Thursday, May 01, 2008

Death of a parent

I don't like to get too personal at the blog anymore. Call it self protection, if you want.

People who read the comment section know that my Mom passed away in early April. I'm not bringing it up because I want a lot of people to respond with their condolences but rather to share that an old chapter has closed and a new chapter has begun.

It's a rather touchy subject, moving on from the death of someone so close, someone I saw every day, someone I considered my best friend from about the time I was seventeen and up until the time I met my husband, which is how it should be, isn't it?

Now I'm finding and quickly losing extra time. I still think of my Mother every single day and the last couple of days, I've been thinking about how I still think of her every day. I sort of hope I always will but I do hope that, at some point, instead of remembering her last days, days I worried so about her, days that were so bitter sweet, that I'll spend all my time remembering what a vibrant and full life she led before she got so sick. She really relished life, and she was so fully and completely in love with my step-dad and they had a zest for life that anyone would envy.

There are a lot of emotions that go along with losing a parent and I think maybe it would be healthy for others to see how somebody else deals with it.

First of all, it was horrendous going through those last days. Needing and wanting to see her and yet hardly being able to bear seeing her. The time I went to see her became later and later each day because I hated to see her like that, I hated to see her dying, I hated knowing she was dying, yet, on the other hand, by her own choice of going on hospice and deciding to leave life as comfortably as possible she gave us a great gift of time.

The other choice was a surgery that she likely wouldn't have survived. We could have lost her more quickly if she had chosen the surgery. So, we ended up with 7 1/2 days to say goodbye and I believe the family used those days well. It was a gift to all of us to have those extra days and those extra moments.

Now I am trying to remember her zest for life, the love she showed the people she cared about and her giving nature and I'm reminding myself that she would want nothing less for me, reminding myself she'd want me to live life to the fullest, just as she did.

I loved my Mother, I can't imagine loving anyone more than I loved my Mother, as my husband says, I loved her "hard," very hard.

Then there are feelings of guilt.

Because I have looked forward to having more time to write for CFP and now I do, I feel a bit guilty that I have that time and am enjoying it so much. I couldn't do it while I needed to be spending so much time caring for her.

I also worry about, and have worried about, what people might think of my being able to move on so quickly. I know that seems silly, but I do think about what other people think. You see, when someone loses someone close to them after a long, debilitating disease they see that person's death coming for a long time. I've seen my Mom's death coming for a long time. I didn't think it was going to happen the way it happened but I had known it could happen at any time for the last couple of years. I was braced for it, but I was braced for it to happen differently than it happened. I wasn't braced for her losing her leg. I wasn't braced for taking her to the hospital with an upset stomach one day and her never getting to go home again. I didn't think the day I called the ambulance to take her to the hospital was going to be the day that marked the last day she would ever wake up in her own home. Those things were very difficult to accept for her and for me. We wanted our life back. We wanted the life back we knew. Even though it wasn't the best quality of life, we liked our little routine. We liked our brunches and our time together every day. We liked sitting at the kitchen table watching the birds at the feeder outside the window and we liked being together. We weren't ready to let go of that. I thought I'd walk into her house one morning and she would have gone out suddenly, with no suffering. She would have had a heart attack, or just stopped breathing and I would walk in and call out to her and she wouldn't answer me. I can't tell you how many mornings I prepared myself for that scenario.

I never prepared myself for what we faced, for the road we traveled for the last 6 months of her life.

I've learned a lot about the value of life and I want to make her proud of what I do with the rest of mine. I want to take her spirit of making family, each member, feel special, feel loved, feel worth the time spent with them. There are many things I can learn from the way she lived her life. She had both a childlike naivette and a firm shrewdness. She could be so loving but when she was through, let me tell you, she was through. She was strong and soft hearted, sweet and yet no one's doormat. People are amazingly complicated, aren't they? She was a perfect example of that.

Anyway, I love my Mom, yeah, I still love her in the present tense because I know that I'll never truly be without her. I can think of her every day. I can return to moments of joy and sharing over and over and I can do it anytime I want. She'll never truly be gone.

I don't know if any of this will be helpful to anyone else or not. I've never been one to think my thoughts are any better than anyone else's thoughts, I've often thought they are worse, but not better. Maybe this has just been an exercise for myself, who knows? If it is, though, I'd have just as soon kept it to myself and not laid it out on this blog. I'm a private person. I really don't like to share my personal thoughts that much any more and since I have been practicing, pretty much, straight reporting for CFP for a while, I find sharing my own opinion about things less and less appealing all the time. I'd rather just report what someone else thinks, usually, in my opinion, other people are much more interesting than I am.

Regardless, here's an old, oft repeated piece of advice that no one ever takes seriously (at least I seldom have): Make every moment count with the people you love in your life. Your children will grow up and you'll only have memories of when they were young, your parents will grow old and you'll only have memories of when they were in their prime, you're friends are not invincible, they are very mortal and who knows what can happen? This could also be your own last day. Look at what happened with one of my favorite arguing buddies; John Stone was out taking pictures at Park Central Square one day, the next thing we know we're reading about his death in the paper and I still haven't had the heart to remove his blog from my, personal, list of favorites. Make every moment count. I think I did that, for the most part, with my Mother. I know I'll never regret it and I know that anyone who practices that with the people they love in their lives won't regret it either.

A friend of mine used to paint signs to sell, she's an exceptional artist, who, unfortunately, doesn't really enjoy painting, instead spending most of her time crafting. Anyway, she used to paint a sign, it wasn't her original thought but I loved the thought and I used to have one of her "scrolls" that said it, while seeming simple and cliche, it really says it all:

"Live well, Laugh often, Love much"

We could do worse than to live life that way.


Jason said...

Looks like you're putting this whole situation in a healthy perspective.

My condolences on your loss.

Anonymous said...

When you love someone the hurt never goes away you just learn to live with it.

Please know you are in Denise and my prayers


tom said...

With the passing of one of our family comes the joy of a birth in someone else's family.

NO I'm not talking about reincarnation or anything weird like that.

Your mother brought joy into your life and those around her, in her passing she also brings joy into the world as well to others.

I hope you understand the direction I'm coming from.

Jacke M. said...

Yes, Tom, I think I do in that life goes on.

We went to the Japanese Stroll Garden and Nathanael Greene Park today. We met up with THREE different wedding parties. People starting new lives together were all around us. It's spring and there's much promise and new life. We got some beautiful pictures.

Thanks to those of you offering condolences (and prayers, that's the best!). That goes for those who have offered condolences in the past too, and, also, to Sunny Gun I am sorry for the losses you and your wife have had in your family.

It's been a beautiful Saturday, hasn't it?