When do we lose our parents?

Parental loss varies by race and socio-economic status.

when do we lose our parentsAs a Census geek and as someone has lost both parents, I was intrigued by a new report about “When do we lose our parents?” It’s called “Parental Mortality is Linked to a Variety of Socio-economic and Demographic Factors.” Here’s the underlying study, Exploring the Link between Socioeconomic Factors and Parental Mortality.

“People lose their fathers earlier in life than their mothers, and the timing of parental loss is linked to factors such as race, educational attainment and poverty status.

“For the first time, the 2014 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) included a series of questions asking respondents whether their parents were still alive.” As you may know, my father died in 2000, my mother in 2011, so my experience is more common.

“For example, among those ages 45 to 49, 26% have lost their mother, while 45% have lost their father. Along these same lines, 7 in 10 of those ages 60 to 64 have a deceased mother, while about 87% have lost their father.” I was 47 when my dad died, 58 when mom passed.

“Among adults ages 25 to 34, about 15% of the white population and Asian population have lost one or both parents. By contrast, about 17% of the Hispanic population and 24% of the black population have experienced the death of a parent.” Fortunately, I am not in this group, but I know many folks who are.

“Among those ages 35 to 44, 43% of those living below the Federal Poverty Level have lost one or both parents, compared to 28% for those living in households with an income-to-poverty ratio of at least 400% of the FPL.

“Parental loss, which varies by race and socio-economic status, is often accompanied by psychological and material consequences. These statistics demonstrate the way these new SIPP data can help assess how socio-economic and demographic characteristics are associated with parental mortality in the United States.”

I suppose this is a bummer of a Mother’s Day post. But my mom always tried to do the right thing by others. My father spent his life addressing inequities. Somehow I don’t think they’d mind.

Bernie Massar, Barnyard (1953-2019)

The Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs.

Bernard Massar.Jan KostyunKaren, Carol, Lois, Diane, Irene, Bill, Bernie and I all started kindergarten together at Daniel S. Dickinson, where we did K-9, and graduated from Binghamton (NY) Central High School together.

Because Bernie Massar lived in the opposite direction from most of us, down Clinton Street rather than up Mygatt Street, I spent less time with him outside of school than I did with most of the others. I’m not sure if I had even been to his house.

But he’d been to mine at least once. I had a birthday party when I was eight or nine. I don’t know if it was poor communication or something else, but only two people showed up, my Cub Scout buddy and classmate Ray, and Bernie.

He could be the life of the party, betraying his clean-cut look. I hadn’t seen him in a long time when he – and Karen, Carol, Lois, and Bill – attended a high school reunion c. 2006. I see this jocular fellow nicknamed Barnyard with a walrus mustache, who had been fighting fires for a living for 27 years.

Obviously, I have no current history with him. Yet however unconnected we had become, he’d show up unexpectedly in the back of my mind. Now, Bernie Massar, this guy I’d met when we were not quite five – his birthday is a couple weeks before mine, I still recall – has died at the age of 66 and I have this sense of wistfulness.

And from pancreatic cancer, making him the THIRD person I’ve known IRL who died from that dreadful disease in 2019, and the year’s not even half over.

It makes me want to donate to his designated charity, the Retired Professional Firefighter’s Cancer Fund, 4 Loretta Drive, Binghamton, NY 13905. It is a non-profit 501(C)3 organization committed to raising funds for cancer research programs, which has been doing great work, it appears.

Death Cafe- drink tea, eat cake, discuss dying

What is the Meaning of Death?

At work, I took a question over the phone from one of our business advisors in the field, about a client wanting to become a funeral director. I asked the advisor if she was familiar with the Death Cafe, She was not.

“At a Death Cafe people drink tea, eat cake and discuss death. Our aim is to increase awareness of death to help people make the most of their (finite) lives.”

While Death Café is not a grief support group, it does offer a safe space to openly discuss thoughts, feelings, and experiences regarding dying and death. Death Cafés help us move toward being “a society that mindfully accepts dying and death as a part of everyday life.”

As I’ve mentioned, I had attended the first Death Cafe event in Albany in January 2018, and while I had not had a chance to go to subsequent talks, I have been following the local group on Facebook.

As my work colleague discovered, I’ve been fascinated by the issues surrounding death, going back to the passing of my paternal grandmother in 1964 and maternal great aunt in 1966.

I was also influenced by a now-infamous individual, Bill Cosby, who, in one of his routines, told us that when one dies, a person could be rigged up so that each time a mourner passes his open coffin he sits up and says, “Don’t I look like myself?” It’s funnier in context.

Cosby indirectly got me to read, when I was a young teenager, the landmark book The American Way of Death, “an exposé of abuses in the funeral home industry in the United States, written by Jessica Mitford and published in 1963.”

The next gathering of Death Cafe Albany will be at The Chapel at Albany Rural Cemetery on Saturday, September 29th from 1-2:30 pm. Please bring your own mug. Tea and cold water will be provided.

Here are some links from the Death Cafe Albany site on Facebook:

Photos of love and loss

What is the Meaning of Death? This Man Has Some Words to Share with You

Green funeral

Mom died early Friday the 13th….finally

The Funeral and Cemetery Law Blog

The Death Café phenomenon

And here are some grief-related resources that someone sent me to share:

Preparing for the Death of a Terminally-Ill Loved One: What to Expect, and How to Help the Entire Family Move Forward

Symptoms of Major Depression and Complicated Grief

Guidelines for Helping Grieving Children

Coping With The Stigma of Grieving an Overdose Death

Grief & the Loss of a Pet

Grief At Work: A Guide For Employees and Managers

For ABC Wednesday

Everything reminds me, when it isn’t it

f you have dementia, you may have difficulty with language, behavior, thinking, judgment, and memory.

After my mother died, I thought that the hospital people might want to check out her brain, dissect it for science or something. No, they were good.

The reason I thought about this was, according to the baby sister, the rapid change in my mother’s personality over the last six months of her life.

I came across this Daily Kos story about health care and politics, when this paragraph jumped out at me and pretty much slapped me across the face:

“Now, my uncle hasn’t been well for awhile. He’s suffered from an incredibly early onset of Pick’s Disease; which, if you’re not familiar with it, is like Alzheimer’s, but worse. Much worse. For instance, one of the ways you can differentiate between Pick’s Disease and Alzheimer’s is that with Pick’s people get incredibly hostile – argumentative, vulgar, violent – towards family members first and most aggressively, behavior they won’t exhibit or inflict on people they’re not familiar with.”

She wasn’t that young, 83 when she died, but she became really hostile to those she knew best. Yet she was seemingly a perfect angel to strangers, or those at her adult day care, e.g.

Of course, it doesn’t REALLY matter exactly what she died with – she died FROM the stroke. And she really doesn’t fit the full profile:

Pick’s disease is a rare condition that causes progressive and irreversible dementia. This disease is one of many types of dementias known as frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Frontotemporal dementia is the result of a brain condition known as frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD). If you have dementia, your brain doesn’t function normally. As a result, you may have difficulty with language, behavior, thinking, judgment, and memory. Like patients with other types of dementia, you may experience drastic personality changes.”

Whatever that caused the changes, I feel badly for my sister and her daughter. And, I suppose my mother too, although who knows how self-aware she was about processing things.

Seven years since Mom died. Still sucks.

B is for Bereavement in the midst of loss

Occasionally, someone I do not know will email me and ask if I would promote something, usually based on something I had written on this blog some years earlier. Recently, Jennifer from SpiritFinder wrote in a message called Bereavement:

“Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows how difficult that loss can be. For children, it can be even more difficult. Grasping the concept of mortality is tough enough for them.

“There are plenty of ways, however, to guide a child through the pain of losing someone or something special. Quite often it can be just as therapeutic for the adults as it is the children.

“In addition, many adults find that with aging and infirm loved ones, they are faced with decisions and instances they’ve never encountered before, on top of handling the likely death of a parent or close relative. All of this can be quite a bit for the entire family to bear.

“In order to alleviate some of the stress children and families might endure, I’ve put together a list of resources that can benefit everyone. I hope you will find these useful and worth sharing with your audience.”

What brought her to my blog was this post entitled Grief, which I wrote about two months after my mother died in 2011. The issue of bereavement has fascinated me even as a child: open casket/closed casket; sitting Shiva, as Jewish people do, or a loud celebration as they do in New Orleans.

Saying Goodbye: Talking to Kids About Death

Preparing for the Death of a Terminally-Ill Loved One: What to Expect, and How to Help the Entire Family Move Forward

Letting Children Share in Grief

The Bereaved Employee: Returning to Work

Final Logistics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling a Loved One’s Belongings After Their Death

Keeping the Peace While Settling a Family Estate

5 Things You Must Know as the Executor of an Estate

Jennifer notes: “While not all of these resources pertain to children, it’s important to remember that children will feel the effects of death that echo through the family, and I think several of these resources can be a great help to parents and extended family.”

Also, Nautilus. When illustrator JP Trostle’s mother died, he and his family faced a challenge familiar to many: cleaning house.

For ABC Wednesday