Life and loss

In my last post, I wrote about my despair at what is happening in the US. I thought that blogging every day might help me navigate it. I had good intentions.

That night I woke up in the wee hours (hello menopause) and looked at my phone. It was 4:30 and I had a text from my brother, who had gone to New Mexico just the day before, summoned by my father in a dream, to be at Mom’s bedside:

Mom … is resting in peace. 

What? Is she sleeping? Is she dead? I didn’t know. Yes, I did know. How could she have gone? She, who hung onto life with every fiber in her being?

I got on a plane at 7:00 — my superior packing skills come in handy at moments like these — and went to join him. My two other siblings also boarded planes from their own corners of the Earth.

As I sit here writing, a month and a half later, waiting for a prospective buyer to come and look at our house, a petal falls from a tulip in a vase on our table. Another. It’s raining outside. It has been cold and wet for weeks. Nothing is blooming. It’s all gray sky, gross mud and green slime.

The first night in Mom’s house, unable to sleep, I wandered around and felt her presence there, and it scared me. This last year had been excruciatingly difficult for her. In fact, since my father died seven years ago, she had been suffering, both physically and emotionally, without interruption. We did our best to accompany her from one medical intervention to the next, from one crisis to the next, one hospitalization to the next. I want to think that she is finally at peace. But that night her spirit was still roaming the halls of her house, unwilling to relinquish everything she had built and held on to with such tenacity.

For a week and a half my siblings and I worked to dismantle the edifice of material things she had surrounded herself with to help her feel safe in the world and to shield herself from her emotions. Mostly it went well. We were able to get outside to wander the hills we hadn’t walked in so many years, because we had been inside caring for Mom. We ate at our favorite restaurants multiple times. We threw a party in her memory, inviting everyone we could think of, where we all shared stories and memories and photographs.

My own emotions regarding my mother are complicated and difficult. I tried so hard, for so many years, to understand her, to be compassionate, to forgive, to let go. I am a mother myself, after all. But still, I don’t think I tried hard enough.

I don’t feel very much. I’m sad, but not devastated. The sheer volume of wound care material in her bathroom was testament to the fact that her body was not able to hold itself together. Her death was not unexpected. In fact, it is a relief that she is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, no longer trying to find another way to fix her body.

When will I realize she’s gone? When will the tears start? I thought I understood grief. But now I know that I know nothing at all.

You were already grieving all this year when your mom was so ill, my well-meaning friends tell me. Maybe.

But all I feel is a bleakness, a weariness with the world, a fatigue that can’t be fixed with a new vase of tulips, a cookie, a mindless game on my iPad. Not for lack of trying, mind you.

I think what I need to do is wait. Wait for the sun to come back out. Wait for the buds to swell and burst. Wait for the tears to finally come. Wait for my joy to return.

9 thoughts on “Life and loss

  1. Very good, Mary, I recognize my own feelings in yours. I knew my mother was really dead when I kept waking from dreams of telephones and enormous telephone books. Either I could not find her phone number – or if I found it I could not read the number. It was very frustrating.

  2. I am grateful to read this blog post Mary. Jean’s absence will not diminish, but give yourself time to feel less numb, while still remembering the past. You are on the path, of valuing the present moment, that is evident when you mentioned the fallen flower petal…..

  3. Mary, your pain is inestimable and so sensitively expressed! Perhaps you all have been grieving with your mother through the past seven years.

    • Thanks Mary K. You’re probably right. She occupied so much emotional space for me … it’s hard to know what life will feel like without that.

  4. You know, I couldn’t even read this right away. I returned from NM a week ago and have been in my own funk every since. Every time my phone beeps and I see it is a message from a caregiver, I think this might be it. Your story is not my story. I will not diminish yours with mine. I feel for you and I think I can empathize. We are lucky to have parents who put so much energy into life.

    • Oh Gail — I know. It is so consuming. And it is so hard living so far away. I spent so much energy over the past several years worrying about Mom and trying to figure out how to help her manage her situation, being present for her and being frustrated with her, and now I don’t know what to do. Her health crises were a sort of glue holding us together. You’re right – we were lucky to have parents that lived life so fully. Hugs.

  5. This too will pass my friend.One day at a time – the sun will shine and the flowers will bloom and love is all around you.

  6. Dear Mary
    I feel so deeply for you. Grieving is such a cyclical process, some days one is devastated other days life seems bearable, but it comes and goes for months, if not years. My mother passed away in 2003, but I still miss her terribly and can be brought to tears easily. Just be patient with yourself and let the emotions come to the surface. If you keep fighting the emotions, they will continue to prevent your advancement in your grief. Since your parents were so close emotionally, it was probably hard for your Mom to carry on without your father. I often said they were so in tune with each other that they were really one person. Be patient with yourself and the tears will come.

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