death

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Tree Silouhette Against Sky

Photo by Asif Akbar

It all started at the end of January. My husband lost his job and our family of five, plus one cat, was suddenly without income. It would be nice if our cat could become an internet sensation and earn us some money, but alas, he doesn’t even flinch when the doves pass by him on their way to the water dish.

This job, which has lasted for more than thirteen years, has been slipping away from us for at least the last five. We didn’t know when the job would end, we only knew that it would. Even though we knew this, we weren’t quite ready for the shock of it all. We immediately went into recovery mode. We made sure we knew exactly where all of our money was, how much we had, and when and how much we could expect to receive in the coming weeks. The severance, which we were lucky to get, is gone. We’re receiving unemployment insurance, but that is less than one quarter of what we were earning. My family is helping me out, but, as grateful as I am, it will be better when we can stand on our own. We have been unemployed for just over six months now. The unemployment benefits will continue for 18 months.

We realized that I need to go to work, and that we have to put the kids into public school. It means the end, for now, of our homeschooling career. For me, this is huge. I have not been in the workforce for more than thirteen years. Resumes are different. Job hunting is different. Networking has taken on a whole new meaning. I am worried about how the kids would do in school. I am worried about the logistics of getting them to and from school while holding down a job. I am worried about how my energy would hold out.

Shortly after the job loss, I sank into a major depression. If you have never experienced this, it is one of the most terrifying things there is. I was barely able to get up, shower and get dressed. Without the boys in the house, I doubt I could have gotten out of bed at all. Because of them, I got up, got dressed and mimed my way through the day. My husband took over all the cooking and most of the cleaning. I lay on the bed or sat on the couch or at my desk and simply stared into space. I knew instinctively that I could not handle this alone. This was just too big. I decided to seek counseling and within 6 weeks, I started counseling at a place that offered a sliding scale.

Fast forward 7 weeks into my counseling. Things were looking up and I had a better grip on things. On the fourth Monday in May, I got a call from my Mom telling me that my Grandmother’s death was “imminent.” On Tuesday, I drove five hours to her home. I sat by her side for three days. She died while I was holding her hand on Friday. I had never known such devastation before. My Grandmother was as close to me as my Mother. She taught me how to survive with three rowdy boys. I spent summers as a child at her house, and when I went to college, I visited her on weekends. I spoke to her on the phone several times a week. She let me use all of her office supplies to make fleets of paper airplanes and “crafts.” She gave me the best bedroom in her house, with a big pink bed and an adjoining bathroom. It was a room fit for a princess. I adored my Grandmother.

This event yanked me forcefully backward. Someone had grabbed my hair and pulling me. My Grandfather had died a mere two years before, and I was still grieving for him. I fell back even more solidly into the depression. I felt choked, as if I was drowning. On the advice of my counselor, I immediately got on the waiting list for another counseling service that had a sliding scale and open ended counseling sessions. Ten sessions was not going to be enough.

Since then, we’ve had another death in the family – my late Grandfather’s sister. Luckily, there was not to be another funeral. I could not have handled that. Nevertheless, I traveled the five hours again to be with my family – to offer what comfort I could to my Great Uncle, my Mother, and my many cousins. Our family has lost and lost and lost these past two years.

My husband and I have not yet found employment. The kids are slated to start school in a little more than a week. Next week we must shop for the remainder of their school supplies. The air conditioner went out while the outside temperatures have hovered near 105. We had to buy two full sets of tires for the vehicles and replace the wheel bearings on the van. In case you didn’t know, that is an expensive repair.

Somehow, I’m still here. No one has been sick. The boys are happy and thriving. I just haven’t been able to write. I have had to sit still for a long time and in many ways, I’m still sitting. My Grandparents’ furniture is in my home, and my Mother is moving into their house. I continue to visit my counselor and my friends have helped to hold me up. For now, I sit still.

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Photo by Ivanmarn

Osama Bin Laden was killed yesterday in Pakistan. Also killed were two of his brothers and his adult son. I found this out just today. Although I am relieved that he will no longer be able to kill or to order the deaths of any more innocents, I have to stop myself from rejoicing over the death of another human being. Actually, I don’t have to stop myself very much. It’s the rest of the world. Even now, thousands are at Ground Zero in New York City and a crowd has gathered in from of the White House in Washington D.C. rejoicing and cheering. This makes my blood run cold. Even though Osama Bin Laden did a lot of heinous things and orchestrated the murders of thousands at the World Trade Centers and in other attacks around the world, he was still a human being. He was a son, a brother, a father, someone’s lover, a grandson, perhaps a grandfather.

It is my belief that every single death touches more lives than you can imagine. It affects even those who are not related in blood or in friendship. Like an insect walking on a spider’s web or a stone thrown into an undisturbed pond, extreme actions like the killing of another being have repercussions. Osama Bin Laden’s death will affect the world in its own way. In order to have true peace, we must, as a species, practice the peace we want to experience around the world.

Rejoicing in his death only adds to the violence. It sends the wrong message to our children. The message it sends is that violence solves all problems. It does not. Killing the killer does not bring back the killed. Even the families and friends of killers still weep for their lost loved ones. Because everyone is loved by someone.

I see in my local news that people are celebrating. Fireworks are being set off over the campus and many say they are happy about what happened. A soldier at ground zero reminded us, though, that it is also a time of mourning. So many have needlessly lost their lives at the hands of Al-Qaida and it’s leader and followers. The families of the folks killed in the 9/11 attacks are still in mourning. The mothers of the Al-Qaida’s operatives have lost their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.

The celebrations just seem wrong. To me, this is a solemn event. It is a day to reflect seriously on where we’ve been and where we’re going. It is my hope that Mr. Obama and leaders around the world will ponder these events and take time to absorb what has happened and reflect on the violence that threatens to swallow the world whole. They need to take these reflections with them to work every day. They need to make decisions that will bring peace, not violence to the world.

I am keep these thoughts close to my heart as I interact with my family and children. On the way to school with my eldest, I briefly told him what had happened and my thoughts on it. I told him that I wanted him to know what I thought, so that he may weigh that against what others may say and form his own opinions. I am very interested in what the perceptions of the other children will be. Their background is probably very different from his. They come from a different culture and a different world view. It will be a challenge navigating the issues of the day with my children.

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