Saturday 25th June 2022

Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

Women of Courage Series. #17. Lydia C. Lee. 94/2019.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid May 2019: Wednesdays: each week.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda

I have ‘known’ Lydia for more years than I can recall. She remains, however, a woman of some mystery, as this image is the only one I have seen. I am guessing it is Lydia. I also know though, that she is one very caring and helpful individual in my on-line world of friendships. She has offered me some good advice and in fact, some it relates to the person she references in her post. Thanks Lydia for sharing your words. One day, we WILL catch up in person!


While I was flattered Denyse asked me to be part of this series, I feel a little bit of a fraud, as I’m not sure I’ve done much with courage. However, as it would be a lack of courage not to accept, I will try my best to offer something useful. Courage is not just bravery, it also has the definition below:

Courage: Strength in the face of pain or grief.

When my father was dying, it was a long and drawn out painful affair. I had to drive two and a half hours every second day to visit him in the hospital. I was working myself into a tired and emotional state on the drive over there, and finding the visits understandably distressing. By chance, to quash my irritability in the traffic, I started listening to audio books. This found me at least on arrival, refreshed and in a good mood, as all my stream of consciousness had been hushed with the external focus.

By chance I listened to This is How by Augusten Burroughs.

This book was a life changer for me. He has a chapter on how to let someone die, and it really altered my understanding of what I could give my family at this most devastating time. The tips I express are his but they worked 100% for me and the by product from doing the small things is the courage defined above.

The first thing he called out is that you will want to find ways to avoid visiting. And it’s true. I kept thinking ‘I need to do this for the kids’ or ‘I have to get this work done’ and so on. The minute I heard his words, I realised it was all unimportant for now, and the visits were the only thing I would really regret not doing.

Secondly, he points out what matters. The special moments you will share that seem insignificant or even mildly unpleasant at the time become something you treasure. One of my favourite memories with Dad was when I took cake for my birthday and we ate it on his hospital bed and laughed at our gluttony and how much better it was than the hospital food. There was such a strong connection that day. In our shared lifetime, this was not one of the ‘big moments’ but it is something I often think about fondly now, and it brings me much comfort.

Thirdly, I’m the youngest in my family. My mother and sister were dealing with it differently to me, and that’s okay – I honestly believe there is not ‘right way’, only what is right for you, and most importantly, for the dying person. It gave me the job of making sure Mum was coping, and would not grieve the difficult decisions she had to make over the myriad of medical options and how to process the conflicting information from the many specialists involved. That job made me busy and feel productive and helpful in a situation where we were really all helpless to ultimately fix anything.


In a very strange turn of events, I had a number of concerts already booked, and I kept going to them, even if I didn’t feel like it or as happened one time, I cried in the taxi on the way to the venue. What I discovered was the dancing and energy of the audience was transformative. The endorphins from the exercise and joyous high I’d get would reset my emotions for the next day, so I was recharged to visit again and bring the little gifts of being truly present to share with him.

Our natural instinct is to shut down when facing grief but it’s actually the worst thing in my opinion. I became an expert at compartmentalising my emotions. It’s important to grieve and feel that loss and sadness, but it’s equally important to energise yourself so you’re ready for the next day’s emotional battle.  If worse comes to worse, just leave and go home early if it’s all too hard. I told myself that a few times but it never did pan out that way.


One of the benefits of this compartmentalisation was that I became very good at focusing on one step at a time. I could encourage Mum to stop the ‘what if’s’ and just make decisions on the information we had at hand, and make one decision at a time, not trying to second guess ahead. It reduces the enormity of what is happening and the overwhelming responsibility.

 “We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

In all things medical, one step at a time is all you can cope with.

Eat well. I ate my emotions – usually in the car on the way home from the hospital. It was not good for my weight or my energy. But long time readers will know I’m far from perfect so this one is a ‘do as I say, not as I do’. Had I not eaten junk daily, I might have felt better about things in those down moments. But as Augusten Burroughs says “Eat the brownie”. Sometimes food is the only happiness you’ll have that day. I’d probably do the same again so I’m not going to judge anyone on this.

If you can, during this time, exercise instead of drinking. Both will take the edge off, but one is better for the next day (and your waistline if you are eating a junkfest to feel good).

It is never a good time, but you can make it better for all involved, and for yourself so you don’t regret choices you made when it’s too late to change anything. Most of all, you are making it as best you can for that loved one who is finding their own courage when you aren’t there.

“Life is what you make it. Always has been, always will be.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

This is not medical advice, it is just what worked for me. If you are under stress and feeling it is too much, please see a doctor. Grief causes stress and disorientation and can lead to anxiety. Always seek medical help if you feel overwhelmed.

Wow, Thank you so much Lydia. Your recommendation of Augusten Burrough’s book was just what I needed to listen to last year. I am sure there will be readers here who will be nodding along with some of your insights gained personally and learning of others.



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Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends and on Fridays, it’s Open Slather here with Alicia.

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  1. Yes, that is indeed a photo of me. Not a recent one….;) Thank you for the lovely introduction, and inviting me to be included with some very impressive and inspirational people. And I do love my Monday morning starts to the week with the prompts of #Lifethisweek…which reminds me….

  2. And I can not recommend This is How by Augusten Burroughs enough. It coveres everything from weight, addiction, confidence and a myriad of other life experiences. If you get the audio, he reads it and it’s brilliant.

  3. Must read that book.

    Thank you for your insights.

  4. Lydia I commented that I felt like a fraud when I guest posted for Denyse too, but I think by this age and stage we’ve all faced difficult times and courage is definitely a requirement. I really appreciated those tips you gave, I’m going to tuck them away for future reference – sooner or later I know they’ll come in handy.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

  5. I had to give up my anger at my siblings. When my mother was dying, she was in a nursing home that was close to me because I was her POA and needed to handle everything. But she was only 30 minutes from my brother and 50 from my sister. I visited her every day or almost every day. My sister went once a week and my brother went less unless I asked him to visit her because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it. Even then, it was a 50/50 chance that he’d show up.

    So while my mother was dying, I was getting angrier and angrier until a therapist pointed out that what I did was for me to worry about and what they did was for them to worry about. So simple and yet, sometimes so hard to do!

    • Oh I can see how hard that would be (me too, I think!) but also knowing that it IS possible to make some changes does indeed help.

      Thank you for sharing such a challenging time in your life too Jennifer.

      Denyse x

    • I think we also focus on different things and worry about different things and there is no right or wrong. I’m glad you got help to support you in such a difficult time. I think that’s something we do wrong in this country, not realising we need to look after our own mental health to help others. It was only by accident I’d realise I was crumbling and then find ways to fix it.

  6. Thanks for sharing this Lydia. My dad died eight years ago this October and we’re coming up to the week that he left home (for a short stay in hospital) but would never return. He had 2wks in his hometown (and I was home at the time), then two weeks in Brisbane before moving him to palliative care for the final two weeks.

    My mum spent every day at the hospital for the 6 weeks and for the month he was in Brisbane I got the bus there everyday after work and would visit then drive mum home to my place (where she was staying). As you said – you compartmentalise and you do what you have to. I think I felt exhausted – mentally and physically – and the whole experience was probably what ultimately led to my seachange decision less than a year later.

    I love that you’ve found an outlet for your grief and joy in other things. xx

    • Oh Deb, thinking of you. That is always a reminder, the time of year. I understand.

      Denyse x

    • Anniversaries are hard, and it’s often not the anniversaries you expect. I think maybe you steel yourself for those and so the seemingly ‘lessor’ ones are the ones that take you by surpirse and knock you for six…And I suspect time doesn’t make it easier, just a bigger hole.

  7. I don’t think you’re a fraud at all Lydia. I believe that courage is such a big part of dealing with the final demise of our parents. Nobody can script how it will happen, and we have to be ready for anything. Currently my lovely Mum is really ill in England, and she has my sister and brother in law there to take care of her, but they are exhausted. I live on the other side of the world, and despite spending 14 weeks during the last year over there, on three separate visits, it just doesn’t seem enough. I struggle with the dilemma. Although I long to be there with her, and to help out, I have a family (and life) that need me here. The split loyalties are emotionally devastating. Your driving 2.5 hours every other day was certainly courageous – as was finding ways to cope with it all.

    • Gosh that is hard isn’t it? I can feel the push/pull for you just in your comment.

      My brother lives 10 minutes from my 95 yo father and takes him to his appointments and out to dinner once a week.

      I have a long trip to see Dad and while I was getting over cancer, it was tough for me to go see him. However, this year I am able to see him every 4-5 weeks and take him a freezer full of meals.

      He is an amazing independent living place and stays as well as he can. He has great friends there too. None of us want Dad to ‘have to go’ elsewhere.

      Sending love,
      Denyse x

    • That is so hard. And knowing what the ‘right’ choice might be is actually impossible because you have no control over any of the time factors. Make sure you are looking after yourself. Even from afar that’s a very emotionally draining situation

  8. Thanks, Lydia, fos haring this. I’ll see if I can borrow A. Burroughs book or audio book from my library. #MLSTL

  9. What I’m enjoying about this series is how many different sorts of courage there is. Thanks, Lydia, for sharing your story. I’m off to look for This Is How.

    • It IS a good series I agree and I am so glad many women “saw” where their courage lay or lies. I did approach more who replied with a definite “no” because they said they were not courageous but my observations thought they had been. However, in the end, what matters most is those who do “dare to share” because everyone has given me feedback that it’s been worth it.

      I am stopping early December and will resume the series in Feb 2020 as I have 4 to go then.

      Thanks Jo
      Denyse x

    • It’s such a great book!

  10. Thanks for sharing your story Lydia. It’s one I can very much relate to as it’s only around 21 months ago I lost my Dad too and went through much of the stuff you spoke on. xo #TeamLovinLife

  11. Thanks for sharing Lydia, and for featuring her story Denyse. Each of us deals with these difficult events differently, and that’s ok. But I do believe it’s so important to be there, be present. I must get that book! I loved the little anecdote about eating birthday cake on the hospital bed. That was a moment with meaning to both of you.

    • It’s funny, it was so insignificant at the time, but I think about it often. I think because it was the most ‘normal’ visit – we laughed and joked, it was all very natural (not medical talk intruding)

    • So good you too found Lydia’s post a helpful one…and permission to eat birthday cake for breakfast…there needs to be more rule breaking I say!

      Thanks Nancy.

      Denyse x

  12. Such a great post. TFS. I remember when my parents died, how differently every single person in the family dealt with the deaths. It was surprising to me. I really learned then to allow everyone to grieve in their own way.

  13. Oh Lydia, your story has touched my heart so. Thank you for your courage in sharing your story with us. We often worry about not being there enough, or not doing enough for our parents during these hard times but being truly present when we are able to be there really and truly is ‘enough’. Thanks for the reminder.

    Sandra Xx