Saturday, August 30, 2008

How do you say goodbye?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

How do you say goodbye?

Current mood: thoughtful
Category: Life

June, what a crazy month. I already posted some of the other things that made June such a crazy month for me but the heart of it was my trip back home to Iowa for the burial of my brothers ashes. It has been 6 months since my brother died and I still can't get used to the idea that he is not around. Evveryday I think of something I want to tell him and everyday there is that "Oh" moment where I remember all over again that he is not here anymore. Then I get upset with myself because of course I know he is gone and if he was still alive would I have thought of that thing to tell him or is it only because he is gone that I think about him so much. What is happening now that if I have lost someone else I might be thinking of them and here I am not calling them as much as I should be? It's a vicious circle....I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my brother. I am still not and with his birthday coming up next week (his is the 13th and mine is the 10th) it is harder for me than ever....

I don't think any of us ever will look back after losing someone and know that they loved them enough, told them enough times what they meant to us, laughed with them enough and there is no way to take the love and loss you feel and spread it like a blanket around everyone else who is left in your life that you love. Its impossible and you'll drive yourself crazy trying to do it. But, then there is the danger of keeping too much distance and "giving people their space" to the point where you are distant and they feel you don't care. I have examples of all of the above going on in my family. My mother is on a crusade to lash the family ties so tight that (at least I) feel strangled by them. You can't go from zero contact to demanding weekly communication, all while refusing to deal with the issues that got us here in the first place (which go way beyond my brothers death). Then there is my niece and nephew who everyone is so concerned about and have so much love for but I feel like we are failing them because we don't know how much to be there and how much to let them have their space. None of us have lost a father so there is no way we can know what they feel. The kids themselves tend to keep to themselves so they don't reach out either and I am not sure how we can break the circle. All the love and good intensions are there and all I know is to keep chipping away at the walls we have all built.

Then there is my grandma. Going home is great because I get to see my family (and for the most part that is a good thing) but it is very hard for me to see my grandma. When I went home for Christmas last year my plan was to make it as much about Grandma as possible. She turned 91 this year and has been in the nursing home at least 5 years and has been slowly letting go ever since. It is an odd and selfish thing to have a loved one in a nursing home because you go and see their life- an activity calendar that looks like it could as easily be for 6 year olds as for senior citizens- planned to fill their days with meaningless activities just to help pass the time. I know my Grandma hates the home with a passion. This was a very independent and active woman who used to travel all over and loved to have her grandkids with to take us on little adventure filled trips. To see her now trapped in a box of a room is heart breaking and yet, selfishly I don't want her to let go yet. How awful it is to not want someone to die just because you don't want to have this be the year that you lost 2 members of your family? And yet, that is all she talked about when I went home. She talked about these being her last months and how sick she was all winter and how she is ready to be done with it all. Then she started in about how I should not "waste" any money on coming back for a funeral for her because she does not want a funeral because all of her friends are dead and she doesn't want her family attending another funeral this year. All of this while I have fresh visions of my brothers brand new grave in my head. Again, selfishly it was almost to much for me to take but when someone is 91 that is what is on their mind so you let them talk. I spent as much time talking to her as I could and when I left her room the last time I didn't get a good look at her because I was choking back the tears. How often do you get to know you are, in all probability, having your last look at someone? It rips your heart out- and in my case there was not a ton of heart scraps left.

As far as the burial itself (I keep calling it a funeral which is confusing because we already had the funeral in Jan.) it was.....quiet. The cemetary was very old and peaceful and I could see it was the type of place my brother would love to be and he had spent a lot of time there hunting and metal detecting so it was a good place for him and for the kids to come to in the future.The ground was like walking on a wet sponge from all the flooding in the midwest and they told us they have to wait for the actual burial until the ground dried up because water kept filling up the hole (why did we need to know that??). The attendees were all family and there was a short service where the pastor who spoke at Troy's funeral spoke. I really could not tell you what was said all I know is my cousin Wendi was patting my back and I was watching my niece and nephew. There was a very pretty wooden box that the urn was placed in- I did not look inside to see the urn. Everyone did have the opportunity to bring something to toss in the box and a few people did. As someone who also wants to be cremated someday I did not really see the point in doing that- funerals are for the living not the dead. Whatever needs to be done to help the (living) person put a period at the end of the sentence is fine but the whole ceremony did not feel like a period for me. I think most of my family will still be living in limbo for a long, long time to come.

It was over pretty quick then we had a very tense and akward pinic lunch in a very warm shelter house. I saw family that I had not seen in awhile and everyone wanted to hear about my lymphodema so I felt a bit like the circus side-show freak. I was prepared for that because everyone really cares and just wants to know what's going on (and not everyone reads my blog- shocker!) but I still felt very much in the spotlight and I did not feel like it was my time to have center stage so, when my brother in law wanted to leave early my sister and I jumped in the car with him to escape.

My sister has been struggling so much. She was pretty much a mess the whole month of May and I have been so worried about her. It is so frustrating because I know my being around her would help but I just can't be there. And it is the classic family trait that when we do feel bad we all tend to withdraw into our worlds (in most cases- beds..Herricks are excellent sleepers) and try to shut the world out instead of reaching out to the people who love us and let them help us. I did my best to encourage everyone to force the reaching out and getting together until it begins to feel more natural but since I am not there I can only nudge....frustrating.

There is more that can be said about the trip and I may circle back and write some more but for now I'll stick a pin in it here....what I did want to do though is repost my letter to Troy. If I had put anything in his box it would have been this but I want it to live so I will again pass it on to the living people who remember and love my brother....

Troy Harold Herrick 7/13/65-12/31/2007.

I love and miss you forever. You were the best big brother I could ever want. Thanks for teaching me to drive a car and for giving me great life advice (like "don't drink,cuz throwing not that much fun!") Thank you for giving me a beautiful niece and the coolest nephew ever who I will love fiercely with all my heart (especially the part you live in) for the rest of my life. Thank you for all the laughs we shared- and there were so so many. Thanks for your art- I don't think I ever told you how much I loved that you were an artist and how proud of you I was for that. Thanks for taking up archery and giving the animals a fighting chance when you went hunting. Thanks for all the torture you and Toni put me through- you were very mean but I have to admit you probably did teach me how to be tough for later in life when I'd need it. Thanks for being part of our book club- I always was proud that a love of reading was something we all shared. Thanks for your random phone calls. As few and far between they may have been, I will treasure each one cuz I was so happy to get them and know you were thinking of me. Thank you for coming to AZ to see me- those are great memories and they bring you to my life here so I don't feel so bad not being back home in Iowa cuz you are here with me too. I am so proud of you for becoming a firefighter. I wonder if you ever even knew how that made you a hero- thanks for being my hero.

Thank you for letting me grow-up in your eyes and not just be your little sister but to see me as an adult. Thanks for being my friend as an adult and for loving me as your sister and I know you did.

I will never be ok with loosing you just when it felt like we were making progress. You tried so hard to open up and reach out and you did really well and you have to know I am so proud of you and I know it wasn't easy and you were hurting so much. It was a bad choice and you were wrong but I understand why and all I can do is hope your mind and heart are quiet and at peace. You deserve peace. Someone asked me if I feel you with me and I don't (I hope I do someday soon) but I know you are with your kids and I will never be far away from them. I swear that. They will always have me in their lives so don't worry about them too much. I can't replace you but I'll love them twice as much in your honor. I'll take care of Toni too, you know she is missing you too. I'll be sister enough for both of us to her and Cory.

I hope you knew most of this before. I think you did. My last words to you in life were love you bye and I guess I need to say that again now. I love you so much, I miss you so much. Goodbye Troy...

From The Little Prince:

"All men have the stars but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You–you alone–will have the stars as no one else has them–"
"In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… You–only you–will have stars that can laugh!"
"And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing

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