Poetry and personal blog – Spilling my guts to strangers

Foreshadowing Death

Foreshadowing: It’s a literary device where a writer gives a hint early in a story about events that will happen later on. Sometime it’s subtle, like a tickle in the throat that gradually and progressively turns into coughing up blood and ends in death from consumption. Or, in another case, maybe we’re told from the very beginning that the marriage is over, but first let’s hear about how it all started.

In real life, some people are foreshadowers by nature, and others can’t be bothered with such.

My brother died about 26 years ago, the same year I got married. He was more than a decade older than I was–but still young, in his 30s–and he lived across the country on the west coast.

His had had some health problems, but we thought he was well on the road to overcoming them. So when I picked up the ringing telephone and said, “Hello,” the last thing I expected to hear in return was his wife’s voice, with no warning, saying,  “Alan is dead.” The first reaction was disbelief, followed immediately by the realization that she would never joke about something like that. My mother was standing near and knew to take the phone from my hand, though I didn’t want to give it to her. Fortunately, there was a chair nearby, as she slumped into it like a ragdoll upon hearing the news for herself.

In the immediate aftermath, I wondered if maybe that could have been handled a little better. I thought, if that had been me, I would have applied some Vaseline, would have started by saying, “I’m sorry,  I have bad news.” In time, of course, I realized that I was no one to judge the actions of a freshly-widowed women with a toddler, that no amount of grease could dull the force of the initial shock.

As for my marriage, it lies in shambles, 26 years later almost  to the day of my brother’s death. Separation is imminent. Years ago, I wondered if getting married within months of the funeral was a bad omen, but this is not a work of fiction. One thing has nothing to do with the other, except that in each case, these things happen, and life goes on.

© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2011


Comments on: "Foreshadowing Death" (44)

  1. You know, I hope, if you need someone to talk to you I am here and would keep all things to myself. You know also that reach out or not, I am sending you lots of love and will keep you in my prayers.
    Thank you for sharing this with us. Thank you for it all ❤

  2. Call me stupid but was this real or was this fictitious. The writing was amazing and moving. Is this real. If so, it was still wonderfully written and my heart breaks for your loss. If it is not real, you are a wonderful writer anyhow. Ok, now I am confused. Excellent writing one way or another, Sweeny.

  3. So sorry for your loss and wish your problems are blown away by the winds of good fortune, touching post. Thanks for sharing, Sweepyjean.

  4. Sweepy…I believe that foreshadowing depends on the depth of the person and how well they are in touch with themselves those around them. However, there can be no foreshadowing that can cushion that sort of shock. I don’t know your sister-in-law, but my gut feeling is that her delivery was one made out of just that…shock. If death was sudden with no prior warning (being that he seemed to be overcoming his health problems)…shock was likely her only reaction and leaving her unable to find words that could provide the vaseline that you speak of.

    I am so sorry to hear of the horizon you see in terms of your marriage! Know that you are a strong, wonderful, special woman…a blessing to the many to whom you’ve reached out. Beyond that…know that you have people out here in the land of bloggy buddies, that would be more than happy to lend you an ear, a shoulder, pass the tissues, pass out a hug. xoxoxo ❤

    • Thank you, Jess. Blogging and such have helped me maintain some sanity in the past weeks, and connecting with you and other blogging buddies have been an important part of it. It’s nice to know you are out there. {{{huggs}}}

  5. I just want to thank you for your continuing vulnerability and transparency with us. 26 years is a long time to identify as a particular person and then have to transition out of that. Through it all, remember to do YOU justice!

    • Thanks, Justice. I’m happy you all don’t mind listening to me! 😉 And you are so right; there are some days I feel completely lost and overwhelmed. But like you say, this is an opportunity to become even more myself.

  6. I’m not so sure I’d call this foreshadowing so much as the chaos theory, not that I understand that very well. It’s like blaming the earthquake in Japan on the fact that a butterfly went splay on someone’s windshield in Kansas or something.

    So sorry for your chaos though. I remember when my brother called to tell me that my father had died, he first asked me to sit down, the gave me the news and simply hung up. No discussion was possible at that moment.

    • I guess we try to make sense of it all by making associations, when the fact is that some things just are what they are. Thanks, Anna. ❤

  7. Sweepy – that was really sad. I believe in signs too but not in a superstitious way. I believe Alan is in a much happier place and I believe you will be happier in the path you choose too. Its more like I believe that there is a plan ahead of us and we need to go through all these tragedies to go through that path. One needs to follow the other in order to reach the final destination. Vaseline or no vaseline. Personally I think, for a person like you (as much as I know of you in my own cyber way) only good things are in store… Hugs

  8. Oh, gosh, SJ. Small words: Stay busy. Focus on positive things. This, your writing. Your children. Your friends. You are rebuilding even as you are dismantling.

    We need breakfast!

  9. Always so open and real. That’s why you’re a wonderful writer Sweepy. I received a call at midnight from an aunt that I rarely saw telling me my father died. I still remember it. Earlier that evening I felt restless and couldn’t sleep. It was like I knew what was coming. The feelings that ensued afterward were shock and sadness. Before my father passed he was supposed to call me and in that space when he didn’t I was so mad at him. I thought why is this man ignoring me yet again. Deep down in that empty space I knew something was wrong. Perhaps that was the foreshadowing? But I focused on the anger instead of picking up the phone and calling him first.

    When you write dear, you unite. We are with you girl in our own experiences and in our empathy.

    Many blessings…

  10. I think it was done correctly. I don’t like the foreshadowing as it sends those lumps to the throat, the sweating in anticipation and the racing heart. Say what you have to say.

    I feel for your loss Jeany. Love to you and yours.


  11. I honor your honesty. Many have us have gone through what you have and are going through. It seems like the end but it is not. You will go on and you will smile and laugh one day and not so far away. I will keep a good thought for you and offer my shoulder among all the other offers.
    I ended a marriage after 8 years and felt awful but I just celebrated 24 years of marriage. It will get better.


    • I’m glad you were able to find a wonderful partner the second time around, Jim. It amazes me how much can be fit into a lifetime. Thanks for your message of encouragement and hope. ❤

    • This is beautiful Jim! I’m also glad you found your second chance. It gives me hope for a first! LOL! And a second for Sweepy. She deserves it! 🙂

  12. Something I need to share

    Well just cleaning up around here and seeing what I have got here. It seems strange the things that we put here in the garage, all the boxes, wrapping paper, and empty containers. There one that I found that is a hart shaped box that had candy in it that I shared with someone. Its velvet cover is faded, the ribbon and bow have been torn and mash down. It looks like the mouse had taken a bite or two out of it. The candy was eaten long ago. When I look back I remember the fun and the thoughts and feeling that were shared. I still can share the things that came in the box, the fun and the thoughts and feeling. The shape of it is within me. I guess it is time to let go of the box. But when I see someone that I shared it with I can see all that was in the box is still here to be shared. I will miss not having that box to put thing in, but that box could not hold all that it did share. Although the box is broken and gone the fun, laughter, thoughts, and the feelings are still here. My heart is heavy with the memories and full of love for all of you that shared this box with me. my prayers go out for and yours

  13. Hearing of a death is Never easy, my friend, even a face to face would be difficult to take it all in. I am so sorry for your loss; but sorrier even that you (in your writing) seemed to have unfinished emotions between you and your deceased, I truly know that feeling having gone through it with my father decades ago. I wish you peace, believe me, it will come when you finally forgive yourself for whatever you perceive you should have or should have not done prior to his passing. Be assured, my friend, it will come when you allow it.
    blessings Maryelle

    • I don’t know if I said that, but maybe I did, in some way. But yes, there is that, too. Thanks for listening and sharing. Much appreciated. ❤

  14. Don’t you,at times, wish life was a smooth sail? Alas, we have to face the crests and troughs during this journey – but travel we must.
    Nothing makes sense. There remain so many unanswered questions. I pray that good things happen to you.

  15. I’m very sorry for your loss of your brother. Having been on the receiving end of a call like that it is shocking and it takes a long time to shake that feeling of being robbed. I think some sadness comes from realizing that at some point you will have lived more of your life without your loved one than you lived it with them. I truly believe that the ones we love and are gone remain with us still in our hearts and memories and watch over us. I am sure your brother is still watching over his little sister.

    As for your marriage, I am sorry for that too. But, remember that saying, “Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over she became a butterfly.” Twice you have been given a new normal to get used to. Your writing is beautiful and I think you have a lot of people out here in blogland pulling for you and sending good thoughts your way.

  16. Sweepy Jean, I am deeply moved by this story… and what an apt title: Foreshadowing Death. From the very first paragraph you grabbed the readers’ attention. Then, as the story unfolds, you capture the heart.

    This memory I can certainly relate to since I lost a brother too – and one well over a decade older than I as well. Still we were the best of friends as adults. One summer day when he was wearing shorts I noticed red streaks on his legs. This, in my eyes, foreshadowed the double amputation that was to come, and the eventual loss of his will to live.

    Just so you know, I’m here anytime you need a friend and a listening heart.

  17. I think people react to death in different ways. as somebody said it was the shock that made your sister in law blurt out that “Alan is dead”. I got the news of my dad’s sudden demise at 2 in the morning and I was far away from home. My cousin brother tried to beat round the bush by saying that I should go home as dad wasn’t well. I told him to tell me the truth. I wanted to hear the news outright. I too had a kind of foreshadowing. Two nights earlier I had a dream that my grand dad who left us many years ago come up to me and ask for my dad saying he had come to take him. But it never sunk in till I got the news of my dad.
    Sweepy from what I know through cyber space you are a wonderful person and a very strong one. I am sure you will move on to a much better future. It is not easy to pick up the pieces and start anew after 26 years of marriage. I left mine last years after 10 years and that too it was my second. For a long time I tried to make it work with an alcoholic but at the end I had to let go. I am more at peace today though I do have my days of sadness. You have many friends who care about you, please count me among them. Thank you for sharing. God bless.

  18. I’m with Alejandro, SJ…foreshadowing always gives me a sense of impending doom…what a sad loss for your family and what a shame for you to have to deal with a marriage that is ending…divorce is like a death. I remember quite clearly the day my mom told me she was divorcing my dad. It changed my life, and my sisters’ lives, forever. We survived, and are stronger women for it I believe now. But how hard it was to get through…I am thinking of you and praying for you SJ…
    ~cath xo

  19. Well, I had to read that one twice! Took me by surprise. And as we used to say in elementary school, “that rots.” What splendid comments I have read, however, that have spoken as much to me as they undoubtedly have to you: “Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over she became a butterfly.” “You are rebuilding even as you are dismantling.” Wise words, and I wish you the very best…

    • The comments have been wonderful. I am so touched, it’s beyond words. I’m glad you are here, too, Laurie. I appreciate your well wishes. xox

  20. Hello Sweepy, I’m sorry that you are going through such a hard time in your life right now. I think that I, like you would tey to “vaseline” the bad news. But sometimes it just prolongs the agony. I still remember my Dad ringing to see if we were home as he and mam wanted to come and talk to us. The formality of it all gave me a feeling of impending doom and I spent the time until their visit unable to do anything but imagine the worst. And I was right, he had just received a diagnosis of terminal cancer and he was dead in two weeks. The phone call prolonged the worry, sometimes short and sharp is best.
    I don’t know if you are familiar with the poem “A reason a season or a lifetime” but I’m pasting a link to it here. http://www.yuni.com/library/docs/631.html This gives me great comfort, when I lose someone who was close to me.

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