Lessons in Death

My brother just died after a long battle with Cancer. Fucking Cancer.

Anyone that knew us knew we were polar opposites.
He was Republican – I am a Democrat
He had 4 kids – I have no biological kids
He was aligned to my Mom — I was aligned to my Dad
He watched horror movies — Me — NOPE!!
But we were still brother and sister and toward the end of his life we learned to put away our differences and found appreciation in common ground.

We even took a funny picture at my Dad’s funeral.
“Look Dad, your kids are getting along”

My mother took us all to Disney after my Dad died. It was probably one of the best weeks of my life. Jim and I had time to just hang out together and enjoy food and rides and the company of family.

Its a Small World Ride

Jon and I got married in May. My brother and my humor continued as you can see in the photo below.

My wedding May 27th, 2018.

When I knew his life was coming to an end, I started to text him. I realized there were so many things I didn’t know.
Here are a few out takes from our conversations —

His Favorite Bible Verse
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who calld you out of the darkness into his marvelous light 1 Peter 2:9

I asked him is favorite thing about each of his kids

Jackie – her humor
Jenny – her kindness
Jasmine – her humor
Colin – his thoughtfulness

The last text from him said “Thanks” in response from me texting him “Happy Birthday from the Bahamas”

Two days before he passed I did a Facebook Video call to tell him goodbye. (thank you Kris)
I’m sad I didn’t get to hold his hand or put my hand on his cheek in those final hours — but at least I got to say goodbye.

I know he is in a better place, with those we loved that passed before us.

RIP Jim.

4 Years

Centerbrook Cemetery – Mum’s for the Socci’s

Today marks 4 years since Charley died. His mother always decorated the graves during holiday times. I try my best to get a Mum plant down there in October and something for Christmas. Since Charley died in October it gives me a reason to visit around that time. He’s not buried here as he was cremated and I have held onto his ashes for all these years. When the marker was first placed, I did take a small amount of ashes and bury them right in front of his grave marker. The marker was important to me so there would be a place for people to visit. Today when I arrived I was touched to see that someone still remembers my mother-in-law, Lily.

I decided it was time to let go of the ashes. I knew I wanted to put them in the water, in a place that meant something to him. So after the graveyard, I headed to Hammonasset Beach.

Hammonasset Beach, Madison, CT

Along with the ashes, I had my wedding bouquet and the roses from Charley’s and my Father’s funeral saved in a ziplock bag. I tossed the dried bouquet and flowers into the ocean. There is something so peaceful about “big water” I opened the urn but I couldn’t get the bag out of it! Really Charley, difficult in death like you could be in life? This could just be my fault for waiting for so long to let them go! I was able to pour some ashes onto the sand — but there was more traffic on the beach than I expected so I decided to try to find somewhere a little more private.

At the beach I reserved some of Charley’s ashes and put them in a small urn with my Dad’s ashes — because eventually I want them mixed with mine —

Charley spent a lot of time in Old Saybrook “playing HAM radio” so I got back in the car and drove to Saybrook Point.

Saybrook Point – the final release

In the movies you see these romantic scenes of people releasing ashes…well, let me tell you — when someone around 200lbs is cremated…there are LOTS of ashes! I wasn’t successful in spreading them at the beach so I had about 3/4 left inside of the urn.

It was such a beautiful day — I walked along the point and found this little nook — some of the ashes made it into the air, and the rest landed in the water…I spent some time watching them get washed out into the ocean. I know Charley is at peace…and it felt good to let the ashes go. My life has come so far in these past 4 years. I’m grateful for everything. The difficult times and the joyful times… Amor Fati … love your fate.

Attending the Cremation

Originally posted November 11th, 2015

I started to watch a YouTube channel called “Ask the Mortician” This was before Charley died.

She had started out as a crematory worker, and I am finding out this is how most people start their funeral director life.

So, I knew I could be there when Charley’s body was cremated.

I thought I would either be scarred for life or it would help with closure.

When a body is cremated in the State of CT you don’t have to embalm the body if there will be no showing. I was glad because I knew Charley didn’t want to be embalmed. I don’t either. The body has to be in a container. In this case its a wood base and cardboard box. They use cardboard tubes under the container to help roll the container into the oven. I hate calling it the oven. Anyway, Alex joined me to watch the container being placed inside. I had a rose placed on top and that was the only   smell that came over me The crematory itself is a small building with a reception area that has a desk and a few comfy chairs. There is a large glass window and behind the window where the bodies are cremated. So they have the container in place and raise the curtain so you can see it being placed inside.

Then they close the door to the oven and close the curtain. I was told that I could stay so I did. The gals were so nice to me. We talked about how the gals choose this for a profession. About other losses. Then she told me she was going to “move his body” and did I want to see. I said yes. I braced myself as she opened the curtain again and then opened the door. I looked inside as she very gently moved his skeleton forward. The flames were hot white and orange. The most prominent thing I could still see was his spine and ribs. His spine looked so strong. The bones pure white. Peace came over me in the most comforting wave. She closed the door and I was ok. I decided to open up YouTube and played one of Charley’s videos and cried. She opened the door 2 more times and each time there was less to see and at the end it was just glowing embers. It looked like a field of stars. It was peaceful and beautiful. They rake the cremains into a container and then process them. The cremains go into a bag that has the medallion the body was cremated with attached to it. Then they go into the urn. The urn was warm when they gave it to me. I placed him on the passenger seat and took the scenic way home. I felt much better once I had his remains back home.

The Day my life changed forever

Originally posted on Socci.com November 10th, 2015

it was Sunday morning. Charley and I had been sleeping in separate rooms for over a year at this point. This habit started out of conflict and then became habit as I found I slept better alone. Well, thank goodness that is not a transition I had to make after becoming a widow.

but I digress….

it was Sunday. I woke up and decided I should let Lucy out first, many times I would let Lucy “sleep in” with Charley.

Then, I saw what no spouse should have to go through. At first it didn’t register with me, the dogs were on the bed and Charley looked strange. He didn’t stir like he usually would when I went to get the dogs. I noticed he wasn’t breathing, then I noticed he was cold, ice cold.

I can’t tell you how many thoughts ran through my head. I had found Charley OD’ed on psych meds in 2008 but was able to bring him round that time.

I called 911.

I knew he was all ready gone.

They still tried to revive him.

Then more police and firefighters came…the poor young volunteers that had probably never seen a dead body before.

It took 4 hours before they finally took his body to the ME office.

And then I was alone, and I had to start making phone calls.

It’s one thing when it is your own pain, your own despair,

but when you have to tell someone that their friend, father, son-in-law, died. you change their life forever too.

And it sucks.