Thursday, February 16, 2012
Dear me and you (family members):
This morning I am struck mightily by the thought that we have crammed what is typically three days of mourning into a 24 hour period. Or maybe it just feels like three days. “No memorial service” in this moment does not mean that death ritual and time is not required to process what has happened around us. There is no preparation for the emotional side of loss even when death is expected, imminent or predictable. What you feel is what you feel. Accept the time and attention to feel in the moments that break through the numbness or fog.
The world will still revolve, stars will shine, projects will be done somehow in due time. No economies depend on our actions today. The overwhelming love that comes pouring our way may serve to exaggerate the pain, joy, anger, confusion and loss of the man and his deeds. After all, there are decades of words and touch to flood our minds.
Breath is life and my cry is breath “on steroids” right now. Wailing and silent tears both are cleansing. The ache in your head is to make you slow down and acknowledge the pain.
Sleep is nature’s healing. It slows your heart, your mind and your breath to a manageable pace. To wake is a startling reality check. You must tell your tale again to soften the edges.
Don’t operate heavy equipment. This includes the phone. That’s what friends are for.
This day is just the baby steps of the new journey. The time known as the “new normal” that will slip into bring normal one day. Life has changed for you forever. Don’t try to make it any different; you can’t. Yes, it is what it is.
* * *
The task of newly bereaved is to call people and inform them of the death. Over the year of our time on hospice I developed a call list of people especially important to Dave who might want to know in the immediacy of his death. (I still have my grandmother Mom-Mom’s list in her handwriting with the names of visitors in her last weeks of life. She wanted this used to make calls I think. That memory was the reason I made a list for Dave). This not only made my calls easier to accomplish, but enhanced our experience. Included on the list were key people in his work, music and life who could network out the information.
Dave stayed in our home from his time of death at 3:38 am to around noon. Because we are not holding a service or viewing in the next days, I was able to notify a few who came to say their final words directly. Perhaps this is why our one day has felt like three.
Before I hit send on the FB post I ran through a list of my friends and support and family members I wanted to make sure wouldn’t Hear-It-On-Facebook-First. Happily only a couple of folks slipped through. However, many of my daughter’s friends did hear it through this grapevine even without her posting on her own wall. Hmm… social media.
The following was posted directly to my family and friends via Facebook on Wednesday afternoon.
February 15, 2012
RIP David Lee Hitchens
September 13, 1939 – February 15, 2012
This morning Dave left our earth and transferred to a new consciousness. I believe him to be out exploring the Universe piloted by his nine-year old curiosity and his lust for learning. For now his body rests at the funeral home clothed in his Sponge Bob Square Pants jammie bottoms with a not matching gray check jammie shirt as he chose to wear most recently despite my otherwise coordinated wardrobe efforts! He gets the last laugh on me for this one. I happily relent. Accessories include his “Cancer Sucks” bracelet along with a pair of warm socks. I trust he is no longer constrained by neuropathy, cancers, missing parts or the physical things that made navigating an environment with gravitational pull difficult for him. The light he started here shines on brightly in our hearts and stories, and leads the way on his new journey.
If you have a Dave story to share, please post on his website linked here. If you’d like to offer your gentle thoughts of love and prayers this is a great place. If you are inclined to brighten our world with gifts or traditional flowers, we request you instead please contribute to the David L Hitchens in honor of Frances Marie Rasmussen Scholarship (linked from his website) to perpetuate his love for higher education and our love for him.
The entire and extended Hitchens family was fortunate to be together during the last day and hours of his life. A public Celebration of Life remembrance of Dave will be held in an upcoming month, date to be determined.
See you later, alligator…