Category Archives: General Grief

Complicated Grief – My Dad’s Eulogy

My relationship with my dad could be summed up as fun, contentious at times, but aways honest. He was an alcoholic who fell apart after my mom died, so I had a lot of resentment towards him once I became a parent. But our relationship grew and changed as did I. Our bond might have been complicated, but it was ours and I was ok with it.

Eulogizing my dad actually came quite easily. In remembering the good parts of him (because let’s be honest, no one wants to hear about the bad), I was able to realize the impact he really had on who I was in positive ways. I sent him off the best way that I knew how to, with sarcasm and sass. Just as he would have wanted.

Being the youngest Fletcher daughter, it’s only fitting that I should speak last. Hi, I’m Sheri and I survived my childhood as one of Hank’s children. The three of us girls may have different memories of our dad, but I’m sure that we can all agree that growing up with Hank as our father was more like growing up with Hank as a younger brother.

Not many people can say that the life skills they have learned from their father include giving a good wet willie and crossing their eyes. On vacation one year we got into a huge prank war where toilet seats were covered in Saran Wrap and you had to be careful turning a fan on in a room for fear of what would come flying off of it. The man taught me how to TP the neighbors house and was the king of mooning us kids out the front window as we rode by on our bikes. To say that Hank was an unconventional father would be an understatement.

My childhood consisted of learning to walk, talk and water ski. There was nothing that my dad loved more than being on the water with his girls. When I was a teenager he bought a Boston Whaler, taught me how to sand the bottom, seal and paint it and then set me free in Mt Sinai Harbor. Life was always an adventure and he honestly showed me that anything is possible. And even though he REALLY wanted a son (especially because I’m daughter #3) he never made me feel because I am female that there were any limits to what I could do.

There were days when I would tagalong with him at the shop and he would set me up to sharpen chainsaw or circular saw blades. When I was in college I did a whole report on welding and he was happy to give me the helmet and torch and show me how to make a smooth bead.

He also begrudgingly sat through years of dance recitals (I think mostly to watch the women dance around in tight costumes) and school plays. He was heavily involved in the drama club at my high school and was a little horriffied when I landed the part of the ‘temptress’ in the school play as a freshman. There was one night we were at the school working on the sets and I had to practice grabbing this senior guys backside, with my dad standing 2 feet away, armed with power tools. Definitely made up for all the wet Willie’s he gave to me that night or the amount of times he goosed me as a kid. He would always say, paybacks a….female dog.

I’ve heard that as a girl you seek to marry someone just like your father. The day that my husband Parker and my dad met, things just clicked. I remember Parker getting involved in a brotherly squabble between my dad and my Uncle. Anyone willing to jump into a Fletcher disagreement at a first meeting is a definite keeper!

Parker and my dad bonded over all things mechanical and would spend hours in his shop during visits futzing around. Their common interests lead us to buy our family boat and be able to share his love of the water with our children.

My dad lived life large and by his own rules. My childhood consisted of tickle wars, random backside grabs and water fights. He taught me not to take life too seriously and to enjoy all the moments. Even when you’re knee deep in baby poop, everything can still be shits and giggles. He taught me about the type of parent that I wanted to be for my children, relentless, embarrassing, inappropriate, but above all fun!

Because my kids are so young, I will have to try my damnedest to make sure that we are able to keep my dad’s memory alive. Most people would do that by sharing stories and man are there some doziies. I can mention how he tried to vacuum toilet water with his mom’s Electrolux Vacuum to see if it would work (it does) or the countless times he dressed in drag, of which there is ample photographic evidence. But what they need to know the most is how my dad loved with all of his heart. He loved his family more than anything, maybe even more than the latest crude joke. He stood by my mom and took care of her when she was sick and he supported Sharon through her treatments. He may not have been the perfect person, but his capacity for love and how he showed it were real. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, the conversation would start with hey girl and end with I love you.

Thank you everyone so much for being here today to say good bye to Hank, the man, the myth, the legend. In his own words, were off like a prom dress.

Love you Dad.

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Dust

There’s something so beautiful and haunting about this song. I’m curled up on the couch hearing the fan above and listening to this on repeat. My mascara is smudged and my nose is runny. And that’s ok.

You see, I’ve lived with my mom’s death now for 23 years. My dad’s death is new, even though he’s been dying for quite a long time. Today was a good day until it wasn’t. I was just finishing up a show when this song came on.

And now I’m sitting here wondering how long it’s been since I had a good long cry. It feels like forever. It’s exhausting holding it all in all the time.

I’m realizing that I’ve lost both my parents. And I’m feeling it. I’ve been independent for so long, but this still hurts like hell. I’m not even 40 and my parents are gone. I still cannot wrap my head around that. It’s a lot to take in.

I’m getting kind of tired of death.

23 Years of Grief and Growing

It’s amazing to me how you can grow up somewhere, spend your entire childhood there and feel absolutely no connection to that place. Maybe I’ve been gone for too long. Maybe the memories have faded too much. I’m not entity sure.

I’m sitting on the ferry leaving the place of my youth and I feel nothing looking at the beaches that I used to play on. Maybe I’m just getting old and have lived in Massachusetts for too long. Maybe it’s because that childhood chapter of my life closed when my father died yesterday.

I’m still pretty numb, because that’s what happens after death. Grief is so damn complicated for me in general, so this is going to take time. Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but he was my dad and now at 40 I’m an orphan. Which sounds ridiculous but no one prepares you to lose both of your parents.

When we lost Bennett we lost our hopes and dreams for the future. Losing both of my parents now I feel like I’m losing my past. I’ve always really struggled with not knowing much about myself when I was little because my mom was gone. I constantly look at my kids and wonder if they’re like me.

So I’m sitting here on the ferry, a trip that I’ve taken a million times before in my life and I’m taking a moment to breathe. I’m taking a moment to enjoy the rumble of the engine and the chatter of the people around me. I’m taking a moment to realize that this is once again out of my control.

I’m going to sit here and smile for the life that my father lived. He did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, unabashedly. While I didn’t always agree with his choices, he never stopped being who he was. Before he was sick, he certainly lived life to the fullest.

So this is going to be sad. And this is going to suck. But this moment, right here, right now, this moment is ok. Maybe it’s the calm before the storm. Maybe I will appreciate his death for what it was, because he didn’t suffer like my mom. Who knows what grief path I will take now. I do know that for the first time in my life I feel prepared and emotionally healthy enough to deal with this one head on.

It’s taken me 23 years to even begin to understand grief and how it affects us. And I’m still learning. This is a process that never ends, just like your love for those lost never ends. And I’m finally beginning to come to terms with that.

When Your Rainbow Baby Gets Very, Very Sick

I don’t know where to begin as it seems that at least one of us has been sick at any given moment since the middle of December. You name it, we’ve had it. And we’ve been sure to share with each other. It’s been like a game of Dominoes over here, each day a different family member will fall ill.

We very narrowly slid into Christmas morning somewhat healthy. We had all come down with the dreaded stomach bug the week prior and it seemed all of our cheer leading up to Christmas was instead directed into doing extra laundry and hoping that we would be healthy.

My littlest Rainbow, Perry seemed to be getting a cold, a fever and a stomach bug all rolled into one. She was miserable and just not herself. About two days after Christmas I noticed she was belly breathing, which of course freaked me out. As a mom whose lost a child, any sickness freaks me out. Well, to be true, most anything concerning any of my babies freaks me out.

So there I was trying to decide what to do. I spoke to the nurse practitioner because our pediatrician was out of town. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do. I hate the idea of going to the hospital. The best pediatric ER in the area is where our Benny died. I have avoided that place like the plague for the last five years. Something about Perry seems to make me confront things that I don’t want to because my first time back at that hospital was when she had the flu at 6 months old last February. It was awful. I hated every moment of being on the hospital campus. I did everything I could think of to keep myself distracted and my thoughts away from that day in 2013.

I try not to let my grief make decisions for me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that every fiber of my being did NOT want to go back to that hospital again. And then I felt guilty. Would I deny my child care because I didn’t want to bring her? So of course I go around and around, thoughts swirling as I try to decide what to do. Perry’s health and my fear for her won out.

They listened to her, gave her some Tylenol, took a chest X Ray and sent us home with a virus. It didn’t feel right. She was lethargic and coughing so much and couldn’t keep anything down. But we went home and I felt a little better. Things just had to run their course.

The next day of course her older brother starts to complain about his ear hurting – after the doctor’s office is closed. So we load into the car and head to Urgent Care and I figure they should probably check out Perry because she still isn’t any better. A double ear infection for brother and Brochilitis for Perry. We finally have some medication and I breathe a sigh of relief hoping this will work.

It doesn’t. The next two days she fights to keep her meds down. I’ve spoken to the Urgent Care doctor and our nurse again. Perry’s sleeping even more and we’re growing increasingly concerned. My mind is like a pin ball machine, pinging through all the different options – Am I overreacting? Should I take her back to the hospital? Will whatever this is just run its course? If I bring her back to the hospital will they just send us home again? Won’t she be exposed to even more germs in the hospital?

Parenting is hard. Parenting after child loss is like walking on a tightrope blindfolded on your tiptoes with your arms tied behind your back. You cannot keep your balance. Up is down. Right is left. Making decisions is near impossible because you are so damn scared to make a wrong one. And when you think that one of your babies isn’t ok, it’s even more terrifying.

This was one of those times when instincts kicked in. Even though I didn’t want to go back to THAT hospital, even though it was Sunday night and even though I figured they would send me home, I packed her up and off we went again to get checked out. God damnit, I was going to be THAT mom, paranoid and obnoxious, but at least I would be able to sleep at night knowing my baby was ok.

When you get to the ER and they tell you they will get you a room immeadiately, it’s not usually a good sign. Especially when the waiting room is full. Perry didn’t even fight them as they hooked her up for pulse ox readings. She took a breathing treatment and had oxygen blowing on her face. The doctor listened and said she sounded good, just Bronchitilitis. We would probably stay the night and could go home in the morning. I was so thankful, the kids would never even have to know we were gone and wouldn’t worry. Things we’re finally looking up.

Then the beeping started. Perry was having a coughing fit. I assumed it was our room, but no one reacted at first and I was on a bed with a toddler strapped to a whole bunch of monitors on top of me. There wasn’t much I could do. Someone came running into the room. Then another person and another. It became a flurry of activity. Perry had set off the heart monitor. I tried to stay calm. I was hearing words like ‘high flow oxygen’ and ‘pedi ICU.’ I called my husband and told him to get to the hospital. Something was wrong.

I sat there helpless and terrified while doctors and equipment were flashes in my peripherals. This felt all too familiar. I was even in the same damn building. I didn’t know what to do. The nurses and doctors were tending to Perry as I sat there holding her frozen.

I remembered the ambulance ride to the hospital after the accident. I remember the paramedic looking at me while I was shaking in shock. He told me I had to hold it together. He told me that if I lost it they would take me away from Benny when we got to the hospital. I just kept remembering his words over and over as I clung to Perry trying to wrap my head around what was happening.

They did X Ray’s and an EKG. At this point they really had no information for me, they weren’t sure what had happened, just that we were headed to the ICU and that she had to be on oxygen now. They put in an IV and hooked her up to several other monitors. It seemed like an eternity sitting there and waiting. Hoping for some answers.

They wheeled us up to the ICU where my husband was waiting, thank goodness. We moved Perry into a crib and they did chest PT because they needed to loosen the mucous in her lungs. The poor thing was so worn out at this point, she let them do whatever they wanted. This was not normal Perry behavior.

It was jarring to see this little girl hooked up to machines and monitors just laying there. This little girl who is so in spirit like her late brother. This little girl who was almost the exact same age that he was when he passed. It was a lot for us to take in.

I didn’t sleep that first night. Firstly because we were cramped on a mini couch and secondly because every beep of the monitor set me off. My adrenaline from earlier was still pulsing through my veins. My baby wasn’t out of the woods yet. I tried very hard to focus on the fact that she was in the best place possible and had amazing caregivers looking out for her. I just couldn’t forget that we had left that hospital 5 years ago without our son.

Finally, the next day she was diagnosed with pneumonia as well as a slew of other viruses. They were able to give her some medication to help out a bit. I rang in the New Year in a hospital bed snuggling Perry. This was not exactly what we had planned.

We spent 3 nights in the ICU before we could head home. We had to tell the kids and of course they came to see Perry too. It’s been hard on all of us. But the best smiles from Perry were when they visited. She lit right up (clearly not in this picture).

For 4 days I lived inside of the building where I said good bye to my son. There were so many emotions, so much anxiety and so much stress that I can’t even begin to articulate. But there were signs too.

Signs that our Benny was watching over us.

Every moment we were there. Thanks buddy.

Hard

I cannot sleep. I cannot get comfortable. I still have pain in my right shoulder from the accident and can’t quite find a good way to lay tonight. My mind won’t calm.

My father is in the ICU. I’m going down to see him first thing in the morning. I have no idea what to expect. I have no idea how to feel right now. Expect the worst, hope for the best? I’m headed back to same hospital where I uttered the words ‘I love you’ to my mom for the last time some 22 years ago.

I just keep thinking this can’t be it. He will rally, he always does. I hope I’m right. But then I begin to wonder, what if he doesn’t? It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, he hasn’t taken care of himself for years. And then selfishly I just keep thinking, please not now, so close to Benny’s anniversary. Please pull through. I’m not sure how much more I have in me.

Good Things

I remember thinking (rather naively) as a child that it seemed whatever my parents wanted to happen, would happen. I thought that they somehow ‘willed’ whatever they wanted and the ‘Universe’ took care of them. As a girl of 8 years of age, I thought this was how the world worked. I was priveleged. I felt deserving. Life was good.

My mom died when I was 16. It wasn’t an accident or unexpected, but cancer. She was sick, then there was surgery and chemo and radiation. Then remission. Then months of uncertainty that led to me being in a hospital room seeing the words ‘DNR’ and knowing exactly what they meant. The cancer came back and we were given months.

I was so many things during that time that it’s hard to even write about it all. I was relieved that her suffering would end. I was terriffied of losing her. I was scared of what life without her would be like. I was sad beyond anything I ever imagined possible. I was lost. I did not know what happened. What had we done to deserve this?

When Benny and I were struck by my car, I remember thinking it couldn’t be real. It was like watching something happen to someone else. Saying good bye to him and telling his sister was beyond awful. Imagining our lives without him was heartbreaking. Planning his memorial was surreal. Living the last 5 years without my son have been HARD. Again, what had we done to deserve this?

This past year has been tough. No, that’s false, this past year has been shit. Not losing-a-loved-one-shit, but shit just the same. My¬† patience has been tested time and again and Murphy’s Law seems to befall us more than most. WHY? What did we do to deserve this?

When the bad things pile up it gets harder to see the good things behind them. I know that they are there, but man I am having a hell of time finding them right now. When I go dark and really sit around and think about it, maybe I only deserve bad things. Otherwise, why would they keep happening?

I am in my new house surrounded by all of my stuff again (finally) and this is what I see. I think the road to get here has finally taken it’s toll on me. All of my attempts to brush off the last year as part of ‘the journey’ is crap. I’m tired of making lemonade, please pass the grapes so that I can make some wine instead.

I just want good things to happen. I want to be 8 again and believe that what I ‘will’ will happen. I want to feel worthy of good things again. I probably need to change my way of thinking, but for right now, pity party, table of 1 please.