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Living the Loss

I attended a memorial service recently at my church.  It was the first time I had attended a church “service” there in three years.  The last time I was there, I was rehearsing for our Christmas drama and had one of the lead roles.  We were in the final weeks before the production and I had to drop out because Lynn was admitted to the hospital.  He was in ICU for a month and then readmitted two more times during the next six months.  Once he entered the hospital, his strength and functionality were significantly compromised due to inactivity and the complications of his condition so initially we could not return to church due to his health.  About a year later, he was strong enough to return but we discovered his power chair was too big to fit the elevator so he could not go unless he used a manual wheelchair.  He is not strong enough to sit upright that long without the support of his power chair so we are currently waiting for renovations underway at church that will include a new elevator and handicap bathroom so we can come back.  Church members even lovingly call it “Lynn’s elevator.”

Prior to his MS progressing to this stage, Lynn sang in the choir, played hand bells, played drums for the praise band, provided some carpenter assistance in addition to attending services and Sunday school every week. I sang in the choir, played hand bells, lead a drama team, worked with a support group, and helped in the nursery while also attending services and Sunday school every week.  We were both very involved and much of our social interaction and support came from people at church.  Not being able to attend church left a big hole in our lives.  Many still send cards and they have supported us in so many ways, both financially and in service; that our lives continue to be touched and blessed by their generosity and compassion.  However, the type of fellowship we used to have is missing in our lives.

Everyone knows we have a, “no germs,” rule before we get visitors and that he fatigues very easily so most people hesitate to visit; and truthfully that’s better for him. We have 4-5 couples that regularly come by to help us out so we stay connected to the church through them but there are so many people I really miss seeing.  Being at the memorial service gave me an opportunity to connect with many that I had not seen in three years and it was so good to see them.  Lynn could not go because its flu season and it’s currently widespread in our area so he didn’t dare venture out. Even I was cautious about whom I hugged and sat away from most of the crowd; so, hopefully I have not brought home anything.  I really wanted to go to pay my last respects to Mike and to support his wife; and I’m glad I did.  Being there with the members was really a blessing.

Mike was someone that we were in choir with and he had been our friend for many years.  His wife is one of the members who has really gone out of her way to support us. Until Mike became so ill, she cooked all of Lynn’s meals for me and individually packaged them so I could have them to pull out from the freezer.  Though it was sad that he had passed away, we all knew he was in heaven and no longer suffering so the memorial service was a celebration of his life with good stories about him and lots of sharing of love.  I was sad but I don’t usually cry at funerals.  I tend not to show emotions openly and I was just sitting back remembering Mike fondly.  Then our minister asked the choir to come up and sing one of Mike’s favorite songs. The soloist for the selected song was one who often sang duets with Lynn.  They had beautifully blended voices and it was always a joy to hear them sing together.  Lynn has a remarkable tenor voice. I loved to hear him sing and play guitar and of all the functionality he has lost, the use of his voice to sing pains me the most.

Though Lynn practices singing every day to try to strengthen his diaphragm and keep his lungs expanded, he can’t hold a note very long and his voice cracks a lot.  His voice no longer has the clear, melodious sound it used to have.  Knowing that he has lost something so precious to him and which blessed so many people has been really hard for me to accept.  Therefore, when Emily started to sing, my eyes filled with tears.  I made it though that song fairly well with only the need to dab my eyes but later, one of the men in choir sang a solo that was “Lynn’s.”  I think Lynn’s last solo at church was, “I Can Only Imagine.”  It was so beautiful and powerful that he got a standing ovation and people still talk about it today commenting about how he transfixed them with that song and brought the joy of heaven into the room.  His voice was made for that song and honestly, I think he can sing it just as well, if not better, than the person who originally sang it.

I knew that song was likely to be sung at the service because I knew how much Mike and his wife liked it.  She had called me to see if I had a copy of Lynn singing it and unfortunately, I didn’t; but that call gave me forewarning that it was likely to be part of the service.  Well, as soon as the soloist started to sing that song, I lost it.  I started sobbing.  Not because I was sad about Mike but I was grieving my “losses.”  That song just represents all those loses to me; not the words but the “singing” of the song.

Hearing the music immediately brings home all the loss–Lynn not being able to build anymore (he was an awesome carpenter and was in the process of building us a new home which now sits on seemingly abandoned property with just a foundation); not being able to play guitar or drums (he could play multiple instruments beautifully, was self taught, and he loved to play); not being able to be part of church, to go to celebrations, to be part of our former life; to be able to sing….

I usually don’t dwell on these things. I don’t look at the losses but try to focus on what we have instead which is much, much, more than we have lost. But the grief still sneaks in occasionally and becomes fresh and raw… especially when I hear that song.

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  • lhalvor
    6 years ago

    I have had MS 40 years and was a music major when I was diagnosed at 23. I’ve been fortunate to have gone back to school, found new work, married, retired and for the most part have a a great life despite. The losses accumulated and I went through some depression, but that experience and the tears I shed helped me let go of some of the sadness. I took an online class calked Awakening Joy a couple of years ago and now work at redirecting MY thoughts to what I have.

    Your story as a caregiver reminded me that my husband experiences these losses too and grieves. You are both blessed to have the marriage that you do and are not isolated but still have people who stop by. Thanks for sharing.

  • Donna Steigleder moderator author
    6 years ago

    So glad to hear about your successes in dealing with the losses that occur. Most of the time, I don’t think about the losses but every once in a while something will hit a tender spot and I have a period of sadness. I’ve learned that “this too shall pass” and to just go with it which also seems to help. Thanks for your words of encouragement and for sharing your story.

  • Sonya
    6 years ago

    Donna, my condolences in the loss of your dear friend.
    Thank-you for the lovely article, which reminded me to stay focused on what i do have & not what I have lost, due to MS. It is so easy, at times, to slip into that place of, what I wish I could still do, & forget & not be thankful, for what I can still do.
    Prayers for you & Lynn on your journey.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski
    6 years ago

    Lynn, even the strongest of caregivers have the moments when they need to stop and allow themselves the time to grieve. The obvious losses and the ones that have yet to come, can only be glossed over for so long until they have to be acknowledged. It sounds like Mike’s service was a time not only to reconnect with your church family, but also with yourself. thanks for sharing, Laura

  • Donna Steigleder moderator author
    6 years ago

    Thanks for your words of encouragement.

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