In Honor Of My Parents

Patricia Marie Bryan

I am a 39 year old woman. I am an only child born to parents when they were in their 40s. I have one son who resides in another state and is in the military. Two years ago, I quit working outside my home to care for my parents. As they moved into their 80s, my main concern was neither of them were ever placed in a nursing home. After working as a secretary for two decades, it was quite a change to be home. I learned to do a lot of things I did not know I was capable of. I spent the last two years running errands, taking them to doctor's appointments, maintaining their home and their lawn.

I cared for them as they cared for me my entire life. I was extremely fortunate to have a husband who made it possible for me to care for them. He was very understanding because he had spent the last four years caring for his aunt after his uncle died. I took my mother, who was 81, everywhere.

Shopping, to shows, for ice cream; toward the end, when she was getting a little senile and a bit blind, I would rather have watched six preschoolers in a store but I am so glad I did it now. On the morning of October 17, she had a massive stroke and died on the 22nd. I then spent 76 days caring for my father. Those 76 days were the happiest days of my life. He was so easy to care for. Daddy and I baked Christmas cookies. We rented movies. We made chili. We had dinners together. We talked. We laughed. At 85, he insisted on doing his own cleaning, laundry, sewing. He would never allow me to help him with anything he could do for himself. He suffered from leukemia for several years but it appeared to be in remission. At 3:30 in the afternoon on January 5th, (the exact time of the day his wife died), he suffered a massive heart attack and I found him lying dead on his bedroom floor. Eleven weeks apart, on a Friday both times, at 2 PM, I buried my parents. They were cremated and placed in matching urns. I had succeeded.

Neither of them had been placed nursing home! I consider my life a success now though I miss them both dreadfully. Somehow, both of them found a way to let me know everything was OK. About a week after my mother died, my dad wanted the house cleaned out. (And he meant cleaned out.) I was doing the best I could but I felt awful because my mother had been a real pack rat.

All I could think of was that she would be mad at me for cleaning the house out so quickly. My brain told me to get Daddy's house in order for the sake of his own mental health so I forged ahead although my heart felt bad. As always, I went to my parent's home in the morning. Entering the kitchen, I placed a cup of water in the microwave to heat it and proceeded into another room to talk with my father. When I re-entered the kitchen, wasn't that cup of hot water placed neatly on the table at my place - just as my mom had always placed it there. It was a gesture on her part to tell me everything was OK. Then, about three minutes into my father's graveside service, on a day with no wind, didn't his urn with the ashes in it fall right over onto the ground from a three foot high pedestal! My dad would have thought that was the funniest thing he ever saw! I truly believe he caused it to make us all laugh. It was his way of telling me everything was OK. It has now been six months since her passing and four months since his. I go on knowing I will always miss them and love them.

Patricia Marie Bryan

anniversary date 10-22-94
date of post 05-19-97

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Crisis, Grief, and Healing: Tom Golden LCSW