Monday, December 5, 2016

Dreadful Holidays and Painful Goodbyes

For many people, the holiday season is the time of year where they can put differences aside and come together to celebrate family, friends, and cheerful spirits. Generally, this is how my family and my friends have treated this time of year and I go with enthusiasm into it, singing and baking as time allows and putting together caroling stops for dear friends and family.
The last two years have been difficult for these activities, and my heart has not been in it. In August of last year (2015) my maternal grandmother fell ill after a senior trip to Canada and was in and out of the hospital. She was misdiagnosed with pneumonia and a few other things before discovering her kidneys were failing and she would need dialysis every few days while still in the hospital. She was transferred just after my birthday in September to a hospital about an hour away from my hometown after treatments were unable to be provided at our local hospital.
During that time, I went down weekly as I was able to see her, and my mother was about to return to work because my grandma's condition seemed to be stable, but not improving or getting worse. Two days before my grandma's birthday in October, she passed away in a hospital bedroom after hallucinating and being unaware of her current surroundings. She had declined rapidly in a matter of days and the difference was shocking, heartbreaking, and all around something I am still coming to terms with.
In previous years, there have been other family tragedies around the holiday season as well. In 2012, my paternal grandmother had a stroke very early the morning of election day, and the family was called to gather and say final goodbyes, despite her desire not to be put on life support in the event of a traumatic event or injury. I watched a woman I had grown up and seen only months before, turn into someone I didn't recognize but for her features, and my heart broke then too. At six years old I lost my grandfather on my mother's side, but being so young, I didn't truly understand the meaning of loss, and only when it was explained he would no longer be coming home, or seeing his family, did I know he was gone forever.
Now a year after my grandmother's passing, there is another family crisis that I am struggling to deal with. I feel like I have less of a right to struggle with it, but I know that this person would tell me I have every right to feel the way I do and that it doesn't belittle anyone else's suffering. I still feel guilty because the only tie I have is my marriage to her son.
Nealy three weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away very suddenly, without any warning, leaving behind three minor children (two by blood, and one step child who she loved as her own) and three adult children, one of which I am married to. She had just gotten her degree in clinical counseling and was on her way to working in a paid capacity. She was happy and finally somewhere in life she could be proud of and enjoy with her family. Life was looking up. To be caught so off guard, and to have seen her the day before, making dinner and complaining about trivial and more important things, but completely normal, fine, and in no way different, it is unsettling.
The autopsy required for burial revealed that the tissue around her heart was extremely fatty, and resulted in something similar to a heart attack. This was brought on due to rapid weight loss in relation to a bariatric surgery prompted by the discovery of precancerous cells in her esophagus the previous year. Throughout all of this, money had been the main discussion topic because there was nothing put away, and no reason to expect that a healthy woman of 46 would have something happen to her and she would be gone.
What's more, her father, someone who owns property near Santa Margarita Lake and was part of the homesteading families of the Santa Maria Valley, refused to put out any money on her behalf without the broken and still grief stricken family coming up with at least half of the funeral costs, postponing the burial for more than a week. This man has thousands, if not millions of dollars put away or tied up in savings, stocks, bonds, and who knows what else, and is unwilling to provide for his daughters family in this way but expects everyone to drop their pain, grief, confusion, and feelings, to allow for him to step into the limelight of suffering and chauvinistic, patriarchal, and selfish displays of indifference I have ever seen in my minimal life experience. I was outraged on her behalf, because growing up, my mother-in-law witnessed things of this nature and much more at his hand.
If it weren't for the younger children, I'm sure all of the older children would have opted him out of any decision making in the first place. As it is, he has a plot that she will be put to rest at, but getting to a point where it wasn't about him and his money was time-consuming and frustrating.By the end of this, as far as I am privy to, no one wishes to contact him any further once the burial is over, and no one wants to deal with him because he is incapable of seeing past his needs and wants.
With all that going on, it has been difficult for everyone to process and deal with this. All the older children came together and made a proper Thanksgiving meal like their mom would have wanted and celebrated together. My mom and brother came over and played games with everyone and it wasn't the worst holiday ever. I'm sure my MIL would have been happy with how the day turned out and seeing everyone together and enjoying themselves, but in the back of my mind is a nagging feeling. 
It makes me think of the worst episode of Buffy in the history of the show, the one that catches you off guard and tears you open, rending your soul to pieces. In the episode, Buffy's mother has passed away and she comes home to find her on the couch. I can only be glad that the children didn't have to go through that added trauma, it is enough to lose a parent when you are still going through mandatory schooling. 
One of the supporting characters goes on a rant that is the most heart wrenching and poignant in my opinion that describes exactly what it is to lose someone at all. This is an excerpt from the episode:

Anya: Are they gonna cut the body open?
Willow: Oh my God! Would you just... stop talking? Just... shut your mouth. Please.
Anya: What am I doing?
Willow: How can you act like that?
Anya: Am I supposed to be changing my clothes a lot? I mean, is that the helpful thing to do?
Xander: Guys...
Willow: The way you behave...
Anya: Nobody will tell me.
Willow: Because it's not okay for you to be asking these things.
Anya: But I don't understand.
[begins to cry]

Anya: I don't understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she's- There's just a body, and I don't understand why she just can't get back in it and not be dead anymore. It's stupid. It's mortal and stupid. And-and Xander's crying and not talking, and-and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she'll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.

For my husband who reads my blogs whenever they are posted, I'm sorry to pull this up and I don't want to make you feel like your suffering is any less or the like. I cry almost every day, when no one is around and now that I have so many people I cry for, the spells last a little longer. It just seems that everything happens around the holidays with my family, and the last six years have been no exception. 
So for all my friends and family, if I am a little distant or unaware at times, or if my eyes sparkle with unshed memories and my tear streaked face happens to catch yours, don't try too hard to comfort me, just having you there is a comfort. make new memories with me and live to your fullest. If you are scared, do it. If you are excited, do it. If you don't know, learn about it, and do it. Don't ever have to wonder about anything if yo don't want to and make every second count. I want to enjoy life with you and those around me, I want to be able to say, yes, we did this. Life is too precious to not go after your dreams. No matter how long it will take you, or how difficult the path, if you want it, pursue it. Please.
In solemn and contrite closings, thank you all for reading and putting up with my roller coaster ride of emotions and grammatical incongruencies this time. I hope to bring something more pleasant to the table when next we meet.


  1. Myra you are such a beautiful person and I know Samantha loved you very much and yes you have every right to feel the way you do. I love you guys and hope to continue to have you all in my life. Please give Eric a hug for me

  2. Thank you for your words. Sam would've liked them also. You were her daughter as well. She loved you and grieving is part of missing that love but you will see and hold her once again. Lynne

    1. Thank you Lynne. Doing our best to be strong for each other and the family.