Twists in the road, or what they don’t tell you about death

Caution: this is going to be one of those maudlin mixed with sarcasm and humor posts I warned you about.

I guess I should start off my saying that I’m no stranger to the big D. My sister and I talk (well, joke) about the black summer of 1987 when we lost 2 grandparents in a few weeks’ time. I was taking (and truly hating) summer gym class, and I’m pretty sure Walt Shreffler thought I was making it all up to avoid the 20 mile bike rides.

I was away at college in 1991 when my dad passed away. I still have the moment the RA knocked on my door to tell me to call home etched in my mind. It’s interesting the things we remember. I was reading Antigone and had Herman’s Head on TV in the background. Add to that uncles, cousins, a paternal grandfather I never knew, and far too many students, and it adds up to an unfortunate familiarity with death.

Kelley’s death was different.

I’ve always prided myself at being able to roll with the punches, drop back and find a solution, but there was no solution to be found. I think maybe for the first time, I realized the finality of it all. Sure, the logical part of my brain had understood that in those other deaths, but this time is the first time the emotional half is coming to that realization.

Maybe because it’s the first person I’ve lost as a full fledged adult, and maybe because we took care of each other for 17 years, but this one is different. Not more or less, just different.

There are a few things that I’ve learned first hand that they definitely do not tell you about death.

  • It is more difficult to get a cell phone cancelled than it is to file for life insurance.
  • The dreams suck. Every night I dream about Kelley being alive and have to wake up and remind myself that she’s passed.
  • Pets miss them too. For probably two weeks our cats wandered from room to room looking for their mom.
  • Support can come from some of the most unexpected places. One of my top ten squirreliest kids was the first squad member to come into the house and actually took over CPR from me. I would have never thought in a million years that could have happened. Above that, he came to me in the hospital and hugged me and told me how sorry he was.
  • People will try to dictate how you should grieve. I think I need to put a bookmark in that one for the moment.
  • The smallest, strangest things will set you off. A few days after Kelley passed, I cleaned out the refrigerator. She always drank Crystal Light with double the mix in it. I couldn’t stand the crap. I dumped out the pitcher and realized I’d never make that again. I broke down for a good hour over that.
  • You may figure out they knew it was coming. Kelley had been sick for awhile. For the last year, she had been teaching me to cook under the guise that her eyes were failing and she would eventually be unable to see well enough to cook. In the end, I learned all my favorite recipes by heart just as she passed. We had also been paying down our credit cards. She was the financial sheriff, (more about that in a future post) and she had arranged it so we had paid off all the cards that were in my name first. Meaning her passing did not leave me with a mountain of debt.


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