Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feeling Lost & Adrift Following the Death of My Mother~

When my mother died the morning of December 29th I felt as if my very foundation crumbled, that my ballast had fallen overboard, my beacon of light in the darkness extinguished, and  a wide chasm of emptiness replace my heart and soul. Even though she was 86 and had endured a year of health problems that would have felled a lesser spirit six months earlier, I truly believed she was like the Energizer Bunny or a Timex Watch that would “take a licking and keep on ticking”. 

In 2016 she overcame 3 pelvic ring fractures and 2 sacral fractures and through dogged determination regained her mobility and was able  to ascend the stairs to sleep in her second story bedroom and drive her standard transmission Mustang convertible to her volunteer jobs.   
When she was shortly thereafter diagnosed with breast cancer in her left breast which was the same Triple Negative Cancer she’d overcome in the right breast three years earlier, she underwent first a lumpectomy followed by a mastectomy, never accepting that should would not make a full recovery. She drove herself to all of her radiation treatments. She was frustrated that she was tired and needed naps. She did not see herself as elderly or geriatric and neither did any of us who knew her well. 

She and my father drove from Indiana to Virginia for Thanksgiving with Mom contributing her share of the driving. While she appeared more tired than usual my brother and I attributed that to her terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year. We truly expected her to live to be 100. If I’d had any inclination that would be the last time I would see her happy, healthy and able to talk and hug me, would I have held on longer when I embraced her good-bye? Begged them to stay an extra day? Expressed my love for her more fully? Taken more pictures? 

It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t see 2017. She had an indomitable spirit that inspired her family, her friends and people who’d never had the privilege to meet her but had heard of her zest for life, commitment to her faith and service to her community. She always said that old was 20 years older than she and never wavered in that belief. I am convinced that 13 years ago when my younger sister had a health crisis that Mom single handedly willed her to live through one precarious night. When she lit a candle for somebody at her  church, they got better. 

When we were younger she invested me and my siblings with the tools to become independent, successful adults with firm moral compasses. She did not protect us from falls or failures or the consequences of our actions. But once we reached adulthood there were a few occasions where she would pounce like a lioness if she believed we had suffered a significant injustice that her intervention could alleviate. She didn’t always like the choices we made, but she loved us unconditionally. 

My parents enjoyed a 62 year love story and I feel gratitude that I had the privilege and good fortune of having both parents healthy for so many years. I am grateful that my dad is weathering this immense loss with the support of his family, friends, community, church, and those my parents have touched through the years. 

I know that grieving is a process and that I am in the early stages. The first week I felt numb as if in an alternate universe. During the second week I returned to work, reached out to people, began the process of returning to a new normal, a world that no longer includes my mom’s laughter, funny texts, or reminders to send somebody a birthday or sympathy card. As Bill Murray’s character kept repeating in the movie “What About Bob?”, I’m taking baby steps…..

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