2018: The start of a new journey

I’m having a hard time remembering when it all started — but I think at least ten years ago would be a good place to start. Mother had open-heart surgery, nearly bled out and was in a coma for a few days. She was one of the toughest people I’ve known, at least genetically. But her body was in tough shape. Years of smoking, stress, inactivity etc. had ravaged her arteries and her lungs. COPD set in. It got much worse from there. Dad started slipping slowly and then dementia gripped him like wildfire. He water-skied at 78. He was in a memory-care home at 80. My sisters and I held his hand as he died in 2016 at the age of 81. I sat with mother as she almost died in the fall of 2016. An embolism took her quickly on Good Friday in 2017 — at the age of 81, too. I was selling books in Magee when I received that call. There was a lot in between and honestly, I have a tough time talking about some of it. I’ll just say that the only people who truly know what happened are my sisters and me. My parents, whom we loved, were taken care of until the end. Cleaning out the house was a chore but God smiled on us and found us a buyer before we even though about putting it on the market. I’m not sure any of us could have handled the stress of selling it. The house closed in late December. My parent’s story is almost done.
A few people had opinions and made sure we knew them. Considering they didn’t know the whole story, I allowed their criticisms to go in one ear and out the other. Our job as their kids were to make our parents had the resources and care they needed. They did — and then some. My sisters were magnificent in doing most of the work (they were there). We, as we had done since we were children, worked well together as a team.
I understood who my parents were much better after they died. And I understand why I am the way I am, too. Like an irritant to an oyster, the pain gave me pearls of wisdom I’ll keep for the rest of my life.
My take away? I would not trade my parents for anyone. They gave me a unique set of genes and talents that have given me a great life. Yes, I have some real quirks, too. But I am now aware of why I have them. Knowledge truly is power. My dad’s super power was his love of his family. He also had a wonderful sense of humor that I only wish I had. My mother gave me the much of the talent you see in the newspaper. She was my first supporter and for that, I am grateful.
Both supported my dream and raised me well.
I won’t lie to you: It was very hard. It was more than just the grief of their deaths — death alone would have been almost manageable. It was exhaustion brought on by being in constant fight or flight mode for years. My phone would go off several times a day because of some emergency.
And then it was over.
My phone went quiet. I began to turn inward and shut down. I look at my work and amazed I even was able to draw. Emails weren’t answered. Things fell through the cracks. I became difficult to live with. I suddenly had insight to who I was and I didn’t necessarily like what I was seeing. But I didn’t have the strength to deal with it. Exhaustion set in. Apathy followed along behind it. I can read some of the stuff I’ve written and tell I was in a mental hurricane. My beautiful wife and children paid a price.
I had someone actually tell me on Facebook to “suck it up, buttercup.”
Well, I did. I pushed through it, kept pushing, got up at 4 a.m. and moved when I wanted to quit. I’ve worked hard to make sense of the completely senseless. And no, I’m not there yet. I have a lot of work to do.
Why have I written this?
1. When I see when you lose a loved-one or a parent, I get it. I’m putting my arm around you and giving you a virtual hug (if I can’t give you a real one). This has given me empathy — something the world needs more of today.
2. When you are going through the pain of grief or of discovery, just know it will eventually get better. The pain will make you stronger. But don’t be afraid to reach out to others.
3. And as an apology to those I’ve let down.
You don’t learn and grow during the good times. I wish my parents had had a smoother exit but I am so grateful they were a part of my life for so long. My mother and I had a difficult relationship at the end, but I am grateful she lived long enough for me to understand her and therefore myself. I tried to save her my whole life — and couldn’t. But in the end, she will end up saving me.
2017 closed a big chapter in my life. I now enter 2018 stronger thanks to it.
It will be a Happy New Year indeed.

About Marshall Ramsey