Archive for the ‘saying good bye’ Category

Angels Among Us

First blogged January, 2010

My mother passed away several months ago and it has taken me this long to write about it.  She was the most wonderful mother in the whole world, (and I am not just saying that because that is what one is expected to say about their deceased mother.)  In addition to being kind and loving, she was also very spiritual.

I remember when I was four years old and we lived in Opalaka, Florida, right behind the Hialeah Race Track.  We had a cement swimming pool in the backyard which my father built, and next to it was a palm tree my mother had planted crooked so it was growing sideways.  I had a green parakeet whose name I certainly don’t remember, and I loved watching Howdy Doody and Captain Kangaroo on our little black and white tv with the rabbit ears antenna.  My brother was born one day in March, and life suddenly changed for our family.  My brother was born with serious disabilities due to Rubella Syndrome, (supposedly my mother had been exposed to someone with German Measles.)  With a cleft palate, he could not nurse or drink from a bottle, so he was fed by a large eye dropper. He could not such on a pacifier and he cried constantly.  He was blind and deaf and was obviously going to be severely developmentally delayed. My joyful childhood was suddenly overshadowed by a sadness of which I had never seen from my mother.  I would witness her throw herself across her bed and sob. A deep sadness enveloped our family. I looked at my little brother, who looked so innocent and little to cause such a fuss.

One day, when the sun was shining brightly and Curtis was asleep, my mother called to me to come sit in the rocking chair with her.  She squeezed me and held onto me tightly, rocking  and crying.  It was a different kind of crying, though.  A happy cry, if I could describe it as such.  From that day on, the gloom lifted from our house and I went back to living my happy childhood with my new baby brother.

Many years later, when I was a young teenager, my mother shared her experience of what happened to her that very day.  The doctors had been encouraging her to put my brother “away”, institutionalize him as was the custom in those days. “Forget about him,” they said, “You can have another child.”  She could not bear to make the thought of doing this.  Then, on that sunny day while rocking in her chair, she told me she was visited by an Angel, a beautiful, bright white Angel.  She told me she could feel the weight of the Angel’s hand on her shoulder, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay.  Although the Angel did not speak, she knew what the message was.  She did not have to worry anymore, her son would be fine, and he was.  He wasn’t fine in that he suddenly became perfectly healthy, but he was fine in that he has led a happy, fulfilling life. Clearly, she had been touched by something spiritual on that day to turn her torrents of tears into smiles of joy over her new baby.

Several years later, while camping high in the mountains, my mother woke up from her sleep and sat up in her sleeping bag.  She was joyous!  She told me she had been to see God, whom she described as a bright and beautiful. She said it felt real, not like a dream at all.  She was confused as to the experience because it seemed as though she was there to help a friend pass over into heaven.  She did not understand because of course her friend was healthy.  It was not until we returned home from vacation that she learned that this friend had died from a brain aneurysm on that very night at that very time.

My mother lived a life of  great happiness and contentment, always seeing the good in people.  Near the end, right before she died, I stayed with her 24 hours a day.  When we knew death was near, the nurses let me lie in bed with her and she passed away in my arms.  I don’t know what I expected when she died.  No…that’s not true…I expected to see some of what she had experienced!  I expected to see her pass into heaven!  I expected there to be some reaction from her body, some knowledge that her lifetime of spirituality would somehow, through osmosis, pass through to me.  But there was nothing.  She just stopped breathing. And there was nothing.

It took me a while to accept her death, and I became angry that there was no sign from God that she was with him.  Realistically I knew this was silly, but I was hugely disappointed.

Christmas time came soon afterwards.  As the parent of 5 children, I had this habit when the children were younger of taking a picture of their sleeping faces on Christmas eve.  As they aged, they hated the existence of these pictures!  (They were usually sucking on a “binky” at the time and girlfriends and boyfriends who saw the pictures in old photo albums would always go “Awwwwwwwwwwww, how CUTE,” the most mortifying thing that could happen to a teenage macho boy!)  This Christmas eve, filled with nostalgia, emptiness and sadness,  I again went into each of their bedrooms and gazed at their sleeping faces.  I was suddenly filled with a great sense of purpose and contentment, much like the type of contentment my mother might have felt when she felt the Angel’s hand upon her shoulder.  These were MY Angels.  These were my children who had endured so much when younger, either with their disabilities or with indescribable child abuse. They have not only survived, but they have THRIVED.  They are happy and loving and successful and they have bright futures as adults.  This is miraculous to me!

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Therapy Dog…Miracle?

Nine years ago, when we adopted our daughter who is deaf, a friend who is blind donated to us his newly retired Seeing Eye Dog.  The dog, age 6, was getting to be a little bit too old to guide this gentleman on his hectic daily routine, but was still vibrant enough to be a wonderful family pet.  Thus she began her non-working life with us.

Brandy was a gorgeous German Shepherd with the colorful mixed color coat most German Shepherds have.  The most fascinating this about her as a pet was that she was so well trained.  She had been trained not to bark at cats or other dogs, although she was known to bark to announce the arrival of our son, Steven for some odd reason.  He liked to work with snakes and reptiles, so maybe in the guide school in which she had been trained such species had not been included in her training.  (After all, how many people who are blind run into snakes or tarantulas in their daily walks?)

In addition to having a mellow, friendly, and incredibly devoted personality, Brandy had been trained to run right outside to “do her business” (so to speak,) so there was none of the usual waiting, walking, coaching or exasperation  which could be associated with a normal dog’s method of, well, “doing their business”.  Rain, snow, mud, cement….Brandy voided upon command!  She would walk with Marie down the street with Marie closet to the side of our road. Because Marie was deaf, Brandy would keep her safe for oncoming cars.

Although she had a great relationship with Marie, Brandy tended to gravitate towards our son, Angel, whose dark moods and multiple personalities tended to keep his mind in constant turmoil.  Brandy sensed that in him, and quickly choose Angel’s bed on which to sleep.  Because Angel would frequently take to his bed if the dark demons in his brain became overwhelming, Brandy became the perfect therapy pet.  She calmed him and centered him, allowing him to tame the “World War 3” going on in his head and basically live a “normal” life.  Angel’s ability to continue on and be successful in school amazed me, and he credited Brandy with survival.

Brandy was an exceptional dog!  Not only did she sense Angel’s moods and guide Marie down the street, but her personality set her apart from other dogs.  Her job was devotion to others, and she was like a quiet Saint…always loving, accepting, forgiving and tender.

My mother passed away several years ago, and Brandy was thirteen years old at the time.  Angel took my mother’s passing especially hard, and was unable to attend school for several weeks.  Brandy was there to help him through the devastating time for this a child with such attachment issues.  His grandmother had been the one to give him gum drops when he’d been especially depressed.  And she made him custard pie on a regular basis. In is mind, he lost the only person he felt truly understood him. (She definitely knew that the way to his contentment lay somewhere in his stomach, which is not so different than many of us.)

Angel’s life changed when my mother died, and a lot of his confidence and hard won happiness had waned. He was a freshman in high school, having great difficulties adjusting to his disability in the especially raw world of teens and classes of Algebra and Forensics.  Brandy was there every day when he came home from school, and they would spend time at the end of each day unwinding, in his bed.  I began to fear that Brandy, being thirteen at the time, would not live to see Angel graduate from high school, another three years away. With the loss of his grandmother, I knew that he would not be able to adjust to the lost of his comfort pet and that any potential of a successful high school graduation would be out of the question. I sincerely prayed for a miracle..for Brandy to remain alive long to help Angel through these transitional years.

I am proud to say that Angel graduated in June.  He did so proudly, and, except for the fact that his graduation cap was too small for his very large head, he made it through the rigors of being a senior, completing senior projects and getting good grades so that he could walk across that stage with pride.  It was a wonderful day for all of is, and I said a silent prayer of thanks that Brandy was able stay around long for him to finish so successfully.

Right after graduation, Brand’s physical condition worsened dramatically to the point that she could no longer walk without falling over.  Angel himself made the decision to have Brandy euthanized.  He said he had been so selfish wanting to keep her alive for his own sake, but that he knew she was suffering and that is was her time to “join his beloved grandmother in heaven.”

So, yesterday, I made an appointment with the vet to have  Brandy euthanized.  For breakfast, I searched in the freezer and gave her a whole frozen pot roast to gnaw on, which she seemed to greatly enjoy. She had been to the groomers only a week before, and she still wore the yellow bandana around her neck.  Her coat was shiny and soft, and her cute toenails were short.  Eating that pot roast, she was happy, and Angel and I stayed with her for hours, petting her soft coat and murmuring words of love.

Her euthanization went as well as could be expected for such a traumatic event.  Angel and I were both sad and teary as the vet prepared her, but we tried not to let her know it, talking in loving and soothing tones throughout the process.  To me, she actually seemed happy and content, with no idea what was happening.

The vet was extremely sensitive to her needs, and the process went very smoothly.  The vet indicated Brandy was obviously a well-cared for dog…and did we realize that our Germain Shepherd had lived to be sixteen and a half years old?  This was a statement she repeated at least five times during the whole process.  DID WE REALIZE THAT OUR GERMAN SHEPHERD WAS SIXTEEN AND A HALF YEARS OLD????  She indicated that that was almost a miracle.

MIRACLE?  I have been blessed with several miracles in my life but somehow, in the scheme of every day life, I had forgotten that day, more than 3 years earlier, when I prayed for Brandy to live long enough to allow Angel to graduate from high school.  She had done that for him, for me, for US!  Our home life, and Angel’s future, would have been completely different had she not been there to sensitiviely calm the chaos in his mind..

Angel and I, (and the whole family of course,) have spent our days crying and mourning the loss of our beloved Brandy.  The one thing that keeps me grounded is the fact that her long life and her lovingly therapeutic affect on Angel HAD been a miracle.  We were so blessed to have had her…

My Brother Says Goodbye…

I took my brother who is developmentally delayed, legally blind, autistic, profoundly deaf and schizophrenic to visit our mom for the last time before she passes away.  I was worried about how it would go.  We walked into her room and she lay in bed.  She seemed to perk up a little when she was told Curtis, her beloved son, was there to visit with her.  She didn’t perk up enough to open her eyes, but she did start to talk, albeit mostly nonsense.  Curtis held her hand and rubbed her back.  He was talking to her, and because he could not hear, he did not realize that she was not really talking to him.  He was talking about himself, of course.  Was there a restaurant around the nursing home where I could take him to eat?  Did they have pie?  He then went and got her a soda from the soda machine and opened it for her.  Soda is Curtis’ most prized item.  He gave it to her, saying he wanted to do his best to make her last days better.  He then told her she was lucky because she had the pleasure of his visit because he was good company and he rubbed her back.  After an hour or so, I had him say good bye.  Not being a demonstrative person, he did not know how to hug.  I felt it was important for him to hug her and kiss her good bye, so I helped position him so they could hug.  It would have been laughable under any other circumstances.  He was stiff like a robot and clearly was not comfortable showing affection.  So he took her hand and shook it, and said “It has been nice to know you.  Let me know when your funeral is because I might want to attend!”

On the way home, Curtis was quiet for a while.  He said “Something has been missing all week and I didn’t know what it was.  Now I do.  I was afraid I would miss saying good- bye to my mother.  Today I was able to give her a soda and rub her back,” (2 things she had always done for him when he was sick.)   “I feel better now.”  This was such a profound statement coming from someone who usually did not think rationally.  Of course, true to his character, he asked to stop for pie.

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