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Illness and facing death can affect our lives before we are ready at any time in our life. Don’t take family or friends for granted, as you never know when your time on earth is up. A sudden loss of a loved one can be devastating!
Be sure to always tell them you love them and don’t stay mad or hold grudges. Find a way to settle your disagreements in a way to move on and get past them. It can be hard at times to swallow our pride and say we are sorry, but you will be a better person for it!
Mom’s fight with cancer
I lost both my parents when I was 40 years old within five days of each other. I want to share their story! My mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer about 8 months before she passed.
My dad was a retired Air Force veteran, who had lost both of his legs to a condition he inherited called atherosclerosis, a build-up of cholesterol plaque in the walls of arteries causing obstruction of blood flow. It is more common in men than in women and can be passed down to sons.
He had survived 3 wars and then in retirement had to deal with acclimating to a disability condition. Now my mom was his caregiver 24/7.
They had retired in Colorado and eventually moved out to California to be closer to me. My sisters lived in Alaska and Arizona at the time.
It was during winter when I talking on the phone with my mom, she mentioned she thought she had the flu but was feeling pain in her legs. I told her that it did not sound like a flu symptom, so she should go to the doctor.
While at the doctor’s office they decided to do a chest x-ray. She found out she had lung cancer that had metastasized. Now the cancer was passing through her body and could show up in other areas.
She was on chemo and radiation in her neck area. She was not doing well with the chemo and getting burns from the radiation. She was losing weight and her platelet count was low to the point she needed an infusion. I was concerned about her condition getting worse. She was not able to keep anything down due to the chemo.
I was lucky that where I worked knew my mom was sick and there were times I would need to leave, as my dad couldn’t take care of my mom alone. He called and said she needed to go to the hospital immediately. She had become incontinent and could not walk on her own.
When I arrived she was trying to clean up after herself and I had to put her in my dad’s wheelchair to get her in the car. She looked like she weighed less than 80 lbs.
When we arrived at the hospital, we had to wait for a while. She sat in a chair shaking uncontrollably. I knew this was BAD, and realized I might be losing my mom, and she wasn’t even 60 years old. She had been a smoker for years and mentioned that was her only vice. “Yes, one that can kill you!” I told her.
The doctors found out her cancer had spread to her bones, and it was a matter of time. She was in the hospital until she got so bad she was sent to hospice. It was less than two weeks before she passed, on August 10th.
My sons were 12 and 3 years old, so how was I going to tell them about this and comfort them in a way they would understand and be able to grieve without lasting effects.
Here is a link to the American Lung Association, if you know of someone who has some type of lung disease or to donate for the cause.
How my dad did not deal well with her passing
I took my dad to the mortuary to have her cremated. My dad decided she would be buried in the cemetery in Colorado with my grandfather and grandmother.
We brought Mom’s urn with us and as we traveled by car with my older son and dad and stopped in Kingman, Arizona that night. I was tired and wanted to get a good night’s sleep. My sister’s supposed to meet us in Colorado.
My dad was an alcoholic and was not dealing with my mom’s death and started drinking. He was not a nice drunk and started complaining about what my sisters were or weren’t doing to get there. I finally told him to go to sleep and we can discuss it tomorrow.
My dad passed away that night
I woke up early the next morning and took a shower, and then went in to wake up my dad, and realized he was cold and had blue lips. He had passed sometime during the night.
It was about 6:00 in the morning and I started screaming and saying some expletives and “how could you do this to me”! I woke up my son and other people in the hotel with my screams, as did not feel in control of my emotions at the time. This was on August 15th.
The phone was outside of the room, so I ran to make a phone call to my boyfriend, who also lived in Colorado. I was crying the whole time I talked, and people were coming out of their rooms wondering what was wrong.
I asked someone to find a priest
I asked if someone could find a priest for me, as I needed God to help me get the strength to get through losing both of my parents. I called both of my sisters to see how soon they could get to Kingman, and called my ex-husband, as I mentioned I did want our son to have to deal with any more death, at this moment. He was able to get a plane ticket and fly him back to California.
“When someone we love dies, the hardest part is not letting go of whom we have lost, it’s finding the strength and courage to move forward without them.“
In the meantime, they found a priest for me close to the hotel and formed a circle where we all joined hands and prayed. Even though I was in mourning, this brought a calming effect throughout my body to where I felt like God was going to get us through this and told me not to worry, he was there to comfort us.
Someone called the police, so they could investigate and have his body taken to a crematory in Kingman to be cremated and then send his remains up to Colorado. His cause of death was from arteriosclerosis, hardening of the walls of the arteries. Now we had to plan for a double funeral.
Here is a link for the American Heart Association if you know of someone with a heart condition, have plaque buildup on their arteries or donate to the cause.
We drove to Durango, Colorado
Once my sisters arrived we needed to drive to the newspaper in Durango to place the obituary on both of our parents, and when the funeral service would be. We all felt numb and just went through the motions like we were having a bad dream, and couldn’t wait to wake up! It was a nice service and we saw people we had not seen in years.
I did not want to drive back by myself, so I left the car with my Aunt, and flew back. It took me several years to even look at pictures without breaking down. My older son was in counseling for several years, but he started having drug problems early in high school. My younger son does not remember anything that happened.
I know we all lose loved ones during our lifetime. I feel that as much as the loss hurts, in time it gave me the strength I didn’t know that I had. I approach death differently now.
Make sure you and your siblings know where important documents and the wills are kept
It is better to discuss where important documents and the wills are before they pass. Since both of my parents died, and we never were told where the paperwork was, then you have to get a Power of Attorney to get into their safety deposit box.
We were lucky our grandmother was still alive and I found out she was the executrix, after looking through the safety deposit box. We used the Power of Attorney to have her appoint me as the executrix, as I was the eldest daughter.
My parents were very organized, thank goodness, and had most of their bills paid off. If both people die and they have outstanding debts, the debt is written off, since no one responsible is alive. At least this is how it was in California.
They had life insurance on the car, and so that was also paid for due to the insurance. It took some research and many phone calls to contact the people we needed to in order to inform them that our parents were deceased.
My dad had just received his monthly retirement check from the service and that had to be paid back, as once the wife has passed, the payments stop. We didn’t have a house to worry about since they had moved to California they lived in an apartment.
This is so important, and when you are grieving you don’t want to have to worry about getting paperwork together. Do this beforehand and have it in a secure place for when you need it. You will be thankful when the time comes!
Just remember to let family and friends know how special they are to you. Make it a habit to spend time with them often, and not have excuses why you can’t do something, especially when they are older.
You would feel guilty if something happened, and ask “The what ifs”! We want people to have a good life and leave this earth with no regrets! It brings peace to all of us!
Don’t forget to ask them, even if it is uncomfortable how and where they want to be buried, what song or poem they want if they want to be buried in a casket or cremated, and what type of funeral or celebration of life they want.
I was always afraid to bring this up with my parents, and to this day I am not sure what they wanted. Do your best to make leaving this world a peaceful exit. My parents are no longer in pain and are together now to enjoy the afterlife!
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Here is a link to another post of mine on Mourning The Loss Of A Pet
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See you soon, Denise
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