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The shock of death

July 8, 2013

I took my dad to the dentist again today.  When I pulled into his driveway, he told me my aunt Dar, his sister, had died during the night.  My parents received the call this morning.  I knew she wasn’t doing well.  My parents had gone down to visit her, (Was that only last week?  Or was it the week before?) and ever since they left, she was in a bad state.  “It is like she has given up,” the nursing home nurses told my mom.  She stopped eating, and to top it off, she had fallen and was in pain.  Turns out she had a broken hip.  (Way too familiar with this scenario.)  My dad was taken off medical advice, and her son, my cousin who I don’t remember ever actually seeing in person, was out of town, so my mom was being asked what they should do….surgery?  (She might not make it.)  Just leave it?  What?  Thank goodness she became lucid enough to tell the nurse that she didn’t want surgery.  They decided to manage her pain.  That was the last I had heard.

It isn’t like I wasn’t prepared.

But I was shocked.

Why is death always a shock?

I am sad that she died, but she lived such a difficult life.  She was schizophrenic.  Childbirth, from what I understand, was her trigger.  Her son was really little when she was finally institutionalized.  My father had her committed.  It was hard on him, continually.  She blamed him, of course.  And because of her illness, her husband divorced her and took her son away.  They didn’t visit.  Her husband remarried, and her son had another mother.

Her life was lived between the walls of hospitals, and assisted living/nursing homes.  It had a routine:  Get on good medication, live relatively normally for a while, decide that she didn’t need the medication and stop taking it, go to the hospital.  Repeat.  Sometimes this routine was altered, when she actually didn’t go off the medication, but the medication no longer worked, then the hospital….  It was a difficult and lonely life.  My grandmother was ever-present in her life, but she was not always the best person to be around.  She could be very judgmental.  I think she blamed my aunt for her illness, even if she didn’t mean to.  But she did the best she could.  Just like we all do.  It had to be really hard on my grandmother, too.

My uncle, my dad’s brother, died two years ago of Alzheimer’s Disease.  So, there is not one person left of his family.  The first family.  The one where you grow up.  I can’t imagine that.  Or, maybe I just don’t want to.  So I feel bad for my dad.  And I feel bad that my aunt had to live her life in such pain and difficulty.  And, yes.  I am sad that she died.  But the good part is that she isn’t suffering anymore.

I am still shocked.

Why is Death so shocking?  It is the only experience we are guaranteed to have in life.  Yet, that is exactly what it is:  Shocking.

  1. July 9, 2013 5:26 am

    I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. It sounds like she had a hard life. It makes me think of a book I read earlier this summer, Mira Bartok’s memoir about her mother who was also schizophrenic (“The Memory Palace”). What a difficult thing to live with, and sad that childbirth was the trigger for her.

    A big warm hug to you!

    • July 9, 2013 10:04 pm

      I will take that hug. I will have to check out that book! Man, I have a list going! xo

  2. July 9, 2013 4:39 pm

    How sad about your aunt and everything she and her family went through. You wrote a lovely, eloquent piece about this…it’s never easy, and you’re right. It’s always a shock. Hugs to you, Megsie!!!

    • July 9, 2013 10:05 pm

      And, I will take those hugs from you too! Thank you, Liz.

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