Monday, January 26, 2009

Still Life, with Memories

I'm going to give you a little window into my world, and what can trigger a painful cascade of memories.

Here is a still life, packed with memories. I've created it here for you, because yesterday, as I took a bath, I decided to use one of Katie's favorite bath products. Bad idea. The scent took me right back to countless bath times with her, after her diagnosis.

You can see, from the left side:
Liquid soap, for making bubbles and for washing, sitting atop a jar of lime-scented sugar-scrub; a gentle scrubbing wand for use with soap. All of these for getting clean and feeling feminine and sweet.
Parafilm. I would wrap each of the lumens of Katie's IV line (a PICC) with a square of this waxy wrap, to keep water out of the connectors.
GLAD Press-N-Seal. This is used for wrapping the IV line, to keep it water-tight where it meets the skin. I would gently, but firmly, wrap Katie's arm with Press-N-Seal, tucking the lumens under it (already wrapped in Parafilm). Then I would tape the ends of the Press-N-Seal to her arm, with the clear tape, or with the brightly colored
Coband (green & pink versions pictured on the right), which is a stretchy, non-stick tape used for countless purposes. Katie loved the colored Coband.
Nancy Drew Mysteries. I would sit beside the tub and read Nancy Drew aloud, after I had helped Katie wash and shampoo. We never made it through all of them.

Bath time was also a good time to replace the sheet of Replicare that protected Katie's soft cheek from irritation due to having a Nasal-Gastric (NG) tube (the white tube that you can see in the photos) stuck to her face. The NG tube was placed over the Replicare, and then a sheet of Tegaderm was placed over the NG tube and Replicare, to keep the NG tube in place on her cheek without hurting her beautiful, delicate skin. The NG was her main source of medication and nutrition. The tube leads through the nose, down the throat and into the stomach. (Above, Katie poses before Andrea & Mike's wedding with cousin Joey; below, she is cuddling with cousin Karl.)

Just the simple act of using the sugar scrub on my feet in the bathtub brought a terribly painful longing, and nostalgia for being with Katie again. I could picture us together in the hospital bathrooms, in the bath in our room at Ronald McDonald House, and in Katie's and David's bathroom at home.

I am actually feeling faint as I type this. This is why I don't write about a lot of the specific physical memories. This is how easy it is to go from functioning "normally" to "stalled."


Sis B said...

You're doing an amazing job, and it's ok to get stalled every now and then. Writing this is probably one of the most helpful things you can do to get through it. My heart aches for you. Write the things that hurt. It gives them a place to live outside your body, and one day that will be help with the healing. Allowing yourself to feel these things is excruciatingly necessary so that you don't get stalled permanently, like so many others I know. You are doing an amazing job of getting through the unthinkable.

I think of you often, of your courage and honesty and amazing attitude.

Melissa said...

Dear Karen - My name is Melissa Hudson and I am not even sure how I came about your blog, but first I followed Katie's carebridge site, from after she had passed. I wanted to let you know how sorry I am that you and your family have had to endure this loss! I have been drawn to your blog by the beautiful words and pictures related to Katie and all your other hobbies!! I was touched by this post as I could feel your pain - as you know this is all a normal part of the grieving process. I wanted you to know how strong and amazing you are - you are always sharing so openly about everything! It is easy when you are on your path to go from "functioning" to being "stalled" and that all who are on your path feel that way - often! It is ok and Katie is there with you to help start you up again! I found these 2 quotes that I would like to share with you, though you may have heard them previously -

Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy
-eskimo legend

If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart... I’ll always be with you.
- Winnie the Pooh

Good luck as you travel this grief journey and keep blogging about your feelings - it helps to get them out!! ~ Melissa

Jennifer said...

The specificity of your descriptions of how you and Katie used these items really hit hard. For me, as a reader. I can't imagine how you feel. And the first thing I thought was something Sis B and Melissa voiced -- man, you're doing an amazing job. I thought of the word "courage" too. Courage to have endured the first round: all the times and the occasions for using the items you pictured -- and then the second (and third and fourth and so on) rounds: re-living them again, without Katie. Both take a deep kind of courage and strength, as you're looking into an abyss. No wonder you "feel faint." No wonder.

Keep on -- whether that means writing or sitting silently or observing or walking or photographing or drinking wine or resting or talking or reading ...

And go gently.


Grandma J said...

I can't even imagine the painful memories...especially with the scents. What powerful emotions they uncover.

monicac2 said...

Sending hugs, thoughts and prayers your way. God bless you.

Beth said...

Sending prayers for strength and comfort as you endure unimaginable pain. You are so very courageous. Katie was so very blessed to have you to call Mom.

Busy Bee Suz said...

Oh, Karen, I sympathize with you so much....The pain of heartbreak is almost unbearable.
*hugs from me*
I have to say though, those pictures of Katie...even with the tube in her nose and the pain she must have endured...You can see the JOY in her eyes. SHE just radiated JOY. I never can get over all her pictures.
What an angel.

Dawn~^i^Brandon^i^, Jordan, and Seth's mom said...

Just breathe.......and then the next one....Oh I so wish I could give you a big hug in person & just sit, hear more about your beautiful Katie, talk about Brandon...cry, scream, laugh at some good memories...and just everything that goes along with the incredible miraculous way that our hearts can still beat after being broken (I'll never understand that).

Sending Love & Hugs to you!

A said...

sending you love and hugs my sweet friend...angela

Smileygirl said...

I hope you are feeling better.

Maybe you needed to "go there" with these feelings to get them out. Probably why you felt faint. It's got to be physically draining and mentally exhausting so please take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

I so connect with you on this .....somedays i think, how can i live like this, with this much pain! How ca go on for Mike and George?? How??? But, then the damm breaks, i seem to come to a new "resolution" and i can go on until the well buids up again. Somdqys i just miss him ...his touch, his smell. and knowing how much he loved this and that seems so asaulting, as one friend put it! we miss our children and we long for them. but, we ar enot alone. so many of us are going thru this andyou are helping so many people. your words are always of truth and only those hwo walk this path can know these keep doing your thing. it i working and it is painful but i love you, your spirit to create and to give. you are amazing....btw, i love the pics of Katie !!!!!!!!! she is gorgeous. just gorgeous. hugs to you
michelle tucker

MB said...

I wish we could go to the bakery for salad and coffee....soon.....sending so much love your way!!

Clippy Mat said...

you must have been an amazing mother to katie. she was so blessed to have you.
savour all of your memories. :-))

hdbl said...

oh these memories must be painful.

i have placed you today in God's loving gentle hands.

you are an amazing woman.

blessings on you Karen..

gwendomama said...

oh wow. this just triggered such a memory for me. now of course i will have to write about it, as i feel compelled to make it through....
about a year after elijah died, a friend needed to bathe their pukey baby at my house - she helped herself to a nearly empty bottle of baby bath which she found by rummaging....

of course it was his.