Funerals and Hearing Loss

My parents live 10 hours south of me. Before working full time I’d visit them every couple of months. Since working full time it turned into only a couple of times a year. I get along well with my parents, they turned into my friends also in my later 20’s and enjoyed visiting them very much.  I went to visit my parents in Arizona June 11th, helped them with some outside chores. It was a good visit, they seemed well, plugging along in their own way living life off the grid. I left on the 14th, that morning, hugging them both and getting the usual kiss from my dad.

When I got home I texted my mom as usual, letting her know I made it. She then texted saying she need to Skype with me. I hadn’t had the chance to make my normal cocktail after the long trip. Skype, I asked her, is something wrong? “Yes, very wrong.” So I got on my computer and pulled up Skype.  She told me my dad had died that evening.

When leaving them after my short visit that Sunday morning (more on traveling with a hearing loss during the pandemic later), I was a little upset that my dad wouldn’t wear a mask. “I can’t breathe and it makes my nose run.” I left thinking he would probably get COVID19 first and with his kidney troubles that would be that. Instead it was a fast and hard heart attack, which is probably how he preferred it. Suddenly my trip down there turned into the ultimate gift, I got to spend the last of my dad’s days with him.

My parents shared their wills with us years ago so we knew what to expect. Neither of them want any kind of services or celebrations of life. They are simple and humble people. All 3 of my kids wound up being there, my husband, my sister and her husband a long with her dogs. It was the busiest their house had been years. We were there with my mom at different times, not all once. They lived off the grid for a reason, they weren’t social people. My kids spread out their visits so we didn’t overwhelm my mom. It was good to have them there with me. My family is super inclusive about my hearing loss, no issues there. We shared stories on the porch where my dad liked to sit in the mornings and evenings. My boys and husband went out to look at the stars, one of my dad’s favorite things. It was simple and stress free communication wise.

No services meant no struggle to hear. I was not straining to hear different people I don’t hang out with, it takes a while to get used to other people voices and mannerisms to make lipreading work.  That sounds selfish but while already upset (emotions can make all the things I do do hear all the harder), I was glad there wasn’t more to deal with. At funerals I’ve attended in the past, I would always end up crying not only for the person who passed away but my inability to hear the stories shared. People cry while trying not to cry which wrecks lipreading, warps words far beyond the normal. They look down a lot too or off to the side.  The more I want to hear, the harder I try and the worse my lipreading gets along with my what’s left of my hearing. It’s a no win situation. As sad as it is, I was grateful for no formal service.

However, it meant meant my dad’s extended family had to mourn on their own. My mom couldn’t talk to anyone without crying, and she hates crying, so I wound up texting my cousins to tell my aunts.  Told them sorry to be texting but I didn’t have the aunts text numbers. I was happy to text with anyone if they wanted but I couldn’t call as me and phone calls don’t mix well.  They were okay with that and would text off and on and finally my mom was able to text with them too. Texting is a godsend, even for those who don’t have a hearing loss.

At a social online with Google Meet, I mentioned no services and being glad which opened up the floor to others with hearing loss and how they dealt with it in the past.  Most people agree it’s a hard situation. One person said she asked people to pass around her Roger Pen which worked really well until someone forgot. If people take turns going up to the front, it’s easy to leave any FM system on the lectern.

Life celebrations have typically been easier for me, when they aren’t formal. I can around and talk to different people and work it out.  One life celebration I attended gathered everyone in one spot and people took turns talking. That was hard on me, I couldn’t get around the room with about 30 people fast enough to catch anything. Informal is much easier on me.

Death of loved one is hard and being deaf can make it a lot harder. I’m fairly lucky, all things considered; getting to see my dad those last few days and having a family that doesn’t leave me out. I still feel heavy and foggy so it took a long to write.

family photo

Our family, late 70’s.  I’m on the right next to my dad.

Seeing that old family picture takes me back. My dad built that couch (and a month later they came up with a correction as the back was too short) and the cushions were held up by rope. The rope would squeak and groan every time we sat down or moved around. Back then I could hear all that. I remember I had pulsatile tinnitus though I didn’t know what it was then. I remember being as young as 4 and laying on my side in bed hearing ‘footsteps’, not knowing it was my heartbeat.

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