Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Now What

It's been two weeks since Phil died and I am only beginning to have time to "be" with my feelings.  As I said before, prior to Phil going into hospice care my house served as Ground Zero and I have had friends and family in my home until just a few days ago.  Include the visits from wonderful and supportive friends and family who flew and drove in for the memorial, the Thanksgiving holiday and the numerous details I must now attend to and you may begin to understand the position I find myself in trying to find time and space to grieve.  Unexpectedly, even my children are cramping my space to grieve.  Their grief looks so much different than mine and tends to manifest itself in the form of irritability and what I like to call "feistiness".  When I say that to them, we all know what I mean and they know they better knock it off or heads are gonna roll (or Nintendo DS's are gonna be confiscated, more likely).

By way of example,things with the kids and I have gone something like this lately.  It's been a long day for all of us, we're tired and worn out from just making it through another day without Daddy (even though I'm the only one cognizant of this little FACT) and patience with one another and the vicissitudes of life has thinned to almost nothing.  (You might guess by now that it is nearing the dinner hour.)  Chances are good that there may be a somewhat questionable casserole-type dish in the offering tonight, provided by a very well meaning soul who has tried hard to help us with our meals.  However, at this point, although very grateful, we are also very much over white rice, cream of mushroom soup and limp vegetables.  These have never been things I could get my kids to eat anyway so they don't go down any easier when they are grieving.  (Father God, forgive me for throwing away so much food when there are starving children in Africa...)  Anyway, the kids start picking at dinner, get more and more hungry and agitated, ask for short order cooked meals, start taking out their frustrations on me, each other, the world and next thing you know they are screaming at each other "I HATE YOU AND NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!"  That's gonna be a tough one since they share a bedroom and bunk beds.  

By this time I am missing Phil a whole lot and my grief has picked a fine time to show up.  As the tears come to my eyes my son Bennett looks at me and tells me I cry too much.  He asks me why I am sad still, why I am sad all the time.  What's wrong with me?  When I ask him if he is sad he says, "No, I'm pretty much over Dad now.  I put it behind me."  Well, thankfully I have a right mind and can see through his juvenile attempts to escape his grief but for a split second I want to wring his neck and shake some sense into him, scream back at him "I HATE YOU AND NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!  HOW DARE YOU!!!"  But somehow, through the grace of God, cooler minds prevail and I say, "OK bud."  By now Olivia has stormed off to her room to have a power pout and a good cry.  She at least will now go write down about 15 pet names for Daddy in her journal and make a list of all the things Phil did/didn't get to do before he died.  My kids surprise me, they are not performing as I thought they would.  I thought for sure my son, the intensely verbal one would talk his way through his grief and Olivia my shy one would clam up.  Just the opposite.  Never ASS-ume.

To say that I was happy that school started yesterday is to put it mildly.  I needed to return to the routine badly.  We all did.  At least to have some forced time and space created so I can just sit still and do nothing if I want to.  Of course that hasn't happened but at least the potential is there if I ever want to pull the trigger on it.  I can choose to be lazy if I want to.  To go back to bed if I feel like it.  To do absolutely nothing.  But surely you must realize that is a joke.  I suppose there will be a very short window for doing that but I happen to have a little book full of things I need to do.  Once the death certificates come I will be a busy woman getting my new life in order.  Until then, I will enjoy this little cushion of time being quiet and resting and enjoying the quiet while my kids are at school and there is space just for me.

I heard that someone recently was asking "What now?" about me.  Really??  I can't believe the answer to that question isn't painfully obvious.  I have two young children to guide through a tremendous burden of grief and loss. I have to figure out how to navigate my own grief which is so different than theirs and will likely do so in a sort of lonely isolation because of how different my relationship to Phil was from theirs.  And I will spend the rest of my life raising them to take as much good from him as I can, largely on my own and yet with the help of my family and friends and those who loved Phil.  

That's is what's next.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Phil's Memorial

A memorial service celebrating the life of Philip Taylor Berry Conrad will be held at Jamul Community Church on Monday November 21st, 2011 at 2 p.m.

Reception to follow at the church.

Jamul Community Church

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Well Done Good and Faithful Servant

Philip is with Jesus tonight.

His eyes opened and he smiled, then he turned to look at me before exhaling his last. He was valiant until the end. We will miss him dearly.

Well done good and faithful servant.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Veil is Thin

I'm finding it challenging to know where to start, what to write, what exactly it is I want to say today.  So much has happened and, in true Libra fashion, I fluctuate between wanting to write it all down so I don't forget a moment of this strange state of being I find myself in, and wanting to just let it be ~ to continue as I've done over the last few days and lose touch with the passage of time and let it ride.  

I'm laying on the bed in the back room with my sister Anita, and she is helping me sort out what is important for you to know about Phil and our family time. Hospice is in place, which means he sleeps a bit more comfortably in a hospital bed in our room, and I feel supported by an amazing team of caregivers. Every twelve hours is a new place in this journey. Phil is comfortable, not in pain, able to smile and comprehend the nuances of conversation, but is slow to respond and fading quietly. 

Our living room is Ground Zero for us most of the day, with visitors and family coming in and out. I am trying to balance Phil's needs and my own, with those of my children and his loved ones who need to see and be with him. It is exhausting and we haven't quite gotten it right every day. I don't know how long we will be in this disrupted space but I do feel that God is holding us. I don't understand how people do this without Him.  New mercies are needed every morning.

Last night I was reading about what it means to "die a good death." Throughout this illness, Phil has never complained, railed against God, or asked "why me?" How many of us could say that? I want to do whatever it takes to accompany him to his good death. Please pray that I can be faithful in the middle of the night when he needs me. And when I need patience and grace to lovingly sort out the kids' grief and emotional pain. 

This is a sacred privilege for me to honor my husband as he leads us all to the Cross. We are catching glimpses of Jesus in these precarious days of uncertainty but we know for certain that all shall be well.  Phil is surely dying but we know that this is ultimately his resurrection story.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Update on Phil

Phil is growing ever more weak and fatigued and sleeping more hours of the day, a blessing in itself. We had a weekend of family and friends visiting and he was able to participate in that. It was incredibly taxing, however.

Yesterday with Dr. Kossman we learned his platelets (at 10K) are dangerously low and put him at risk for a spontaneous bleed so he decided to receive one last transfusion. This was no small decision since it meant spending the better part of the day in the hospital being admitted, typed and crossed then transfused only to go home and sleep for the rest of the day with little interaction. We also decided to begin hospice services. It is a huge relief for me to know that I will no longer be solely responsible for the decisions in the middle of the night and that I will have more help walking my children through this painful transition. As for Phil, his desire to die at home with us can now be made that much more comfortable and achievable. I can see in his entire body since making this decision, that he has begun to relax and let go of the fight. I am relieved for him.

Your comments, prayers and scriptures have been nothing short of manna for our weary souls. Thank you for continuing your vigil with us and for describing to us your love and experiences of and with Phil. My children especially will need to reflect on these stories and comments in the days, weeks and years to come.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Undaunted Courage

I felt badly this morning as I blew my hair dry and put on an outfit that seemed to match just a little too well.  As I pulled on my good boots and got ready to go see Phil in the hospital I felt indulgent for looking so much better than I felt.  For looking too nice. It felt so damned inappropriate because Phil is dying.  

He is in renal failure, isn't making platelets or red cells and is not eating well.  He can't tolerate anymore chemotherapy and has come to the end of his long journey.  Valiance and courage continue to characterize his life and those of us gathered here are blessed to be alongside him as he faces the challenges of the coming days.  

Pray for a peaceful passage for our Iron Man warrior, father, son, brother, husband and friend.

*please respect our family time as we draw together to love and support one another and refrain from phone calls.  Email messages and comments are much appreciated

Cards and letters may be sent to:
1426 Lomita Road 
El Cajon, CA 92020