Mom no longer speaks. She no longer watches television, gets out of bed or eats solid food. I have not heard her voice in months. She no longer wakes easily. I have to shake her to wake her. As a college graduate who served in the armed forces during World War II and as a NYC Police Officer for 20 years, she was smart, savvy, and strong. Now, Mom is bound to a hospital bed, barely opens her eyes, and can’t even speak her own name. Mom . . . is no longer there.
I spoke with Mom’s physician today and made the decision to withdraw her cardiac medication, which was prolonging a life that was slowly ebbing away. Mom does not have any quality of life. Only a few minutes have passed since that call to the doctor and the call I immediately made afterwards to her compassionate hospice nurse, who recognized that although I am an expert in the field of death, dying and bereavement, this was my mom and my personal narrative of loss. Mom . . . is no longer there.
As I was writing the above paragraph, I needed to take a break and spiritually reach out to my dad who died by suicide several years ago. He killed himself while I was in the hospital awaiting the birth of my triplets. I could not attend Dad’s funeral or partake in mourning rituals. I was on complete bed rest until my three sons were born only a few weeks later.
I needed to feel Dad’s presence as I struggled with end of life decisions she would want. I asked him to watch over her. I wished he was a fly on the wall silently watching me and listening to the conversations between myself, her physician, and her hospice nurse. My mind wandered from flies to butterflies. I believe that butterflies are symbols of life’s transition. I asked Dad for a sign that he was there for me.
I knew my dad was no longer there physically, but spiritually, I asked him to be a fly on the wall and listen to me as I struggled with letting go of Mom. I asked, “Daddy, show me a butterfly. Give me a sign that everything will be okay.”
I walked over to a skylight window and looked outside. I could not believe my eyes. Right on the frame of the window– a butterfly and a fly. Is it a sign? Is it a coincidence? Am I going crazy? I run for my phone to take a picture. When I return, only the fly remains. I snap the shot and realize later that I neglect to save it.
I wait patiently for the butterfly to come back. But the butterfly, like my . . . Mom
. . . is no longer there.
Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.
Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon - https://amzn.to/2FwS6JI
• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.
• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.
• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.