“Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near. Still loved, still missed and very dear. ‘Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
Loss comes in many forms but the one thing any type of loss shares is pain. My biggest loss (no longer the appropriate word) was chronic pain. Chronic pain comes with more losses than one as any of you with this invisible illness know all too well. The last post I wrote about was on Valentines Day which is also the birthdate of my Grandmother La La who was a mother to me. She passed over two years ago and as I said on previous post, I wish she was with me now more than ever. Deep down, I know she is with us still. As I said in last post, she passed away at home peacefully with three people laying with her watching Baby Einstein and laughing: myself, my daughter, and my dad. Prior to Kayci’s birth I was a Social Worker for the sick but mostly elderly. I worked with patients who had Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, TBI’s, Stroke victims, and any type of mental illness you could think of. I do not miss being a social worker as in my field it is now (sadly) more about sales and getting patients in and out of a facility than it is actually spending time with patients, giving counseling to loved ones, and having support groups on a daily basis. I loved the patients, even the patients that threw computers at me in a state of rage or confusion. I loved seeing miracles happen. Most of all I loved the difference I made in a patient’s life who had no family or anyone and was literally all alone in a long term care facility. My job taught me so much about death: in a good way. I saw things that I never believed in and now know there is life after death. One of my duties as the Director of Social Services was to tell family members of the death of their loved one. Yes, I know how awful that sounds and who would want to do that but it got easier over time especially knowing I was helping the families. I can think of at least twenty things that happened during my career which changed my belief regarding the afterlife but I will share just one because it is one I honestly think about weekly. I once had a patient who had dementia and many other diagnoses but his dementia was the main reason he was in the facility. For Hippa purposes I will obviously only use his first name: John. John was in his seventies, wheel chair bound, and a patient almost all the staff could not deal with. He was combative, angry, confused, and quite a character. He was one of my favorite patients I had ever had. Every day when I got to work, John was outside my office impatiently awaiting my arrival as in his mind he was my boss and it was still the Eighties. Each morning was the same: “You finally make it to work! We have a lot to go over this morning Jessica.” One major thing to do about Dementia and how to react to someone with this terrible disease is that you have to go with their reality. For one, there is no way to fight or convince a person with Dementia that they are wrong and for two, if you want a person with Dementia to maintain any quality of life you must allow them to live their reality and so I did. I was fired by John every day. Every day I heard at least once: “You, you are fired! I have had it.” There was something about this man that just made me happy, as crazy as that sounds. During his good moods he was so kind and was almost like a five year old begging for love and attention. The one thing he talked about every day aside from how awful I was as his employee was his wife. He loved his wife so much that it broke my heart to know she was in a different facility dying from Cancer. Her cognitive abilities were fine but she was very sick. John on the other hand was pretty healthy and really only his cognitive abilities had him in our care. He begged me daily to see her or call her to visit him at “work.” I would make a pretend phone call and within an hour he had forgotten his request and was back to firing someone else. I knew his family very well as they came to see me weekly and took up a lot of time (part about Social Work I despise, paperwork and sales have to come before people, but I guess I truly sucked at being a social worker because I let the paperwork and sales go to the side and put people first.) Long story short, one day John’s two daughters came to my office crying to the point that I could not understand what was wrong. Their mother (John’s wife) passed away, and they were way too upset to break the news to John. I was in tears for about a half hour before walking into his room to give him the news. I knew it would destroy him or he would not believe me. I had broken terrible news before but this was the first time, I was terrified. I pulled it together and walked into his room and what he said is something I will never forget. Before I could even say a word to John, he said quite simply: “I know. You do not need to tell me, she already did.” I assumed a nurse or aid had broken the news and I sat down with him expecting him to be a total mess. I was in shocked, he was happy. It was the most alert and aware I had ever seen him. I was about to speak when John stopped me and said: “I want to say goodbye Jessica. I get to finally see my wife again. I am so excited. She came right away.” I felt good, John was not upset and clearly confused but the discussion went far better than expected. He said things that made close to no sense on a daily basis so I honestly thought nothing of what he said to me. I said: “I love you John, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I arrived to work the next day and John was not at my office door awaiting me. I learned that he had passed away hours after I had left which made no sense to me. As I wrote, he was in very good health aside from his mind. That was a very significant day for me. He was not confused at all when he told me he was so happy he could now be with his wife. Cause of John’s death was unknown but I know. Many other events such as this happened throughout the next few years with my elderly patients and I now see it personally when my daughter who just turned three says things out of the blue regarding my La La. Two days ago, La La’s birthday Kayci said looked at a chair that La La had used a lot once she got sick and saw that it was moved. Out of blue my little girl who knows close to nothing about my La La said: “Mommy, look chair! Where La La sit now?” I have heard her speaking to La La and there have been about ten times she has proven to me that La La is watching over us. It does not take away from how much I miss her because loss is loss and pain is pain but it helps. I know I will see her again. I may not have a religion and my belief system is very different then the average person but I do know in my heart that when we pass we do not go away and the ones we lose are never far away and we get to see them again when it is our time. That gives me comfort.
One of my dearest, most selfless amazing friends had a loss in her family yesterday. Because both she and her husband needed to be either at the hospital yesterday or at their business she needed someone to watch her children whom I adore and Kayci loves. Kayci and I drove over and within an hour or so found out their loved one passed. There is nothing I can do to take away their pain but I know my friend very well and she is strong, much stronger than she believes. I know she will be okay because she always is and we share many of the same beliefs and values. I love her so much that I feel her pain as I can only actually feel with people I truly love. All I can do is be there if/when she needs me and remind her of the above stories. Life does not end. However, we must remember that life is short and that any point we could lose someone we love. Cherish your loved ones, show gratitude for the little things, and try as hard as possible to not sweat the small stuff. And most of all have faith that things work out just not in the ways we expect them to. I never thought I would be managing chronic pain naturally and living a happy life despite chronic pain.
This post is dedicated to: Scaryyoga (no need to use real names 🙂 I love you