“As I sit in heaven and watch you every day I try to let you know with signs I never went away. I hear you when you are laughing and watch you as you sleep. I even put my arms around you to calm you as you weep. I see you wish the days away wishing I was home so I try and send you signs to let you know you are not alone. Heaven is truly beautiful, just you wait and see. So live your life, laugh as often as you can, do not sweat the small stuff, be free, be you. Then I will know with every breath you will be taking one for me.”
Tearjerker! Most of my readers are probably thinking: “What the hell is this? This blog is based on chronic pain and finding life despite pain so what’s up with the headstone and quote? You will understand, and one of the best things to do in managing chronic pain naturally or with medication is distractions so distract yourself and read something that is very true, makes me cry with happiness and sadness, and may give you chills. Or you will discontinue reading, realize I am just some nut job from New Jersey and call it a day. Either way, give this post a chance.
Three years ago yesterday my La La (grandmother/mother to me) passed away. We visited her grave yesterday which in essence I find ridiculous at times because we live in the home where she helped raise me, where she took away my tears and held me when I could not sleep, and where three years ago she passed. She is always here, so why do I recently visit her in the cemetery. I do not know to be honest. I like being there and talking to her. I like that my now three year old leaves a present for her such as the pony (Rarity, her favorite) that she decided La La needed to have. Next to my La La is my Uncle Chris who passed away in the year 1989, honestly feels like yesterday. I was only eight years old and yet we got the news of his passing in the exact house I am speaking of. I will never forget watching my dad give my grandmother the news of her youngest sons passing. This is a vivid memory that brings back the tiniest details. The steps that go up to my daughters room are the steps La La (if you have not caught on I called/call my Grandmother La La but I am not going to insult your intelligence) found out that my Uncle Chris passed. He was very young. I remember three things the most: the strength my dad had in how he told her, La La’s back as she slid down the one stair in grief, and her words: “I never wanted anything to happen to my four boys or my Jessie.” I walk up and down these steps all the time at the age of thirty four and probably think of this moment at least weekly. I love living in my La La’s home and having a family here but some memories are hard. I know she is happy we are here. Anyways, part of the reason I like going to see her in the cemetery is so I can talk to my Uncle Chris too. I cannot explain it. Funny thing is my La La was cremated, but a headstone is there next to her baby boy. Whatever brings you peace and allows you to talk: go for it. It is a lot easier for me to pour my heart out to her there then it is at home. Why? I honestly do not know nor care. We do not have to analyze everything: if it works, do it.
While there yesterday, I remembered the day she passed which was both a very sad day clearly, but one of the most beautiful days as well. A couple months prior to her passing La La told my dad and I that she did not want to live. My Grandmother and any Martin can attest to this was the strongest, most independent, fun, active, lively person one could ever meet. She was not a person who wanted to be spoon fed and falling every five minutes. She was in hell. She was no longer living: surviving at best but she knew it was time. I have had so many patients in my past social work days tell me: “Jessica, I just want to go. I am done here. I am not living. I am in diapers, not allowed outside, and have to ask to eat. I want to die so that I can be happy.” So many people hold on for their loved ones because they do not want them sad or grieving but inside they wish they could just move forward. My dad was so strong to say that to her. He always puts others first but that took a lot of courage. I was with him when he told her it was okay if she wanted to stop living like this and I did my best to say the same: so much easier with patients than with the woman who was a mom and who I love more than anyone knows. Man, we are so lucky to have my dad. Hospice moved into the house and a hospital bed was in her room and they stopped treatments and just wanted her comfortable: aka drugs. All our family from around the country came to see her. A singer my La La loves came to our home to sing to her: I still cannot watch that video. A video was taken because Kayci who was a mere seven months or so was sitting with her. A couple weeks later, hospice nurses said that we needed to say goodbye as she was not going to last through the night. Everyone: my amazing family from Indiana, my dad, husband, my Aunt Pat (La La’s closest sister) all said goodbye with tears pouring out of our eyes. I remember thinking: “No way is she going to pass tonight, she will not go surrounded by tears, mine included.” I ran down the steps to her room at three in the morning to see if she was breathing: phew, one more day with La La. This went on a few nights and she just would not go. Two days later; my dad, my Kayci who was a baby, and myself were all snuggled up on La Las hospital bed watching Baby Mozart. Kayci loved music even then and was bouncing around like a maniac and my dad and I were laughing hysterically. I looked over at La La and knew she had passed. She, like so many but especially people like my La La wanted to make sure we would be okay. She heard her son, her granddaughter, and her great granddaughter laughing to one of her favorite composers. She could rest.
I never thought loss would be so hard for me. My job for years was elderly social work and they were not in long term care to get better. I counseled thousands of families about loss and I was the person who told families their loved one passed. Wow. The difference when it comes to the one woman who was a mom, grandmother, friend, and someone who always had my back passing is bringing me to tears now. I miss her more than people could possibly understand. I cried to her yesterday because I was not there for her at the end as I should have. I wanted to think she was okay. I did not want to believe she was really sick and I guess I just pretended she was okay even though I knew I should have done so much more. As I sat at her grave yesterday I cried hard saying how sorry I was. I have a tremendous amount of guilt for being selfish because I didn’t want to face the truth. She needed me and I kept pretending she was okay. I know she is not mad at me, she wouldn’t be mad at me if I was in an armed robbery. La La always saw the good in everyone especially her four boys and her Jessie. I waited until she was on hospice to help and tell her all the things I had been dying to tell her but could not face her in the state she was in. I could do it at work, but not La La. So, yesterday I just let it all out. I told her about chronic pain and thanked her for always being there and supporting me when I was searching for a cure. I thanked her for holding me and hugging me when my dad who spent a huge chunk of his life helping me find a cure would snap at me because he too was suffering. I told her about Kayci and that Kayci constantly talks about La La. I asked her for advice, I told her how happy I was she was with her son, my uncle. I told her I knew she was still here at times because Kayci has proven that. I just kept talking until we needed to go and couldn’t sleep thinking about how much I miss her and how sorry I am for not facing the truth about her illness.
It is very odd this past week has been well, challenging especially because I was sick for about three days: puking and all that lovely stuff. Kayci kept talking about La La. The one day she was dancing and started dancing on the soles of her feet as if she were wearing heels, a dance I have never seen her do. I asked: “Kayci, who taught you that?” “La La, mommy. She teaches me dance stuff.” The odd part was that as she was dancing I was picturing La La and how much she loved arches in feet. She always told me how much she loved my arches. The next day Kayci came to me and said: “Mommy, I need to get La La a present. I want to give her a card too.” I have not been talking about La La at all, I have been literally so sick that re runs of Sesame Street are on and I watch them even though Kayci is not in the room. Then the day I realized it had been three years since she passed (yesterday) Kayci said to me: “I want to see La La Mommy.” Hours later my dad reminded me it was three years ago she passed. There have been so many times Kayci has proven to many people she talks to La La. Even people who would usually think that talk is crazy are amazed by what she says. I know she talks to La La. I know La La is with us and that is why I love the above quote so much.
I did not know what I was going to write about La La but I knew I had to write something. So, what I want you all to think about is love and what is really important in life. Life is short. La La lived an amazing life and remains one of the strongest people I have ever met. She always believed my chronic pain and not just because she was there when I fell off my bike. She is wise. She knew I would not nor would anyone make up being in pain twenty four seven. She knew I was suffering. She always had my back: why I have a small tattoo on my back with her name on it. I thought she would like the tattoo when I got it but her only words were: “It isn’t permanent, is it.” Well, shit. Yup. Definitely not going anywhere and I am thankful for that. We never know how strong we really are until pushed to a breaking point. I get I can be repetitive, sorry. The number one reason people with chronic pain die is by suicide. I could have been a statistic until I wounded up at the Mayo Clinic and with my dads pressure entered a program where I was asked to accept chronic pain and learn how to live a happy, healthy life despite pain. Ten years of hell I lived in because of chronic pain. I am so thankful I did not give up. Chronic pain changed my life forever, I live a life that is very odd to some just so that I can manage it naturally and not allow it to interfere in my life. People may not understand, but you are not here to make people believe you: you are here to live and be happy despite chronic pain. Trust me, people are way too busy in their own struggles and lives to even really notice how you live yours. La La was faced with more challenges than I can even express but she beat them all. She is strength and if she could live a happy life despite her losses and illnesses than I sure as hell can.
This post is dedicated to my La La