Why Memorial Day Weekend is so hard for me

Well, it’s Tuesday. That means I have made it through another Memorial Day Weekend and am in a final stretch of sorts. I know that it can be a hard weekend for a lot of people, especially those who lost someone in the military. But for me, it’s a double whammy of something a little bit different.

I know that when I share personal posts at this time, it’s all pretty much the same thing. But the fact remains, my heart is still broken, and it all really came to a head on Memorial Day nine years ago. (Seriously, 9? This is not possible.)

People who know me already know the story. Within a period of about eight months, I found out I was never going to have kids, my grandmother passed away, my mom had to go into a home for Alzheimer’s, and my father passed away. There’s a lot more to it than that, but there’s your nutshell. But people don’t necessarily know all of the timeline.

My father had fallen and hit his head in February that year and never had it checked out. Fast forward a couple of months, and the unchecked brain bleed had gotten so bad, he was having headaches, his handwriting was blurry, and he checked himself into the hospital. Not even a week later, he had brain surgery to try to repair the bleed. He never came out of the coma.

Well, that is, until Memorial Day. I got the phone call that my father was awake. I called everyone and we rushed to the facility, thinking that the meeting that had been scheduled earlier that week would be good news. He was awake. He was going to recover.

Nope.

His organs were shutting down. He was going to die.

And he did three days later, that Thursday.

So from that point on, every time Memorial Day hits, it starts this kind of countdown to his anniversary, even though the actual date of Memorial Day varies each year. I can’t help it. I’ve always been this way.

Fast forward seven years. It’s Memorial Day weekend. I have to go home for the wedding on Friday of one of “my kids” whom I taught and helped raise. I enjoy the day with my kids. The next day I meet up with an old friend. And then that evening, I go to see Mom.

The first picture I took was actually just in my FB Memories, which is prompting me to write this post. It’s her waking up from her sleep in her Alzheimer’s fog, giving me a big smile that is twisted from the brain disease, but nevertheless happy to see me.

Mom was asleep when I got there, and it was getting late, but they let me in to see her anyway. That’s when she woke up and I took the aforementioned picture. And as I knelt beside her bed, she almost rolled out of it trying to reach for me to give me a hug. And I just stayed and talked to her, reveling in any moment of recognition that would happen. She hadn’t been able to speak or hold a conversation in a few years, but every once in a while she would make eye contact or react to something you said.

I spent some time with other family and friends that weekend, but kept going to visit her as much as I could. The best was meal time, because I got to feed her and that was when she was most alert and interactive. And as I was getting ready to leave that last day and was giving her a big hug, she actually managed to somehow eek out the words, “I love you.”

That was the last time I saw her.

Well, technically I did see her again in August. But by that point, I was horrifically sick, just coming out of a horrid hospital stay that I don’t want to talk about right now. And she was in hospice. She’d already been in there for a week, a day or so longer than I had been in the hospital before being able to come out to see her to say goodbye. There was little to no interaction with her by then, of course. She was in so much pain and highly medicated, but still kept fighting, just like my dad did. She died a couple of days after I finally arrived.

So yeah, Memorial Day is a hard one for me. I know I’ll get through it, and it gets easier each year. But it’s still a tremendous challenge for me.

I’ll be thinking of those of you who are also struggling at this time of year.

Be well.

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