Death and Grief

Thursday afternoon, September 3rd, was the worst day of my life. My spouse of 40-plus years, Ralph, went into the hospital last Monday and this Thursday had surgery to remove a bowel obstruction. What they found shocked everyone including his surgeon. His entire abdomen was filled with metastatic melanoma cancer. There is no cure. There is no treatment. His digestive system has shut down. He cannot eat and can only ingest small amounts of clear liquid. They are only giving him weeks to journey with me in this place. He is coming home to me today and into hospice care to die in peace with dignity.

Monday morning, September 7th, my beloved soulmate, Ralph, ended his earthly journey at the stroke of midnight announcing Monday has begun as his cherished grandfather clock tolled twelve for him. He will be deeply missed but his memories live on in my heart and will forever. Rest in peace, sweet, kind man. Your footprints are left on this earth and in my soul. The memory of your smile will continue to light up my life.

Ralph W Peters, Jr. 1932 – 2020

Thursday, September 24th, a friend asked if grief would be different when death occurred at different ages. I think if a spousal death occurs when someone is younger than 50 it could have a greater impact on the grieving process.  I think that when the spousal death occurs when people are in their 80’s there is less impact since there is less time to live ahead of them and often couples speak of death and some even make plans such as funeral arrangements, wills, advance directives, etc. Death is much closer at hand and I think some subconscious grieving occurs even before a spouse dies.  I know in my case, if I was up early and doing chores that Ralph usually did, I would say I was preparing for widowhood.  Sometimes I would even shed some tears at the thought of losing Ralph whenever that might be.  Also, older people have experienced more deaths of their contemporaries which brings them face-to-face with death more often than younger people.  

So, I guess the short answer to her question is yes, age does make a difference. I am sure her daughter Liz will grieve much more deeply and perhaps longer because her spouse Brian died so young at age 42 of alcoholism.  She can’t say things like, we had a long and happy life together, or I have forty years of memories that will sustain me.  And, of course, the quality of the relationship will have a bearing as well. I think the grief from the loss of a spouse in a happy marriage is going to be different than grief from the loss of spouse in a miserable or abusive marriage. In a miserable relationship, grief is often mingled with guilt. Guilt because part of you is free, released from the misery. Grief because you lost the once love of your life.  In a happy relationship it is much easier to dismiss and forgive those arguments you had, the niggling little annoyances in life you both tolerated in each other, and bathe in the overwhelming happiness of the relationship as a whole.  I am blessed with the latter. Thanks be to God, and thank you, Jesus.

Learning how to live…

I am learning how to live without my Ralph.  We were attached at the hip and the heart, not to mention the soul. Many commented on our deep love and connection with each other in the over 80 cards and e-mails we received. They saw what we lived.

I am learning to live without his smile except in pictures. I am learning to live without his presence that so filled my life.

I am learning to live alone with my daughter who lives with us and to forge a mutual connection that suits both of our diverse personalities.  We have found that it isn’t going to be as easy as we imagined. We are trying. 

I am learning to live with a sense of freedom I haven’t had since I was twenty. The freedom to chose what I want without discussing it with anyone else. The freedom to go where I please, to make independent decisions, to not be accountable to anyone but myself.

I am learning to get my own morning coffee, change the dog’s water, and feed both of us at days end. 

I am learning to be a widow. To forge stronger relationships with other widows. To share our grief and our joys. To be with people and not hide myself away in my house. I am learning to venture out more often and see the world without sharing it with Ralph.

Good-bye, my beloved. I will miss you every day and wish that I wasn’t learning to live without your presence.

Losing It

It is the beginning of month six of the pandemic in my part of the world. And, it is the beginning of month six for us wrinkled ones to “Shelter-in-place” as they say. And it is the beginning of me slipping into premature dementia.

Now I’m usually a very conscientious person who remembers important things. But these days whenever I go out (to non-large crowd gathering places) I forget to wear my mask. How can that be when it is a matter of life and death. Okay, maybe not death, but a matter of getting COVID19 from someone else. It is also a matter of giving COVID19 to someone else should I have it without any symptoms. Scary. Hmmmm…it could be death if I’m on a ventilator and don’t recover. I’m old, very old.

The funny thing is I don’t feel old. My mind has settled somewhere around 38-years-old, but with an extra 43-years of wisdom smushed into the corners. God, where have the years gone? What lessons have I missed? What mistakes should I correct? Never mind. I can’t go back and change anything, so why bother ruminating about it.

Where was I? Oh, yes, I think I am slipping into pandemic induced memory loss. I get up and don’t remember what day it is. I look at my computer but it only tells me the date, not the day. I open my calendar, oh yes, it is Tuesday. And it is only then that I notice an event the day before that I completely forgot. My doctors all give me a reminder call. Maybe I need a calendar, or even Alexa, who will tell me it is time to do this or do that.

I get really worried and really aggravated when my spouse tells me I said something an hour ago and I flatly deny ever saying it. Or, he says I did something (which is worse) two days ago and I find myself screaming NO I DIDN’T, only to mysteriously find out I did.

I guess it comes with the territory of celebrating birthdays. Sigh. I’m not ready to give those up yet, so I guess it will have to be my memory.

Wisdom, Wrinkles, and What Was I Thinking?

Chit chatting with a friend has put me in a fine kettle of fish. I innocently asked if there were women priests who had been ordained as an Episcopal Priest at age 60 or older. Then I mentioned that I might like to write an essay about their journey to ordination, mine included. My friend said, “So, write it!” I told her it would take too much time and research to track these women down and I was in a sea of busy these days. “Oh, I’ll do your research,” she said. And off we went.

The next morning she had posted this on FB:

Crowdsourcing here:

Award-winning author, writer, and priest, Rita Beauchamp Nelson, was ordained just after her 60th birthday to the diaconate and, six months later, to the priesthood. She would like to be in contact with other women who were ordained in the seventh or eighth decade (60s and 70s) of life. Her plan is to write about their experiences and glean the wisdom they have to share with us. If you or someone you know (living or deceased) would be willing to share that story, please contact Rita at revrita23@gmail.com. Thanks in advance.


Well said, I thought, although I did wonder how my friend figured someone “deceased” could share a story. At any rate, it wasn’t two nano-seconds after she had posted this that my email and hers started humming with women answering the call (no pun intended). I was overjoyed. Okay, maybe not so much. I was shocked that the response had been so fast. Then I got scared – was I up to the task? Would an “essay” do it justice? Maybe it should be a book. Oh, God, this is going to be a bigger deal than I imagined. I need a glass of wine. I need a big dose of the HS infusing me with courage and strength and time and no crap from my family saying I bit off more than I could swallow.

Then that little voice in the back of my head said, “Calm down, Rita, you are up to this effort and it will be good, and is needed, and wanted, and…blah, blah, blah.” Well, that helps and I’ve set up my digital folder and answered these fabulous ladies and asked them to write down their stories for me, and we are – WOOHOO – on our way.

My working title is “Wisdom, Wrinkles, and What Was I Thinking? Still am wondering. Oh, and I told my friend she was signed up to give me more help than she bargained for. I’m not letting her off the hook.

Clear, Crisp, Clean

I used to live in the foothills of Los Angeles, and from the playground of my elementary school, Thomas A. Edison, on a “clear” day we could see LA and the ocean beyond. On other days it was shrouded in a yellow-brown cloud of smog. I thought of those days when I read how clean and clear the air is in the USA today. I was amazed at how quickly the air cleaned itself up with a washcloth named pandemic. 


The line “No purpose but what we make” hits home now because it is not the animals or the plants themselves that pollute, but humans. The cattle farts pollute, you say, yes true, but there would not be so many cattle if we didn’t need millions of them to feed our meat-hungry bellies.  The rest is mostly us – cars, planes, factories, power plants, fires, and the list goes on.  We know what we are doing. We have been told this for decades now. And our rivers, bays, and oceans are suffocating from our waste and dying. 
So what can I, one person, do to take our fragile earth off its respiratory and thrive? I can recycle as much as possible and not buy items that are not in recycled packages. I can cut down on my driving by doing my shopping and errands on one day, not four or five small trips. I can plant trees and shrubs. I can stop eating beef but I doubt I will ever become a vegetarian. I can take those plastic bags back to the grocery store and put them in the bin provided.  I can make my doctor’s appointments two a day, not on separate days. I can pray that if everyone did some of these things, and more I haven’t thought about, our earth might once again be clean, clear, crisp and celebrating that we humans are taking good care of her.

Conflicted

Conflicted

I am rather conflicted about the re-opening of our economy. I am not suggesting immediate re-opening, but rather a controlled opening driven by science and reason. At some point, we must re-open, or we will all be starving, locked in our homes.

If the economy is not re-opened, people will eventually have no jobs, no income, and will not be generating the goods and services we need. Ultimately, not only the food chain will break down as it already is doing, but also the electric grid, the waste disposal plants, the water delivery system, the sewer systems, the medical system, and on and on. We most likely can’t sustain a lockdown for even a year.

We must face the fact that when we re-open the economy, our “new normal” is going to be personal protection and hygiene everywhere as we shop, work, and play. Businesses will also function with a “new normal” of limited exposure to customers and clients who will all be wearing PPE as a daily part of the dress code. There will be increased testing – temperature taking, blood tests, COVID tests. Many more employees will be working from home. Social distancing will be the norm everywhere. Disinfecting facilities and homes will be done regularly.

It may be a limited economy for some time before it is fully opened, but it must and will eventually happen. And yes, we will probably lose more folks to COVID19, but if we don’t re-open and have to go back to hunting and foraging, no medications, no services, no electric, no running water, no sewage facilities, etc. many more will die. I know this is an exaggeration, a worst-case scenario, but at some point, we have to stop focusing exclusively on the virus and consider where a closed economy would lead us.

After COVID19

For weeks now my spouse and I have been talking about what our “new normal” is going to be. Just today, I told him I was prepared to shelter-at-home until at least the end of summer. He reminded me that our economy would be in shambles, worst than the great depression if that was the case. Well, of course, everyone is so focused on the disease itself, I have put the economy on the back burner.

But it got me thinking about the new normal. We couldn’t keep our economy shut down forever. Even for more than a couple of months. Smart Governors are planning a slow phase-in of business openings. One has suggested opening barbershops and hair salons first. Yuck. Those places are rarely spanking clean. And who in their right mind wants to sit in perhaps a germ-infested chair for what, a half-hour, hour? Not this lady. Never. No. Restaurants maybe, but will seating a small number of patrons keep the business afloat? Perhaps. Theaters, concert halls, arenas, and stadiums should not be opened either – a real hot spot for the virus to spread to a multitude of people in a nano-second.

So, that got me thinking about how we could open businesses during a time of pandemic, or even a declining pandemic.

It boils down to each of us. Hospital personnel are donned in gowns, masks, goggles, and gloves (PPE) at work. If we go out shopping, at any store, or go to work, in any business, we will have to don the same PPE. It will become our personal responsibility to protect ourselves in the corona-ridden environment. Now, there will be some people who simply won’t do that and chance getting COVID19 or Influenza. There will be those who will don their PPE and go shopping or to work. And, many will still get infected. And, we will treat them at home or in hospitals. Hopefully, we will be better prepared for them. Hopefully, the numbers will be less because many of us protected ourselves. Hopefully, the economy will recover.

Bernie

What I know about Bernie. Practically nothing more than I have seen at rallies and debates. I know that he had a mild heart attack and has some cardiac stents. I didn’t have a mild heart attack, but I had two cardiac stents implanted thirteen years ago and I’m still kicking. I know that Bernie’s birthday is September 8th, 1941 and that he will be seventy-nine this year.

For the record, I am not a Bernie supporter, but not because he is a Democratic Socialist (the second part of that affiliation he should drop). And, not because his ideas are so radically leftist. I am not a Bernie lover because he is old, he has been in congress for over thirty years, and well, just because I think the majority of voters will see him as same-ole, same-ole.

But, if the nomination is Bernie Sanders, I will vote for him in November. I firmly believe in VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO. However, that said, I would like to see Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar as his running mate, in that order. Why? Because when Bernie has his next, and perhaps last, heart attack, she will become President. And, because Bernie will almost certainly be a one-term President if he survives, and because she will have the experience of VP to be elected President in 2024.

Image result for images of elizabeth warren

If #45 should win in 2020, we won’t have to worry about future elections because #45 will be a fascist dictator who will have destroyed our democratic republic, and there will be no elections. Ponder that.

Image result for images of trump

The Miracle of Earth

I have never ceased to be amazed at the miracle of the earth. It is no wonder that from time immemorial human beings have been awed at the magnificent crafting of our universe by a force that caused it all to happen, and named by some, “God.”

Consider the ozone layer that protects us from terrestrial rays of harm. Consider the amazing propinquity between the plants and the human, each giving life to the other and without the other would not exist.

Consider the majesty of creating another life in the womb of a female through the union of egg and sperm, or the scattering of seeds upon the ground.

Consider the vastness of the variety of animal, birds, fish, butterflies, insects, roaming this fragile planet giving all life food and natural fertilizer for our plants.

Consider the dog and cat, our furry companions, ready to give us unconditional love so we know it and should model our life on that kind of love.

Consider the transit of our rock around the scorching sun that gives all life its light and warmth that germinates and grows us into healthy forms, yet gives us night to restore and rejuvenate us.

Consider the moon that lights the darkest path when none else is there. Consider the north star that guides us when we are lost.

Consider the billions of stars revealed to us through the Hubbel telescope, the beauty of which our naked eye cannot even imagine.

Consider the force that keeps all life from bursting apart until our time is done, our work accomplished, our body weary and worn, ready to become dust and rejoin our mystical, magical, place in the universe, perhaps as star, perhaps as soul, perhaps as angel, perhaps as some yet unknown form.

With my God, or with whatever your ancestors named your creator of the universe.

TransParent

I know its a good thing, I really do. However, at my age and with my plate already full, I probably should have said “no.” But…I didn’t. And I’m glad I said “yes.” And so, on October 12th I will take the training with three other folks to be a TransParentUSA facilitator for establishing a local chapter of TransParent. We will be called Delmarva DE TransParent. This will be a badly needed support group for the parents, grandparents, and caregivers of transgender children and adult offspring. For more information on the national organization go to https://transparentusa.org/

Our organizational meeting will be on Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00 pm in the Lewes, Delaware, Public Library at 111 Adams Street. We have invited community leaders in the transgender community to attend so they will know we exist and are supported by a national organization helping us be successful. We are encouraging parents and grandparents to attend to learn about who we are and what we are planning for this group and become members. For more information see a recent interview with Kathy Carpenter Brown, founder of Transliance, a support group for transgender persons, and myself, the parent of a transgender daughter, Episcopal Priest, writer and author, here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=670445380143452


It is my vision that while this will be a group for sharing our stories, it will also be a group where we can provide focused speakers on relevant subjects, education, and resource materials for living, journeying, and accepting transgender offspring.  Information that will help parents understand what it means to be transgender, how rejection deeply affects them, and how to be loving and accepting. I don’t want this group to devolve into “gripe” sessions, but I do want the members to feel it is a safe place to express their fears, disappointments, and concerns.