Pt. 3 Death, Dying and Mourning: opening the Pandora’s box of grief

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119? That’s the number of women who die per day from Metastatic Breast Cancer. About 240 died while I put time into writing and I must ask if part three is necessary. It is.

Visiting my mother’s grave for the first time five years after her death and losing another dear friend this year to Metastatic Breast Cancer —First Julia Barnicle back in February and now Lori Burwell —-I find myself amid a swirl of emotions. Grief, anger, survivors guilt, sadness, deep loss, existential questioning.

I also consider my own death as time rolls on during Covid, a disease with a vaccination much unlike breast cancer. With Covid we have vaccines. With MBC no cure in sight yet curatives in the research and Developement pipeline to bring us some hope hold no reward yet. I cannot say.

My healthier time continues to erode away feeling sicker and isolated. The need to continue to stay out of the public as much as possible, include all my medical appointments switching back to the ever-unpopular video calls. Covid itself, ignorantly becomes more politicized and less science-backed in the psycho dramatically collective need it seems to convince millions of US citizens that a vaccine or the wearing of a mask shows lack of support for the Republican Party should you dare get caught publicly doing either.

Have you been in the situation where your cancer took a back seat to the unvaccinated? One may come to any of the understaffed hospitals and emergency rooms only to find your cancer to be in line behind say 28 people who’ve not been vaccinated and need to hang like a cow from a milking machine after being put on oxygen or worse being trached?

If you needed life saving or life extending surgery and were behind 28 such people how frustrated and angry would you feel? Especially watching the hours tick by knowing with each the surgery wouldn’t likely to happen? You know your life depends on it and you know by the time you’re transferred to a different location the surgery goes dark for the night. As you’re checked in it’s time.

Time to let go. To say goodbye. To give last instructions. To take last rights or see a pastor or rabbi if that’s your preference. To kick everyone out of your room or hospice and find your own way to death. I wonder what Lori was thinking? Was she afraid? Lonely? Exhausted? Ready? Having had a good life was it enough? Was she having any secret second thoughts after exhibiting a graceful strength as she always had? I wondered.

I cried at my mothers graveside. I sat for two hours explaining everything to her as if she were there. I said I was sorry she’d been buried not cremated as she was terrified of being buried alive. But her eldest child, the one she entrusted with her wishes wasn’t consulted or even told of her death and time of the funeral.

Her voice was echoing in my mind: I love you; I’m watching over you; we are protecting you; I know what happened. The mind has a way to protect itself from deep mourning and wounding and it’s likely that’s what I heard. Or maybe not. Time will tell.

The visit cleansed my spirit of guilt and my heart of anger. Ive felt desperate to do so for a long time now. My grandparents were buried not far from my mother. Cleaning off the bronze headstone (my mother was only given the cheapest thing they had with the least amount of printing possible. But the money issues that take over a parental death make people do stupid things. She’d told me what she wantttttt to ted on the mausoleum door. The words were beloved mother of Ilene and Scott and the actual dates of her birth and death with all of her last names – Elaine Rothman Kaminsky Tramonte. Nothing close to representing a life of a mother and a wife. Nothing close to my mother’s wishes.

Lesson or death tip for anyone with cancer – if you have a parent dying from Alzheimer’s it’s unnecessary to confuse them with your disease and unintentionally harming them. I had no intention of telling her. None; but the choice was mine not her sisters or my brother or my stepsister- it’s mine. And what harm was anyone concerned I’d cause?

Metastatic Breast Cancer & the right choices

I wonder if her family took any responsibility for the guilt and lack of compassion for her needs over their own.

My family not only doesn’t believe that I have metastatic breast cancer, but they never told me of my mothers death so how did they not believe something was wrong? It’s past. Nothing to do with me anymore. I took as long as I needed to sit beside her and feel her presence and she’d been waiting. She’

Saying what needed saying, crying tears that needed crying

Leaving a cemetery

“Then shall the dust return to the earth whence it came, and the spirit shall return unto G-d who gave it.” Peace be with you, all whom death has united in this field, the last home of so many departed ones. Peace be with your souls, which have been recalled by the voice of G-d to eternal life. Amen.

(Ezekiel, xii. 7.)
Death Habit
How my habits and routines help me feel better
And when to say it’s enough
(I miss her presence or
Does friendship become habitual too?)
And kindness from others - what do they want from me receiving and not giving what do they think of the guilt I breathe?
Yet I can’t give much
Back to anyone anymore
I lay here some days
Feeling ugly and small
like a day that’s not sunny
Not cloudy
I’ve so much to do yet
not Much anymore. There’s no
Time left to do most
Travel I’ve planned or if I’ll ever see the eyes of friendship farther away now thankful to know themselves at all?
I am fooling myself to think
My energy will hold me up
Like an old friend who’s moved
Out of town. I want to say no
More. No more pills or pokes
No more doctors and little jokes
At my own expense. No more wondering if I could get to my next
Birthday. I can decide right now to say no and let my body go.

If she were wiser than me and letting it all go was the right decision
Letting everyone see how little
Control they had over me
I could show them this life had no meaning in the first place.
It’s dark today and the winds blow high
And the chances of fire are great
But who am I to change the weather
My hand is the god of my fate.

1 comments on “Pt. 3 Death, Dying and Mourning: opening the Pandora’s box of grief”

  1. Oh, Ilene, giving you a virtual hug right now. Hope you can feel it. I’m glad you visited your mother’s grave. Thank you for sharing about that experience. I don’t understand how/why your family doesn’t believe that you have mbc. Is it because you didn’t tell your mother? That was your decision. Family dynamics get complicated, don’t they? And, yes, the news about Lori was beyond sad and tragic. Another family with that gaping hole. Thank you for writing about the hard things. x

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