Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grief Story #4 contributed by Jade Sawyer

Fourth installment of the community grief story project.

Grief Journey
By Jade Sawyer

Thank you all for bearing
witness to this journey…
concentric, or is it a spiral? I know
it wasn’t linear.

The first huge bolder of
pain was coming home from school
to find no one home but my
brother, who was acting really
weird. It was obvious that he was
clueless as to how to explain what
was going on.

In pieces, like a torn sheet
of tissue paper, things were sorted
out to me. The state police had
come and taken Mom to the State
Hospital, not for what she did
wrong but for what she wasn’t
doing: a catatonic state where she
had just broken down and was no
longer functioning.

Back then a police person
had to transport and sign in a
patient. I would have told you she
was gone for about three weeks
but it was more like two and a half
months. I was numb, I can’t tell
you who cooked or shopped or did
laundry. The central hub of our
lives was absent and none of us
were very functional.

Three years later, my
father, the light of my life, had his
first heart attack. I heard
pedestals crashing. First Mom and
then Dad. I knew I couldn’t count
on either any more as main
supports. Dad rehabbed, even
played tennis but three years later
died from a massive heart attack.

The first time I was taken
to the daughter of the doctor, a
family that were strangers. I
WANTED TO BE WITH MY
FAMILY. The 2nd was the longest
40 minutes of my life.

Ironically, I was in the living
room of the house where my best
friend’s family used to live before
they moved. Gone were the easy
chairs and the memories of making
forts & having popcorn watching
Disney. No, this had formal and
cold d├ęcor, and I suffered a very
long wait. Once again I had been
dropped off for protection but
felt more like abandonment to me!

Finally my mom came in. Her
face matched the white drapes (I
knew what she was going to say and
how hard it was for her.) “Your
dad’s gone. The last thing he said
was, ‘give my love to Janie’.”

She became horizontal after
that. When I describe her that
way in a 12 step meeting, someone
will inevitably come up to me after
& say, “Thank your for putting it
that way. My mom was horizontal,
too.” Mom never really recovered
from Dad’s death. Friends & family
were there for us for a while but
support eventually falls off. I don’t
know who shopped, cooked or
cleaned. I do know that at some
point each day mom would cook
herself a steak and then not long
after eating, she lay back down on
the couch.

My two oldest brothers had
gone on to college and I eventually
had my license. My 3rd brother and
I would just check in as to who
most wanted/needed the car and
head out. “Jet” I used to call it.

Sometimes I still do that. Rather
than stick around until my
responsibilities are met as a
householder, I jet out!

I stayed numb for a really
long time. When I was in my first
summer school towards a master’s
in teaching, two of my three
brothers showed up at a dance
where I was celebrating my 21st
birthday. Gary, my favorite, came
in and I was totally exuberant and
just a little bit drunk. He asked me
to come outside and there was
Alan, #2 brother in the car. It was
a quiet, beautiful summer’s night
but it soon darkened with Gary’s
explanation as to the purpose of
their trip. They had driven all that
way to tell me in person that Mom
had died from her drinking,
complicated with the heavy
medications she was taking. My
oldest brother found her at home,
having passed a few days back.

Before Mom died, loving
adults had counseled me to “Go on
with my life, pursue educational
dreams.” I had stayed close by
home, turning down some schools
with more status but also more
distance.

My undergraduate school
was a blast. Fabulous teachers, a
full scholarship, and spoiled rich
kids who knew how to party !! I
would go home on weekends, check
on mom, and often borrow the car
for the weekend. Super stressful,
difficult classes gave way to
fraternity “mixers.” Lots of alcohol
and my sorority mixed with one of
the fraternities. Trust me I’m not
the sorority type but that was how
people found their niche, status,
and alcohol!

Now, I was to be careful
because sometimes my dad would
drink too much and at the end Mom
became a late stage alcoholic.

When I found cannabis, there was
a match made in heaven: stuff all
my feelings, enjoy music, dancing
and change from “a 3 to at least an
8”. The major stressors of my
senior year fell away and I was
able to maintain the grades I
needed as a scholarship student.

FAST Forward to 1984! I
decided (or God did) that it was
time to get clean. And in 9/14/2014 
I celebrated 30 years.

This is a big deal but I tell
newcomers just don’t drink or use
and don’t die!

In the 12-step community,
one both sponsors newer people
and has a sponsor. I’ve lost several
…first a wonderful woman with a
brain tumor that was cancerous,
MY ACOA sponsor. When I woke
up and started working AA, my
sponsor in that program died after
just a few years of our working
together. I just lost Mary TW,
who had over 40 years of sobriety.

As I age and grow in sobriety, my
own mortality becomes more and
more apparent. I try to simply
wear it on my shoulder, like a great
teacher.

My best AA friend just died
three years ago and we were both
good teachers for each other. I
miss her very much. She thought
she had beat bladder cancer having
had a brilliant doctor construct a
new bladder for her but the
cancer reoccurred. A small circle
of us would meet at her magical
home in Cheshire and have
gratitude meetings!

The greatest privilege was
to sponsor a newly returned
woman, a “retread” as she called
herself. She found she had a brain
tumor after falling, and losing her
speech. She completed her 4th
step, one that can be a long and
arduous process, in 48 hours. She’d
always say, “love and light, that’s
all there is !” I got to sit with her
on a nearly daily basis post
surgery. I’ve never been clearer
that I was exactly where I was
supposed to be doing exactly what
I was supposed to be doing. The
tumor was in that area of her brain
where speech function occurs. She
became embarrassed and only
wanted her mom, myself and her
housemate, who was working full
time, to be with her, so I carried
mornings, daily.

Her surgeon got as much as
she could and then shared only half
truths with her post op. I let her
know closer to the truth, as we had
a pact that I wouldn’t dress
anything up. I didn’t share exact
things but did let her know that it
was likely that the tumor would reoccur
at some point.

The surgeon told my friend’s
mother, and a few of us, that
Marilyn would seem normal and
then after 6 months, go down hill
really fast. It was much shorter
than that- more like a month. I
was able to literally orchestrate
people from her church to come in
pairs, only five minutes each, or
less, to say goodbye and/or
express their love.

HIGH LEVEL
SERVICE.

She passed the morning of
my expected return from a
conference at the coast. Her
mother, too didn’t arrive in time,
which her mom described as “just
like her.“ So many teachers have
agreed to come into my life to
bring their lessons and when it’s
time, they cast off their bodies.

I still miss fishing with my
dad, rowing the huge boat for him
as he said (it scared the fish
away), gardening with my mom,
reading the big book with Marilyn
and cracking up as we identified
with some of the descriptions and
characters - probably the most, my
spiritual connection with Susan.

What I know now is that
when I am missing someone, that’s
his or her presence. That they are
with me. Spirit has brought me to
here to CSL and the wonderful
teachings, treatments, and classes.
As Holly Near says in one of
her songs, “My past has brought
me brilliantly to here” !!!

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