Two and half months have passed since I was at my moms bedside, along with my sister and our husbands, as she took her final breath. I daily relive that moment and all the moments I had in her company. My routine of spending several days a week with her over the years leaves a vacuum. My siblings and I were prepared; we had many occasions over the last several years to think her passing could happen at any time as she steadily approached her nineties. But she always rallied. And we sighed and smiled and carried on.
On her 93rd birthday in December mom was spunky, chatty; she ate pizza, and cake. She joked and laughed. She was more herself then, and over the month that followed, than she had been in a while.
Then, in February she wasn’t. Dementia quickly tightened its clutch. We did what we could to console, comfort and calm her, never leaving her side during that last fretful week. It was the hardest thing to do. Prepared but not prepared. Yet thankful to have been there with her.
I gave her eulogy at her service and managed to get through without breaking down. As long as I kept my eyes on my page, as long as I didn’t look into the eyes of the family and friends that were there listening. Strange how grief can become cloaked in the diversions and mechanical elements of taking care of the responsibilities of seeing to the details of funeral arrangements. There is business to take care of, facilitated by having a focused, clear head.
But also I tempered my grief with an understanding that she had been graced with a long and good life and that I made lots of time for her, especially the last thirteen years; that we had a lot of fun together. But grief is a wily thing. Some take solace in a religion, believing they will see their loved ones again in the after life just as they were in this life. I won’t argue on something no one can attest as fact. And I’m not here to question. Whatever gives us peace.
But I have heard the “after life” caveat used as a rational for them not being there with a sick, and also an aging relative. That it’s ok, they will see them on the other side. They say it’s easier to confront death when one “believes.” Maybe. But it’s certainly convenient.
My personal belief has always been that all living things are eternal energy that never expires. We change, we disperse out of our human form, but always exist. We are a body of elements eternally in flux. I can look to nature, the universe, and know I and all are intrinsically woven, and for me that is my comfort. So, I believe to be with someone while we are here in our physical body only happens here, during this time. It matters more to be with them, right here right now, in this life rather than believing you will be with them in an after life.
Over the years I’ve lost my dad and two of my brothers; had been at their side as they passed. I’ve lost two girlfriends and, regrettably, wasn’t there enough. And with each of these passings my convictions have only strengthened. Be here now with the ones you hold dear. And whatever religious belief one follows or doesn’t follow grief will find some way for release. Realization settles down in us that we will never see that person again.
The other day a girlfriend posted that her younger brother suddenly passed away. Words under the photo of her brother that commented on ‘the happier times we all once spent together, and now, today, all we talk about is how much we loved him’, undid me. Triggered my grief, and I gave way.
I miss my dad and my brothers deeply. I can’t call on them anymore – and I carry a regret for not valuing the time with them more fully while they were here.
I miss my mom deeply, and I continue to see her face and hear her voice, her laugh. And, like a phantom limb I reach to touch, I feel I should right now be at the senior village visiting her, after all weeks have gone by, I’ve been away too long – but it has slowly, solidly sunk in that that isn’t my life anymore, because she is no longer physically in my life anymore. But she was, and I claimed as much of it as I could while she was here.