When I say that, I am not talking about anyone named June. I am talking about the month of June. And you may be asking yourself, "Why do you hate an arbitrary moment in time?" That's a very good question. June has many good qualities. It is a summer month, the weather is nice, swimming pools are open, the kids are out of school. Ok, maybe the parents aren't so fond of that last one. June is also a fairly common month for weddings. Some people might even think that's a good thing, too.
But still, June sucks. June 24th, 1999. Thursday afternoon. While I'm at work I get a phone call from my sister, which never happens. She says, "Mom's had a stroke, she probably won't make it through the night. Come home now." So I do. After a small delay to change a flat tire on my week-old car on the side of I35 in downtown Dallas I arrive at the hospital late in the evening. (By the way, it's super exciting to change a tire on the side of the highway during rush hour traffic with cars whizzing by at 80+ MPH.)
Mom suffered severe neurological damage from her stroke, had no neurological activity, and never regained consciousness. Two days later on June 26th we elected to take her off life support, and she passed away.
In May of 2015, just a week or so after his 80th birthday, my dad had a heart attack. He made it to the hospital and survived. He had a lot of blockage, so a few days later the doctors performed bypass surgery. It was a very difficult surgery. (Afterward, the surgeon told the family, "Your dad's heart was very angry with us.")
While this was going on I stayed in Austin. In my mind the last time all of us got together with a loved one in the hospital that person died, so if I stayed home everything would be OK. It was not. While recovering from bypass surgery dad suffered a pulmonary embolism and died on June 3rd.
June 3rd. That date will come up again.
For my brother Richard we're going to go back a little in time. Richard started drinking and smoking (cigarettes and pot) in his early teens. He went to county jail many times for drunk driving and went to state prison a couple of times for burglary and assault. He made a lot of bad decisions.
In the late 90s Dad thought it would help if Richard moved away from his "loser friends" (Dad's words) so he moved him to Kansas, where Richard worked driving a forklift. He still had some the same bad habits (smoking and drinking), but he stayed out of trouble and worked hard.
Around 2011 Richard collapsed at work and was rushed to the hospital. He was in a coma for 29 days. The doctors eventually determined that his liver was failing and were able to find the treatment to get him out of the coma and stay out of it. He was placed on the transplant list, but the doctors told him that he was very low on the list, and that he probably would die before he got to the top.
Things change. A few months later during a checkup the doctors found cancer on Richard's liver. His spot on the transplant list was bumped up, and within two months he received a new liver. He was still unable to work, but it was the healthiest he had been in years. Dad was spending most of his time in Kansas with Richard, making sure he took his medication and taking him to his appointments. Richard once said, "I think I'm one of the very few people whose life was saved by cancer."
Fast forward back to 2015. Dad has just passed away. Richard was still living in Kansas. In order for my sister and incredibly handsome twin brother to help we decided to move Richard back home. At his final appointment in Kansas, in August of 2015, the doctors found cancer in his lungs.
We get him back to Texas. He sees some cancer specialists, but because of his transplant his treatment options are limited. The treatments don't work. The tumors have gotten bigger.
In April of 2016 he fell and broke his leg. Well, that's what we told everyone. Actually, his leg broke before he fell. The cancer had spread to his bones. He had surgery to repair the break and started physical therapy. During this time he had trouble eating and started hallucinating. The cancer had spread to his brain.
I came home for a week to help take care of Richard. It had been a few months since I had seen him. Now, there have been many movies about terminally ill people. The actor will lose a dangerous amount of weight, the critics will praise their "courageous" performance, and they might even win some awards. And it's true, losing all that weight to portray someone seriously ill is not easy. Kudos to them.
But it's not even close. To see the hollow shell of a loved one, a hundred pounds underweight, is devastating. So it was shocking when I came back home. It became apparent that we could not take care of him ourselves, even with the home care nurses we were using. So he was placed in hospice and eventually a nursing home for 24 hour care. He passed away on May 31. His funeral was exactly one year after our dad died. June 3rd.
Anyone who has ever met me, or follows me on social media, or has come in contact with me at any point in their life knows that my favorite day of the year is my birthday. I announce "only 6 months until my birthday" or "only 1 month until my birthday" with the added tag: Shop early, shop often. (It's October 7th, by the way.)
I have other favorite days. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. But I recently added a new favorite day: July 1st. For the past few years when I pray during the month of June I say, "Please don't let any of my immediate family members die during the month of June." So when July 1st rolls around I breathe a sigh of relief and say, "Thank you."
Most people have heard about the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages are a framework for grief, but they aren't set in stone. People may go through them in a different order, or they might only go through a couple of them. Others might go through more than these five.
I'm going to focus on the last two. Depression is the phase most people associate with grief. The earlier ones tend to be shorter, while the depression phase could last many years. When people think of depression they usually think of the extreme cases, like debilitating sadness and suicide. But depression has a wide spectrum of behaviors, such as withdrawal from society, lethargy, weight gain. Routine helps, such as going to work or church, or friends checking in. People may also need counseling or self-help groups to get through this phase.
The final stage is acceptance. Here's is what grief.com says about acceptance.
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK or all right about the loss of a loved one. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live. We must try to live now in a world where our loved one is missing. In resisting this new norm, at first many people want to maintain life as it was before a loved one died. In time, through bits and pieces of acceptance, however, we see that we cannot maintain the past intact. It has been forever changed and we must readjust. We must learn to reorganize roles, re-assign them to others or take them on ourselves. Finding acceptance may be just having more good days than bad ones. As we begin to live again and enjoy our life, we often feel that in doing so, we are betraying our loved one. We can never replace what has been lost, but we can make new connections, new meaningful relationships, new inter-dependencies. Instead of denying our feelings, we listen to our needs; we move, we change, we grow, we evolve. We may start to reach out to others and become involved in their lives. We invest in our friendships and in our relationship with ourselves. We begin to live again, but we cannot do so until we have given grief its time.
You never move on from grief. You just move forward. That might seem sad, but pain is a part of life in this world. We can't control the world around us. As it said above we might still have bad days. In 2011, twelve years after my mom had passed away, I was watching the Footloose remake with my girlfriend. The main character has to move in with relatives because his single mother has passed away. Early in the movie there is a discussion about the mother, and I started crying in the theater. I wasn't loudly sobbing, but I kept having to wipe the tears off my face. My girlfriend kept asking if I was OK. After the movie I explained what was going on. She's an ex-girlfriend now, but it had nothing to do with the crying. Probably.
Everyone (who isn't a sociopath) grieves. My dad, who never cried at any other time in his life, cried at mom's funeral. Even Jesus grieved. In John 11:35 it says, "Jesus wept." While this verse is a favorite for people to memorize because it's only two words, it's important to note why He wept. Jesus wept because Lazarus has died.
But why did He weep? He knew what was going to happen next. He knew Lazarus was going to be raised back to life. Jesus wept because he was grieving. He sympathized and empathized with the grieving family. And just because you know how the story ends doesn't mean you can't cry at the sad parts.
So yes, June still sucks. Most days are good, but there are still some bad ones. But July 1st always comes around. And I know how the story ends.