This post isn’t about poodles or Mexico. That isn’t where my heart is today. Today’s post is about death, societal norms, and coincidences, but mainly how unique each person is with their view towards each and how accepting we should all be to the differences.
This morning my Grandmother Honey died at the age of 101. My aunt texted me the news she went peacefully, but at 101, I doubt she had the energy to go any other way. My maternal grandmother and grandfather were a huge influence in my life. They were my life boat from a very dysfunctional set of parents. They lived in a small town in the Oklahoma Panhandle, Adams, which at its hay day was about 300 people. I spent as much time there in my youth as I could. It was a barren ugly town but in it I found my joy.
My grandfather passed away when I was 12 but my grandmother remained my rock. After I had left home and was married living a half a continent away, we moved my grandmother out of the little town to the close great “big” town of around 9000 people. She was lucky enough to get a brand new government funded senior living apartment where she lived until she was 94.
At 94 she was still living alone and driving. She went out to her car to get her purse and decided to take a short cut by stepping over a small two foot wall. She caught her toe on the wall, took a tumble, and broke her femur. At that point she did what a pioneer woman would do. She pulled herself back into her home on her elbows and called a family member instead of 911. Sadly, that was when this very strong independent woman found herself in a nursing home care.
The nursing home wasn’t bad as far as nursing homes go. But to her it was a prison. A family member would take her out to eat or even to Wal-Mart (senior citizen meeting place in a small town.) But she had lost her ability to fly. And she was sad.
Years pasted and I had managed to free myself from the toxic members of my family that still were in the area. I knew that the family I had escaped from was going to be out of town so I flew into Amarillo and drove the two hours to the nursing home to see Honey. For a while, she thought I was my Aunt Marylea, who is blond and twenty years older than I. But oddly enough the nursing home staff thought I was Marylea too so I didn’t discount her mental process that much. After talking for a while, it clicked with her who I was and she said, “Kim. You are the smart one. Tell me how I can die.” The whole situation washed over me at that point. She hadn’t smiled since I walked in. There was no light in her eyes. She wasn’t just sad; she was suffering a mental torture.
I explained to her why I had cut myself off from some of the family and she understood. She complained about her life, the people, and the place. I went and got her ice cream from Brahms and she ate it all but I still saw no happiness. And then she would cry. And then she would drift off to sleep. And then she would wake up and take a minute to readjust to who I was. I was sad.
When it was time for me to go, I took her hand and she sobbed. I waited a while till she had calmed and told her more about my new life living downtown in a big city till she drifted off to sleep again. At that point I went to the door, looked back, and knew I would never see her again. So I quietly walked back and kissed her forehead and whispered my last goodbye. My being there had brought her no pleasure or comfort. If anything it stirred memories of her life before her fall. I walked to my rental car and I sobbed so deeply that a passerby knocked on the window and ask if I was okay. I had planned to stay three days but I hadn’t found and checked into a hotel yet so I drove to Adams. It was dark by then and I was so mentally exhausted that I went and parked the car back by where the old school was and slept in the back seat of the car till light woke me up. I took the five minutes needed to drive every street, drove out to where my grandfather was buried, then returned to Amarillo and flew back home.
Today I find joy in the death of my grandmother. But others are weeping at her loss. There is no wrong or right in either. I have lost many people in my short 56 years and have seen every form of grief imaginable. The cocktail of the relationship to the person, our own personalities, the spiritual beliefs we carry, and the manner and timing of the person lost is all mixed differently for each person with each loss. The only wrong way to grieve is to expect others to do it the same as you. The differences we feel towards death are as natural and expected as death itself.
After I got home I kept hearing Honey ask me how she could die. She didn’t ask me like she wanted to kill herself but more of a vocalization that it was what she wanted. I pondered if I was able to mix a sweet drink of death and put it if front of her, if she would drink it. No. She had a strong Christian continence that would not allow her to commit suicide. I daydreamed about mixing my sweet drink of death into a Brahms milk shake but knew I was not brave enough to do so. This all made me very angry at society’s cruelness to people suffering. When did it become the rule that the sick and saddened were left, or worse – herded into institutions – to exist in their pain? My answer to appease myself at the time was that it was just part of the selfish species we have evolved into. I felt we keep these people tormented because we can’t let them go. I believed the social norm for euthanasia was wrong and mean.
Oddly, I came to peace with the social norm through poodle forums and social media sites. It was also where I came to grasp part of ME being selfish was to believe everyone should have the same view as I. There was an individual who posted on a lot of sites about his elderly poodle who had gone blind and deaf due to an autoimmune problem with her brain. The owner documented all the problems they were having getting her to “adjust” to waking into walls and not being able to do so much more. It killed me. My reaction was, “why don’t they put that poor scared dog down?” I saw a suffering animal. But reading the comments, I found many people saw a loving owner saving its sweet animals life.
It became obvious to me the reason for a lot of people being opposed letting a loved one go was not as clear as I thought. While at times it could be an inability to face one’s own pain of losing someone – or a pet, it was often that people believed the suffering felt was worth it because of the love people felt for them. Therefore it was better to be alive and loved then dead and pain free. If you were loved, you had a reason to live. I could not argue that. I have never suffered enough to judge if knowing that someone loved me would overcome my angst. I still feel in my heart that euthanasia is compassion and what I personally would want, and is the best thing to do for animals in my care. But I no longer negatively judge other’s view that every second of their loved ones life is worth living for.
I had a dream. I am a night owl and usually don’t get up until noon if I don’t have to. So if I say I had a dream last night, for me it would be a dream occurring late morning as we remember the last one we have. I dreamt I was in Adams. I was barefoot and had my cell phone in my back pocket. And I was very aware of snakes being present in the grass and rocks.
In the first of my dream I was walking around the streets of the town. I walked over to the “highway” that passes one edge and the flat prairie looked so pretty. I took out my cell phone and tried to take a picture but I couldn’t get one that didn’t have power lines in them. It frustrated me. I then walked down the street that lead to the church where my grandfather use to let me ring the bell. I was still looking down to make sure I didn’t step on a snake. Then I noticed there were homeless people living in the chicken coops along the way. In waking state I found this was odd because I don’t remember a chicken coop in Adams at all. I turned to go to the grain elevator to take a picture of it because I heard it was leaning like Pisa. I got there and there was something on fire that I couldn’t get by to take the picture. A man rode by on a horse and didn’t even say hello.
Then my dream snapped to my grandmother’s house. But it was modern and nice. Not the wooden falling down home from reality. My cousin from California was there with her two children. Honey was cooking us something. She didn’t speak in my dream. She was just there. My cousin and I were talking about all the great places we had been and things we had done. Then I woke up. I had no idea at the time Honey had died and analyzed the dream of being how uneasy I was in my past and how it had darkness in it and how now, like my cousin, I had escaped to a new exciting present where things were new and there were happy things – represented by Honey cooking, the bright lovely home, and the shared experiences with the family I enjoy.
When I read the text Honey had passed probably before or the same time I had the dream I, I had to remind myself to breath. This was the second time. This was another amazing coincidence.
Back in collage, I dated a young man who I still feel was my soul mate. I was going to a university six hours away from where he lived and he had come to visit me. During the visit, he had two minor and one major stroke. He was in his 20’s. There is a long story involved, but when his parents were able to get him back close to them, they put him in a therapy rehabilitation home and told him I had not tried to find him – that he was half paralyzed and I was too selfish to want to see him anymore. Meanwhile they were telling me he blamed me for his stroke as I stressed him out and he never wanted to hear from me again. He sued the hospital he was at in the collage town and it took a couple of years before the suit moved ahead enough to need me for a deposition. He was there and it is when we discovered what his parents had done. BUT: I was married and pregnant by that time. We were a Romeo and Juliet without the death scene at the end. Years later, I woke up one morning remembering a very vivid dream. In my dream I was living in New York. He came to see me and we went out on the balcony of the tall building to talk. We discussed how we still loved each other but had changed too much to ever be together. Then he kissed my cheek and flew off the balcony. Not flew so much as floated. It was an odd but calming dream.
A few hours passed and the phone rang. It was an elementary school friend I hadn’t spoken to for decades. She told me that Jeff, my love, had killed himself during the night. A feeling I can’t put a name to came over me. I was heart broken. And it was an amazing coincidence that I had that dream that night.
When I told people about the timing of the dream a lot were convinced he had come to say goodbye. Or they believed God sent me the dream to help me deal with the impending sorrow. But my mind works like Spock: logic, math, science, proof, statistics. I can only feel both dreams were coincidences.
Here is another difference I except in others. I never mocked or argued with people who believed I was sent an angel or a message from God or Jeff. Honey was an angel and very well could be being kissed on the forehead by Jesus as we speak and anyone who feels my dream last night was actually my grandmother coming to give comfort in cooking me a last meal could very well be right. Everyone has the right to believe in what gives them peace. Everyone should be encourage to embrace those beliefs: even if the belief is in coincidences that appear to be mystical or heaven sent. The desired end result of our thoughts and feelings should be healing to ourselves without hurting others.
My hope is that this post makes you think of the way others view things and find acceptance with these differences. My story is just that. It isn’t right. It isn’t wrong. It is mine. And I honor your story. However it is written, it is perfect for you. Honey’s story was perfect even with the pain and sorrow because it was meant to be. And I love her always for the love she gave.