My mother-in-law, Menet Jacob, died January 18th, 2000. I lost my beloved Grandfather Boyle, who quit drinking the day I was born, on June 27, 2008. Their deaths mark the beginning and end of a period where I strung a series of losses into a choker that nearly took my life away.
During this span, my great defender, Grandma Boyle, died from pancreatic cancer in May of 2000. My father died from complications of throat cancer in 2005. In 2006, a wonderful friend, who was an entertainer and my husband’s employer, went to the hospital with a bad sinus headache and died ten days later from an inoperable brain tumor. My father-in-law, William Jacob, died on New Year’s Day in 2007. He had Alzheimer’s Dementia and hadn’t recognized us since 1999.
During these difficult years, a very close family member became addicted to opiates. This beautiful, intelligent person tried to commit suicide two times and was hospitalized four times. Thankfully, this person is in recovery today.
My diagnosis of a rare autoimmune disease was confirmed by the Mayo Clinic, National Jewish Hospital and the Myositis Lab at the Oklahoma Medical Research Facility in 2007. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease has no cure, is progressive, the cause of my atrophying muscles, and will shorten my life. I was on daily chemotherapy meds in 2008 (and 2009), adding insult to injury. I was a dizzy, nauseous, very grumpy gardener in 2008. (Plus, I was really feeling sorry for myself.)
The hardest loss is difficult to write about because it’s incomprehensible. My sister-in-law, Marguerite, committed suicide at age 45 on November 1, 2001. She doused herself with gasoline and lit herself on fire in Bellaire, a suburb of Houston. Her screams drew the attention of a few people wandering around at 4 a.m. Marguerite said she was the devil and responsible for the collapse of the Twin Towers. She died three hours later, officially a Jane Doe because she was unrecognizable and carried no ID. (We found out later a Houston paper ran a brief article about the incident, asking for information about the victim.)
Marguerite’s boyfriend didn’t report her as missing for two days. The police put two and two together two weeks later. We received a phone call and although the detective was ninety-nine percent sure it was Marguerite, he said they needed a DNA match before the coroner would release her body to us.
All the DNA labs in the country were backed up because they were processing World Trade Center victims. We didn’t receive the DNA results and confirmation the remains were Marguerites until the end of February of 2002. We flew to San Francisco for a small, family ceremony. Marguerite loved the Bay area and Mt. Diablo. I can’t say we spread her ashes on Mt. Diablo because it’s illegal, but we did climb to the top of the mountain where we held the ceremony.
My sister-in-law, Carolyn, gave my husband a picture of Marguerite on his birthday. I don’t think Carolyn remembered the last time Marguerite talked to RJ was ten years ago…on his birthday. While dusting RJ's desk last week, I noticed he'd pushed Marguerite’s picture behind the ones of our kids and grandkids. I dusted her picture and put it back behind the other pictures. Faulkner was right when he said, “Some things you must always be unable to bear.”
Loss forces change; change which can be constructive and destructive. Who eats or sleeps properly, who remembers to pay the bills when a loved one dies? My husband and I had difficult moments during these dark years. There were many times we needed the other’s support but were unable to give it. We were consumed by our individual pain and grief. RJ buried himself in his work and wouldn’t talk about our losses. I read self-help books and talked non-stop. We went to counseling. I didn’t comprehend the power of accumulated stress and grief until I earned a four day, inpatient vacation at St. John’s Hospital.
I’m not sure what I learned other than to live is to lose, and there’s no immunization for suffering.
In 2005, I became a Master Gardener. My focus slowly moved outward and outdoors. My garden, actually any garden became a source of healing. I yanked weeds and tossed them, and my anger into the waste pile. The David C. Lam Asian Gardens at The University of British Columbia introduced me to gardens that reflect the choices we make in life. I saw my first Horticultural Therapy Garden at The Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail. I was captivated, so captivated I went back to school and became a Horticultural Therapist.
Oscar Wilde wrote, “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
I see no mystery. This blog was distressful and yet, it’s probably my longest. I pour my pain into words and spill them onto the keyboard.
I call that motive.
Causes Jules Jacob Supports
CASA of Southwest Missouri, Master Gardeners of the Ozarks, University of Missouri Master Gardeners, Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates Association...