Choosing Loss

Cheery title, eh?

As I’m clearing my mind (and to-do list) for an afternoon of writing, I’ve been thinking about a decision this past week.

I decided to accept loss.

I don’t mean loss right now or tomorrow (knock on wood), but choosing to get involved in someone’s life whose future is not certain.

That’s all of us, isn’t it? But in this case, I mean a quilting granny friend who has reached out to me over the past year. We’ve met for lunch, for coffee (tea for me), and for heart-to-heart talks since I met her (almost exactly one year ago). A mutual friend introduced us, and “Carol” has a granddaughter who served as a shortcut to friendship.

Carol also has PLS, a slower and less well known form of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease, of the ice bucket challenge fame). Up until recently she had been doing better than even her doctors expected–driving in an adapted van, taking care of her family, and working in many capacities at church.

She’s told me that she thinks of me as a daughter, and she has a limitless capacity to love. When Sara died last fall and things went crazy with my house guest, Carol kept me sane. She was the one who helped me to see that things were not working out and I needed to stop playing chef/chauffeur/babysitter/personal maid. The second I did, house guest moved out.

Last month, some scary things happened with Carol’s health and no one knew what the outcome would be. I mentioned it in passing (amidst the general comment that Advent Calendar season was the most difficult I’d experienced in a long time), but I couldn’t process it at the time. We hadn’t been in contact for a little while, and then I heard she was on a ventilator and the family was looking into assisted living.

(Keep in mind that the last time I’d seen her, she was zipping around town doing her own grocery shopping, errands, and providing childcare for her granddaughter. Also keep in mind that I saw my friend Sara for the last time standing on her own two feet in seemingly good health, and the next night she had the stroke from which she never regained consciousness.)

Sara was the quilting granny I felt closest to at church. She was the kindred spirit I’d known all my life and perhaps even before that. Carol was the next, a gentle soul who held my hand through losing Sara and made me feel it was okay to experience this much grief for a woman I hadn’t even known a full year. The thought of losing Carol, too, was more than I could bear. (And, of course, there were other personal things going on that took away my resources for coping.)

Last week, a few things shifted into place and I reached out. I told her, among other things, what I’d been afraid to say for two months…that I was afraid of her dying. How could I say that to someone who was already dealing with so much? She has lived with this illness for years.

She answered immediately, and she said, “I’m not as fragile as I was. Let’s have lunch. Tell me when and where, but hurry. I’m hungry!” (It was already 12:30.) And, “You need to see I’m not dying.” So we did and I did, and instead of feeling foolish for telling her something so silly we talked for three hours. We stayed so long at the restaurant (it was a salad buffet) that I had dinner before going home. 😀 And the next day, she asked if I could watch her granddaughter just in case she (Carol) got home late from having her van fixed. She took me out to dinner as a thank you, and she asked if I could baby-sit the next evening as well. Then her husband came home, and we talked about the issue we’d been tiptoeing around all week–could they hire me for regular, part-time help around the house and with the grandchild? I hadn’t wanted to volunteer because I’m not trained in home health care, and she didn’t want to ask for fear of imposing. (She hates needing help. I’m sure none of us can empathize.)

We’re still working out the details, and no one knows how Carol’s health will hold. It’s an honor to be the one who can step in and take some of the weight off her husband’s shoulders, and to allow them to enjoy more time together as a couple. At the same time, I know I’m not going to be qualified once she needs more specialized help. I worry that I will treat her as a patient in my effort to do right by her, and in the process she will lose a friend. But at the same time, it is such a good feeling knowing I have something to offer. I like taking care of people, and I would do it for anyone not in a wheelchair and not with a terminal illness. I do it because I like that wonderful cozy feeling of knowing I’ve made someone else’s life a little bit easier and a little bit better.

But as I drove home that night after we made arrangements, I took a deep breath. This was it. Sure, we’d all said at any point we’ll re-evaluate if the situation isn’t working, and at any point her health might deteriorate so they need to hire an actual nurse instead of a friend. But until that point, I’m in. I’m all in.

At some point, I will lose Carol. I hate to think of it, but it will happen. I hope later rather than sooner. A lot later. But whatever happens, I will be part of it for as long as they need me. And if they no longer need me in an official capacity, I will be there as a friend.

These past two months when I haven’t been able to think about it, the potential (and I thought imminent) loss was unbearable. But her health has gotten stronger, to the point that if I help out with everyday things she no longer has to consider assisted living. I want her home, zipping around in her wheelchair and scaring me half to death when she stands up to reach something (because I will never, ever insult her by offering to help). I want her rolling her eyes at her husband’s opinions and muttering, “Are you going to stop bossing me around?” (It was so cute!)

She’s the only quilting granny (person at church, really), who knows what I write. She thinks it’s great. 🙂 I wrote about the confession here. “Who knows what’s under that quilt?” Hehe.

I will lose Carol at some point, and I accept that. Until then, I have her.

Choosing to accept loss means choosing to remain part of life.

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30 thoughts on “Choosing Loss

  1. mrenn2014 says:

    Ahh…loss. It’s something our family is quite aware of. In the space of two years, we lost my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, my dad and my father-in-law. It was a hard time for all of us. The one that will bring me to my knees is my mom. I don’t see her as much as I would like as she is 4 hours away. I make the effort to visit for the weekend every 4- weeks. Not always successful. I talk to her as much as I can and I accept that everyone dies. It’s scary! But, life goes on and I enjoy the time we have. I hope you have many years with Carol!

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh, yes. Mothers. They make us scream ourselves hoarse, and the thought of losing them makes the world tremble. No matter how conflicted the relationship, there’s never anyone like our mom.

      Sometimes we do have to step back and say nope, can’t do it. That’s what I did in December, when I lost quite a few people (although not necessarily to death) in a very short amount of time. There’s that push/pull to our ability to deal with things. Sometimes, it’s not there and it’s not the right time. All we can do is keep moving forward.

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  2. SH says:

    Ana, what a wonderful thing you are doing by helping your friend. I think by being her friend and now her helpful companion, you are going to look back and be very thankful you did when she is no longer here with you, which I hope is years away. You, my friend, are an amazing woman! 🙂

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’m not ready to lose anyone just yet, so if something happens unexpectedly and rapidly I will be a basket case. But for now, I will love. How often love means accepting the possibility of hurt! (And I don’t mean spanking…hehe) Hugs…you are pretty amazing yourself.

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  3. awesomesub says:

    Hi Ana, although what you write about, loss, is such a sad topic, you have written a rather positive message. 2013 was the year when we had to talk too often about loss in our family and I simply had no words left when it was the third time. And I admire you for being able to talk about this and in such an open way too, and Carol’s reaction is funny. I am glad that you have the chance to be with her, to help her and as a friend. That’s awesome. I hope Carol will be there for a very long time!

    hugs

    Nina

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Love and loss and life are all interconnected, aren’t they? I can talk about this today, but boy…it wasn’t pretty last month. Really not pretty. It took a lot of time and a lot of grace for it to happen.

      I just love her sense of humor. She’s so irreverent. 🙂 Hugs back.

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  4. laurellasky says:

    What you are doing for your friend is wonderful. At times it will be really hard but extremely gratifying. When she passes you will have more closure and less feeling of guilt knowing that you did everything you were able to do for her.
    When my sister was terminal I came back from overseas where I was living to stay with her until the end. It was the hardest thing I had ever done but I am glad I did. We spent quality time together and laughed, cried and enjoyed each other. It was an amazing experience and even though I mourned her I knew it was worth it.

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’ve learned that the worst sadness/goodbye is not losing someone after a time to grieve, but to lose someone who is still alive but can’t interact in ways that are not hurtful. Terminal illness and death are horribly painful and not fair, but at the same time there is no one at “fault” who has done something hurtful. It’s still hard, though! I am glad you could be with your sister. Those are memories no one can ever take away from you.

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  5. Julie says:

    Hi Ana. I think you’re last sentence sums it up beautifully. You’re not Choosing Loss. You’re Choosing Life, and accepting that sadness and loss are part of the journey.

    That’s the choice all of us should make, I think. To embrace life, with all of its highs and lows and joy and sadness, instead of hiding and pretending that we’ll somehow be protected from pain.

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  6. Chickie says:

    You know, it’s funny how people are all too willing to accept negative people into our lives. They suck the strength out of us and bring us down. Then there’s these unbelievably wonderful people who we tend to push away because we’re afraid of the hurt. When that inevitable time comes though, you’ll be better off for all the experiences you did share with her not to mention the joy you bring to her entire family. Not to overly compare people with animals, but we do see a similar pattern with animal adoption too. It’s very hard to place the mature animals because people tend to think its a waste. But no, love is never a waste, even though somebody is bound to feel pain in the end.

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      For sure. That’s my motto for this week. One positive person back in my life; one negative person gone. It’s a balance.

      I do understand the cuteness factor of kittens (guilty) and puppies, but I agree about full-grown animals. What I do understand, though, is the hesitancy to take in a pet who is close to the end of the lifespan. It’s not an easy task for anyone.

      I like what you say about love never being a waste. Even if the relationship ends up not working out, I’d like to believe the love was still real.

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  7. Lisa says:

    Ana so sorry for the loss of Sarah, but Im so glad that you are able to help Carol in a less formal capacity and make them more comfortable and that you like doing that. We dont have enough people doing that now.. Bless you Ana you are one of a kind..

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I’ve always liked taking care of children, but since joining my new church I’ve realized my love for older people. I hadn’t always had positive experiences in the past, but a few key people showered me with such love and acceptance that I’m finding such joy in their company.

      Hugs and blessings to you…and welcome, I think? Your name is new to me, and I hope I haven’t neglected to say hello to you before. Thank you for stopping by! ❤ Hope to see you often.

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  8. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…I am so happy you are able to help Carol. Just treat her as you would want her to treat you if the situation was reversed and you will be fine. Even after she needs more specialized care, you can still visit with her. That was the sad thing with my dad…his friends dropped away once he was diagnosed as terminal. Something else to keep in mind…we never know when we are going to lose someone so don’t ever be afraid to reach out in friendship. You are a lovely friend and Carol is so lucky to have you! Sending lots of prayers and healing energy for Carol.

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I would be so glad if she holds steady–there are a couple precarious things that could change her situation at any time. I can see why people drop away for fear of experiencing loss, but it’s a painful choice for everyone involved.

      I think we deal with what we can handle at that moment. Sometimes it does mean shutting people out of our lives, and people may judge…but no one knows what we can handle. I’ve thought about this a lot this week as I’ve chosen to open up to Carol and shut down to someone else. Some people bring us joy, and some bring negativity. It’s time to choose the first instead of the second. 🙂

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  9. Laura says:

    One thought you had was you were concerned that you would treat her as a patient and in the process she would lose a friend. I really don’t believe that will come to pass because of the person you are. This was a wonderful, helpful blog and you have impacted more of us than you will ever know. 😘

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It’s difficult dance, though. If I don’t help enough, there’s no point in my being there. If I help too much, I might take away what she wants to do for herself. I hope we can read each other well enough to keep from hurting feelings, but it’s a hard situation for anyone to lose part of independence.

      If this has been helpful, I am so glad. ❤

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  10. rozharrison says:

    Hi Ana, what a beautiful and heartfelt post. I am so glad that you are able to help Carol. It is such a wonderful thing you are doing. You are a true friend and will be such a blessing to Carol and her husband.

    I agree with the others. I don’t think you need to worry about treating Carol as a patient rather than a friend and I think being there now for and with her will help bring you peace and comfort in knowing you did all you could to help.

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  11. renee200 says:

    Ana, you are a wonderful friend and person. You give of yourself fully and it is often expressed in your writing. The one thing I have learned from friendships with people who are older is many of them have wisdom that they want to share. It is wisdom that is earned and learned through their own experiences and not just words. Although you will feel loss when she is gone, you will have all the memories that you make together to remember her and keep her alive in your life. Enjoy the journey and keep all the positive good memories from it. They will warm your heart in the future and grow your own wisdom to share with others. Blessings, R.

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  12. Katie says:

    I am really happy for you here, Ana! 🙂 A wonderful choice. You know, I think that we can’t have enough people to love and to love us back. With that will come endings because we are alive, and all living creatures will pass at some point. But how wonderful the ride between the start and the end can be. I think that one can stuff so much joy, learning and loving into the space between the two.

    You are going for it! What a blessing you are, and will continue to be to your friend. Sometimes it is hard to get out of ones head in these kinds of situations. But by you going there, and being the loving friend that you are, I am guessing that you will find your way, as well as much joy. Many hugs,

    ❤ Katie

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  13. Tina S says:

    Hey Ana, loss is very hard. I work at an assisted living facility, and it’s always hard when we loose residents even knowing it will happen. It never gets easier. Do you think even though your not trained that you could learn simple things that would help when the time comes? It would be special. Take care

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