Grief – Just When Does It End?


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Dearest Readers:

July 6 is always a day of remembrance for me. Truly a day to spend the entire day in tears, or a day to give thanks. Why? Allow me to explain. During the stressful days of my dad’s terminal illness with esophageal cancer during December 1997 until his death on July 6, 1999, I have felt such a loss.

Dad kept telling me he was in the sunset of his life. I wasn’t ready to see the sunset. I did not want him to leave me.

I’ve had people tell me I need to move on. “Get over it. Life goes on…” Etc. ETC! It isn’t easy! Today is July 6, 2018 –19 years since the death of my dad. I remember the day, as if it was yesterday. After a demanding day at work, I rushed to visit him, like I did every day. I spoke to the nursing home earlier in the day. “Dad was doing fine,” they replied. “Fine!?!” If he’s in a nursing home he isn’t fine. Yes, he was as well as could be expected; nevertheless, over the last six months of his life, I watched his body slowly shutting down. First it was the weakness from esophageal cancer. His inability to retain his food. His legs grew weaker and he fell – LOTS. Each time the nursing home reported the falls to me, like they are required. And each time, I prayed a sigh of relief. Just one more day. Please God, give us one more day.

In March, his heart grew weaker, and I realized the end was near. I stopped praying for a miracle. In my nightly prayers I prayed for God to find a special place for my dad, to use his talents, his voice, and yes – even his temper. Dad could be a tenacious man when he wanted to be!

During my daily visits after March, I noticed Dad no longer walked me to the door, to kiss me goodbye. He simply waved his hand as he closed his Holy Bible. No longer were the visits welcoming or fun. He appeared to be angry at me, always waving me away after about 10 minutes of our time together. His roommate told me Dad was mean to me. “You deserve better,” Dudley said. “He is so mean. He should appreciate you.”

I smiled at Dudley. “Don’t you understand,” I cried. “Dad is dying. He’s angry at life.”

Sometimes when I arrived after a long, hard day at work, Dad would grow arrogant. “Just get out of here,” he shouted. “You know you don’t want to be here. Just Go!”

I admit it. At times, his anger got to me. I would leave the nursing home in tears. I did not understand his anger towards me. After all, I visited every day. Just what is the matter with him, I asked God while tears rushed down my face. Doesn’t he know I love him?

Dad and Dudley were the odd couple of Sandpiper Convalescent Center. They teased and complained, always trying to compete with each other. For a while, Dad had the upper hand since Dudley’s body no longer moved and he remained in the bed, or a special wheelchair. Dudley had difficulty with speech too, but after visiting Dad so often, Dudley and I were able to communicate without a problem. After March, Dudley had the upper hand as we watched Dad sit on his bed, or remain in his bed most of the time. Gone were his daily strolls with his walker.

I suppose I was counting the days down, knowing my dad and I would not share another holiday together. No more birthday parties. No more Christmas trees, Thanksgiving and holiday dinners together. Tick. Tock…How I wish I could make this clock stop and save my dad.

On the moment of his death, I was walking in the corridor of Sandpiper Convalescent Center. A nurse I recognized approached, pushing an oxygen tank. I remember speaking with her, saying Uh, oh. That isn’t a welcoming sign for someone. She nodded, never saying a word to me.

I placed my hand on the door of Dudley and Dad’s room and so did the nurse. Quickly, she nodded, telling me not to come inside.

I screamed.

“Oh, Dear God, No. Please…please….Please God, NO!” I cried.

Someone grabbed me, walking me to a chair and I sat down. I knew. The clock was stopping. My dad was dying.

I heard a voice say, Barbie. We can bring him back.

“No,” I cried. “He’s a DNR. I must honor his wishes.”

Moments seemed like hours. At 6:15 a nurse approached me. “I’m so sorry. Do you want to say goodbye?”

Yes, I nodded.

I waited a few minutes for my husband to arrive and together, we walked in to Dad’s room. Dudley was eating dinner. I could not speak to him. I touched my Dad – his body as cold as ice. His skin clammy. His eyes closed. I kissed him. Told him I loved him and I would never forget him. “You’re still here, inside my heart,” I cried.

I have no idea what happened next. I was numb. Dumbfounded. How would I live without my Dad?

After his funeral, I joined a grief therapy session and learned to move forward. Still, as the day of July 6 of each year approaches, I feel an incredible emptiness. Grief. Heartache. I ask myself, will this pain ever leave?

I think not. Today is July 6, 2018. Nineteen years today… Just how can it be 19 years? These years have flown by — just like someone opened a window, tossing these years without Dad outside. I must keep myself busy, remembering my Dad, Walter W. Perkins, and the goodness inside of him. Yes, he had moments of temperamental ups and downs, but he was my dad. As a child, I always looked up to him. I held his hand. We sang. He taught me how to harmonize and he always reminded me to “Make this a good day.”

I ask you how? How do I make each day a good day without my dad?

When do we stop grieving over those we’ve loved and lost? When does the heartache end?

After my dad died, I felt like an orphan. I have learned to move on and to recognize that each day is a gift. I plan to have a serious heart-to-heart discussion with my dad today while drinking my morning coffee. I will lift my head high, looking into the Heavens and speak softly to my Dad. Yes, I will probably cry, but now, the tears are good, cleansing tears because I have learned to move forward. To make the most of every day. July 6, 2018DSC_0230-001 is another day without my dad, but I am so thankful that I was there for him daily while he battled cancer. Yes, I miss you, Dad. I was blessed to share one more day. Thank you, God for giving us one more day!

Happy Birthday, Walter Perkins – My Dad


Dearest Readers:

On December 19, 1914, two identical twins were born in Michigan. Lewis Eugene and Walter W. Perkins. Never did I have the honor to know Uncle Lewis. He died at 26-years-of-age from Bright’s Disease. I believe it is an inflammation of the kidneys. After his death, my father reportedly changed to a sad, miserable man. He and his identical twin were inseparable until Uncle Lewis died.

I lost my dad to esophageal cancer on July 6, 1999. I confess, a part of my heart died on that day. My dad and I were bonded. During his terminal illness, I visited him daily at the convalescent center and hospital, unless I was sick with my episodes of bronchial asthma.

Today, I would like to wish my dad and Uncle Lewis an early happy birthday in Heaven. No doubt, tomorrow will be a sad day for me; nevertheless, I will focus on the memories we made. Singing together. Teaching me to harmonize. Sharing my poems and other stories with him, and hearing him say on WCSC Channel 5 during an interview, “No. I’m not the writer. My daughter, Barbara, now she’s the writer!” My heart melted when I heard him say that. Finally, he was proud of me!

Our life together during my childhood wasn’t a good one. From the age of five-years-old, until I was 15, I served as the referee between my mother and my dad. Their marriage was a volatile marriage, filled with “I hate you…How I wish you were dead…I wish to God I’d never married you… You’re nothing but a bastard!” From both parties the hatred poured from their lips like steaming hot volcano ashes rolling vibrantly onto the grounds. Poisons. Poisons from lips without love or any form of happiness. During my childhood, I believe their angers, hatreds and tumultuous physical battles were protected within our home. I do not believe my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends of the family knew about the dreadful, dangerous domestic battles my parents fought. Secrets. Protected, never to be shared, until now. I knew not to say anything. If I did, my mother would come after me, slapping, knocking and pulling my hair out. If I wanted to live, my lips must remain closed.

Finally, at fifteen, I stood between them for the last time, telling them one of you needs to leave this marriage and this house. You’ve always hated each other… The next day, my father packed up and left. My mother spat at me telling me she hoped I was happy now. Their marriage was over and it was all my fault.

I rushed into my room. Never confronting her. Never calling my dad. I pondered my heartache inside while praying I would see my dad once again, and I would sing with him again. He visited us after the divorce. He rushed to hug me, something he never did until the bitter divorce. Gone were the shouting and fighting matches. My father had finally found out he was a ‘better man,’ as for my mother — her poisonous tongue spilled hatred to me every time she could. Shouting matches. Slapping my face. Pulling my hair until clumps of my hair fell into her hands. Never did I share these shattered, horrifying days with anyone.  I was taught to be seen, but not heard. How I detested whenever we visited family members. I was told to “say hello. Give a hug and keep your damned mouth shut.”

And so, I did!

To escape the misery of my teenage years, I married at 17. After moving to Charleston, Dad and I became much closer. When he was 68, in 1982, we moved him to Charleston to be closer to a family member. I delighted in caring for him and visiting him in his apartment until 1988 when I had to find a job to save my home and family. My job was demanding, working 40 hours plus, including weekends.

In 1997, during the holidays, Dad became ill. In December, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He chose to battle the debilitating cancer until his death in July, 1999. During that time, we made wonderful memories. I changed jobs, so I could spend more time with Dad. I watched the wonderful, happy man he became and I loved him even more than he, or anyone, could imagine.

The week before his death, he sat in his room at the nursing home, reading his Bible, praying for God to ‘take me home.’ He was spiteful with me. Almost cruel, according to his roommate, Mr. Dudley. Dad would move his hands, telling me to leave his room. Although it hurt, I swallowed my pride and listened to him doing his best to detach from me. He did not want me around when he died.

On July 6, 1999, as I walked towards his room, I met a nurse, pushing an oxygen tank. “Oh no,” I managed to say, “that isn’t a good sign.” She nodded and when she and I placed our hands on the door of Dad’s room, I knew the moment of his passing had arrived.

I screamed. Cried. Hysterically, I sat in a chair, across from Dad’s room and I listened. The nurse wanted to know if I wanted them to ‘bring him back.’ I said No. He’s a DNR. Please do not resuscitate him. Let him go. He was praying to die soon.

Nineteen years ago, according to birthdays, my father celebrated his birthday now as an identical twin. No doubt, he and Uncle Lewis have caught up and replenished their lost years. I can picture them singing in the Heavenly choirs, inseparable and happy together.

Today, I would like to celebrate Walter and Lewis Perkins, better known as the Perkins Twins a wonderful Happy Birthday. Now, 103 years-of-age December 19 will be a joyous celebration in Heaven. I can hear my dad singing harmony with Uncle Lewis, probably singing Amazing Grace together while celebrating their reunion and Christmas.

As for me, I will be busy wrapping Christmas packages and maybe going out to get more Christmas goodies for our pups and for Phil. I always keep myself extra busy on December 19. While I am happy for my father to be reunited with Uncle Lewis and with God, I miss him.

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Angel Oak Tree, a gorgeous tree embracing Johns Island, SC

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to the Perkins Twins. Oh, Dad — how I miss you!

In memory of:

THE PERKINS TWINS

Lewis and Walter – Identical Twins

Separated by death at age 26;

Reunited with God’s love at 84.

Holding the gates to Heaven’s Door.

 Missing and Loving you both —

Walter’s Daughter – Barbara

 

 

To Honor Robin Williams


Dearest Readers:

Early last night while checking my phone I received a news alert — Robin Williams is Dead. “Oh my God…No…the man was brilliant. What happened?”

As I read the news blurb, I could not believe that such a brilliant, gifted talent — the guy who made me laugh, cry and feel so many protected emotions reportedly had taken his own life. Why? I ask…over and over again.

Robin Williams and I have something in common — DEPRESSION. Robin Williams fought the demons of depression, alcoholism and drug abuse while starring in many movies that made us laugh, cry, and ask probing questions. He was a gifted man who could ad-lib hysterical quotes that left me wiping my face while watching and listening to him. One of my favorite movies starring Robin Williams was “Awakenings.” He was brilliant in every movie he starred in. This morning, as I write this post, I feel such a loss. Never will I laugh at him in “Mrs. Doubtfire,” — all I can do now is cry when I watch his movies because I understand what depression does to us.

But what is depression? An estimated 19 million people suffer with depression, according to the website, WebMd. http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/default.aspx?query=depression

I could list many of the symptoms of depression here, according to the website; however, because I battle depression, I have experienced many of these symptoms, including the inability to sleep, lack of confidence, sudden, debilitating sadness, tears, unhappiness…anger. Depression is genetic for me. My mother suffered with depression, making her develop into an angry, miserable woman. She died alone, without any friends. I watched her as the demons of depression slowly took over her ability to laugh or enjoy life. All that was left of her before a stroke was an agitated, angry, bitter woman with a spiteful, poisonous tongue that could almost chew me up and spit me out. In 1988, I chose to break away from her after she emotionally abused me for the final time. I walked away without looking back as hot tears gushed from my eyes. I still loved my mother. Isn’t that what a child is supposed to do — to love our parents, regardless of how they treat us? That week, I went to my family doctor asking for help. I was horrified that I might become like my mother. I did not want depression to destroy me.

I have spoken about depression in my posts previously, and when I published my book “Condition of Limbo,” I discussed how difficult depression was for me during my father’s terminal illness. Depression isn’t something easy to write about. People do not understand it. They laugh or joke about depression, saying cruel things such as ‘she’s mentally ill,’ or ‘she’s just not right…’ Friendships are broken and you suddenly see yourself standing alone. Why? Simple. People do not care or maybe they are afraid that if they get too close to the person who is depressed, they might ‘catch it.’

I battle depression daily; however, I have found ways to get me going again. When I feel the depression wrapping me in its destructive, demon crushing arms, I thrust my hands out, as if I am brushing the depression away. I find myself forcing myself to either take a walk, to enjoy the freshness of warm, coastal air, or I step onto the treadmill and walk briskly for 60 minutes. I remind myself that if I work out and walk towards depression, I can survive.

Never have I been tempted to take my life due to depression. Yes, I have experienced many tears, and I have battled days of simply turning off the lights, pulling the shades, ignoring the phone or door bell, and closing myself away in my home. Fortunately, I have a wonderful doctor I can talk to. He understands and listens to me. For two years, I went to a therapist, sharing my most compelling thoughts and childhood experiences with her. She taught me how to confront my demons and I am a much stronger woman for sharing depression with her and my medical doctor.

Maybe it is true that only someone who suffers with depression can understand it. How I wish Robin Williams found a way to work through whatever pain he was enduring when he chose to end his life. Isn’t it strange that those of us who loved his talent, those of us who watched him on-screen and in person, really thought he had his life together. After all, he was a brilliant actor who could laugh or cry, right on cue. Words cannot describe how much he will be missed. I doubt another comedian or actor will ever equal Robin Williams. Rest in peace, Robin. The world will miss you so much, but your legend will continue — in all the characters you truly brought to life. Today, I plan to watch “The Birdcage” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “Awakenings,” while the tears of depression wash away — for one more day.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams!

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/robin-williams-dead-63-actor-comedy-tinged-personal-darkness-article-1.1900144

In Memory of a Friend…


Today is Monday, another beautiful day of life to enjoy and make the most of our day. After I awaken, let the pups out and pour a cup of coffee, I hop on the computer, to hear the latest news in the world, then I click on Facebook.

Reading a few posts on Facebook, I am shocked, stunned, broken-hearted. Why? I have lost another friend – a friend I knew in high school. A woman who always spoke to me in school. A woman I reconnected with at the high school reunion held in April 2013.

Becki Vinson Matthews looked beautiful at the reunion. Life and age had been good to her. I recognized her on the spot. Others, well, I didn’t recognize so easily. At the Friday night function in Uptown Columbus, we rushed outside to ‘dance in the street.’ The band was too great to ignore inside a bar atmosphere. Additional classmates — mostly girls — joined us as we danced, and danced, and danced. We chatted a bit and I listened to her chatting away about life, and grandchildren. On Facebook, we read posts and made comments after the reunion.

I was truly shocked to read that she is now an angel in Heaven, no longer with us. I confess, at the reunion, as I looked at the Memory Wall, recognizing most of the 60 classmates now deceased, the curiosity of a writer danced in my mind…curious as to who would be the next high school photograph to add to the memory wall.

It is unfortunate that our generation has reached a time in our lives where death will occur more frequently. Still, there are so many illnesses and deaths that will attack our bodies. Apparently, Becki died from a massive heart attack. Someone wrote that she was having chest pains before the heart attack. At our class reunion, she looked like the picture of health. Dancing. Smiling. Laughing. Catching up with each of our lives. She was a member of the “Sister Chicks” a group of high school friends still connecting, dancing and sharing life together. She and a few others wanted me to become a ‘sister chick.’

I am still in shock that she is gone and I am happy that we purchased a memory book from the reunion. Hopefully, when the day arrives and I receive my copy in the mail, Becki will be the first person I look for. She was so kind to me, telling me at the reunion that “I had no idea you could sing so well, Barbie!”

I laughed. “Yes, I suppose my secret is out now, isn’t it!”

Before we left the reunion I hugged Becki, thanking her for her warmth and thoughtfulness. Never did I realize that would be our last hug together.

Rest in peace, Becki with that contagious smile on your beautiful face and warmth surrounding you. Our classmates will miss you terribly.

To those of my class who are reading this, and to all of my readers, I would like to share a bit of advice. Heart disease is on the rise in America. Please visit the website, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp
to learn more about the guidelines for a heart healthy life. We are told to eat healthy, move and exercise regularly and to get a physical yearly. At my last physical, my doctor ordered an electrocardiogram. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/

I am happy to report mine was — as my doctor expressed, “Perfect.” I was so pleased since my husband had a quadruple heart bypass in early 1998. I am constantly nagging him to exercise more and to watch what he eats carefully. He ignores me. Please, if you are reading this, make a pledge to yourself to take care of yourself, and please understand, Becki looked like the picture of health in April. Slim. Trim. Active. Energetic. We never know when something might occur to take our health away, but I am a true believer in living life to the fullest every day. And, when tomorrow comes, we must do what we can to protect our health. We hear of people dying quickly from heart attacks and many of those people did not know their heart was about to stop. Becki complained of chest pains before her death. Please, let us all make a pact today that if we have any of the symptoms of heart disease, or if we simply do not feel well, let us get to the doctor or hospital, to make certain we are well.

Symptoms of a heart attack:
Chest pains
Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach,
Shortness of breath
Nausea
A feeling of lightheadedness or fainting
Cold sweat
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health//dci/pods/trans_heartatt.html
Call 911 to get immediate treatment, please.

In memory of Becki Vinson Matthews – a classmate, mother, wife, grandmother, sister chick and a dear friend. Rest in peace, beautiful Becki. We will miss you!

On Whitney Houston


February 11, 2013 was the first anniversary of the world’s loss of a dynamic singer/performer, Whitney Houston. The world still mourns her loss, along with her magnificent voice.

To her family and friends, I wish you peace. Yes, it was heartbreaking to watch her “Homecoming” ceremony. I was one of the many glued to the television and my heart broke when “I Will Always Love You,” was played as she was carried in her casket from the church, to her final resting place.

Words cannot describe how much we miss Whitney. The last of her years were not that good – drug addiction along with the loss of her voice. When she struggled to come back, I cheered her on and was mesmerized by her performance in “Sparkle.”

For me, as a dedicated fan, I cannot understand why so many of our performers grow so attached to the drugs that eventually kill them. Look at the loss of Elvis Presley in 1977 – a victim of prescribed drugs. Since 1977, there have been many losses of our idols. Such a shame.

For Whitney, I wish her well, hoping and praying that she is singing her heart out in Heaven. God had a purpose for her. Although we miss her, perhaps she continues to sing “I Will Always Love You,” for our loved ones in Heaven.

God bless you, Whitney. We “Will Always Love You!”