Primal Grief

This week has been difficult for me, regarding my grief process. My mom loved certain television shows and one in particular, “The Good Doctor” had become one of her favorites. I have been a fan of Freddie Highmore for years, my mom became a fan when we watched “Bates Motel.” This week was the second season premiere of “The Good Doctor,” and I knew it would be hard to watch, but once again I underestimated the power of grief. About halfway through the episode, I turned to ask my mom what she thought and froze. The room felt so empty, and I felt so alone in that instant that I started to cry, and then I just couldn’t stop. I tapped into the primal side of grief and just sobbed and wailed and begged whoever could hear me to allow my mom to come back again.  Afterward, when I was a gasping blob on the sofa, I felt more drained than I ever have before. It wasn’t just the television show that brought this on, last weekend was the 4-month mark since my mom passed. Having it be one-third of a year since she died felt like a substantial milestone. Now I am looking forward, with dread, to the upcoming months which will have her birthday, the first holiday season since she passed, and my birthday in January. I wish I could just crawl under the covers in November and not come out until next February. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to get through it, it’s going to be the hardest time of my life. There are a lot of dark days ahead, but at the same time I know I’m going to get through it because even though my mom isn’t with me in person anymore, I know she’s still around. She’s still with me, watching over me, and that helps.

To Push or Let Go

My mother passed away nine weeks ago now, and my siblings and I still have not gotten around to writing an obituary for her. I’ve been anxious to get it done for five weeks now and the response from them, at that time, was “There is no timetable for submitting an obituary so what’s the rush?” One of my sisters admitted she was avoiding working on it. I understand there is no timetable for publishing one, but I can’t help but feel like the longer we wait to write it, the less of a chance we ever will write one as a family. I am so torn between pushing them to start working on it and just waiting until they are ready. We are all processing this immense loss that we are all experiencing. After much contemplating about it, I decided this morning that I’m going to go ahead and write a draft of one and e-mail it to them just to see what they say. I can see one of three things happening if I do this. One, they will tell me that it’s okay and that I should go ahead and publish it. Two, my siblings will say to me that it’s a good start and they will edit it and make suggestions. Or three, they will react with anger and tell me that they will work on it in their own time. But, I can’t let their possible reactions stop me from doing what I feel my mother would want. When she could still read the newspaper, she would always look at the obituaries, and one thing that would drive her crazy was when she came across an obituary that was printed months after the person had died. I know in my heart how upset she would be to know that over two months had passed and there still wasn’t a published obituary for her.

I’ve also found that deciding to write an obituary and actually creating one are two substantially different things. How do you summarize the life of your Mother in less than 300 words? How do you take over 80 years of experiences and life and compress it into a newspaper-friendly size? Over the past several weeks I have tried to write one in fits and starts, but nothing ever sounds good enough to honor her. Nothing has even come close to capturing the magic and grace that was my mother. I can feel my resolve waffling again. I just want to follow my siblings lead and put it on a shelf somewhere and not work on it or think about it. Knowing that’s not what my mom would want though, won’t allow me to do that. The bottom line, in all this, rambling, is that I know what needs to be done. I need to push through this apprehension and feeling of inadequacy and do what my mom would have wanted. This obituary needs to be written sooner rather than later.

Hollowed Out

I feel hollow.

The foundation of my life is gone.

Unstable ground is what I

Tremble on.

Unsure of who I am.

Unsure of where to go.

Unsure of everything.

I try to move forward,

But my gait is unsteady

And I fear falling

With no one here to catch me

Before I hit the ground.

At some point forward movement

Will become necessary.

I know it is what she

Would want for me.

But for now, I sit trying to

Fill this aching emptiness

With memories of happier times

With my mother.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley Aaron Burden

My mother’s favorite flower was Lily of the Valley. The small white blooms hold so much fragrance they’ve always seemed otherworldly to me. On our property we’ve had a few plants here and there but nothing like we had at our last house. At the last house we lived in, we had a whole bed of them that bloomed every spring and filled the air around our house with sweetness. On Tuesday night, the one week anniversary of my mom’s death, I was walking my dog out in front of the house when a smell hit my nose. I shined the flashlight along the ground and there they were, more Lily of the Valley than I have ever seen here. A little grove of them all blooming in the nighttime. My knees buckled and I found myself sitting there looking at them with tears streaming down my face. My dog, who unfortunately is becoming all too used to my random sobbing, came over and started licking my face and pressing himself against me to comfort me. I ran a shaking finger along one leaf and swear I felt my mom there with me at that moment. Of course, I couldn’t see her but in my heart I know she was there. After a while I stood back up and went back into the house and went to bed and, for the first time since she passed away, I felt comforted knowing that there was some part of her watching over me.

Surprise Visit

Yesterday my niece and nephew surprised me with a visit. They have been absolutely wonderful during this difficult time. They lost their dad in 2011 and their mom in 2016 and they keep telling me that I was there for them during those times so they are making sure they are there for me during this sorrowful time. The three of us have always been close ever since my sister and her husband adopted them from Russia. They are also close to my mom and losing her is hurting them deeply. To see them doing their best to set that aside to be there for me has moved me beyond words. I just feel so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. They are definitely one of the things that are bringing light to my life right now and pushing the encroaching darkness away.

Saying Goodbye

Today I stayed home. Yesterday the nurse was talking about how my mom’s breathing would become more of a rattle when the end is near. When she said that I felt my heart twist and, at that moment, I knew I just don’t want to be there when mom passes. I think it will just destroy me. My mom and I have discussed it before and I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there and she said that that was ok. So I feel at peace with my decision. Yesterday, I had a few minutes alone with her so I sat down and spoke to her from my heart. I told her what a good mom she had been and how much I will miss her. I also told her that I am going to be ok and for her not to worry. She was unconscious when I said all this but the doctor keeps telling us that she can hear us. I feel like she heard me, I swear she squeezed my hand three times when I was finished. That has been the family “thing” three squeezes means “I Love You.”

A couple of hours later when it came time for me to leave, the levee broke. I started crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Just short hiccupping gasps every 20 seconds or so when I started feeling oxygen deprived. I leaned over her and kissed her forehead several times and choked out how much I love her. Walking out of that building and away from her knowing I’d never see her again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After I got home though, something surprising happened. I felt lighter then I have in weeks. It’s like a weight on my soul had been lifted.

Flash forward to today and I heard from my sister and nephew that she’s sitting up and talking and eating and drinking again. My nephew said that she was talking to him about robbing a bank (she’s mostly delusional these days) so my nephew told her the bank was closed. Ms. Sassy’s response? “That will only make it more fun.” That is how she has been since early last week. This sense of humor we never knew she had is coming out more and more. Friday night she had us all laughing over her antics. That’s what I want to remember. That’s the final image of her that I want in my head. Sitting up in her hospital bed, holding court over her family and making us all laugh.

Dreams of the Dying

Today I was alone in my mom’s hospital room holding her hand and watching her sleep. I noticed movement behind her eyelids and realized that she was dreaming and I started contemplating what she might be dreaming about. And this poem came into my head and there I was holding my mom’s hand in one of my hands while writing this poem on my phone with the other one.

What do the dying dream of?

Is it the lives they’ve lived and

Are leaving behind?

Or are they going to an orientation

In the life after this one?

Is that why they start speaking again of

Loved ones long gone?

Do they begin drawing near

In the land of dreams

And then break through to

The land of life

As the departure draws closer?

What is it like for them to step back

Through the veil

Only for a brief time?

To see the changes in loved ones

Still journeying among the living.

Or have they watched through

The curtain dividing the two worlds

And have seen everything?

Maybe that’s what the dying dream of

Do they cross over and peer back

At us

Whispering to others about

What is to come?

They’re Waiting for Her

Today my sisters and I met with mom’s doctors and realized that we are not talking about sending her to rehab. The brutal truth, that we finally faced today is that she is ready for hospice care. She is just so weak and in pain so much of the time that’s it’s not fair for her. I mean, we’re going to include her in discussions about what she wants but now it’s a matter of us telling her that it is okay to go and that we will be fine moving forward. The spiritual aspect of this experience is sweeping away the physical. The past couple of days she has been seeing her mom, brother, and childhood friends who have all passed away. Knowing they are here and waiting to help her crossover is very comforting for us. We know she won’t make the journey to the next world alone. She’s going to leave a world where she is loved and enter different kind of world where she will have open arms and eternal love waiting for her. I’m gutted by this turn of events but I’m really trying to focus on the reunion that she is so close to having with those she has lost. I’m glad she is going to see them all again, it’s just hard knowing that in order for that to happen her family is going to have to say good-bye.