December 3, 1997
Well, we were able to buy a small Christmas tree. Heather picked it out.
The season is important to Heather. She sees it as the chance to have something good in her life.
The season is hard on Win. Jessica and Courtney both entered their fatal illnesses on Christmas. The season brings up all the lost hopes and memories and fears. My first ornament out of the box was "Jessica's First Christmas" -- an embroidered memory ornament.
Heather has a lot of repressed emotions too. She ended up crying for about an hour until she finally fell asleep. The next day we worked some more on decorating it. Guess it will take a while.
I'm skipping outside lights. Too many years we've had neighbors take them down for us while we were in hospitals or preparing for funerals.
It has been rough in some ways. Win's visiting teachers (members of the womens organization at Church) quit coming when Robin died and have not been back. Our local grief group has members that really are not ready to deal with us -- as if our problems are contagious or something.
Having a child die is like entering into a secret society of people who exist in society, but who are hidden from it. A second child's death is terrible, but not too much for people to mentally encompass. A third child, in a third unrelated event, has been too much for most of our friends even in that group (most, not all).
You really do find out who is feckless in a situation like this. So many times you would just like a brief note or letter or call. The world is full of people who are anxious to have you help them, lacking in people willing to return the help. It is amazing how many people who Win helped tutor in nursing school or who we helped, gave food and other help, and who run when we enter an area (store, church, etc.) where they are.
December 15, 1997
Christmas is very hard for us. Our oldest daughter took sick just before Christmas and was admitted to the hospital just after. Christmas night I held her the entire night and the last pictures we have of her awake are her wan and pale on Christmas day.
The next year we went out to my folks for Christmas to get away from the memories. Jessica died on January 26, 1993, Courtney died on December 26, 1993 after being admitted, while still awake, for flu-like symptoms (turns out she was a new diabetic and we caught long before she entered a coma or anything else. She died anyway).
With Robin's death August 31 of this year, Christmas is such a conflicted issue for us. I remember when Win couldn't bear Christmas and Heather had to put up a little tree in her room and make ornaments from paper. She and Allison (our babysitter -- she was especially close to Courtney and used to visit every afternoon just to take her for a daily walk) kind of did Christmas there.
We had gotten an electric car in '93. I had this image of both the girls driving around in it. Courtney never got the chance and I used to think of it every time I saw the thing. Heather was finally able to part with it and it is nice not to pass it every morning in the garage.
December 22, 1997
Got through my birthday (December 19 -- I just turned 42) and then Sunday Win and I both spoke at church. My talk was just a reading of various scriptural accounts of the Christmas story and the reading of several hymns. The last hymn I read a soloist then sang (Silent Night). Win's talk was wonderful, about being healed in adversity by finding Christ in Christmas. It was good to talk about Christmas, even in front of so many people, and good for us.
Later, at the end of Sunday School, Heather informed me that she had a talk she was supposed to give in the children's closing exercises. She had forgotten about it. Could I help? With only five minutes, and with her having to go check on the topic the talk was to be on, we did a great job. "Helping" Heather write a talk is more like taking dictation, but as someone noted, "you wouldn't have it any other way, would you?" and I wouldn't.
She slept on the couch in the front room, next to the Christmas tree -- though when we got up this morning we discovered that she had made deviled eggs for the first time in her life, in the middle of the night. Now, if we can only get her to learn a little more about cleaning up after herself <g>.
I addressed and mailed most of the Christmas cards. We didn't do a family letter this year -- it was just too much. Lots of things went well, but they seemed trivial. Graduation, Win's new job, orientation to charge, more publications, etc. Robin's birth, all of hope, the surgery that went so well. ... But, with her death I just didn't have the heart and no one else was even up to doing cards at all. Luckily we had them (and lots of stamps) at the house.
I've a couple cards that I still need to do. I'm going to try to get them done today, and to get all the files reviewed for their quarterly double check. (In my office, in addition to the various calendaring, etc. that goes with the files, I sit down and read through every file. I do routine file sweeps and try to, at least every three months, to go through and really look at each and every file. This is all time I don't bill anyone for, but it just makes for clearer and better work. With Robin's death on August 31 ... facing another end of the month is hard, so I'm going to get a jump on the file sweep before I find myself working on Christmas or New Years).
The hospital is understaffed by about thirty-four RNs. Win will be working four 12+ hour shifts starting on Christmas day. The census is really high. Heather and I try to visit her and do something to let her know that we really love her each time she works, though with school and bed times and the fact that there isn't enough time for even just a wave and a smile until around 8:30, it is hard.
I'm slowly working towards my goal of teaching dispute resolution. I've started a round of applications. If I succeed, I'll be very pleased. If not, I'll be going on to some more intense and more disciplined work and publications (which I've been thinking through) and preparing for the next round (which is my expectation -- I plan to learn how to apply by doing -- though I've had a couple placement professionals, including two at law schools, advising me). I'm not in any hurry, though I would really like to be teaching mediation and ADR at a graduate school level. I just keep working towards it.
Just checked. They are now short forty-six RNs. Win is going in tonight too.
Well, Christmas is coming. I'm going to try to take this on-line journalizing through to Christmas and then one more page. I know there won't be a clear end or a clear resolution. With the death of a child, the only clear resolution, the only end is that there isn't one.
December 29, 1997
I found myself composing a number of journal entries in my head. By the time I was finished, I had nothing left I could write. BTW, my "other" home pages are at Ethesis and Resources. Between the two, you might get a better feel for me and what I find important in life.
January 9, 1998
Just got the news that my Dad's cancer is back. They are coming home immediately and he will go in for surgery next week. They will start chemotherapy right after that. (I still think of Mom & Dad as a unit) and will live with us while that runs its course. The news hit me pretty hard this morning when they called, and it hit them hard as well.
From December 29th to now I've tried to write a number of things, but never got the words from my mind to the page. Now I'm not sure what I want to write or say. I'm so tired of being graceful in disaster. I'm so sorry for my Dad, too. It is far worse to have cancer than to be related to someone who has it. His chances are still very good, but I've been through so many "good chances" situations that the worst just seems unstoppable some times. Robin was through "the worst" and then she died of a minuscule risk factor. Courtney's blood sugar was under 300 when she died. As was pointed out to me, that was less than a cupcake can do to a child of her age and size. Jessica ... ah Jessica, things looked so good, to the point even the medical staff was investing hope in her.
There is no place to run to. No place to hide. I so much enjoy my parents and having them around, yet these circumstances are terrible ones to think about.
January 15, 1998
Last night was so hard on Heather. She cried and was up until about 11:30 pm. She really loves her grandfather and is worried about him. She asked me to tell her that everything would be all right. "Not probably Daddy, when you say probably, people always die, tell me it will be ok." She is such a dear and tender child. We had her stay home from school and just loved on her a lot. I did not get into work until 10:30 and my day has been kind of shot, to be honest. On tomorrow I will spend some time in a political meeting, but the rest I am spending with Win and Heather. We are going out to see Cliff's new colt.
I wonder some times just what to say and what to do.
January 19, 1998
Well, my Dad has his cat scan today and goes in for surgery afterwards. He spent a fair amount of time talking to Heather and doing his best to make her feel better. It sure seemed to do her some good.
January 21, 1998
My Dad has his surgery today. I'm afraid to ask how it went. No one was home when I called Cora's.
January 26, 1998.
I've been sick with a bit of a bad cold. My Dad's surgery went well. Today has been ok. It is our wedding anniversary (our 13th) and the anniversary of Jessica's death (she died five years ago tonight). Makes the day terribly hard to deal with. I'm so glad to be married to Win -- she is everything to me, but Jessica's death began such a long, terrible period in our lives. Heather had a bad cold too, this morning and last night, and it gave me memories of how Jessica was before her cold became something much worse.
It is a difficult time. I'm so glad to hear from friends from time to time. Their help has made such a difference for me.
February 12, 1998. Jessica's birthday.
It is a hard, rain filled day.
Win's parents sent us flowers yesterday. That was so kind. Today there were several e-mails from friends, and some kind calls. One bad one, but that's not so bad, all in all.
February 16 was Courtney's birthday. Heather woke me up. She was crying and unable to sleep and did not know why. We talked about Courtney and she was able to sleep.
February 19, 1998.
My Mom's birthday. She and Dad are visiting us.
I have to admit, Dad looks so good. I am so glad to see them both. We are coming out of a long, dark tunnel into the light.
February 23, 1998.
I had a great visit with my Mom & Dad. I am so glad they stayed on their mission when Robin died, that gave us some comfort and strength. I was also so glad to see them. They are just precious and it was a wonderful visit. My Dad starts his radiation treatment, but his prospects are good. If he were younger, they tell him that his chance of living forty years would be higher ... but at age 65 they advise him to only look towards his survival twenty years out from now. <g>
He talked about when he was in the Greek embassy and on the staff and his discussions with the Greek Patriarch (who was in exile at the time) and his visit with Pope Pius XII in Rome. The Patriach spoke only Greek to most people, but he showed up at the embassy mostly to pressure people -- so few people spoke to him. Since he had four years or so at Harvard, he had excellent English and my Dad used to talk with him and ask him questions about religion. He was a giant of a man (the Patriarch). When asked about how he knew he should be the Patriarch he said that he was the smartest man in the Church and the other scholars picked him. He said that God had not talked to man since Christ, but he was an important man so he tried always to do what was right.
BTW, the only LDS guy my Dad knew at the time was an alcoholic on the Embassy staff who used to get drunk and tell amazing stories that had everyone in stitches from laughing. My Dad's first visit with LDS missionaries was a Sister on a Stake mission and her sister visiting from Utah. The sister from Utah had on most of the costume jewelry in Southern California over a pink blouse and a red skirt. It didn't matter, the Spirit of God was with her.
And that is true. Each of us finds the Spirit of God where it comes to speak to us. It doesn't matter, as long as we listen, whether we are told to bathe in the river Jordan by a servant (so to speak) or whether it is something greater and glorious as we always expect. It is a still, small voice that comes to heal us.
March 2, 1998
Robin died. A month later it was the end of September. October. November. December. January. February. Today is six months from when she died. Half-way through that first year of grief. It has been terrible. We've had five years of terrible pain and struggle. 1993 to 1998. I know that it will eventually end, but it has gone on so long it feels permanent, the loss, the grief and the pain. We've been through seven pregnancies together. Buried three children and had three miscarriages. We so much would like another child, yet it would probably cripple Win physically at present. Not to mention the fears we have for Heather should we have another death. I used to think that kind of tragedy was remote and unlikely. Now it is like a second nature.
I'm forty-two, going on forty-three this year. I look at my life and wonder. Heather heard part of the old song "Dust on the Wind" the other day.and started singing "all we are is dust on the wind ..." There are days that feel like that. I long to be a competent, complete adult. I'm back to being able to do my legal work and just won another trial. But it is hard.
March 10, 1998
Heather has been sick. It is too painful to write about. I'll quote from an e-mail exchange I had instead.
<< This is a very odd question. Do you ever feel that you are "more"
than just you?
I mean, like the "I" of "who am I" is really more of a plural "we?" I'm not
talking about "multiple personality disorder" as much as an ordered plurality
that there is more than just "me" banging around inside my skull. ....
Like I said. a very odd question. >>
Different thought patterns have different emotional overlays. Which is why it is so easy for psychotherapists to create multiple personality disorder (which exists naturally as well, but is *extremely* rare).
Think about your emotional state when driving 80 mph on the Interstate. Now, think about your emotional state when gardening or when taking a bath.
Intense grief strengthens the divide between the various states. Some are extremely affected by grief, others aren't reached during some stages and kind of "miss out" -- and you get out of sync.
Reminds me of when I hurt an ankle badly and then changed karate clubs (due to time, etc. and availability, I had to train with some kung fu guys for a while after training Shotokan for years). All my training was with just one side of my body forward.
Later, when the ankle healed, I found that with one foot forward I fell into very classic Shotokan stances and patterns. With the other foot forward, I became very circular/soft kung fu oriented. I sparred like two different people, depending on which foot I started on. It was like there were two different people out there on the dojo floor.
Strong grief does that and more.
A single strong episode (e.g. the loss of one child) will move you through the cycle. Generally you will integrate it all. Multiple losses interfere with integration because it didn't "work" to protect you from future harm. It separates one.
Further, you get really far from normal reference points. In some actions, it doesn't matter (a gardener doesn't interact the same way with grief). In others, it matters a lot (dealing with parents or those who are separated from children or looking at babies or ...). Worse, some aspects of multiple loss are so extreme that they don't mesh with reality -- the stories would make bad fiction and worse prose. That affects feelings of self identity. Some times the truth is so unbearable as to be unbelieveable -- even if you have lived it.
At least that is my perspective.
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