Cruel Summer

The Bananarama song has been echoing around my brain recently: It's a cruel (Cruel), cruel summer Leaving me here on my own. It's a cruel (It's a cruel), cruel summer. Now you're gone"  This summer HAS been particularly cruel.  Wildfires, hurricanes and blazing temperatures:  that's cruel.  But that's not what I'm talking about.

You might think I was talking about my dad's death.  His passing, which was expected, was particularly cruel as was my mother's last summer.  They both suffered with illness for months, which was awful to watch and exhausting for all involved.  However, that's only part of what made this summer so cruel.

I spoke to a co-worker/friend who I had not talked to in months earlier this week.  She had gone through an awful health scare earlier in the month and is still recovering from surgery she had in June.  As she told me about the trauma she had gone through, I felt guilt at not reaching out to her sooner. What this incredibly vital woman has experienced is definitely cruel.

Also this past week, I have learned that two friends have lost their mothers.  One has been a friend since before high school, although we have been out of touch for a long time.  Another is a relatively "new" friend (and by new I mean within the past 10-15 years).  My heart aches for both of them.

Earlier this summer, we were lucky enough to have my cousin visit us for several days.  He was particularly close to my mother (they grew up together) and my husband and I hadn't seen him in 19 years.  (My son had never met him and very much wanted to.)  We had a wonderful few days together.  (I wish we had more days...)  So why would I enter this under the category of "cruel?"  The reason he was able to travel is because his wife, someone my husband and I adored, had died after a long battle with an inherited neurological disease.   Because we were caught up in our own cruel drama, I hadn't realized how difficult the last several years  had been for her and my cousin.  They were a devoted couple; an example to my husband and myself.  Though we had only physically met a handful of times, I couldn't help but immediately be drawn to her wry humor and her incredible thoughtfulness.  She never met my son, but she was part of his life.  She encouraged his creativity. (Especially with the holiday gifts that she sent when he was young.) Finding out how ill she had been and then what seemed to be a quick passing (at least for us; I know it was a long and painful for her), made this a cruel summer.  (Especially as she died less than a week after my father.)

What also has made this a cruel summer is the passing of my Aunt Marlene.  She was the wife of my father's brother (our son is named for him).  Again, while we didn't see her (or for that matter her children, my cousins) very often due to distance, I loved getting her holiday cards.  When my cousins posted that she was in the hospital with a serious infection, I had a sinking feeling that this would not have a happy outcome.  (Something I did NOT share with my cousins.)  While I don't know all the details behind her illness, I DO KNOW that it was incredibly difficult and stressful for her children.  It was a cruel reminder of what I had gone through over the last 6 months of my father's life.  I knew what pain my cousins and their family must be going through.  I knew how difficult it would be to make informed decisions.  I knew that there would be confusion, guilt and a whole host of emotions.  I had been through it, and I didn't want them to go through it too, but...

Now I know my cousins will have to deal with the cruel realities that death forces upon you.  While you are grieving (or trying to grieve) there are all sorts of administrative bs that you have to deal with.  It's hard enough dealing with the passing of a loved one; going through the bureaucratic duties is exhausting and (my word of the year) OVERWHELMING.  Having gone through this twice in the past 18 months, I know what they would soon experience (if they haven't already) is a nightmare.  While I can offer them a shoulder to lean on and offer my advice, I know nothing I can do will truly help them as they navigate this difficult path.

The summer of 2023 will go down in my book as the cruelest.  I am thankful that we are heading into a new season; one that I hope will be cruelty free.  Finally, if I have been taught anything by this "cruel summer" is that everyone is going through something...avoid the cruel and be kind.


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