My memory is still as vivid today as it was when I was seven years of age. The feelings of aloneness were smothering me as I lay in the bed while wondering what would tomorrow bring. You see, my baby brother, two years old, had just passed away with meningitis and my mom was being sedated so she would not have to contend with her present pain.
Throughout the day, adults were everywhere, bringing food and trying to offer assistance when no one knew what to do. How do you fill a void in a family when the one that was taken away was larger than life? Was adored by everyone and no one knew how to go on without him. And yet, we all had to get up the next morning and try to make sense of loss, of pain, of life disruption.
As I rehearse the pain and loss today, I am still amazed how my dad went through a lifetime without talking about the hurt and pain caused by the loss of their child. I always felt that I lost my brother and my mother that day. I became the baby again as I was again the youngest child. It was again only my brother and me. What would we do when it was time to play and we did not have the little two-year-old who was the center of our world?
The reason I even replay this memory today is that this incident in my life opened up new feelings that I had never experienced. From that time until many years later, I dreaded afternoons which would become evenings and nights. I couldn’t explain the dread nor why I had a problem with rainy days. It was many years later that I finally came to realize that my world was invaded with fear and depression. Fear of loss, fear of death, even fear of sickness.
I would go to bed at night but could never lay on my back because that was the position of my brother in the casket. The dreams came frequently, and they usually were dreams of my mother dying and calling my name. I had no idea all these feeling were a direct result of fear. Of course, immediately after my brother’s funeral, my mother had her first nervous breakdown. This began a pattern of seeking out doctors that could offer any assistance to give her relief from her pain of loss.
Gradually, as I grew up, the roles began changing in our family, and I moved into the mother role for my younger brother and sister who were born several years later. I never understood until several years ago that my mom was suffering from emotional sickness.
I went through years of feeling hurt and rejected by a woman who could offer no more than she could give. I knew my mother loved me but she was unable to be all that I needed while growing up. About eighteen years ago, I was recommended a book called, “Feelings Buried Alive Never Die,” and was blessed to find out that I could either live a life of forgiveness or continue going through life carrying feelings of rejection and abandonment. These feelings would eventually cause me to possess diseases that would destroy my life. I was ready for change.
My mom lived with my husband and me for fifteen years, so I needed freedom from any pain that I still carried from childhood. One evening, I went into my mom’s bedroom, knelt on the floor in front of her recliner and told her I wanted to talk with her. I only wanted her to say, “Ann, I forgive you.” This sounds so confusing when I was carrying the feelings of unforgiveness and loss, but I knew I had to confess and then ask for forgiveness. I began telling my mom that I had felt that I lost my mother when my brother died. I felt abandoned and I wanted her to forgive me for these feelings.
She immediately began crying and letting me know that I had never done anything to hurt her so I did not have a reason to ask for forgiveness. But I knew that I had to let feelings go and I surely was not perfect. So I cried to my sweet mom that night and ask for forgiveness for all the pain that I had caused her for even distancing myself from her. She did forgive me for my part in the pain that night, and it changed my life.
I had been afraid of death for so many years and wanted to move on. It’s really comical that I dealt with such a fear when my husband and I were continually in and out of the hospitals praying for our church members and assisting in hundreds of funerals. When I would be riding in the auto with him as he led a funeral processional when a family had lost a parent, I would cry and say that I just could never go through this and lose my parents. I had already had enough loss. Then, my dad was placed in the hospital and we were told that he could not overcome his sickness. I totally fell apart and sobbed until there was no cry left in me. I then got up, began taking care of my mom and planned my dad’s funeral.
The reason I told this story is because I could never have gone through that point in my life without the presence of the Lord in my life. I began to love the fourth chapter of Philippians where Paul told us about a peace that you can’t even understand guarding our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord. He even told us not to worry about anything but pray about everything.
That’s why, in this walk of Dementia with my hubby of fifty-two years, I can tell you that I KNOW that God has us in His care. That’s why I do not fear when I lay down at night!