I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Suddenly everything changes

Me and Hedi

This picture was taken at Hedi's house, when we celebrated my 75th birthday a few years ago. One of the things she always did was buy me a rose; the one in the foreground is from her. 

Last week, Hedi underwent surgery to repair what started as a hernia and grew into a large hole in her diaphragm. She endured the surgery well, and she came home last Thursday. But something happened: she went to bed around 9:00pm and never woke up. I can't find out anything further because her husband Dan can't talk about it right now. But the one thing I know for sure is that she's gone. My dear friend of thirteen years has completed the other end of her "dash," 1943–2021.

Hedi lived in the same apartment complex as we do, and I met her not long after we moved here in early 2008. She was an accomplished seamstress and that's how I first met her. Over the years she has repaired or altered many items of clothing that I will now keep forever, just to help me remember her and what she could do with her sewing machine and her talent. She also joined me in the vegetable garden for several seasons.

It's one thing when we lose someone who was expected to die, like my mother who had numerous heart attacks before the final one. Mama was in a coma for over a week before she died, and we had time to get used to the idea that this was the one that would take her from us. Both of my sons died unexpectedly: Stephen of spinal meningitis that sickened him in the morning and killed him that night, and Chris, who died of a heart attack while jogging. When I think of how many times I've had to reconcile myself to a changed world in a short period of time, I am thinking I should know how to handle it by now. But I don't, I really don't, and I am now grieving over the loss of another dear friend.

Grief is normal and needs to be given time to process. It doesn't have to be a person or a beloved animal to trigger grief; it comes from loss in many different aspects of our lives. I am still grieving over the loss of that extracted tooth removed earlier this month, and although the recovery period is just about over, I still miss that old friend and explore the hole in my mouth often. There's no going back, though, unless I decide to spend a fortune and have an implant where the tooth was. I'm not going to do that, not at my age. I figure if you live long enough, you get accustomed to all the small (and not so small) changes that occur in one's body as it ages. Hedi and I had many conversations about that, and I was so looking forward to how she would blossom after recovering from that surgery. Instead, she died, and all the dreams I had of our adventures, once she would be strong enough, also die with her.

It's Memorial Day weekend here in the US, and many of us will be taking some time to remember those who died in active service defending our country. The cemeteries will be busier than usual, with lots of flags and flowers placed on graves. And there are plenty of us who will take the time to remember the loved ones we have lost over the years. It's a time of reflection, as well as the unofficial beginning of summer. The days are long and the nights short, and the official beginning of the season will happen in just a few weeks, on June 20th, three weeks from now. Then the days will begin to shorten and the nights lengthen, until we reach the end of September and begin the fall season. The cycle of seasons, the inevitable gradual change from one to the next, continues throughout the year, one following another, until we finish our own journey on the planet.

According to timeanddate.com, which has a date calculator along with lots of other fun things, I've been on the planet for 28,671 days, or 41,286,240 minutes. Now that's one way to estimate how much a million actually is: I've only been around for a little more than 41 million minutes! I don't even want to think of how much a trillion is: way more than I will ever grasp during my short little journey through life.

And here is a wonderful quote from one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, who has now passed herself, but she has this lovely message for those of us still here:
When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.
I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country to no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake.
I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting?’ with ‘It is here in my heart and mind and memories.'

And with that message, I will leave you for another week, and during this coming week I wish that every good thing will come to you, and that you will be filled with love and joy for all that we still enjoy each day. One of my favorite things is to visit with my electronic friends through your posts and comments.  Be well, dear friends, until we meet again.


Linda Reeder said...

I am still dealing with the death of my sister. While I don't go around with a heavy heart, I just miss her. I think about calling her, and then I remember. Her death was not sudden, but it was unexpected. She was supposed to be getting fixed. Like your friend.

gigi-hawaii said...

Oh, that is a beautiful poem by Maya. I love it. So poignant. I, too, had a hernia that was misdiagnosed and then repaired in 2012. It was quite an ordeal. My condolences on the loss of your dear friend.

ApacheDug said...

This genuinely hurt my heart to read, I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, DJan. When I first opened your blog and saw that lovely photo of you & Hedi "behind" that rose... I suppose I thought I was about to read something entirely different. Still, you posted a very kind tribute. I hope her poor husband is doing alright, women seem more able to get back on their feet after losing a partner than men do. You know, I've been a fan of your Sunday blog here for some time, and just wanted to let you know I appreciate your contemplations here. You always give me much to think about. I hope your spirits are lifted this week DJan, a little at least.

Marie Smith said...

So sorry for the loss of your friend, Jan.

I agree with Maya. Losing someone you love is harder than the thought of one’s own death.

Boud said...

I'm so sorry for the loss of a lovely friend. It's so hard to get used to that open place where she was. I'm old and have seen half a dozen friends end their lives in a few months. I keep forgetting, and hoping to bump into them. You're wise to let grief come as it will, ebb as it will.

Thank you for the gift of telling us a little about her.

Elephant's Child said...

I am so sorry to read this.
You have written a lovely, lovely tribute to your friend. Maya's poem is perfect (as so much of her writing is).

Rian said...

Oh DJan, I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. We lost a friend that way last year. He too had surgery and was 'getting fixed', but returned home, and died unexpectedly. It bothered me for a long time, even though we have lost friends and family over the years and you'd think we should be better able to accept it.
And as for the loss of your tooth, I have 2 missing from one side of my mouth (luckily towards the back) that our dentist constantly wants to either put in an implant or do a bridge. At my age, I'm not doing either. I do my cleanings and what fillings (hardly ever) may be needed... even a cap on occasion, but some things I don't think are necessary at this point in my life.
I will pray for you and your friend's family.
Question: (has nothing to do with this post) but I see where it says under this area to Email follow-up comments to sharonhartdegen75@gmail.com. I don't have this email...???

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so sorry for the sudden loss of your friend. Sudden losses, be it illness or accident I think are the hardest to comprehend. I hope her husband has a support system.
I so agree with Maya. I can accept my own last journey with no fear or apprehension but I dread my family or friends taking that trip.

William Kendall said...

I am very sorry.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I am sorry to hear about Hedi. You have written a wonderful tribute to her. Your story here has made me think about the book I recently mentioned to you, Proof of Heaven, by Eben Alexander, MD. After reading that book I am certain we will see other souls we have loved in our after life. On another topic I was looking forward to leaving this comment today to say thank you. Well, largely due to reading Eye on the Edge, I purchased a book you recently recommended, The Final Chapter. My wife and I looked over the book and realized we needed to make some final, but not easily made, preparations for our own final chapter. We located a lawyer, not an easy thing to do, who helped us prepare our wills for a reasonable fee. We also decided cremation was the right thing for us and now, at the right time, all that is necessary to take care of that very final thing is one phone call. Getting this all organized has taken away stress and anxiety about not being prepared. So, thank you DJan. John

Glenda Beall said...

My deepest sympathy on the loss of your friend, Hedi. This is the second time recently I heard of someone who went into the hospital for surgery, was recovering well and then suddenly took a turn for the worst.I am avoiding hospitals if I possibly can, and dealing with a knee that is painful much of the time. But I don't want to go into a hospital except to visit a friend.
I know you are grieving and you should grieve. So many of my peers have passed away in the past few years. I mark their names off my address book, my contact list and realize that my name will be marked off one day and who knows if it will be soon or later.

aurora said...

So sorry to hear of the sudden loss of your dear friend. I think one thing we can all agree on is loss is never easy, regardless of circumstances. Hope the fond memories ease your pain.

Red said...

I'm sorry for the unexpected loss of your friend. It's very sad when someone does not survive a more or less routine surgery.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Unexpected loss is so hard. My sympathy to you, may your good memories give you some comfort! Good friends are hard to find. I am thankful to be your friend:)

Galen Pearl said...

Let me add my condolences to the others. I'm am so sorry about your friend. You have tragic familiarity with sudden and unexpected death, having lost your sons this way. Grief is a process that all of us will have an opportunity to engage with. Many of us are already very familiar with it. It becomes a companion as we go through life. Welcome or unwelcome, it walks beside us. It follows the pain of loss, and it can help carry that pain if we let it. Be kind to your heart.

Betsy said...

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend Hedi. She sounds like a lovely woman whom I would have loved to meet. I am still trying to come to grips with the loss of my blogging friend Teresa Kasner who passed unexpectely a few weeks ago. I knew her well as an "in person" friend too and I feel terrible that I hadn't seen here since the Covid battle began. Who knew we wouldn't see each other again this side of eternity? I'm glad we kept in touch with calls, texts and emails along with our blogs.
Take care and be kind to yourself. My sympathies to her dear husband.
Blessings and hugs,

Anvilcloud said...

While protracted death watches are not fun, I am sure that sudden deaths are extremely jarring, and you have had more than your share. Peace.

Mary said...

I’m very sorry for the loss of your friend. I have not experienced that yet, but I know it will come. I am a widow and that was a life changing event for sure even though the marriage was not ideal. My Mother is the one I miss the most. I think of her every day and it’s been 31 years.
Oh but to lose two children, I just can’t even imagine. That would have done me in. You are very wise and must be very strong.

Hilary said...

I am so sorry for your loss. I have lost a couple of friends in the last few years, and I know, it is very, very hard. I can only say that it gets better with time. But you will never lose that sense of loss.

Linda Myers said...

Oh, DJan, the sudden losses are so hard. I had a friend who died suddenly early 20 years ago, and I still have a hard time believing it. The college roommate who introduced us to Voyager, where we live in the winter, passed away last year. I still half expect to see her at one of our activities.

Gigi said...

Oh, DJan. My heart is heavy for you, her family and all who knew her. My very sincere condolences. You and the family will be in my thoughts as you navigate through the grief.

Rita said...

The older I get the more people are crossed off in my address book. One day it will be me. Harder when it is sudden and unexpected. So sorry for your loss. I hope her husband has a good support system. love and hugs

Tabor said...

So heartbreaking to lose a friend and her husband must be devastated. It happens to us all, but as Maya said, accepting our coming death is much easier than being left behind by loved ones and friends. I wish you a warm and sunny week ahead with happy memories.

justme_alive said...

Sorry for the loss of your friend.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

I'm so sorry about your good friends passing. I know the grief. My mom who was 98, passed on April 14, 2021 and I miss her everyday. When I think I've gotten over the sorrow, it overwhelms me again. It's a hard process to go through. I'm wishing for you comfort.