Always Early

I have always done things ahead of time. Ask anyone who knows me. My mother said I was born three days early, not waiting for my due date. According to John,I was notorious in college for getting assignments done early. Surely no one else noticed or cared. Recently I wrote about missing visitors before they left. I felt slightly ill a day or so before family or friends ended their visit. As soon as the car lights disappeared up the road, I began to clean up and proceed with the next thing on the agenda. Was that heartless? My longing for them wouldn’t bring them back, and I had lovely memories to savor.

According to daughter Lise, everyone waited for me to fall apart after my parents died. Neither had a long illness. Both had a sudden heart issue that took them fairly quickly with no lingering pain. One was 80 and the other 89 when they died. Their funerals were family reunions in the finest Southern tradition. There was too much to be thankful for to wish them alive again, when they might have to face great pain or dementia. Let them go and remember what wonderful people they were.

Never having lost a spouse, I didn’t know what to expect when John died. The fact is, I faced his death thousands of time. Not many people were killed commuting to Manhattan by train, but driving was a different story. After we came back from England 40 years ago, John drove to work. He was an excellent driver, but many others on the road with him were not. Photos of pileups caused by ice and snow were common. He drove through blizzards and hurricanes, and there were no cell phones then. I didn’t know exactly how I’d get the news, but a policeman or medical person would contact me, and I might have to go identify his body. How on earth would I earn a living and support myself and three children?

I got the news of John’s death in a way I didn’t expect. Grandson David called, saying the hospital wanted me to call. Note, I was the one who made the call! The emergency room nurse said they tried everything they could to restart his heart, but nothing worked. I felt cold when the call ended. Immediately I remembered John was supposed to make a presentation at church the next day, and I’d better call to let someone know what had happened. The restaurant was still open, so I canceled our reservations for the next day. I let family members know, as well as neighbors and friends. In the middle of the night I printed, signed, and scanned legal papers with the funeral home.

I thought I wasn’t crying because there was so much to do. That wasn’t it. I had been through the mourning and letting go for 40 years. Who knew it could be done ahead of time?? Those who know me will say, “She always did everything early….”

58 thoughts on “Always Early

  1. Please accept our condolences. Reading your post I felt you are strong from within. But there 2ill always be moments when we doubt our strength. Being positive and trying 5o accept things we cannot change helps. Regards, Lakshmi

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  2. There is no right or wrong way to handle the passing of a spouse. For me, I found that the tears often came at the least expected times. I remember going to buy a book for a friend’s birthday and walking up and down the best seller isles. Suddenly I grabbed a book I saw on the Civil war with amazing photos and walked with my books to check out. When I got to the register it hit me my husband had died so I didn’t need to get the book. (My late husband taught American History). I can’t tell you how many times I’d be food shopping after work and pick up his favorite foods without thinking, or come home with some item for him and didn’t realize until I got home that he was no longer around. It been years and I still don’t sleep on his side of the bed. Everyone handles death the best way they can.
    I’m very sorry for your loss. May his memory be a blessing. G-d Bless.

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    1. John loved history and majored in it in college. His interest certainly broadened my horizons. That’s something that you picked up a book for your husband and momentarily forgot he wasn’t there to read it. I loved your comment about John’s memory being a blessing. There are many things to be thankful for.

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  3. I totally understand, though I had wondered how you were managing. I remember how it would be a little thing that would trigger a momentary surge of emotion. You preparing for death many times… I had wondered if it were morbid of me to do that. I see, I’m not alone. Snow and ice, a lone climb on a mountain peak, a bike ride in heavy traffic and a late return … all times I wondered, is this it? Perhaps, I too will be ready.

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  4. Preparing oneself for the worst mitigates against the blindsiding that unglues the best of us. Of course, in the larger picture, which includes John’s present whereabouts, he isn’t lost; he’s an advance party researching golden streets in a place where there is no darkness at all.
    Grace, Peace, and God’s Love to you, my sister.

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  5. We share similar traits – I too, when given any assignment, get to it right away and get it done. I also “pre-grieve” and have imagined various scenarios of the deaths of some of my dearest family and BFF. (I even cry at times at the thought. Hopefully it will serve me well when and if that time comes ~if I don’t die first.) My parents are presently the only people very close to me whose loss I have experienced. Although I greatly miss their presence, their voices and senses of humor I know they are at peace, enjoying their new lives, and happily waiting for their loved ones to come home. May you always know peace and allow comfort to wrap you in its arms.

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      1. The most important thing I learned working with Hospice family members after the death was that everyone does it the way they do it, and do what they do when they are ready. I suspect it has to do with your overall sense of who you are and what meanings life–and death–hold for you. That is another thing I value, our need to make meaning that makes sense. I agree with Lizabrat–innate brilliance!

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  6. Interesting perspective on who you are and how you handle things. I understand what you’re saying about wanting to do things early. I’m the same way, often going on about being proactive rather than reactive. I admire your strength and wonder if I, too, pre-grieved the deaths of my parents. A thought-provoking post, thank you.

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  7. That is such an interesting viewpoint. My mother was ill for several years before she died. There were ambulance trips to the hospital and all sorts of medical equipment in the house. Lots of worry for the family as she lived alone and refused to stay with any of us. While she was alive, I couldn’t hear an ambulance siren without bursting in tears. I couldn’t stand to hear “Amazing Grace.” After she died, all they went away. Ambulances no longer traumatize me and I can hear any sad church song. Perhaps I was grieving while she was here too. There was so much to do afterward, it was a distraction although I missed her for a long, long time.

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    1. I’m glad your tears and fears of sad music went away. Yes, I think you were pre-grieving. The paperwork after a death is onerous, but daughter Lise helped me tremendously. Just today I found something we missed — changing the name on the propane delivery service. I have to go to a nearby town with a copy of the death certificate to get it changed to my name. Only then will they make a delivery. Thankfully there is still gas in the tank.

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  8. I tend to do things early, too. Chris — not so much. I remember being so annoyed one time in college when I did a paper at the beginning of the class, and then it was cancelled. Chris (who never wrote it) still teases me about it.

    Grief is odd. Pre-grieving can really brace oneself for the reality. As rjbrownworth stated, it sure helps knowing the loved one is in a better place. You are surrounded by love, too.

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    1. I would have been very annoyed, too, if an assignment I worked on had been cancelled.

      Yes, I have been surrounded by love on all sides. Fabulous!

      There is no way I’d want to pull John out of heaven to face more chemotherapy, loss of hearing, and increasing forgetfulness.

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  9. It makes sense actually. Some of us like to be prepared, that way we are not caught off guard. Even though I miss both of my parents, when it was time for them to go, I was ok with it. xo

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  10. Anne, you wrote about not grieving in the usual way. Don’t know if there is a “usual” way. Grief – sadness – loneliness just comes at unexpected times. Then one remembers that once you leave this earth you will be together for eternity! Blessed Assurance!

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    1. “Grace, peace and God’s love to you! .”
      You are very strong. Very sad that but we can’t anything doing. It God given and it took God. Very strong your son and daughter.

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  11. Pre-grieving, I can understand that! I think it makes a huge difference when faith is added into the equation. John is in the presence of the Lord, and you would never wish him back here on earth. XXOO

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  12. “Grace, peace and God’s love to you! .”
    You are very strong. Very sad that but we can’t anything doing. It God given and it took God. Very strong your son and daughter. It’s hard to let go of someone you love!

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  13. So much happened at one time and having something to do and be busy did not give you time to think about the sad task at hand. You had a take-charge attitude which is good. Now you have time to think and dwell – you are a strong woman and your family ties have gotten you through John’s real death after the imagined horror of driving the NY commute all those years.

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  14. I know there’s no right or wrong way to grieve. There are so many variables in each individual situation. When my maternal grandparents (with whom I lived) died, even though I loved both of them equally, my response to their deaths was completely different. My grandfather died very suddenly and I was in total shock and denial. On the other hand, when my grandmother passed, I realized I had already been grieving for her for two years, from the time her health started to fail. I’m so glad you have the support of Lise and David and everyone else.

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  15. I kind of understand where you were coming from, Anne. In my case, I’d had no appreciable relationship with my father, and ‘mourned’ that fact about 30 years before he actually died at age 82. At his funeral I shed not a tear. I’d already shed them all before.

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  16. Grief is an unpredictable and complicated thing. We all will find a way-our own way to live it. I am so very thankful to know that David is with you. I think of you often, as you know-most every day. Pleases know, that like many others . . .I care and send you my love.

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