Monday, October 3

a new grief

While my mom sleeps in this morning, as she does most mornings, I am thinking of my one-and-only uncle, Mom's one-and-only sibling, who died a few days ago. We knew it was coming, as he had been diagnosed a month or two ago with liver cancer, tho' we weren't expecting it so soon or so suddenly. And I say "we", tho' that means me and my cousin and his wife and my husband...because we never told Mom about the illness and prognosis.

Mom and I went to visit her brother, my Uncle Jim, last August. Mom used to often speak of him and tell me that she missed him. I hadn't seen him in many years and was old enough to know that visits with aging loved ones shouldn't be put off, so we planned a visit and it came off very well, all things considered.  Mom couldn't remember the visit just a few days after we returned, and tho' she does mention her brother now and then, it is rather rare. I am pretty sure that she thinks of him as a young man or a boy. The last time they spoke on the phone, she said her usual "Jim, this is your blister...".
She hasn't brought him up in a month or two.

Hanging over my own grief and the concern for my cousin and my aunt, has been the cloud of "What do we tell Mom?". It might seem a simple thing...that, of course, you just break it to her gently. But it is actually much more complicated than that. Mom doesn't really seem to remember about anyone's father, old friends, her own parents. When she first asked about her parents a few years ago, we told her that they had died long ago. She was very, very sad about this and also couldn't remember. So when she was told the next time, was very, very sad all over again. I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't have to be truthful with her, and when she asks where they are now, it has worked to give her vague and gentle answers. When her dearest friend's husband died unexpectedly a few weeks ago, we didn't tell her, feeling it was unnecessary to upset her when he might not come to her mind again in the future anyway....tho' she loved him dearly. But her own brother....

My husband thought that she deserved to know, in the sense that it was the respectful thing to do. My first feelings have been to shield her from the pain of protect her from more sadness and confusion. And I know that some of my reluctance is because I know how hard it is going to be to be sitting next to her, telling her, wondering if I can come up with the right words and soothing to get her through it.

I spent many hours researching online, gathering other people's experiences and perspectives on such a situation and came to my decision about it after reading the last link below...

I feel much more peaceful since settling on telling her once and then moving into the vague and gentle approach if she needs us to. We are leaving it for Wednesday...our most peaceful day in the near future...when the weather should warm up and we can sit outside in the sunshine for the telling... and I can have photos from our August trip ready to share...and I will have built up my courage.

Then we will see how grief works in my haven't analyzed it, but have just felt that our brains have as much to do with it as our heart. So my worry has been that she won't have what it takes anymore to control and make sense of the loss and sadness. But perhaps she also won't realize that she is the last of her little family

We shall see.

P.S. Deep thanks for the thoughtful responses to my last post. The post was, indeed, therapy for me, as I struggle with changing friendships, and your responses were the best part of therapy for me....caring, dear people listening to me and responding in a way that let me know I was truly heard. And giving me even more to thing about.

I hope I can always do the same for you.

P.P.S. While I was in Colorado last August, my uncle poured me my first-ever Amaretto...mmm.
This Wednesday evening I will be serving some Haagen-Daz Amaretto ice cream, also something my uncle introduced me to. And with every bite I will be silently toasting my uncle.


kkkkaty said...

Lesley, this description of your mother's fragile her states of mind helps me (us) understand, but I can only imagine the reality.

I had not read the "all things considered" post before and it is absolutely stunning and awe-inspiring. How appropriate to refer back to this at the time of your uncle's passing.

The feet under the table photo says so much of a brother & sister's love. I hope the Amaretto ice cream and your tender conversation with your mother on Wednesday yields a smile from her.

melissa said...

So sorry you have this to deal with and that it's so wearing for you. Such simple (but sad) news shouldn't have to be so difficult to share, but your circumstances really do call for it, I understand.

Praying and hoping you don't have too much anxiety pushing in to Wednesday and that afterward besides saying "phew", you can be refreshed.

Anonymous said...

dear leslie,

i wrote a long comment for you and the computer froze when i tried to submit it. i'm sad because i don't have the energy to recreate it tonight, but just wanted to say i'm out here listening and really appreciated your post. can relate a lot to this issue right now.

take care and good luck,

sandra said...

Keeping you in my prayers.

J. Chapman said...

I am so sorry to hear about your uncle. Very sad for you. But I am glad you have great stories and memories of seeing him last year. You are doing the right thing. Love, Julie

Sea Angels said...

I am so sorry that you have this grief and struggle...these are things we are not taught about, or told of, yet I read your posts and you make such heartbreaking decisions on a regular basis, you struggle with options wanting to do the right thing and your kindness and tenderness is a solid thing that I can feel as I write. You have my heartfelt wishes both for you and your Mom.
Love Lynn xx

sarah elwell said...

Dear Lesley,

I'm sorry to be coming to this late. I really must put this journal on my Google Reader so I keep more up to date.

This is a terribly sad story, and my heart goes out to you. I can imagine how much grief this stirs in your own heart for the things you have lost. May God bless you.

Salina said...

My grandma, who is an Alzheimers patient also lost her brother a couple months back. She was at his memorial but I'm not sure if she really knew what was going on. She is the oldest of 12. Her brother who died was the next oldest, so they were close. It's hard watching my grandma decline. I'm so glad I can come here and read your posts about your own mother and how you deal with what is going on. Thanks Leslie.:)

wildforNature said...

I am finding that there are so many ways a parent can leave. I'm trying to get to know my mother two years after my Dad passed away. While she does not have Alzheimers, she is fraying. I cherish her bright days and want to stay open to learning how to reach her on the days that are clouded

Gracie said...

I do not have a sickgrandma I am 11 but i will pray for you and your mom