Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dealing with Death

On Sunday, I wrote about my personal experiences regarding ghosts, spirits, or souls. I apologize to those readers that read my post late and night, and thus had trouble sleeping or going about their nightly tasks. I didn't really intend to be scary, but heck...how do you talk about such things without evoking some fear?

Ever since I relived my experience surrounding my co-workers death, and her possible visits to me and my friend, Mamabear, I have not been able to get it out of my mind. I have been thrown back into those days following her untimely death and how very difficult it was to go on. I'd like to share a little bit about the situation, and the things I learned about dealing with death.

It was December of 2002, and a dear friend/coworker named Wronda was on her 3rd moth of recovery from Gastric By-Pass. She appeared on the outside to be doing well. She has been back to work for months, and was going about her daily tasks. Talking with her, I began to worry for her emotionally. She was struggling with the small amounts of food she could eat, and how depressing it was for her. I remember her telling me how hard Thanksgiving had been for her. She felt unable to sit at the thanksgiving table with her family, and enjoy the holiday like she had done all her life when all she could eat was a few tablespoons of potatoes. It hurt her heart that she could not go out to eat with her family, without being done with her meal in less than 2 minutes, to only have to sit there and watch her family eat. I quickly began to worry that instead of eating the small amount she was aloud, she just chose to not eat anything at all.

It turns out my worry was definitely based on reality. On Dec. 17th she signed herself out of work, and called out as the left, "see you in two days!" Her sister was coming the next day for a special shopping day, so Wronda has taken the day off. Early The next day, we got a the horrible call from her husband saying that her young sons had just found Wronda dead, and called him in a panic. He was alone and wondered if anyone that had loved Wronda could come stay with him, until the sister would arrive hours later. A few of us immediately went to his aide. I, along with a few my my coworkers/friends, spend the rest of the day consoling Wronda's family, a husband and two sons I had only met twice before. I had never been in a situation like it. I sat in the living room with her young sons, trying to figure out what to say or do....it was the most emotionally draining day of my life. My loss for the right words haunted me. I floundered in a sea of inadequacy. I will never forget that feeling.

Her death was so unexpected. It turns out that Wronda's body has not been getting the nutrients it needed to function, so the organs had started to deteriorate. The muscle, known as her heart, had been scarified for the protein. It understandably was unable to keep beating. She was gone. So suddenly gone.

The days, weeks, and months that followed where strangely void of sympathy and support for those grieving the death of our friend. A replacement was quickly hired, and her things were quietly removed before we returned from Christmas Break, and she was gone. So suddenly gone. We were all grieving in our own way, and often it did not mesh with what others wanted. It appeared the majority didn't want to talk about it....face it....embrace it. Many things were left unsaid, undone. As time passed, several us, including Mamabear and myself, began to feel the lack of official grieving weighing down on our work, our morale, our emotional well being.

It wasn't until May of 2004, that I finally broke the silence and requested a special ceremony on our annual wellness day. Usually, this day is planned as a day of fun and games for our site staff. That year, I pleaded the case that many of us needed an official "something" to end our grieving. I do believe some of the head honchos were shocked that 17 months after Wronda's death, there were so many feelings hanging bare....so many hurts unhealed. They let me head up a simple little tribute to Wronda.

The day of the Wellness outing, we pack up the little cork boats a few of us had pre-made, and asked many folks to bring fresh flowers. We sat at the local yacht club and each decorated our own boat. We wrote messages to Wronda on tissue paper, and when we were all ready, we trudged down to the water. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and the breeze was slight. As my friends and coworkers stood holding their boats I read the following poem I had written for the occasion. It came from the heart, and I do believe it opened a few other hearts that day.

Oh Please……Oh Please….
5/19/04
By Corey

This is a very special day.
And it means so much to me.
This is a day of remembrance
A day I thought we’d never see….

For so long there was an elephant in the room.
We all pretended not to see it, but it was always there.
We’d talk about all kinds of things that didn’t matter,
Work, the weather ……what we could bare.

It seems that we all limped along in our own way
Licking our wounds, in desperate attempts to heal.
We each did it alone, afraid of each other
Afraid of the elephant, afraid to feel.

I worried about me, and I worried about you
I worried that we would somehow forget.
I worried I didn’t do enough, and I worried I did too much.
I worried it would never end…and it hasn’t yet.

But today is a step we are taking together
The way it is supposed to be.
By talking about her death,
We can set that elephant free…..

Oh please, oh please let us say her name…
Let us not be afraid.
Wronda, our dear Wronda
A person so wonderfully made.

Lets talk about her life.
Lets talk about our friend.
Let’s talk to each other.
Let this day not be the end.

Today is a new beginning.
It can be a bright new start.
Today we celebrate the memories,
So deeply ingrained in our hearts.

Gone but not forgotten.
Absent, but forever HERE.
Today we remember together
Let us toss away our fear.

Oh please, oh please let us say her name…
Let us remember the smile upon her face.
Wronda, our dear Wronda….
No one can take her place.

She is gone too soon no one can disagree.
A mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a coworker and a friend…
This day I acknowledge what she meant to me.
And a shoulder for your tears, I’ll gracefully lend.

I am here for you, are you there for me?
Can we say her name each day?
Can we make this gigantic step together?
Can I say “Wronda” and have you not turn away?

For if I cannot…then I must let you know
For now you are leaving me here all alone…..
….in a room….
With an elephant I don’t want to own.


It was amazing the sense of emotional release I felt as the group of the tearful living let drift our boats of remembrance. We hugged tightly, and we talked freely, and we finally saw into each other's hearts. We may all grieve differently, we may not do it all on the same timeline, but we certainly all need each other in the end.

10 Live It or Love It:

Mama Zen said...

Lovely poem! I'm glad that you were able to finally mourn your friend more . . . openly? Naturally? So often, we're afraid to say the wrong thing, so we say nothing at all.

childlife said...

Wow Corey - Amazing poem... I'm so glad you had the courage to speak up and say things that needed to be said. I don't think our society really knows how to grieve, as a rule. That was a lovely way to honor Wronda and to help with the healing process of those left behind. Very nicely done!

Megan (FriedOkra) said...

What a beautiful way to remember and celebrate Wronda's life. I agree, that took courage but sounds like it was well worth it for everyone.

Laura said...

Corey, this brought tears to my eyes! What a heartbreaking situation to walk through, and what a bittersweet moment when you were all able to let some of those feelings out with the tribute service. Beautiful poem, too!

Deb - Mom of 3 Girls said...

What a beautiful poem and lovely tribute to your friend's memory.

newnorth said...

wow, I shouldn't have read this at school. very touching.

Lori- Fairytales & Margaritas said...

You are a very good dear friend. I am so proud of you for standing up for yourself and your co-workers. Have you given Wronda's husband a copy of the poem? I'm sure he would cherish it.

david mcmahon said...

You certainly touched a chord in my heart.

You're right, we all grieve differently and in our own time frame ....

Ornery's Wife said...

What a touching story, and such a sad and grievous ending to a life. It is sad that we aren't able to speak at a time like that, without fear of offending others. You did a wonderful thing for your co-workers.
TM

Jeni said...

You are so right about each person grieving in a different way, a different timeline. And, when nothing is said, when people are closed off -or feel that way -from talking about the missing person, it keeps that grief locked up to eat away at everyone. That was an excellent idea to do that, to have a simple ceremony to give honor and respect to your friend -and provide release for others in the doing.

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