Sunday, March 22, 2009

Daniel's Garden


Daniel and sister Stephanie
Today was the first weekend day here in Virginia that the weather was nice. After being utterly frustrated as most of the yahoo groups I visit were down this morning, and have been erratic all week, I decided to work on the garden.
This years garden is bittersweet. Daniel wanted to continue our Fall work come Spring. Last fall, we worked on the grass and planted fruit trees. He was a great helper and is was fun to talk to him while we were working and it barely seemed like work most times. In September and October I remember him very healthy and moving well. It's still hard to me to believe he could be gone. Of course, since his sudden death in November, I don't feel like doing much, but Daniel would expect us to care for his animals, love each another, and complete his vision for the farm. All of a sudden planting the things he wanted has become important. This weekend I started in Jiffy containers three kinds of lettuce, green peppers, colored peppers, arugula, 7 herbs, squash etc. Then on Sunday, we planted the cherry tree, four kinds of grapes and two types of blueberries. There is more I should plant but this was enough for today. The dwarf peach trees, apple and pear trees Daniel and I planted two years ago will bear fruit, but for the first several years we remove it in order to divert strength to the trees for growth.
By five o'clock my husband and I were both tired. With our three eldest scattered to the ends of the Earth and preparing for school tomorrow, we are alone without Daniel My husband and I did not expect to be alone in our house like this, for many years.
Happy gardening, and life does try to go on.



 This is Jody McBrayer    LIVE     The song is:  To Ever Live Without Me

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Skittles"


I have always been aware, as a nurse, that many people, following the passing of a loved one, see things that are somehow familiar and in them, believe that the person they have lost is saying hello. Sometimes this takes the form of seeing a particular bird their spouse loved, or a particularly large flower in bloom,a rainbow over a favorite spot, or even a cherished song on the radio. In all, this is pretty normal, and reported fairly often, usually by people who are quite sane. A social scientist might believe that we associate these everyday things with our beloved lost person, and that when we see yellow roses, for example, we naturally think they somehow our lost beloved who loved yellow roses, sent this hint of their living on. I believed this too, until recently.
Since Daniel's sudden passing, a few unusual things have happened. First, there was the dream which I reported to all of you, in which the true cause of his death was revealed by Daniel to our son Matthew. The cause of death was confirmed by pathologists, just days later, who were completing their pathology at the time.
Another thing that has been happening, we refer to here as "The Skittles". We built a new home which was completed about three years ago as so we are quite familiar with the background sounds here, in all four seasons. When Stephanie and I talk to one another, we hear what sounds like M&Ms or Skittles dropping onto the oak floors, one by one. I have heard this a couple of times as I used the computer, but mostly it has occured when Stephanie and I have been talking. The last time it happened, it was so pronounced, that both she and I said, "alright" and dropped to the floor to look for whatever has been dropping around us. We found nothing. This stopped at about the time I reported this on a listserv I visit for bereaved moms.
After the Skittles stopped, we began to hear the sound of a tennis ball being bounced once in awhile, not regularly, in the room we are in. I have checked closets, bathrooms, decks and porches for what this could be. I wonder if it could be Daniel, just letting us know that he is fine and able,on occasion, just to check on us. Then I think that if someone who had sustained a terrible loss told me this, I would consider them to be showing signs of being just a little bit off the beam as a result of high stress. You may think whatever you would like.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Chickens With Daniel


About a year ago, in April, our daughter Stephanie and I were in the feed store buying feed for the animals when we saw a small chick lying flat in the cage with one of its legs extended behind it. The other chicks were pecking at it and it was being trampled. We asked the owner what was going on with the chick and he said that she had a broken leg and that once she died, he would throw the little pullet away. I bought our feed and asked if he could just box up the chick and give it to us. At least it could die in peace without being attacked by the others. We bought a quarters worth of food for it and were on our way. Stephanie named her Chickadee and we placed her at home in a box with a light. Stephanie deserves the credit for most of this as she took wonderful care of the chick, and I simply relocated the leg which eventually turned out to be dislocated rather than broken. Chickadee was very tame and eventually defecated only in one place in the box. Chickadee, who was supposed to have died shortly after we brought her home became a beautiful large snowy hen, and the only person more pleased about this than we were was the shopkeeper.
A couple of weeks later the shopkeeper broke his rule of only selling 6-8 chicks at once and sold us one more chick to keep Chickadee company. The chick was first called Charlotte, and when he grew a comb uncharacteristic of a female, he was renamed Charlemagne.
Charlemagne, an apparent Cornish cross, grew to be the largest rooster I have ever seen anywhere. He was tall and broad, snowy colored and had a very large and tall crimson comb on his head. He was quite intimidating and even our dogs avoided tangling with him. He also crowed very loudly. Daniel enjoyed these chickens very much and when they grew up, Matthew took on primary responsibility for their care, especially since Stephanie was at college.
We were sad to learn that these particular chickens were bred for size and meat and were intended to be slaughtered after only a few months. They were therefore, not the best choices for pets or even for breeding purposes. This was hammered home to us in the heat of summer when Chickadee died suddenly at about five months. Charlemagne was devastated, and so to give him someone to watch over, in the hope that he would remain here on Earth longer, we bought three hens who appear to be Brahma and Rhode Island Red crosses.
Our large rooster Charlemagne, as he heads toward a year old has been slowing down. Daniel bought a new rooster to be housed seperately named Ross in order to watch the girls in anticipation of Charlemagne's passing.
On Friday the 13th after a long day of running around the yard, settled in the corner of his cage and passed quietly. We buried him this morning. Chickadee and Charlemagne are once again together, and Daniel now has the chickens he knew first with him.
Charlemagne the Rooster b April 1, 2008 d March 13, 2009

If Only


The time between my last blog entry and now has been spent in many different ways. There has been crying and a lot of sadness as the reality of our situation soaks in, like black ink on a white couch. There have been moments of joy as we have contemplated how lucky we are to have had such a remarkable son and to have connected so well with him. There is still confusion and guilt. Although we have been told what likely caused Daniel's death, we still do not have a final death certificate, and we still do not have a written autopsy report. At last discussion with the team, they had sent out some brain slides for independent confirmation on the pathology. Since pineal cyst is a rare cause of death, it appears that they are making doubly sure, from a pathology standpoint, that this indeed a pineal cyst and not some type of brain malignancy or metastasis.
When I think of a cyst, a malignancy or metastasis in the brain of that beautiful boy, I feel sick, and I am riddled with self doubt. How could he function so well, academically and visually with his complex computer graphics with a growth in his brain which grew rapidly enough to kill him ? I don't understand this and it torments me. How could I, a trained former critical care nurse and college instructor not see signs and symptoms that could have led me to have some kind of a brain work up done in time ? I don't understand. I am bewildered and I want to appeal this entire episode to someone. If God can do anything, why can't he return Daniel ?
Did I love Daniel so very much that I missed symptoms that a more objective individual would have detected ? I was off for semester break and with him for two weeks before he died. I remember so many things, but nothing that would have led me to a mad dash to the emergency room. I remember how kind he was with our friends cat. I remember how he explained how he had created a particular game on the computer inspired by the movements Spiderman made in a game we had bought him. I remember his working on the computer until late at night and having to tell him to go to bed. I remember being so proud of him that I told him so. I told him that I was so proud of the young man he is becoming and that it has been a joy and privelege to raise him. The day before he passed when he wanted to spend more time at the Thanksgiving gathering with Adam's fiancee's family showing them what he did on the computer, I told him to save something for the next time. I actually said, "It's not as if you're not going to be coming here a lot more".
I am not the only one grieving. Our daughter Stephanie grieved by bringing two six week old Labrador retriever puppies home, given to her by a friend. She said something about how Daniel would have loved these puppies. I think this is true but they have been quite a bit of work. Stephanie has named them Zelina and Sebastian, and they are quite wonderful.
I am confused. How could my beloved son be gone ? If Heaven is so wonderful, why can't I go now ? If Only I had known something....something sufficient to have taken him to a doctor other than an allergist, in time.

February


I had not realized that I had not made a single post in February, but I suppose this is not surprizing. Daniel has a dog named Jake, a large male purebred German Shepherd that we rescued one Fourth of July about an hour before planned euthanization. We had seen the dog the week before and waited for the owner or someone to come for him. We could not leave such a majestic animal there to die. Taking him wasn't a bright thing to do as we already had other male dogs on the farm. In addition, Jake, who should have been about 100 lbs, was only 33. We thought heartworm was also a real possibility. We wook a chance and found that he not only didn't have heartworm, but that once his parasites were cleared, he gained weight just fine. He would follow Daniel, and all of us. Four years ago the vet told us that Jake might not make it through the winter. She cited that he was of advanced age and that hip issues and other disorders would affect a shepherd as old at ten. We put him on glucosamine chondroitin and vitamins and we were careful that he did not overdo. He really looked wonderful and functioned very well.
In February, Jake at 14, had a stroke. He was unable to use his rear legs, was newly incontinent, and had trouble eating and drinking. Because he was not in pain, we did not euthanize, but instead brought him in the house, hand fed him chicken and held his water dish so he could get it. We placed him on pillows with chux and turned him every 2 hours during the day. We kept him clean with baby wipes etc. He was not in pain and was cooperative and I think appreciative. This took almost all of our time. As the vet had indicated, he did improve slightly each day over that week, but one evening, I noticed his breathing was slightly labored. I told him that if Jesus came, or Daniel came to get him that he should go, and that we were very grateful for all the time we had with him here. We told him that we would be ok with his looking after Daniel in Heaven. A few minutes later, he was quietly gone. Jake looked peaceful and beautiful, and Daniel has his shepherd with him once again.
We will miss our dear faithful friend but know he joins Daniel and other beloved animals from this farm. We are lucky to have had him here, and fourteen years for a German Shepherd purebred is quite remarkable.



" I Know"    Sarah Slean