By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee/@GeeGranny on Twitter
I’ve seen a stranger in my mirror for so long … it’s good to finally recognize someone I know, like … ‘Me’. Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee.
Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
Six years ago, my only child died. For the first 3 1/2 years I wasn’t aware of anything but, my grief. My son had died, I didn’t care about anything at all, excepting our Pups, and Skip (my husband).
I have to say that today … looking back … everything is dark. I don’t want to see through that darkness right now. It takes so much out of me when I force myself to go back. It’s like being trapped in a dark, foggy, scary place … There are times I will go back to describe to you very real grief … not tonight.
I am writing tonight about trying to find myself in the mirror. When I became aware of myself after the first several years of grieving … I would notice myself standing in front of the mirror, staring. I didn’t know the person I was looking at. I would peer closely, ask myself … ‘is that me?’ I couldn’t recognize the person in the mirror. I had never looked like … that.
I was very overweight … my face had no happiness, sunshine in it … whereas before … I always smiled. My eyes had no light in them … no life. I couldn’t see myself anymore … I really was gone. I was on a journey no mother should ever have to travel … the one traveled after her child has died.
Where I used to be very pretty … I looked so awful. I couldn’t bear to see … me. I didn’t have the motivation, nor desire to look better, then. I didn’t care how I looked … I had died inside … my child was gone. How could I live … even smile … feel any happiness at all … my child was dead? Tommy died … Tommy was dead.
I began to tell myself I would grieve in a good way … a positive way. I was beginning to think thoughts about the future. I wanted to grow older in a good way … no bitterness, anger, hate. I began to work on myself, how I thought about things.
Sometimes, I would catch a glimpse of ‘me’ in the mirror … sometimes, ‘me’ … smiled. I would try to capture ‘me’ in a photo with my cellphone. Photos of ‘me’ were just damn awful … I looked so horrible. The truth is the truth … I never thought I would be, or find ‘me’ again.
I did try harder to look better … I just didn’t care. This is someone who used to have to dress ‘perfect’ before going out the door even to a store. My hair, makeup, clothes had to look very nice. I always was known to look nice … people would say I was … beautiful. Well … when I became aware of those people who used to say that … when they saw me … I saw mouths drop open like … what the hell?
Not one person ever came to me to ask me what was wrong. No one ever knew my son died … I never bothered to tell them. I could only write about it … not talk about it. Writing helped to save my life … my grief was bigger than I. Six years later … people are just finding out that Tommy died … they are shocked. I don’t elaborate on his death … I can’t bear to talk about it. When asked how he died, I just tell them he had 4 blockages to his heart, collapsed at the beach playing with his son. I walk off … leave Skip to talk … I don’t want to.
I’ve never carried anything so heavy in my life. If you saw me then … you saw a wreck of a woman … who moved automatically in life … who only existed because … she couldn’t just lay down, die. I almost did … I never cared. So … you can see, maybe understand the ‘whys?’ … it means so much for me to ‘see myself’ again.
Six years later, I’m ready to be myself, enjoy looking nice again. I almost gave up … almost. A year ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes … that was something I couldn’t accept even for a moment … it made me angry.
I already had several medical conditions … brought on during the three years I fought to survive cancer … Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I’m a 16 year survivor … and am fortunate to be here … not many people who had it when I did … made it. My oncologist told me last summer I shouldn’t be here. Can you imagine being told that? It brought home to me how fortunate I was … I felt cold chills when he told me.
I decided on studying, joining support groups on weight lost surgery. I did this for over a year … I began to ask questions. I found out that Medicare would pay for my surgery. This was back when Skip was working, driving a truck. My part to pay was $457 … Skip paid that months before he, himself became sick, had to stop driving. Even after that … the tests I had to go for … over a 6 month period … I was still undecided.
Skip became very ill in January … and until a month ago … he went through so much. I wasn’t going to have my surgery … until Skip was on even keel. He stayed very sick for 5 1/2 months, almost dying 3 times. He wanted me to have my surgery … he knew how much it meant to me. For a short period of time … he stayed on even keel … just long enough for me to have surgery.
Just after my surgery, he became bad off again. I didn’t have time to recuperate from my surgery … I was traveling 80 miles daily, to and from the hospital every day … no sooner than he come home from the hospital … he was back into the hospital. I never let my pain stop me … I just kept going. I had to be strong for Skip, and I was.
April 20, 2016 … I had my surgery. July 20th will be 3 months since surgery. I have finally begun to feel good each day … and I am seeing in the mirror … ‘Me!’ again. I am just beginning to feel joy in seeing the weight come back off … feeling how good it feels just to feel good, again. It’s wonderful. I’m finding … myself … at last!
I couldn’t open my eyes to see ‘me’ … until Skip got on an even keel, getting stronger and stronger. For 5 weeks now … he is doing well. I pray he never gets sick again.
Since January, I have lived in fear … Skip had a stroke, went into congestive heart failure 3 times, kidney failure/surgery, hemorrhaging nosebleeds that required him to be given blood, he had a pacemaker put in, 2 stents put in … he almost hemorrhaged to death just after the heart catherization when the shaft/sheath (I forgot the name) was taken out of his thigh. This wasn’t all that happened to him during that time. It was one nightmare after the other. I was on a roller coaster I couldn’t get off from … I held on for dear life. I had to be strong for Skip, our Pups.
Today … Skip is stronger. He is driving … moving around like ‘Skip’. I am so grateful, thankful. He and The Pups are my whole life … they are my whole world. Not only that … I am so grateful to all my friends who helped me make it through that awful time. Do you know the song … Wind Beneath My Wings? I think of that song when I think of the ones who helped me with tires, oil change, and gas to be able to make it through. I have no family … I didn’t have one person I could go to … to ask for help. I will be always grateful to everyone who cared for me … they never had to, but … they did. I’m so thankful.
Now … today … I am finally beginning to see, find … me. When I look in the mirror at times ‘now’ … I don’t cringe every time when I see me. I’m beginning to recognize myself, again. I’m so happy with my decision to go through with my surgery. I wouldn’t trade doing it at all. I no longer have diabetes, something I just couldn’t cope with. I am feeling better, and better as Skip becomes stronger, himself. The Pups are doing well … I took the best care of them during the months Skip was so ill. They are happy Pups, know they are loved.
Today … I saw ‘me’ in the mirror … I am seeing ‘me’ in the mirror more often, now. I’m finding myself after being on the longest, hardest journey in my life … as a grieving mother. I’m finding myself after almost losing the one person I have left in this world, who is my world … my husband. I have so, so much to be thankful for … I am.
I’ve shared my journey as a grieving mother … I will still share those times that happen when grief hits. Now, I’m on another road in life … never forgetting my son … but, going forward. I am on a weight loss journey … and in the process of … finding ‘Me’.
Note by this author:
As long as Skip and The Pups are doing well … I am happy. Each morning I get up … I thank God for everything. I can smile at myself in the mirror … because I am finally recognizing myself again. This means the world to me.