Dear Me

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…


6 replies
  1. Kate L. Wall
    Kate L. Wall says:

    Dear Joan,
    Reading the news yesterday, I’ve thought often of you today. I well remember when my dad died (less than 24 hrs after coming home from the hospital; in his sleep, in his bed; exactly 7 days before my birthday). How you’re able to write anything is beyond me. You’re completely correct — Don’t operate machinery — including the phone (first reaction on reading that: No shit!).
    “New normal” took me awhile — about 3 months, if I remember. Finding folks to laugh with about foibles & other things was an enormous help (laughing was almost a necessity).
    Through the incredible void that I’m sure you’re feeling, please try & take a breath and — laugh. As certain folks say, it gets better…
    Kate Lasell
    [No reply.]

    • joan
      joan says:

      Thank you Kate. Many years have passed since the 1979-80 TESC Human Development program! I want to thank you so much for your note as well as generous support of Dave’s Scholarship fund. This is how we will continue his teaching and love for learning. He was genuinely touched. So, laughter. My new bad television watching for laughs is Hillbilly Hand Fishing. It’s an Oklahoma adventure, of course. And Dave having been an Tulsa boy, doesn’t hurt either. ~Joan

  2. Ellane Chandler
    Ellane Chandler says:

    I just read your news, Joan.

    As always, my heart and love go out to you and Dave both. Here’s to not one, but TWO, splendid human beings and teachers.


  3. George Schroeder
    George Schroeder says:

    As inevitable as this event was to all of us, it is never easy at the moment of truth. David as passed to the other side of the veil and he knows what we all wonder…what is there? Our loss cannot be measured but time will remove the pain and replace it with great memories.
    He is now talking with the great philosophers…Socrates, Thomas Jefferson, and Lewis Grizzard.
    I am thankful I had the chance to reconnect with Dave and you over the last year and my wish is that you know that you have a friend in Florida that will open his home to you for a visit when the days get short and the weather gets nasty and you might need a place to visit and just be. Please keep in touch.


    • joan
      joan says:

      I love the thought that his is holding his own with the great philosophers! For that he doesn’t need our help. LOL


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