Grief and depression were my best friends for years. They shared everything with me: thoughts, dreams, conversations, and even making love with my husband.
How did we three get to be so close? It’s quite a story.
My darling, perfect, curly red- headed, blue-eyed baby girl was born August 6, 1973. She was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis in December 1973 and the battle began. CF is a terminal, genetic, inherited disease of the lungs and digestive system. The doctors at the University of Arkansas Medical Center told me to take her home and love her, for whatever time she had on this earth.
I became her warrior as prevention was the name of the game, once her health was stabilized. I worked full time, took care of her and her brothers, one older and one younger. My marriage was less than perfect. It was full of pitfalls, hurt feelings, and anger. Divorce would be in the future.
I was only 25 years old, mother of 3, one with a terminal illness. I had to get a grip. And I did.
Jennifer was 30 years and 8 months old when she took her last breath. She lived a good life. She was extremely independent, traveled, worked, owned her own horse, loved, and was one of the most stubborn young women you would ever meet! She had a quirky smile and dry wit. She was courageous. Just before she collapsed and had to be put on life support, she was talking about wanting to meet a “good looking cowboy.”
I held her hand, whispered words of love, and stroked her face the morning she died. It had been raining. At the exact time of her death, the sun broke through, and a sunbeam shone on her face. She caught a ride on that sunbeam to Heaven.
My heart was broken. I had tried so hard because she wanted to live so badly!
Seventeen months later, Jennifer’s younger brother Michael passed away from congestive heart failure. What!? No!? He had just graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with a degree in computer science a few years before; his whole life was ahead of him; he had no history of heart problems; he was overweight, but aren’t most of us?
My stomach still cramps at the memory of that 4:00 a.m. phone call from the hospital. My knees buckled. I could feel my heart start to rip again.
Michael was very tall, 6ft 5inches, blue eyed, dark brown hair, dimples in his cheeks, a sweet and handsome young man. Michael was 30 years and 4 months old when he died.
My heart was leaden. It could not beat. It was frozen solid. I felt nothing but pain, shortness of breath and mind numbing grief.
My oldest son Darren was the light of my life. My only chick left. I tried to mother him too closely. I HAD, I MUST keep him safe. Depression began dig in, deeply.
I slogged through my days, doing what I had to do, feeling nothing. I’d say the politically correct thing, when asked, but my empathy had vaporized. I felt the weight of my grief. I felt as if I was literally dragging my dead children around behind me.
One afternoon I had a breakdown. I’d just come home from work and I fell to the floor in my kitchen, sobbing, crying, begging my children and God for forgiveness because I had not been able to save them. I wanted to die.
The next day I went to my Primary Care Physician. She knew my story. She said she didn’t know how I’d managed for as long as I did without intervention. We talked for nearly two hours; she prescribed an anti-depressant, and within a few weeks, I felt the weight lift.
I could laugh without feeling guilty. I could physically love my husband with abandon again. I knew Jenni and Michael were in Heaven. THEY were fine. And I was on the road to healing.
Jenni died in April 2004; Michael in September 2005. This is 2012.
The overwhelming losses of my life left me scarred, vulnerable, and hurt, but with the love and compassion of my husband, son, friends, co-workers, and family members, I am on the way to recovery.
Grief and depression are no longer my best friends. They are merely acquaintances I acknowledge now and then.