still sits alone, in the quiet, still numb.
I had big plans for my birthday. I was certain that this birthday would be of the highest significance. I kept telling my husband and children, I just feel like something wonderful is going to happen. I feel like there’s going to be a miracle in my life of some kind. I was not focused as much on a physical gain, rather I was certain that a spiritual gift or profound life changing experience would be given to me. So excited for my day, I did something I had never done before, I dressed up for my birthday. I put on a beautiful salmon coloured sweater I had been saving for a special occasion. I put on my best bra and underwear, new bright white socks and a pair of tan casual/dressy pants. Then I styled my hair and put on a little makeup. I saw my eldest daughter out the door and then headed to the car to drive my son to schoolAutumn had arrived in time for my birthday. Always my favorite season, the trees were covered in yellow and red tinged leaves. There were even a few crisps on the ground that crunched under my feet as I walked out to the driveway. My son and I sang to a song on the radio in our usual way and I noticed the smallest of leaves twirling in the sky above me while I waited at the corner stop light. It circled its way with the breeze and floated softly down until it gently kissed the windshield. I remember whispering a thank you as I imagined Autumn was sending a birthday wish as well.I dropped off my son and returned home, sitting a the kitchen table to write a to do list.
I don’t know how to describe what happened next other than to say a energy crept in through the front door. It was like darkness came inside and my stomach just dropped like it does when you drive upward and down a little hill in your car or the kind that comes when you are going down on a roller coaster ride. It happened so quickly, I had barely noticed the clouds that had rolled in almost simultaneously in the sky. It really was playing out like some novel I had read in English class.Was this Pathetic Fallacy? The on line definition of Pathetic Fallacy is; “The attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example, angry clouds; a cruel wind. ...”. I glanced up and stared out the window, the wind was beginning to pick up and I was certain that rain would begin shortly. I brushed aside this feeling of doom deliberately. I consoled myself with the thought maybe I was feeling some residual negativity from birthdays past but at the same time I felt some sense of foreboding that really began to make me feel anxious.Then it happened. In the blink of an eye I was running down the street in answer to a call from a dear friend. I arrived at her house to find her draped over the lifeless body of her husband and also my friend. It was a horrible few days as I grappled with this shocking event. I spoke to my father the day of, as I always did at 2pm in the afternoon. Like clockwork we chatted for an 1/2 to an hour about everything from life and struggle to politics and the weather. It was a beautiful relationship and one I treasured. I told him about what had happened and told him I would not be stopping in at the hospital to see him after his minor scope procedure that had been scheduled two days from that day. He said it was fine and he would see me on the Friday after I had attended my friends funeral. He tried to comfort me saying 'y'know, you just never know when the Good Lord will call you home". I told him I loved him and wished him luck and reiterated that I would stop at his home on Friday evening. We said goodbye.
Friday morning as I woke up, I lay in bed planning what I might wear to the service. The phone rang and my husband answered, the pause was much too long and alarmed me. It was my sister calling to say that my father had taken a turn and had coded. I could not understand how this could have happened as he was having a routine scope, a minor procedure on his bladder. How in the world could this be true. It was true. My father was preparing to head home, he had woken up that morning and had showered and shaved and was getting ready for his discharge. He had a bilateral pontine stroke and as a result was suffering from "Locked In Syndrome". He could see, he could hear, his thought processes and intellect were intact. He could not move voluntarily: he was paralyzed from the cheekbone down.
He had had multiple strokes and had one large clot sitting at the base of his brainstem.
The moments spent with him were brief. There were too many of us for any one of us to stay with him too long although I’ll bet each one wanted to selfishly keep him to themselves as I did. I had two ten minute periods with him. He opened his eyes for me and when the neurologist came I was eager to show him that he could open his eyes. The reports I had received from the family when I first arrived were grave. There didn’t seem to be much hope but I would not hear of it. The neurologist stood over him calling to him and on command my father opened his eyes. He looked up for yes and down for no and answered each one of the doctor’s questions in that manner. I said, “Isn’t it wonderful? The doctor said, “For us it is, for him it is not” He went on to say what an interesting and rare case this was and whatever else he said. I tuned him out at that point and didn’t notice when he left the room. I was focused on my father. He opened his eyes again and I asked if he was in pain, He looked down. I asked if he was ok, he looked up. I told him that I loved him and he looked up. Tears started welling up in his eyes and were rolling down his cheeks; I wiped them with the sleeve of my pink sweatshirt.
At first I immersed myself into work. I welcomed the distraction. Not long after, within a few months, the economy knocked on the door of my employer and my position was no longer my saftey net. I was laid off. A month after that, my beautiful wonderful dog "Lady" died soon after her routine immunizations. She reacted to the vaccine and it caused brain inflammation. She was blind within 3 weeks. I tried to save her. I could not. She spent her last moments in the car, her favourite thing, with the radio blaring a song from Bob Marley, she took her last breath on the way to the Vet.
This process of grief is a long journey. After many attempts to find my way, it eventually led to the path that I am on now. It started like the worst opening line of a novel, it was a dark and stormy night. It really was and I tip toed out of bed while everyone was sleeping. It was here, alone in the quiet, shivering in flannels that I saw a flicker of light, a beacon of hope if you will. I slowly turned my gaze to the corner of the room. A low hum beckoned to me. My computer had started its scheduled scan. I removed the books from my lap and carefully walked over to it. As the blue screen saver guided me through the night. I sat down on my wobbly wheeled chair. I rolled forward, rubbing my eyes to adjust to the glare and with a double right click I began to google. I googled my way through grief. I wrote a note to this site to see if what I had written would be suitable for this site. I was invited to post my link to my blog here. I am long winded as you might have guessed by now. It took me a long time to learn how to express all that I was feeling. It seems now I have opened the flood gates. I am leaving a link here
BLOG to the first thing I wrote as I started my grief journey for anyone who might want a little something to read that might help. I am no expert. I have no literary degree and no psychology or counseling certification. I am a regular person just like you who knows what it's like to have your world blown apart and to have to figure out how to pick up the pieces. Everyone has their own path and their own way to grieve. This is mine. I have no idea what I am doing but I am getting there.