(This is a quick overview “MY STORY” of my life, mostly to highlight the victories, challenges, and roller coasters we all ride in life. I offer some lessons that I learned at some points, and hopefully my perspective and experiences can help at least one person. Plus, some of you have just simply asked to learn more about me…)
In the last chapter I spoke about how things were going well, then I started to face some minor challenges, followed by bigger ones. This chapter is a big longer and frankly pretty heavy, and even sad. It is how the year went. Stick with me because although there was struggle and sadness, so many good things came out of it – lessons, support, resilience, independence, confidence, and more…but only after things seemed to get dark.
My career was going well, then the economy began to affect it, like many people.
My investment properties began to have serious issues, which later led to financial difficulties that would last years. My wife and I were living a lifestyle that was pretty high, so when income and challenges came our way, we were suddenly faced with an poor income to expense ratio in our household.
On top of all of that, I began to ask more poor questions, my self talk was more negative, and I made choices out of fear and desperation. I was focusing on what was going wrong. Sure, many things, like the Lehman Bros. collapse and the economic crisis were not my fault, but my reaction to them and other things were my fault, and I reacted poorly.
As Wayne Dyer says, when you squeeze an orange, whatever is inside comes out – orange juice. Since I was putting negative thoughts and questions into my brain and heart, that’s what began to come out when I got squeezed. It kept coming…..
Since the Lehman Brothers collapse and related crisis hit in that summer, the summer of 2008, my employer, a bank, incurred huge losses in another division. They decided that, to offset the big losses, that they would close 3 complete divisions and basically pull out of the commercial markets. So my division, and two others, were closed in December. 750 of us lost our jobs.
Like many other Americans, millions of us, we were suddenly unemployed. Most of us probably never experienced unemployment. I knew that it was a challenge but I never thought it would get as bad as it did- I expected that I’d find another job within a few months and be back in the game. I officially lost my job December 1st. So I coasted through the holidays and vowed to start searching in the New Year.
The New Year came and a few days into 2009, my wife’s grandmother passed away suddenly. Certainly anyone’s grandmother passing would be sad. Gram was very nice. I felt as if, and told her often, that she was my surrogate grandmother. I think many people felt that way. Her viewing at the funeral home was very crowded.
There were two large rooms filled with people. I’ve seen more people at other funerals but I never saw as many plants and flowers as there were at Gram’s. There were so many Hostas, flowers, ferns, and plants of any kind all over the place. We started running out of room. Most of the relatives took home plants – we still have one in our home this very day.
We were all sad for the loss of Gram but she had lived a long, full, fun life, so it felt somewhat natural, I suppose, since her husband had passed years before and she was older.
I began to send out resumes and also tried to act as an independent consultant in my industry. I was getting lots of interest and leads. I even got some deals approved.
I wasn’t getting many interviews or action until March came along. I had an interview that day with my former bank employer, although with another division. The interview went well. I remember driving to another meeting after and my sister called me in the middle of the day, which was odd. She said my dad may have had a heart attack and was going to the hospital. Serious, yes, but my dad had a few heart attacks and frankly I thought that it was going to be OK.
I went to my meeting, said a prayer, called our minister and asked for a prayer chain, and tried to move ahead into the day as well as I could. A few hours later, my wife called. My sister was too sad to call me, so she called my wife. My father had passed away.
Each year since they retired, my parents went to Florida for four or five months. My dad often played volleyball 5 times a week and softball 1 or 2 times a week. They both rode bikes and were very social. They went to parties, dinners, and all sorts of activities. I believe going to Florida kept them young.
That day my dad was playing softball, he was having a good day. He had 4 hits. He was up to bat and apparently joking with one or more of the guys about something. He paused and fell. It was over very quickly, I’m told.
My sister and I flew down to Florida the next day to comfort my mother and do what we could. We decided to use our excess and weird energy from the death to pack up their winter home, and basically pack it for good, so that she could return home to Pennsylvania. We spent a few days doing so and shipped it back.
We booked a flight so that we’d get in the day before the first viewing back in Pennsylvania. We tried flying out of Florida from one airport but delays and delays made it impossible to make the viewing. So we took a taxi from Sarasota to Tampa. Packed in the taxi with our bags, we had to call the funeral home and make arrangements for my dad’s casket and such, since we now weren’t going to be back in town in time, from the taxi.
We got to the other airport and had further delays. We ended up getting to my mom’s house at 4 a.m. and then had to pick out a suit for my dad. A suit that he’d be in for eternity. Not something you really want to do exhausted, grieving at 4 a.m….but we did.
The viewing and funeral were tough, sure, but there were so many nice parts I didn’t expect. I saw many friends and family that I never see. So many people shared so many stories about my dad – some I knew, some I didn’t. It was great to see and hear about my dad. He loved people, he loved life, and lived life to the fullest. We laughed a lot at the funeral home. We reflected on his sense of humor and all he was. He lived life to the fullest.
We took my mom home. We knew my mom had some health issues. My sister, my cousin and I all worked together so that my mother never was home alone after my dad passed away. We may have run out to the store for 30 minutes but otherwise we were with her 24/7. Soon we found that she needed a hip operation, so within about 2 weeks, she had part of her hip replaced. She had other issues and pain. In another week or so, we found out that her breast cancer had returned. The diagnosis was not good at all. It was a crushing blow.
We thought that my mom would face some radiation, maybe chemo, and maybe, at the earliest, she might pass away in the next year. She went down hill very fast. Within 5 weeks of my father’s death, my mom passed away.
The last week of my mom’s life was spent in hospice. Monday we took her in. Monday we found that the cancer was everywhere. She had lots and lots of pain. Monday night she got delirious from a dose of medication and for some reason she thought that I had to drive 2 hours home (it was 20 minutes) and she wanted me to sleep in the hospital bed with her.Tuesday seemed like a semi-normal day. She talked and although a little loopy from the medicine, seemed OK. Tuesday night brought more pain and other issues.
My sister and I had to decide quickly about hospice at home or at the hospital. We had to decide lots of things about her pain management, medication, enforcing her Living Will, etc. We even forget to explain the terminal condition to my mother. When it came up, we both froze and a wonderful hospice nurse explained to my mother that she was terminal and they couldn’t do anything for her. From now on it was pain management only.
My mother took the news calmly with much thought. She appeared to be brave in my eyes. Suddenly there were no more treatments or antibiotics – only meds to keep her comfortable. It was tough to get your head around. A lady came in and sang hymns to my mother, the minister visited often.
I called my wife and told her to pull my girls out of ballet early so they could visit her. They stood on either side of her and held a hand. She was clear as day and spent lots of time just talking to them. She did very well and I thought that it was beautiful. My oldest had to step out so that I could hold her as she cried.
Wednesday was a gift to me. I got there early. I could see that the medication from the night before was worn off. I asked the nurse to give her another dose. Before she came in again, I was able to say some final words to my mom, to say sorry for a few things, to say thanks for many, many things, and to say what a great life I had because of her. I also said that it was OK for her to go join my dad. She was in so much pain and distorted by her ailments but she barely mouthed ‘hug me’ and we shared one last hug. She was in such pain that she could hardly breath.
The nurse came in and gave her pain medication. My mom sleep the rest of that day and the next.
Friday at about 4 am, my mother passed away.
The year didn’t get much better. I continued to remain unemployed despite over 300 resumes and lots of effort. Independently………..