The party for my mom’s memorial was Saturday and we had a wonderful time. We had over ninety people at the open house and we were fortunate to see friends and family from far and wide that we don’t often get to see anymore. We caught up on each others lives, looked at photos and videos, and it was very healing to hear people say so many kind things about my mom.
The day before the gathering I had asked my dad if he was looking forward to the party and he said no, he was afraid that it would be too emotional, that there would be too many “sobbing people”. I reassured him that it wasn’t going to be that kind of memorial and it wasn’t. While a few tears were shed, there was mostly laughter and hugs as we all came together to honor my mother’s seventy-four years of a life well lived. The photo above is of my sister Carrie and her daughters, Emily and Jenny, and their little dog Lola. They flew in all the way from warm sunny San Diego so we ordered them up some snow for Sunday…the day after the party;)
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on. ~Robert Frost
For many months now my family has been struggling to understand why my seventy-four-year-old mother was so sick and what we could do to help make her better. She has a somewhat rare form of COPD called bronchietasis, the cause of this illness is not well understood and unfortunately the treatment for it has been limited and unsuccessful. For quite some time we have been walking that heartrending line that those with serious illness and their families must walk, that difficult path where hope and acceptance meet and retreat then meet again. My mother has grown weary of the dance. She has stepped over to acceptance and she is asking us to do the same and so we are going to begin hospice care.
I sit and talk with her about her death now. She wants to know how long it will take. I tell her I don’t know but we will do everything we can to keep her comfortable. She says there are things she wanted to do, get organized. I tell her that she is still here and we can still do them. She says she wanted to write each of her children a goodbye letter. I tell her that she can dictate the words and I’ll write them down for her. She says she wanted to clean out the desk and throw away old bills. I reassure her that my dad will take care of that. She told me that her little dog Ellie is going to miss her and I said, “Yes, you’re right mom, she really is going to miss you.”
I could add a few words of wisdom about now, something about it all being okay because it’s the natural cycle of life, or she’s crossing over to a better place, or she’s had a good long life. And sometimes that is how I feel. But the truth is, most of the time it’s not okay. My mom is dying and any way you look at it…it is simply unacceptable.
*I wrote this post the day before my mother passed away. It’s been two months now and I just came across it while cleaning up my draft files on WordPress. This Saturday we are having a big open house in honor of my mom and I really do look forward to seeing family and old friends we don’t often get to see anymore. I’m still searching for those words of wisdom that will make everthing okay, but the thing is I want to lay my head down on my mother’s lap, feel her stroke my hair gently, and hear them from her.
The Illustration Friday subject this week is “Wise”. I wasn’t going to post this because I was afraid you would think I’ve totally lost it, but it fit the subject perfectly so here it goes…One morning this past September I was laying in bed meditating. As I came out of the meditation, just for kicks and truthfully never expecting anything to happen, I asked to see my guide or guardian angel. Immediately a woman appeared in the center of my field of vision. She reminded me of the actress Christina Ricci, she had pale skin and black hair cut in a Cleopatra like bob. It scared the crap out of me at first but the moment I felt the fear she “zapped” me in the chest and I felt this warm, happy energy charge through my body. This energy removed all fear and left me feeling calm and centered.
As you probably know my mom died on September 30th. Before she passed away I had several experiences, including the one I’m blogging about today, that enabled me to stay present and be helpful to my mom and dad. I believe that we all have the opportunity to connect with our God, our guides, our Source, whatever you choose to call it in your own personal belief system. We simply need to slow down, breathe, ask and then be still and listen. The answers may not always be what you expected, or even what you want, but they will come.
I went to a baby shower for a friend’s daughter on Sunday. At first, as I watched the radiant mom-to-be open one cute pink gift after another, it made me happy. But I have to admit that by the end of the afternoon I practically ran out of that room. While slipping into my coat before I made my great escape, I overheard another friend say that she had just finished addressing her own Christmas cards as well as her mother’s cards. I had just finished addressing the invitations to my mom’s memorial. My own granddaughter was due on September 7th, my mom died on September 30th. As I drove home under a canopy of golden autumn leaves, I had one of those moments that sneak up on you, that suddenly wash over you just when you thought you were doing really great handling the trials of your life. I let the tears fall freely and I remembered a dream I had when the kids were still pregnant.
Two weeks before Andy and Meagan found out that the pregnancy was in trouble, and three weeks before they lost the baby, I had this dream. In the dream we had a house full of family and I was scurrying around like I do when I suddenly saw this little baby sitting in a highchair at a table. The baby wasn’t part of the crazy dream, it was slightly transparent, blond and blue-eyed with a faint glow surrounding it. I sat down across from the baby as the rest of the dream paused and fell away. I asked the baby if it knew what the sex of the coming baby was. The baby looked at me, smiled, and answered, “Can’t you just be patient and wait two more weeks until they find out?” I said, “No, can you tell me?” (not at all surprised that the baby, who looked to be about nine months old, was talking to me). The baby giggled, a sweet, sweet little laugh like the sound of peeling bells, then it looked down shyly and said, “It’s a girl.”
Of course, now I wish I had asked the dream baby if the baby in my daughter-in-law’s belly was healthy, if everything was going turn out okay. After they lost the baby (it was a girl) I was angry that I’d had that dream because a part of me was hoping that the baby in the dream was the baby that I would be holding in my arms by my birthday come September. If I could ask for any dream right now it would be one where I see my mom, young and healthy, her arms cradling a blond, giggling blue-eyed baby girl.
Two weeks ago today I was sitting in a darkened room in a hospital ER, my hand gently holding my mother’s wrist, my index finger feeling for her fading pulse. As the fragile beats grew more distant, then seemed to stop, I glanced at my sister who was sitting next to my mother’s head stroking her hair. My sister is a nurse and I looked to her like a child looks up at their mother after they fall down to see how to react. Was this it, was she gone? My sister didn’t say anything though, so we kept talking.
I don’t remember now what we spoke about that afternoon, it doesn’t really matter. I think me and my sister and my father just wanted to erase the sounds of the hospital and fill it with our own hushed voices, a lullaby to a dying mother, wife, and grandmother. Sometime later a nurse floated silently into the room and quietly asked us if we needed anything. My sister shook her head no, then she said that mom had passed away about ten minutes before. So that was it then – no trumpets blaring, no final gasp, no last words, no dramatic goodbyes. Unlike the spectacle of birth and that fierce first breath, there was just sleep for my mother, deep and peaceful, a measured crossing on a whispered river of words.