Blue Monday

Welcome to your favorite blog on death and dying. What can I say?

Here’s something: I have a wonderful family. I’m not sure what happened to the family I grew up in- that dysfunctional mess with divorced parents, the one where we moved every fifteen minutes, and where people just left each other: to go work in another state, to live with a different parent, to fend for themselves at 16. But that family was nowhere in evidence this past week. Instead, I found myself in a family where we are all together, in our love and sorrow. We’ve been generous and flexible and ultimately caring about each other’s feelings and most especially, Bud’s.

My mother died Saturday evening about 10 pm. She had been on a ventilator since her sudden slide a week before- something she always insisted she never wanted. But I now suspect that pre-planning is a wonderful preoccupation for those who are alive and kicking. I think that by the time you’re alive but not kicking the best-laid plans can go to hell in a hand basket, as my grandmother would have said. Who could know that once on the ventilator she would never be strong enough to come off?

Six days of that seemed like an eternity but, in the end, I guess it proved to be the right amount of time for Bud to come to understand that the love of his life was truly gone, at least from that frail and lifeless vessel. In the end, once all of the paraphernalia of the ICU was removed, he was able to sit quietly through one last night and tell her it was okay, she could go and he would go on.

The niche that they carved out for themselves, the one we’ve always referred to as the Jan and Bud Show, was so about the two of them. For years now, it’s been about their powerful love for each other, their love for the environment and nature, their mutual disdain of narrow-minded and shortsighted thinking and their obsession with the viability of the water pump. For years, Bud has been my mother’s guardian and caretaker and his life has moved around the routine of maintaining both her fragile health and razor sharp mind. To turn her over completely to the care of others- doctors and nurses and the Lord above- has been the most difficult thing of his life.

These long days allowed my brother and sisters and I to come together and talk and plan for the days, weeks and months ahead. We got punch drunk with fatigue and laughed and cried inappropriately. We took turns holding up the patient multiple-choice sign, pointed to “I want to be suctioned” and “I want to make a call” and thought it was hysterically funny. On one of the trips between Marquette and Ann Arbor, when I had hit an emotional brick wall, the flight attendant pushed her little beverage cart by and asked if I would like something to drink. This was on the 10 rows SAAB prop plane where every passenger hears every word spoken. I said, I’d like some white wine please and she looked and said, “I’m sorry, we’re out of that.” I collapsed into the most amazing heap of weeping, wailing, shaking and sobbing and couldn’t speak for five minutes as she practically threw other small bottles of liquor at me. All I could do was shake my head in my lap and wail. She served the other somewhat alarmed passengers and came back and said, “Are you sure I can’t get you something else to drink?” I raised my head and said, “Diet Pepsi, please” and I had those trails of snot between my lap and my face.

Betsy and Laurel hung in, day and night, all week long. They ate cafeteria jello and made infrequent trips back to the Holiday Inn, where we concluded it was entirely possible every bed comes complete with it’s own spider. The two of them watched those monitors and took phone calls and played good cop-bad cop with Bud when it came time to make him eat and rest. All with gentle good humor. I’m quite serious when I say that by midweek, I felt as though I had been telling people- or avoiding telling them- for months that my mother was in a coma. We were in some kind of time warp. When I called Betsy Thursday morning I asked, “How is life in the ICU?” and she responded, “Absolutely riveting.”

On Thursday evening they went out and bought a lovely nightgown, robe and slippers for my mother so that, after the end, she could be dressed in more than a hospital gown. When I spoke with Bud he talked about how beautiful she was the last time he saw her. My sisters were my heroes last week and for the foreseeable future.

Now Bud is back at Lost Loon Lodge, with the cats and his memories of my mother. Laurel and her husband and son are with him until Rich and I relieve them mid-week. When we talked with Bud yesterday he sounded wounded but whole. He and Daniel talked about fishing together as soon as the weather allows and he was able to say, “I’m going to need some company, some help.”

When spring comes to the Keweenaw we will have a memorial service. I’ll share my mother’s obituary with you in the next few days because she was truly a woman of many achievements and leaves a wonderful legacy. As of yesterday, we were still trying to remember her father’s middle name- somehow, we all drew a blank on that one. His first name was Richard so I suggested Milhouse but no one bought that.

Other than that, life goes on. I am thankful for her peace, sorry for myself that I am a motherless child and more sorry for Bud. I’m in love with my husband and children and the family I grew up in, more than ever.

Our next door neighbor, a delightful and distinguished retired physician, came over yesterday to offer condolences and departing, looked at McCloud and said, “Well, it will be nice to have a litter of kittens; she looks due any time now.” McCloud, being the affable guy that he is, wasn’t the least bit offended.Cloudy

44 responses to “Blue Monday

  1. It is indeed my favorite blog on death and dying. God rest her soul.

  2. What a lovely tribute/description of the past week. Bless you and your family.

  3. I’m sorry, Vicki. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  4. When a man actually says that he’s going to need some company and some help…he really means it. We generally are not raised to admit such things.
    So sorry for your loss. Take good care of Bud.
    Thinking of you, your family, and that fat cat.

  5. Awwwww….Mr. Fat Cat. You ended this with post a smile.

    It’s so good to hear that your family has blossomed and grown roots during this time of sorrow. You can add that on to Jan’s amazing legacy.

    Your words remind me so much of what my mother went through when her father died. I can still remember the inappropriate giggles, the sibling bonding and late night kleenex and bourbon sessions that got her through it. I’m so glad you have Rich and that Bud has you all.

    Take care honey.

  6. We’ll pray for you and your family which sounds very much like ours.
    I can’t imagine what poor Bud is going through not to mention the rest of you.
    God bless you all.

  7. Much love to you and yours. That kitty looks like he needs a good squeeze.

  8. When I read this post, Vicki, I am reminded to the core of my dad’s last days, and how we all gathered and buoyed each other’s spirits through it. He also died on the second Saturday of March, fourteen years ago. Thank you for writing this all down and sharing it with us. My deepest sympathy to you and your family, and a warm and generous hug to sustain Bud.

  9. Even on a blue Monday, you lift the spirits! {{{hugs}}}

  10. I feel ya girl. And that says volumes about how you put your soul into words. I hope that you feel all the love coming your way as well. ^j^

  11. you, of course, made me smile with your last comment. I am still sorry for your loss and will still offer the “if you need anything, just let me know”, because I truly mean it. Even if it means me actually cooking some Indian food and bringing it over, I’ll do it 🙂 Isn’t that what friends do?
    Still keeping your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  12. Beautiful writing, Vicki. You know I am sorry — even for the much-wronged McCloud.

  13. You will let Bud know that we are all thinking of him and sending big hugs across the way to him. You do have a wonderful family. Always know that everyone here cares. It is nice to know that someone cares.

    And poor McCloud, this retired doctor was obviously not an OB/GYN. And I can just see Sophie sitting over in a corner, holding her sides and laughing herself silly.

  14. I’m sorry for your loss, but in a way, it sounds as though you’ve also gained. Your mother sounds like she will never be forgotten,and you should be proud of that.

  15. Sorry for your loss. I feel that I’ve come to know your mother from your posts here. She will be missed.

    And aww, poor kitty! I’m glad he didn’t mind.

  16. I must say, the very way you are able to write about such things and still make us smile and laugh and also feel what you must have been going through this past week…is truly the mark of a gifted writer indeed.

  17. My deepest sympathy to you and your family. I’m sorry to hear of your loss. Meeta sent me over.

  18. I am so very sorry to learn of your Mom’s passing. My heart goes out to you and your family. ((hugs))

  19. Meeta sent me over, Vicki. I’m very sorry to read about the passing of your mother. You wrote a beautiful tribute. Anyone would be proud to have you as a daughter.

  20. (i think) she would be proud and pleased with how you’ve handled things. i’m so sorry that she is gone, but so glad that you made her passing a peaceful one. blessings

  21. Inappropriate laughter can be so appropriate. I can see my siblings and I doing the very same sort of thing. Vicki, I’m sorry for the loss of your mother, and touched by the love you and your family members show each other. May you be a comfort to each other at this difficult time and always. Hugs to you, and please send my love to Bud.

  22. I am very sorry for you and your family’s loss.

  23. Dear Vicki – Your dear mom has left you a wonderful legacy. And I salute your family! With love, P.

  24. I don’t why I feel so speechless reading these beautiful posts, Vicki.

    I have tears in my eyes but very little of use to say.

    Even though I’ve kind of been there.

    Be gentle to yourself, Vicki. Take time to lick your wounds. And know we love you.

  25. What everyone else said. I’m so sorry, and thank you, and … yeah. Today I finally took my mother’s silk sweater to the dry cleaners (she died last October). It was the last thing that still smelled like her, but it had a small stain and needed to be cleaned. It was a surprisingly difficult decision, and I hope that it will feel like a step forward in the process, later on. Right now it feels more like a paper cut.

  26. I remember thinking when I lost my second brother that I had razor blades inside me, but nobody could really tell what kind of pain I was in. Strange things would set me off, and sympathy was the worst. I would tell my school friends NOT to be nice to me because I had to maintain while at school at least. I think you have done a beautiful job writing about your mom’s LIFE and death. Remember that way before this happened, we were all in love with your stories of your mom and Bud; we grieve with you.

  27. How you are able to mix sorrow and humour in your posts have been a constant revelation for me. Jan will certainly be missed but she was loved and you were loved and that’s what it comes down to, at the end, I think. 🙂 *HUGS*

  28. I’m so sorry, Vicki, and sad for you all. I feel like your folks were neighbors, you’ve made them that real. Please know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Carole

  29. Sorry I’ve been away for a few days; I was traveling. Sorry to hear about your mother. I know this is a difficult time. I lost my father in 2000 and my mother in 2002. Take comfort and strength from your friends and family. Time heals slowly, but it does heal. God bless you.

  30. Vicki, the way you are writing about your mother’s life and death and your experiences is so vivid, so beautiful. It made me laugh and it made me cry, and it left me with an ache behind my eyes, as if I will cry more at any moment.

    I am sure that you can feel us all there with you.

  31. Thank you for letting us in on your life, for sharing your personal stories. You move us everytime, whether to tears, to laugh, to ponder, to connect, or to create. You have as much to do with how wonderful you now find the family you grew up in as they do. You have been good family for others and I would guess, joyously so, not self-righteously so. I’m glad for you that you have found such moments with your family.

  32. You have a gift, Vicki, for capturing complexities: humor and strength in the midst of sorrow and suffering, life in the face of death. Thank you for sharing yourself and Bud and Jan with us, even during this sad time.

    Please tell McCloud that I admire his ability to roll with the punches, and that he is a very handsome boy.

  33. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my mother last October. I understand your sorrow at being a motherless child. It hit me hard on my birthday in December that she was gone. She was a key player in my birth.

    My dad has struggled to go on, and my brother and I have become even closer than before. I vist her grave often and I talk to her. I also have repeat nightmares about opening a door and entering a room where her open coffin is.

    I’ve been alone and begged her to show me a sign that she stills exists even if only in spirit. No sign so far though I narrowly avoided an auto accident and wondered if she played a part in keeping me safe.

    God Bless

  34. Vicki, I am sorry that I have been remiss in getting here to read this; the flu will do that to you. I love your posts most all the time and this one is so good. I remember when my mom died that I felt like an orphan, a motherless child. So sad to be that.

    It is great to know that your family is taking care of Bud and staying with him for the time being. Is there any hope of getting him to move to a more accessible area?

  35. I’m so sorry for your loss, Vicki. I’m keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. *hugs*

  36. Beautifully written. I feel your pain. I lost my mother last year the day after Mother’s Day and we lost my Dad in 2002 – also the day after Mother’s Day. I think about them both – everyday. The healing process seems to take a long time — and i’m now thinking it will take the rest of my life – but i’m OK with it. Peace and prayers to you and your family.

  37. I felt guilty laughing at your obvious trauma on the plane, but you described it so vividly! Quite a talent to bring tears to one’s eyes with both humor and such a heavy sense of loss, and to do it so well.

  38. Vicki, this is indeed a perfect post. You wrote about your mother’s death with such warmth and grace. She would be proud.

  39. I think all of your posts are perfect, actually. Thank you, dear Vicki, for allowing us to know your parents, and love them, and grieve for your mother, and empathize with your dad, and with you.

  40. Poor Bud. There are no happy endings in love – one of you has to go first. I hope that when my love and I shed our mortal coil our children and step-children will bond as you and your family are doing.
    God bless and a pat for pussy.

  41. This was beautiful. I’m so glad you received a perfect post award for it.

  42. Hoss sent me. Lovely post, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I think about such scenes frequently. My mom is 83 and going strong, but I know inevitably we’ll be going through similar circumstances. No matter when it happens, it will be too soon.

  43. Here via Hoss Vicki, hope that things have become easier now, with the passage of a little time.

  44. Thank you for ending such a poignant post with a little humor. I am sorry for your loss and I know I will go home and hug my wife a little harder than usual.

    And I’ll rub my cat’s belly too.

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