Author Leslie Browning shares the story of her mental and physical trauma, and the resultant journey that led her to healing.
Can’t speak for any of you, but when I’m angry, I write. Might meet it head on, might come at it from behind, might ambush it from the side. Doesn’t matter. I write to bring it out, expose it, maybe even try to make sense of it (assuming there’s sense to be made, which too often isn’t the case).
So this post isn’t about about elephants or writing or ice cream or summer or any of the other things I typically write about.
Because I’m angry.
I’m beyond angry. I’m enraged. I’m also frustrated and horrified and hands-up-drop-em-down-mind-boggled-what-the-fuck-do-we-do-NOW?
You all know that feeling of evil surprise — that “where the hell did that come from” sensation, like you’ve stepped on the business end of a rake and snapped the handle up ka-POW! right between the eyes. In some ways, I haven’t been this angry since a young woman I barely knew, a lovely girl named Rebecca, died in June 2011
My rage is two-fold.
Yesterday, my brother Gene’s son, Josh, died. The particulars aren’t pleasant, but they aren’t mine to share, and it’s really nobody’s business and it isn’t important anyway except to those who knew him. Suffice to say that Josh’s demons won, dammit to hell. He leaves behind a grieving father and step-mother, four children, friends, and relatives. He drove them crazy. He worried them incessantly and, sometimes, unnecessarily. He refused to believe in his own self-worth. And now he’s gone and there ain’t no coming back from that.
Today, I discovered that a woman I met on Facebook, someone who’s become a dear long-distance friend, has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
She writes: “Multiple myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow.
The cause of multiple myeloma is not known. Risk factors for multiple myeloma have not been established although researchers have suggested genetic abnormalities, such as c-Myc genes or environmental exposures, may play a role. The prognosis for myeloma is only fair. Median survival is about three years, but some patients have a life expectancy of 10 years.
Well, darn it.”
Darn it, indeed. Darn it to Hell.
Five days ago was the two-year anniversary of my mother’s death.
I didn’t think of it. Not once that day, or in the days that followed. Not until I was out in the yard this afternoon, watering plants, did it occur to me that the anniversary had passed without recognition.
I think that’s a good thing.
I believe it shows that I have no regrets; that Mom and I did the work together we were meant to do–the healing we were meant to do.
I sometimes wish certain things had gone differently, but not to the degree that they keep me up at night or induce tears as they once did. Mom forgave me my foibles, and I forgave her in turn. It all worked out in the end.
Oh, for anyone who’s interested: Virginia Dare Crandall Hersey Limbacher fought a valiant battle with Alzheimer’s during the last few years of her life. I invite anyone involved in a similar journey to check out my other blog: The Wild Ride – Caretaking Mom Through Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it helps to know you’re not alone.
Round about 2010–I don’t recall the exact date and don’t have time to look it up–the blog I was writing on WordPress began to slowly turn in the direction of Alzheimer’s as this debilitating disease took over my mother’s life and the lives of all who loved her. Over the course of five years, I wrote about it more and more, until I wound up changing the title of the blog to “The Wild Ride” and focused almost exclusively on this journey Mom and I were taking together. A lot of kind readers walked beside us during that time, sharing their experiences and–bless them–offering me emotional support.
Mom died on June 7, 2015 and was laid to rest with my dad in the veteran’s cemetery in Schuylerville, NY. Since then, I don’t think a day has gone by that I haven’t missed her.
I expected to, but I wasn’t prepared for how big a hole would be left when she was gone. For the last two years of her life–give or take a few months–I was her caretaker, both at home and also when she, unfortunately, had to enter a nursing home. I was with her daily, for hours at a time. Still, I wasn’t prepared.
I figured that, sure, I’ll miss her for about a year and then it’ll go. It didn’t. And it still hasn’t. It’s particularly tough now, as Christmas approaches, because this was always her favorite holiday and she put a lot into it–cooking, baking, buying gifts, wrapping, decorating, playing music on the stereo, and watching her beloved “Miracle on 34th Street.” (The original, not any of the make-over abominations.)
In observing my own grief, and the grief of others–friends and family who have lost those dear to them–I’ve come to understand that it never goes away entirely. Sometimes it’s a guilty grief–“Did I do enough? Could I have done more? I wish I hadn’t done xyz.” Sometimes it’s “just” sorrow. I’ve noticed how it changes over time … or has for me, at least. It isn’t as sharp-edged as it once was, although it still has the ability to make me weep. The longing to see my mom one more time can be overwhelming.
But not as she was. I wouldn’t want that. I wouldn’t want her to have to endure one more day of the Hell she found herself locked in. But if I could turn back the clock and give her a moment in the snow again, and see her smile, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I’m not sure there’s a point to what I’m writing here, except to say we all grieve. We have that in common, among other things. So let’s be kind to ourselves, and kind to one another. Let’s not play “My grief is bigger than yours.” This isn’t a contest anyone should want to win.
And to those who remain untouched by grief, count yourselves lucky. Don’t look down on those who feel it. Don’t denigrate. Don’t say things like, “You should be over it by now” or “But it was only a (fill in the blank – dog, cat, horse, parrot, goldfish.” Love is love, grief is love, and no one should judge the length of yours.