Sunday, May 1, 2011

April is the cruellest month - T. S. Eliot

I'm sure I won't be able to get five lines into this post without crying. Last month, I told my husband I was all cried out for April, but it seems the tears still flow freely in May. I'm not trying to be a downer, but if my blog is a journal of my life, this was the last four weeks.

In the Army, circa 1940.

My Papaw (my dad's father) went into the hospital the first week of April with pneumonia. Prior to that, as in the previous week, he was driving himself to the Waffle House and doing his own grocery shopping.  We celebrated his 91st birthday last August, and he was still going strong. But, pneumonia takes a hard toll on aged lungs and after what appeared to be some improvement shortly after entering the hospital, his condition refused to improve.

After a week in the ICU, he was moved to a rehabilitation hospital. I have no idea why they call them that; it was the same facility where both of my grandmothers were transferred before they passed away. I spent as much time as I could at the hospital with him and with my family. He wasn't feeling very good and was really struggling to breathe, so he wasn't much for conversation at that point.  However, he didn't let even one of his grandchildren (of which I am the oldest) leave his bedside without telling them that he loved them and how proud he was of all of us.

After fighting for almost two weeks, his condition continued to deteriorate. Congestive heart failure began to complicate things, and recovery was no longer an option. I won't ever forget the moment he told me that Jesus was waiting for him. As a family, and with his wishes in mind, we made the difficult decision to move him to hospice care.

He passed away in his sleep on April 19th. My papaw was an amazing man. A strong Christian, a hard worker, and the handiest guy you could ever meet. He built my Mamaw the most awesome greenhouse when I was little and I remember spending hours in there potting plants with her. I didn't know until last month that Papaw had constructed the greenhouse out of discarded glass shower doors. Papaw was green before green was cool. I'm sure growing up in the depression helped him become the clever handyman he was.

In the center at the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, circa 1941.

He was also a veteran. Papaw served in the U.S. Army during the second world war. While stationed at the Schofield Barracks in Hololulu, Hawaii, the Army's ground defense for Pearl Harbor, he dodged bullet fire from Japanese Zeros on December 7, 1941 as they made their way to Pearl Harbor and attempted to destroy the Army barracks just north of the harbor on the way. He went on to serve in New Guinea and Australia before he came back to the states with malaria. 

With Shea in 2006.

Although losing a loved one is inevitably a part of life, the foreknowledge that it will happen someday isn't much consolation when that day comes. Thank you, Papaw, for teaching me that the best beverage to drink with popcorn is milk, for teaching me how to stir syrup into my peanut butter and achieve the perfect smooth consistency, and for teaching me the game of 42. Thank you for raising two wonderful sons who grew into great men and teaching them the value of family. I'm going to miss you, Papaw.

Papaw's funeral was on April 22nd. Life didn't slow down as Shea's birthday was the following week. That third week of April was busy catching up on housework that didn't get done the first couple of weeks of the month and getting ready for a slumber party that weekend. Life was moving too fast to have time for tears, but just when you think you might get to catch your breath, wham! Another blow.


Puppy Gizmo

In March of 1997, the most adorable Yorkshire Terrier in the world came to live with us and we named her Miss Gizmo Matilda. We'd been married for four years and were childless, so Gizzy was our baby. It wasn't long, four months to be exact, when we decided to get her a playmate and brought home her brother from another mother, Buster.

Gizmo's age (she was 14 on February 20th) began to show the last few years. About three years ago, she developed cataracts and lost most of her vision. I think she could still see shadows and could always hunt down a little patch of sunshine coming through the window to lie in. If you've ever heard that Yorkies are hard to housebreak, believe every bit of what you hear. After losing her vision, Gizzy never could seem to make it to the door to tell us she needed to go outside, so any semblance of being housebroken was gone. The last year or so was really tough.

Me and Gizzy, March 1998

On the 27th, Gizmo started acting strange. She wasn't eating, but I thought it was because her mouth was sore from a trip to the vet the previous week to... um, well I'll spare you the details, but he worked on her teeth a little bit. On the 28th, she slept almost all day. When she finally got up at about 4:00 p.m., she was stumbling and having trouble with her balance. I called the vet, who had gone home for the day, and made an appointment for the next morning at 7:20 a.m. Her condition deteriorated very quickly that evening.  She went from not being able to walk straight to not being able to stand, then not being able to sit up, and having terrible trouble breathing.

Gizmo's favorite pastime; getting her paws on some paper she could shred!

We debated taking her to a 24 hour clinic, but I really wanted her to see our vet. I stayed up with her until just after midnight on the 29th when I fell asleep after placing her in her usual spot, on a pillow on the floor on my side of the bed. After she lost her vision, I didn't let her sleep on the bed anymore because she would walk off the edge in the night. I woke up at 3:50 a.m. and reached down to touch her to discover that she had passed away.

Gizmo around 1999.

When I was a kid, we had outdoor dogs that would come and go, but I had never developed an attachment to a dog until Gizmo came along. I sat down earlier to look for some photos of her which helped me realize possibly why losing her hurts so much. She and Buster were a major part of our lives for 14 years. Out first house, she was there. The birth of our daughter, she was there. Every Christmas since 1997, yep, there's a photo of her and Buster in front of the Christmas tree. Every event held in our house, birthdays, anniversaries, graduation celebrations, she was there, perched like a princess in someone's lap.


I had no idea the kind of grip that puppy had on my heart until she was gone. I can't think of her without my eyes flooding with tears. Another inevitable moment that you know will come someday, but I could never have imagined this pain. I'm sure the circumstances aren't helping. I feel guilty for not taking her to the 24 hour clinic. I feel guilty that she died right there next to me, but was alone because I was asleep. I know that guilt is a useless emotion, but I can't shake it yet. I suppose it will get easier, but right now it really, really hurts.

So, April 2011, good riddance. There were glimmers of happiness as we celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary and Shea's birthday, but in general, April stunk. I'm hoping May can bring some peace my way. I covet your prayers right now as I struggle for a glimmer of the bright side.

60 comments:

Neicee said...

I feel your pain...I lost my precious Chloe ( also a yorkie) on Valentines day 2009..I came home to find her in a pool of her own blood. I could not help her rushed her to the vet.. She passed away.. only 9 years old! the same week found my daughter 18 years old barely breathing during a suicide attempt... She did survive..but what followed was 3 years of agony ...It was extremely painful time I did not know how I would be able to face one more thing.. But I did. you take it one day at a time..

Jodi said...

Nothing I could possibly write will help you feel better now, Melanie, just know that I will be thinking of you and your family this week, and hoping and praying you find some peace and comfort...

LynCC said...

Aww, Melanie. :( Hugs and prayers, both, for you. {{{{ }}}} I'm so sorry for your losses.

I'm sure the 24-hour clinic couldn't have done anything for Gizmo, and she undoubtedly felt much better spending her last moments next to you, tucked in her special pillow instead of at some scary, nasty-smelling place with painful needles. Even if you were sleeping, she had the comfort of her normal routine and your care. You did the right thing.

chloeandme said...

I could not make it though reading this without having to stop and get tissues from crying. Im so sorry for your loss. You have been very blessed to have your Papaw for so many years! What a handsome young man he was too. Im so glad you have so many great memories to latch onto. I also have a Gizmo and I don't know how I will handle the day when he will pass. Animals add so much to our families don't they? Thinking of you in this difficult time...Jackie

NorahS said...

I am so sorry! What a rough month! Praying for you!

Lindsay said...

Your Papaw sounds like an an amazing man. I wasnt fortunate enough to know my grandpa well. Im glad that you have such wonderful memories with yours.

Gizmo knew she wasn't alone. She passed knowing you were at her side, loving her to the very end. She will be dancing like a puppy at the rainbow bridge waiting for you.

Shelley said...

I've got tears in my eyes right now reading about your beloved Papaw and Gizmo (which is perhaps the cutest dog name I have ever heard). I'm praying for you to have a peaceful and renewing May, and all the remaining months of this year.

Hugs to you,
Shelley

Allison said...

Hugs to you...love, Allison

AnnieO said...

You write so beautifully of your Papaw and your lovely memories. How wonderful that you were so very very close. 30 years ago I lived in Hawaii for a couple of months with some family friends, the husband of whom was C.O. at Schofield Barracks at the time. Most people don't know that Schofield Barracks was the first target of the Japanese airplanes. My deepest sympathy on the loss of your Papaw. He sounds a true gem.

And loss of your treasured pet Gizmo that you've had so many years, unimaginable sadness on top of grief. Many tears are yet to come and I hope your memories help you through them.

Candace McClintick said...

Oh, I'm so sorry.

greelyrita said...

I'm crying right now. It's hard, I know. What's the point of such pain? I don't know that.

BaileyGirl5 said...

I'm so sorry for your losses. What a tough, tough month and my heart goes out to you and your family. I'm sure your sweet little girl was glad to spend his last moments tucked by you in her own bed. Your father sounded like a wonderful man and left a wonderful legacy.

Jamie said...

Hugs and happy memories for you, Melanie. What a crappy month!

Corinnea said...

I am sorry your heart is broken with these losses. I wish comfort for you and your family.

Karamat said...

Hugs and prayers for you and your family.

Val Miller said...

Gosh ... so sad for you and your family. Hugs and thoughts are coming your way.

angie said...

My heart aches for my sweet friend. Please know that you and your family are in my prayers.

Michele said...

my heart goes out to you. I can't say I understand the loss of a grandparent (mine passed before I was born), but i could have written the same words about my dog Shirley, who passed away a year ago this past September. I still miss her. I did not expect her loss to devastate me so much, but as you said, pets are a part of our lives and families. May God comfort you in this dark time and may He wrap His loving arms around you.

Bailey said...

So sorry for both of your losses last month. Here's hoping a new month is a better month.

stitchinpenny said...

Praying for you and your family.

Rhanda said...

I am so sorry for your losses. I'll pray for you. Take care of yourself.

OhioLori said...

Praying for you Sweet Blog Friend.......sending Hugs of Comfort & Friendship. :)

Nicky said...

Sorry to hear of your losses - it's hard to lose one treasured family member but two is too much! You did the right thing with Gizmo - he would feel better at your side! And wasn't you grandpa an amazng man - you must be so proud of him! And he was proud of you!

Cardygirl said...

Sad times...it has been a horrible month for you! You will be in my thoughts.

Camilla said...

Oh what a month for you, hugs and prayers for you and your family.

Celia said...

Sorry to hear about your losses...
I feel for you...

Jane said...

My condolences to you, Melanie. What a terrible month. You've written lovely tributes to your grandfather and sweet pet. Hope the time passes quickly till you are feeling better.

Dirt Road Quilter said...

Sending prayers of comfort and peace from the end of the dirt road. Take time to mourn and I pray that soon, the precious memories will be a comfort and bring a smile to your heart. Sounds as if you have loved and been loved well. That's a precious gift.

bearpaw said...

You really have had a rough time, I am so sorry for you. Your pawpaw sounds like an amazing man. I had to really steal myself to read this as I am going through similar stuff with my parents, my dad (87) had pneumonia and was in hospital a couple of weeks ago, but it looks like he is getting better now and will be ok. And my mother, who is 86 this month and has alzheimers and leukemia is slowly dying in a nursing home. I don't know whether she has days or months, I just want her to find peace. Dying seems to be a very hard thing to do. So April has not been a good month for me either (as well as February and March come to that!). I am sending you all my love and hoping you will feel more hopeful soon.

Rachel Hauser said...

Melanie, I'm glad you shared this with us all and hope that your support will be a small part of your healing process. Your grandfather was clearly an extraordinary man. What a blessing to know that he's now walking with Jesus, and that you'll see him again!

As an aside, our cat Pompeii died on Friday April 29th. We'd had him for 8 years. It was shocking and painful. I know.

pinsandneedles said...

I'm so sorry for your losses and will keep you and your family in my prayers. You have such beautiful memories that will live with you forever.

Carolyn said...

So sorry to hear about your losses. One alone would have been hard enough. I am glad to hear, though, that you had such wonderful love in your life. You'll be in my thoughts...

Julie said...

I am so sorry for your losses of Papaw and Gizmo. May all their wonderful memories bring you peace and happiness in the days ahead. My husband is a veterinarian and he said that you did the kindest thing for Gizmo. A 24hr clinic couldn't have saved his life & would have done many needless tests on him. You gave him your love and presence by allowing him to die naturally by your side rather than in a clinic. Your love for him in his last hours was the greatest gift you could have given him. Mourn your losses and let time heal your broken heart.

Chris said...

Oh... now I'm tearing up too. I don't think your little Gizmo was alone. She was next to you, on her pillow in a place she was used to. She was calm and quiet.
Believe me, I've been to the 24 hour clinic. There is nothing happy or peaceful there.
Hang in there.. *hug*

jeri said...

So sorry for your losses. My prayers are with you and your family during this most difficult time.

Amanda said...

I am glad you had moments with your papaw right till the end, how very blessed you are. I know it hurts. I have zero family alive on my moms side (including my mom and dad and I am only 35 now so much my father has missed..walking me down the isle...). Rejoicing he is with the lord now. saying a prayer for you and your family.

Ellen said...

I'll keep you in my prayers. <3

julia said...

i know it won't help you but i'm sitting in front of my computer with tears in my eyes...i'm so sorry for your losses. i kep you in my thoughts...

Laura said...

I'm so sorry. Your grandfather sounds like an amazing man! It's so wonderful the relationship you had with him.

Little Gizmo is a cutie. Little dogs can create such a spot on our hearts.

I'm sorry for both of your losses.

angela said...

I'm so sorry and I am crying for you. Death is never easy, but it sounds as though your grandfather lived a long, amazing life and he had all of you there with him. You cannot feel guilty about Gizmo. She was old, and she was sick, and it was just time for her to be at peace. Had you taken her to the 24 hour clinic, she would have been put through H**l so it's better that she died at home with the people she loved.

Heather said...

So sorry for your losses - it must be very difficult to grieve two major deaths right after each other. I lost my grandpa this year too, and totally agree that knowing it is going to happen doesn't make it any easier. He is up there in heaven with your grandpa now swapping war stories and waiting (joyfully) for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Melanie, your post is so heartbreaking. I found myself crying for you and your losses. Your Grandpa sounds so much like mine. He passed when I was pregnant with my son fifteen years ago and I still miss him terribly. He was an awesome man and a faithful Christian. In fact, I love and serve our Lord Jesus today because of my Grandpa and what he taught me. Your are right is saying that nothing can prepare you for this kind of loss. I'm sorry too about Gizmo. Sometimes I feel that losing our beloved pets is worse because they can't tell you what is wrong. Don't beat yourself up. She knew that you loved her and that you were beside her. I am so very sorry that you have faced some terrible times lately. Thank God for the wonderful memories that you have because they will stay with you forever and carry you through this difficult time. Blessings. Stacey

A Plain Path said...

I am sorry you are enduring a time of heartache and grief. Thank you for sharing your memories. I was touched by the love you emanated.

Will pray for you!

Ginger said...

Melanie, my heart is hurting so much for you! I'm so sorry for all you went through in April. I'm so happy you had such a wonderful relationship with your grandfather. What wonderful memories you must have! As another reader said earlier, your precious Gizmo died at peace in her special place where she slept every night. So much better that being at the emergency vet! I know these losses are so very difficult and know that I will be praying for you to find peace and comfort!
Ginger in Abilene

Mary Carole said...

Oh Melanie...I've just shared a few tears with you reading your post. I'm so sorry for both of your loses. You will definitely be in my prayers. I am so glad to hear that your Grandfather knew Jesus and REALLY knows Him now!

May your days be blessed with happy memories of both your grandfather and Gizzy.

Mary Carole

Annette said...

Life sucks at times and I am crying. I am so sorry for all the pain and suffering you are going through right now. I really hope life have some joyful moments to share very soon to cheer you up. I am sending a comforting hug from a stranger to another but in moments like this I want to be your friend.

Kandi said...

Oh honey what a dreadful time. I couldn't just read and run, there is nothing I can say to help but I just want you to know that you are in my thoughts.
Heartfelt Hugs to you
Kandi xx

denise said...

You may be thinking that the possibility of her not dying laid in the hands of the vet, but I have a feeling it would have been your last trip there with her. Dogs lead their lives much differently than humans and Gizmo probably knew it was her time.

I'm happy for Gizmo that you WERE there, and she was comfortable knowing that, too, and being in her own home and on her little pillow. DO NOT feel guilty. I see it as a gift...if you thought she was in terrible pain, you would have gone to the emergency clinic. She fell to permanent sleep peacefully it sounds like. I wish they all could.

My Yorkie was 14 when he passed away 7 years ago. I took him to the vet's office but I knew if I left him alone but kept an eye on him, he would have passed by himself in his dog bed and I wish I had because it would have been more peaceful. Not that it was horrible for him because he was so out of it, but being so small (5 lbs.) they had difficulty finding a vein and had to finally take him into the back room (which I HATED) so they could prod him with a small reptile needle. I know they didn't want me to see them struggle, but I like to be with my dog and my foster dogs when they pass.

Please don't beat yourself up, it won't help Gizmo nor will it help your healing, focusing on the shoulda coulda woulda, while trying to grieve for her passing, too.

May you find peace with your decision and remember the joy that Gizmo brought to you and your family.

Juanita said...

You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts said...

Hope your month next month is much better. So sorry for your losses.

Lucia said...

Oh Melanie, I am so, so sorry. :( My heart hurts for you. I hope May is just the opposite and one of the best ever.

Frameless Shower Door said...

its sad to know about your loss. i feel very bad for you. but you have to be strong.

Sarah said...

I hope brighter days have dawned since you wrote that post Melanie. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

Carol said...

You've had a very hard month. Remember April showers bring May flowers!
Sorry for your losses.

Sandy O. said...

Hello.

I've been away from the computer, so I hope commenting on this post after so much time won't bring you back to the hurt. There are some months that just can't seem to end fast enough but the good part is it always ends. I can't help but to tear up as I read about your puppy. I've had pets for just three years, but they have truly changed my life and I absolutely dread the day I'll find out what it feels like to go through such a loss. Believe me, she knows how loved she was and at the end, she was probably too tired and ready to go. And believe you will see her again one day, as I believe Heaven is as you wish it to be and I can't imagine being truly happy without my pets. I'm happy May has arrived and I wish it has brought only great things. It takes a very good heart to mourn a pet as you have and for that, you have my friendship. Enjoy the new month! :)

Cheryl Arkison said...

Oh Melanie. Change a few details and I had EXACTLY the same month.

We'd already spent nearly two months in my hometown, helping my family and being with my dying father. Lung cancer that had spread and pneumonia and a brain tumor at the end. He died April 12.

10 days or so later we were back in town helping my mom out with some things at the house. We brought our two dogs with us (they'd spent most of our time the previous two months with friends and family). One dog is old, blind, senile, and incontinent. The other, middle aged and healthy. We woke up one morning and the healthy one did not. Died in his sleep at the foot of my Dad's bed. (Oddly, his name was Buster.)

And we too celebrated our anniversary, and the birth of a new new baby (on the day our dog died).

I'm hoping May is bringing less drama to life and more opportunities to feel, to give in to the emotions, and celebrate the small pleasures of living a good day.

Karen said...

I am so sorry for your loss. She was part of your family for a long time and your very first baby, so that is really special. Take comfort of the sweet memories and pictures you have of Gizmodo.

Hugs, Karen

Sandy said...

It's so hard to lose a friend that's been with you so long. I too, lost my little Yorkie, Lady Sterling, when she was 14. She went everywhere with me and was always right by my side. I still miss her, she was such a little clown.
Here's hoping May is a much better month for you and your family.

Corrie said...

oh I am crying like a baby. You have written that so beautifully. My mum went back to God on the 29th March this year. I miss her everyday. I say she went back to God and think of it that way to make it easier.

I know the love that we have for our grandparents, both my grandmas are with us and so precious to have.

big hugs and hopefully it's a better year for you
corrie:)

raising4princesses said...

beautiful post. Pictures of grandpa's always make me cry!
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