Creating A Healing List
While there are similarities, each person’s grief journey is unique, in feelings and in time. We all learn what helps us as individuals and families, but everyone can take a different path toward reconciliation. Today, we want to acknowledge one such path – Heather, a SightLife donor family, developed her own way that honors her individual process of healing.
Heather’s mother, Kathleen, died in July of 2018. She says of her mother, “She was a feisty one, fought till the very end.” She continues, “I loved the way my mom’s face would light up when she saw you, it’s as if she smiled with her whole being. She always had a little sparkle and sass about her. Her laugh was infectious. Even if you didn’t think what was as funny as she did, you still laughed, her soul was committed to making you laugh as much as her.”
Heather reached out to SightLife in 2023, when she decided she was ready to write an anonymous letter to her mother’s two cornea recipients. She explained this was part of her “healing list” – a list of tasks of “revisiting” that may be painful, but help her face her grief and honor her mother.
Heather is now graciously sharing her approach to healing and reconciling her mother’s death with the whole SightLife community. We hope you might find something here that speaks to you – giving you one more tool in your belt on your grieving journey.
Heather’s Healing List in her words:
- Going Through Mom’s box: This box was tucked away in the closet. It contained the outfit my mom wore to the hospital. I don’t think we knew at the time she wasn’t coming home. Her purse had her personal items such as checkbook (her handwriting!), driver’s license, and even her ChapStick. The box included several papers with her obituary in it, as well as cards, pictures, candles from her Celebration of Life.
- Visiting the Cemetery: I finally went to her gravesite this last year and planted flowers. She’s buried with her parents in Wolf Creek, Montana, up on a mountain. The view is incredible.
- Reading My Journal: I documented my mom’s short 7-month journey. From the moment in the ER when she thought she had a cold, which turned out to be small cell neuroendocrine. It has EVERYTHING. All her appointments, her treatments, anything she had done. You could ask me about a particular day, and I could tell you her heart rate, blood pressure, weight etc. From when she shaved her head to the first radiation treatment. I even had pictures! For some reason, while waiting for tests or procedures, I would take a picture of my shoes. I am not sure why, but I have a few of those as well.
- Reaching Out to Her Cornea Recipients: If anything, I wanted to acknowledge her passing in my mind by doing this. I hope the recipients appreciate looking at “the little things,” like the flowers blooming at the beginning of spring, the sunrise, and the smile of their favorite person.
- Connecting with the Hospital/Cancer Liaison (still need to check this off my list!): I was 44 when my mom died. I’m an only child with only one child myself. My family was getting smaller. By then, my mom, my grandpa, and my son were the extent of our family. My mom died in July and then my grandpa shortly after in December 2018. In March 2020, I had a heart attack probably from a broken heart. That was the first time I had been to the hospital. Today, I dread the hospital for so many reasons.
In my experience with hospitals, I realized the importance of hospital liaisons. Our liaison with my mother was amazing. I have chatted with her via email, but that’s about the extent of it and I have so much more to say. My hope is to be able to go to the hospital to see her again. Most people would think that isn’t not that important, but for me, it is – in fact, it looms over me like unfinished business, so I know it’s an important part of my grieving journey. I know that visiting her may be emotional, but in some strange way, I know that revisiting some of these memories will keep me close to my mother. After my heart attack, I lost a lot of memory and can struggle with words, so I think I’m so scared of forgetting her. I know we never forget, but I want to remember all of her, her hug, her voice, her laugh and even her final days.
My heart shattered into a million pieces the moment my mom died. Trying to process in my mind, what life would be like without her just wasn’t an option. I felt like we had just gotten her “after-life” care figured out and then she was gone.
I knew my mom was registered to be an organ, tissue and eye donor, but that was the farthest thing from my mind at the time. I’m thankful SightLife reached out to me with the option of cornea donation because it gave me a sense of hope amid tragedy. Thanks to donation, I feel my mom’s story didn’t end when she died, it continues on with the recipients of her corneas.
My mom had a sweet soul, she was kind, caring, strong and passionate – truly one of a kind. She was super woman, with a pink cape.