Bilberry Jam

When my oldest brother died, I handled it. I emailed my boss: “My brother died. I knew it was inevitable. I’m fine. I’ll be in tomorrow.” When the shock wore off, I wasn’t exactly fine. I took a few days off and then went back to work. When my dad died six months later, I had spent six nights with him in hospice. I felt frightened on night two, so a childhood friend stayed with me that night. She brought pizza and magazines and two Clark Peppermint patties. I didn’t like the irreverence. I spent the next four nights alone with him. He died at 6:00 a.m. sharp on that last morning.

I ate a Ghirardelli dark choclate peppermint-filled square tonight that reminded me of that second night in hospice. The night I was grateful when my friend stayed, and glad when she left.

I mourned my father’s passing more deeply than my oldest brother’s. I’ve not yet let myself feel the depth of my grief for my oldest brother. I sneak tiny sips of it when no one’s looking. Not even me.

But my 52 year-old brother who died of acute myelogenous leukemia the same day he was diagnosed, three months after I’d put together an intervention in hopes of not losing him, too. An intervention that led him to treatment, hoping for life, after so much death. Five months after my father died, my remaining brother died. That death I’m feeling. That death has left me shattered. The pieces are too numerous, too tiny. I will never be the same. So why bother trying to put them back together? I’ll be this new me. Whoever she is.

But then again, I’m no different than anyone else. Death is happening all around us. We all have our patterns. Our timing. My family’s timing thus far happens to be April, October, March. Or three in eleven months. Or death, six months, death, five months, death. A death sandwich.

Some days I complete the tasks of my days as if everything is still the same. Some days I’m able to pretend it matters. Or ignore that it doesn’t.

But none of this seems to matter any more.

People piss me off. I have no patience. No tolerance. I don’t care. And I don’t care that I don’t care.

I know I need to work for a living, but I am perfectly content to do this from my bed. Why do I need to be in the office? Around the stupid people who think stupid things matter? Why must I exert my energy, the precious few resources that I have, interacting with all those people who have no fucking idea that I just don’t care about anything that matters to them?

I have all these questions. And I feel so inane having them. I’m not the first person to have been faced with muliple deaths in a short period. I’m not the first to then ponder weighty subjects and find no answers. The reason we’re here. How existence came to be. Whether it matters. If there’s another dimension. If we cease to exist physically, mentally, and energetically when our hearts stop beating.

We all ask the same questions and there are no fucking answers.

We’re born. We work. If we’re lucky, we love. And then we die. We get maternity leave for births. For deaths, we get a week if we’re lucky, and then we go back to work and are expected to hold it together as if nothing ever happened. When all we want to do is go home and work on our beds, pile them up with papers and cats, and just stay there. Occasionally eat an almond butter and jelly sandwich in our beds and leave the white plate smeared with bilberry jam on the floor. Next to the coffee carafe.

I want to stay in my bed and pile the floor with white plates smeared with bilberry jam.

Grief Sandwich
Grief Sandwich
Bone marrow aspirate showing acute myeloid leu...
Funny how these acute myeloid leukemia cells look kind of like bilberries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


  • Can’t really like this Blog-Entry, how can you like that someone is in pain??

    But I like that you do not push aside your feelings anymore and really try to deal with them.
    The questioning phase “I’m not the first to then ponder weighty subjects and find no answers.” is indeed part of the grieving process.
    “Coping with loss is a ultimately a deeply personal and singular experience — nobody can help you go through it more easily or understand all the emotions that you’re going through. But others can be there for you and help comfort you through this process. The best thing you can do is to allow yourself to feel the grief as it comes over you. Resisting it only will prolong the natural process of healing.”
    I stole this advice from this website
    All I want you to see by quoting it, is, there will be a life after death: A life for you that is worth living after the deaths of your beloved ones. It will not be the same as before. There are three big gaps in your life now where your father and your brothers used to be.

    Right now those gaps seem omnipresent and make up your whole world. You will never close them entirely, you will not forget your family members. Sometimes you will feel the loss again like you do now. But you will take a step back overall – instead of mainly focussing on those losses – learn how not to fall into those gaps. You will learn to live with those gaps.

    Not now. Not easily. All I know is that you WILL learn how to live without those important people in your life. Can’t tell you how long you will suffer, how much you will suffer, how awful you will feel on the way – all I can say is there is a life after death – and I am not talking religion here!

    So for now go on to ponder the sense of life and death, go on to cry, when you feel the need. If you feel angry and cheated by life, shout and curse. You are not abnormal with your feelings – society that declines those to you is abnormal! And take YOUR time.

    And if you want to accept a humble, digital hug – here is one on offer.


    • Your words are very helpful. I’d paused in my writing about it because … well, because when I write, it’s bigger. But writing, for me, is the way through. It always has been. Sometimes I feel pressure to “get over it” and to stop writing about it. To spare you all from reading about it. I have to put on a brave face in the real world. I’ve decided I’m not going to do that here.


  • Grief is a fickle beast..There are times we think we are getting past it when it rears it’s ugly head. We want to isolate ourselves away from the rest of the dare they be happy, laughing, going on as if nothing as happened when your world has fallen to pieces, right? I know those have been my thoughts and feelings as I slowly dealt with the loss of my parents so close to one another..
    If I can recommend this powerful documentary on grief and healing called “Motherland”..It helped me put back those painful pieces of life..
    It does take time my dear..and at your pace..


  • Hello there I was wondering how you are. I was thinking if it’s not too painful why don’t you write a post telling us about you brothers and your dad. I would like to know about them and the memories you have. Be kind to yourself. I saw this poem and thought of you. Xxxxxx

    When we lose those we love,

    You must understand

    That it takes time

    To learn to feel again –

    For nothing

    Can touch the heart

    Which is frozen with grief.

    ~ Unknown


    • As I move through my grief, I am playing moments shared with them in my head. Last night, I bought some stinky cheese. My dad loved stinky cheese. Limburger. My mother made him keep it in a jar in the refrigerator. Sounds like a blog post title in keeping with my food theme: Stinky Cheese. I have stories. I love your idea of sharing them here. Maybe my frozen heart will begin to melt.


  • When my dad died at the age of 52 I vividly recall standing in a line at a grocery store, feeling dead inside and wondering how all of the people around me can go about living life as if it matters.

    That was 29 years ago and I still remember the sense of loss like no other.


    • 52. I am so sorry, Fern. That is just too young to lose a father. And a brother. Yes, once we experience loss, it feels as if we now belong in a different club. There’s pre-loss me with my pre-loss world view. And now.


  • Becoming an orphan is hard. Losing a father was the worst to me.
    The boat seems adrift without ties to the past dock, and no wind, and no direction but drifting.
    You are right about this, “I will never be the same. So why bother trying to put them back together? I’ll be this new me. Whoever she is”
    You will discover energy sooner of later. But right now, it’s just a lot of analysis and micro examining. Pieces, yes, ones not to be tossed, but eventually some match up and the others carried along in pockets of the mind.
    You are your father’s – your family’s product – eventually smile and enjoy the sun, stuff going on, and say, “Dad/my brother would have really liked this day – this happening….”
    Until then, hugs


  • My son died 14 months ago, and my dad died last week. You’re exactly right about all of it – how do we live in the face of the Death? How do we make meaning? That’s all that matters; life cannot be lived in the same way it was before they died. So now what? There isn’t one answer and I’ve never felt so alone.

    I hope there is some peace to be found. Blessings to you…


    • Denise, I’ve been reading your blog and feel such an affinity with your words. I have no idea how painful it is to lose a child. And now you’ve lost your father. I’m so sorry for your losses, and your pain. I do thank you for your words. I read your posts and feel a little less alone. I feel understood. I feel comfort. Thank you.


  • I hear you!

    Life is full of difficult times…
    ‘that eddied over this also may’


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