Ashes to Ashes
I wanted to let you know that I will be unavailable for a few days. As a family, we will be scattering the ashes of my Mother-in-law and my Brother-in-law that we have lost in the past few years. I wanted to tell you just a little about them both, and the lessons they have taught me.
My Mother-in-law died of throat cancer, 5 years ago this week, after years of substance abuse. We received a phone call late one afternoon that said she had been rushed to the hospital and her death was eminent. They didn’t know if we would make it in time since we had a 9 hour drive to get to her. My husband wasn’t home, so I packed our bags, loaded the car and waited for his arrival. The shock hit him so hard that I climbed into the driver’s seat, he climbed into the passenger seat, instantly fell asleep and I drove through the night to get him to her. We arrived early the next morning, and to our great relief, it was before she actually passed. Watching him kneel at her bedside and express his love and sadness was one of the most beautifully heart-wrenching experiences of my life.
Since she had been so sick for so long, and undergone chemo treatments, we thought organ donation was an impossibility. The donation team informed us that her corneas were viable, so my husband signed the papers for their donation. The family grieved her loss. Three months later, on the day before Thanksgiving, we received a letter from the organ donation organization. It included a sealed letter from the donor recipient. My husband decided he wanted me to open it and I read it to him. It was from a mother of two small children that had lost her sight due to a very rare eye infection. She had received my Mother-in-law’s corneas and for the first time in several years, she would be watching her children open their Christmas presents this year. The love and appreciation she expressed was overwhelming. We sat and cried tears of relief that all the pain wasn’t the only thing to come out of our loss. Knowing that this other family’s life had been changed for the better, allowed us to move forward and heal.
I am sharing this story because I want everyone to know what a difference organ donation makes, not just to the recipients, but to the donors family too. If you are not religiously or morally opposed, PLEASE BECOME AN ORGAN DONOR! You MUST share your wishes with your family so they know this is your choice, because when you are faced with the question in the worst moment of your grief, they don’t have time to think, they need to know.
Three years later, we received a phone call from a very dear friend. He had gone to check on my Brother-in-law and found him dead. He was surrounded by 26 empty tequila bottles. He had killed himself via alcohol poisoning. We all knew he was going to die, but no matter what we tried or how much we begged and pleaded, he wouldn’t get help. He saw life as hopeless. It wasn’t, but he couldn’t see that. Mental illness and substance abuse are wicked demons to have. Reason, logic and love have no effect on their insidious grip. And, unfortunately, we have a system that makes it very difficult to get an adult the help they need if they won’t voluntarily seek it. We tried every avenue we could, often finding it only lead to a dead-end.
So, his solution was to stop the pain permanently. But, he didn’t. He only transferred his pain onto all those left behind. When we were going through his things, settling his estate, we realized that things were nowhere near as bad as he had thought. If he would have only reached out for some help, we could have found a solution with him. Mental illness doesn’t see solutions, only hyper-exaggerated problems. If you know someone, or are someone, who battles those inner demons, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE seek help. Things can get better for you before they get worse for everyone else.
This is where I will leave you, for now. PLEASE tell the ones you love that you love them today. Actually, make sure you tell them and show them EVERY chance you get, because one day, you might not have that chance anymore.