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Archive for the tag “death”

In Memoriam

Eighteen years ago, I was introduced to an amazing, loving, special lady. Today, we are laying her to rest.

On March 29, my mother-in-law passed away after a long battle with Parkinson’s and dementia. She died barely knowing her son. She had no memory of me. But I will never forget her or how she welcomed me into her family with open arms and never treated me any differently than her own children.

She was just one of those people that had so much love to give to everyone around her. I will miss her greatly.

In memory of

Leola “Kay” Connelly
7/29/42 – 3/29/17

kay080810a
Gramma Kay with baby Jack (my youngest) in August 2010
He was three weeks old.

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My Thoughts on Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams -  Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

“Robin Williams 2011a (2)” by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

It’s been over a week now since the world was shocked with the news that Robin Williams, beloved actor and comedian, committed suicide. Celebrities die all time, but suicide? He’s not the first and won’t be the last. The rash of suicides filling the airwaves, from big name celebrities to small town teenagers, has had one positive effect: it has gotten people talking. Talking about tough questions like what does it really mean to have a mental illness, what pushed these people to suicide, how can we help, and what is wrong with our health care system?

For me, Williams’ death hit a very, very tender spot. Last month, I found myself spiraling into a deep, scary depression after my bipolar medications stopped working. Things escalated quickly from being just a little tired and sad to suicidal a week later. Even in my diminished condition I managed to reach out to people online. I posted a few comments on Facebook eliciting responses of “contact me” and “hope you are okay.” I emailed two friends to apologize for not being strong enough and made preparations to turn over control of my livejournal to one of them. I wrote down the passwords to my laptop and most important websites where I wanted my husband to leave a message about what happened to me. I wrote a letter to my husband explaining why I broke and couldn’t hang on any more.

Through it all, I cried. I cried because I didn’t want to die, but I could see no other way out of the constant pain. It was agonizing. I emailed back and forth with my two friends for twenty minutes, but the more they worried the worse I felt. At some point I had downed about ten Ativan, a few Klonopin, and two Trazadone (sleeping pills). I think in the back of my head I knew this combination at those doses wouldn’t kill me, but the intent was there. I told both friends good-bye, turned off my computer and laid down in my bed. I wanted to sleep and never wake up to the pain again.

It couldn’t have been ten minutes later when one of my kids came in and shook me awake. I was sleeping and confused, but followed him into the other room where the police were waiting to talk to me. They called for EMTs to transport me to the hospital because I had taken so many pills. During all of this, my husband and kids were in the rest of the house enjoying their lives and oblivious to the abyss I had fallen into. I couldn’t reach out to them. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t. It ended up being one of those email friends who called the police for a well check.

I spent the night in the ER–probably the best night sleep I’d had in weeks. There were no ill-effects from the pills I took. The next three and half days I lied in an inpatient treatment center where I had some therapy and got my meds straightened out.

So, you can imagine, hearing that one of my favorite actors committed suicide hit a little too close to home. Having just gone through the desperation, my heart broke thinking of how much pain Williams must have been in to end it all. In the days following I read articles and Facebook commentary on the death, mental illness, and suicide. Many times I had to shut my computer down and do something else.

While reading, I alternated between tearful joy at the number of people that understood depression–who had the same experiences I had–and rage at all the people that had no clue but spouted their opinion as fact. We’ve come a long way as a society in understanding mental illness, but we still have a long way to go.

I read some very hurtful and dangerous comments giving out false information and guilt trips equally. The outpouring of love from other sufferers and their family and friends, though, has outnumbered the haters, at least in what I’ve read. I have hope that in the future we will understand this awful disease and the people that suffer from it. No more will people have to languish in emotional torment with nowhere to turn. There will be no stigma in admitting you have a mental illness and people will all be willing to help you with only love and caring. No more will we hear news reports of ten-year-olds having hung themselves.

Robin Williams is sad. The world lost an amazing entertainer, philanthropist, and man. I’m not sure any one else could fill the hole left in his wake. It will take time for the country to mourn and heal from this emotional blow. In the meantime, we need to continue the discourse on mental illness and the lack of resources sufferers encounter every day. The best way we can do that is to simply keep talking. Tell our stories and not hide in the corner. It’s not easy, I admit, but the more people that share, the stronger we will be. Our voices will be louder than the ignorant haters that try to keep us down.

We are strong. All of us that suffer and survive every day–we are strong. And those that didn’t make it were strong until that last day when the disease won. They were strong to make it that long. 

*sniff, sniff*

Decided to check my facebook this morning.  I haven’t really been checking it every day (I hated the way they changed it to show “popular” updates on top because I want to see them in order…which has been fixed) but decided today I’d do it first thing.

So I’m scanning down the page and see my cousin, Johnny, update a small thing about our Uncle Howie dying.  I think my heart literally stopped.  So I scroll down and My cousins Lisa and Carl also mention it.  I guess he died some time during the night.

He had been battling cancer for many years and was having issues with the cost.  He had to have some foundation help him out because his portion was in the thousands of dollars a month just for the chemo.  No one should have to worry about that crap when they are dying.  They had given him only a couple of years to live.

He’ll be missed greatly.  He’s the oldest of my mom’s siblings that was still alive (in his 70s but so full of life).  He leaves behind a wife, three sons and a few grandkids.  He joins his older brother, Leroy; older sisters, Shirley and Elaine (and their spouses) and younger sister, Glenna (my mom) in the afterlife…whatever that may be.

I didn’t know my Uncle Howie as well as some of my other aunts and uncles but what I remember of him was a jokester.  When we had our annual family reunion he always wore the same brown polo shirt.  Finally my mom asked him what was up with that and he laughed and said he wanted to see how long it would take for anyone to notice.  So it’s almost impossible to tell what year reunion pictures are from based on what Howard was wearing.  I mean, most of my childhood I only remember him in that shirt, lol.  He was always the strong presence in the background of the family, being the oldest brother living near everyone (Leroy lived in Utah, everyone else was in Michigan) he was kind of the patriarch of the family, looking out for everyone even though he lived kind of far from the center of the family.

I know his health was failing the last few times I saw him (years ago) necessitating him walking with a cane.  The last email I got from him a couple months ago said things didn’t look good but he was hopeful.

That leaves just two brothers: Pat and Denny, and the four girls: Nora, Kitty, Carol and Susie left in the family.  Just saying that is heartbreaking.  I’m not sure how I’ll handle it when the rest start going (hopefully not for many years).  Those left are the aunts and uncles I was closest to because they are close to my mom’s age (my Uncle Denny was my dad’s best friend in Vietnam and the reason my parents met and married).  My mom was dead center of the 5 little girls (in between Kitty and Carol) and all of the girls are about a year or so apart so they were close.  Nora was my mom’s best friend which is why I named my daughter after them (Nora Glenn).

I’m just so…I don’t know, numb right now.  I’m too emotionally raw from my own issues to feel anything.  I won’t be able to attend the funeral.  It’ll be back in Michigan and, even though I could catch a flight to Chicago or Detroit for free, I have no way to get to wherever they’re having it (he lived in the Flint area but the family is from Grand Rapids).  Plus that would mean my husband would have to take off work to stay at home with the kids and we can’t afford that.  I wish I had a picture to share.  I know I scanned some years ago but they must be on a disk packed away.

I miss you, Mom

It’s that day.  The one day of year that seems to bring a fog over the house, a depression that settles in among the hearts of the occupants and just festers.

Eight years ago today the doctor came into the tiny little conference room and told the family that it was hopeless and my mother was brain dead.  Eight years ago I ran from the room to the nearest rest room feeling what little I had eaten over the last 2 days coming up one, my chest crushed by grief, my eyes burning with tears I couldn’t stop.  I had to use every ounce of strength not to give into the temptation to slam my head into the brick wall to stop the overwhelming pain of loss.

Five minutes passed before I heard a knock on the door and my husband asking if I was okay.  Okay?  No, not ever again.

Eight years ago my dad sat alone in the same room answering heart wrenching questions from the organ donation team.  Eight years ago I watched my uncle (my mom’s sister’s husband) pray endlessly at her bedside for a miracle.  One I knew would not happen.  Eight years ago…the last time I begged a god I barely believed in to have mercy on us and make this whole thing quick.

Eight years ago I watched my younger brother, then 21, break down in tears because he never got to say good-bye and hadn’t talked to her in months.  Eight years ago I watched as my mom’s brothers and sisters gathered for their vigil, holding each other, working through the pain of losing yet another sister (my mom’s oldest two sisters died in the early 90s).

Eight years ago I had to call my best friend and tell her they were taking my mom off of life support so if her and her parents wanted to say good-bye now was the time.  Eight years ago I stood and watched it all alone, like a stranger looking in on some warped family reunion, but never feeling like part of the events.  I stood alone, trying to hold it all together.

After it was over we went home.  My dad went to bed and didn’t come out for days.  My brother drank away the pain with some of his high school buddies that he hadn’t seen in a few years.  My husband took care of the baby (my oldest daughter was just a couple months old).  Me…I cooked for everyone and cleaned the house and kept busy.  I fielded calls from out of state family wanting word on how my dad was handling things, how my brother took the news, how the baby was doing, did my husband find a job yet?

I don’t remember anyone every actually asking me how I was doing.  And me–I was barely hanging on by a thread.  During the day I could keep busy with chores and the baby and visitors stopping by and my brother.  Night…night was different.  At night I curled up in bed, hugging my stuffed bunny and jamming a pillow as far into my mouth as I could to stifle the sobs of grief so I wouldn’t wake my husband and baby.

Eight years and the pain and the anger and the grief and the emptiness hasn’t gone away and on this day it is ten time more pronounced.

My parents would have celebrated their 37th anniversary next week if my mom hadn’t died.  She would have been 60 years old in November.  She would have been a grandma of four now…four very spoiled little kids if she had been here.

Things would be different.  Instead everything is the same.  The house looks almost exactly like it did the day she died, only 8 years of dust covers most of her knick-knacks.  Instead I sit here remembering what it was like those 3 weeks of hell as we said our good-byes and planned her cremation and memorial service.

September 1st was the service, up in Michigan with her family…where she truly felt at home.  It was hot.  One of the hottest days of the year.  We were all soaked in sweat and miserable.  My brother drove to get his friend in another town 30 miles away.  We’ve known this guy since he was 5 and my mom had been a second mother to him.  He was absolutely devastated.  He cried harder then my brother and father.

The night before the service was a good night, though.  See, deaths in our family are different then most.  At least I think so.  We don’t so much stand around grieving and asking “why?” as we do celebrating the life they lived.  The night before the service we had what a normal family would call a “wake”.  It was an amazing site.  The funeral parlor director had to dig up more easels and tables to display all the picture boards and handmade items.  My mom was a crafter and made quilts and stuffed animals for most of the family.  Every available surface in the room was covered in these items that she made through the years.  The director said it was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

After the service on the 1st we all went back to my Aunt Nora’s house, peeled out of our “Sunday best” clothes and brought in the keg.  Yep, my uncle got a keg.  This is where our family traditions become real apparent.  When someone dies in our family we throw a raging party.  My mom’s party didn’t end until 2am.  By that time there was just a few of us left, my dad was passed out in a spare bedroom and a lot of other people were sleeping it off on the floor in other rooms.  My aunt sat outside with some of my cousins just talking and reminiscing.

It’s been eight years yet I can still picture it all like yesterday, yet, I’m starting to forget her smile and her voice.  I notice, though, every now and then when I laugh or say certain things that I sound just like her.  Exactly like her.  It is kind of creepy.

Eight years and I miss her as much now as I did the day she died, the tears still come late at night and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her at least a dozen times.

I miss you, Mom.

Glenna Jean
11.27.48~8.19.00
gone but never forgotten


The last photo of her alive taken on August 17, 2000 with her sister, Nora (the two people I named my youngest daughter after).

scrapbook page of the day

Here’s a page I did in memory of my mother for Mother’s Day.  My mom died on August 19, 2000.  The anniversary of her death his next week.  It’s hard to imagine it has been 8 years since I spoke to her or saw her smile.  She has missed so much.  August is always a hard time of the year with all the memories that come flooding in, especially now that I’m living in her house again.  She is everywhere.

Brenna, my 5 1/2 year old, just came in this morning and asked if I was sad when my mom died.  I have no idea what brought up the topic.  She never knew my mom and I don’t really talk about her (I know my dad does, though, but he doesn’t talk much about her death).  It was just so odd.

My mom was just 51 years old and died of a stroke.  She had her first stroke when I was in high school (I think around 1994) but it was misdiagnosed.  Then she had her 2nd on in 2000, just days before my oldest daughter was born (in June).  On August 17, 2000, she went in to have surgery to unblock an artery in her neck to stop the strokes (the ones she had were minor and only caused temporary paralysis and confusion).  She ended up having a small stroke on the operating table, woke up afterwards confused and only long enough to ask my dad for some water then slipped into a coma.  They rushed her back into surgery that night and she had a massive stroke while in the OR and never woke up from her coma.  She was pronounced brain dead on Saturday, August 19, 2000 at the age of 51.

The last time I spoke to her was August 17 as she was leaving for the hospital.  I told her “see you later” and wasn’t planning on visiting her until the next morning when she was feeling better.  The next time I saw her she was just a shell with no brain function…she was dead.  It’s hard to think about sometimes.  And I regret every day I didn’t tell her I loved her and didn’t get to tell her how much I would miss her and didn’t take a picture of her in the hospital because I thought people would think I was morbid but she looked so beautiful even hooked to every machine known to man.

I think this page was done for a scraplift but I don’t remember now.  I really like the layout and red and hearts.

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