Tag Archives: Grief

Don’t Tell Me How to Remember

I was asked, a few times, why I don’t like to go to the cemetery where my parents’ urn has been placed….

First, it really isn’t anyone’s business but if someone is crass enough to question this – here is my answer:

I have gone, but the result is not what my parents would have wanted. Neither of them were known to make visits to their own parent’s graves. They both hated it and I know why…it is pointless.

I went yesterday and placed a few flowers in a vase, in front of a marble columbarium. There was a plaque with Mom and Dad’s date of birth and their deaths. A cold structure that does not reflect them or my memories of them. The visit did not elicit warm fuzzies but instead, brought back nothing but sadness, heartache and grief. If you knew my folks, you would know that this would have been anathema to them.

I remember my folks, daily – not a day goes by without a memory flooding back. A happy memory. A smile in my heart.

Yesterday, I stood there, in front of that monstrosity and cried. After 6 ½ years of my Dad’s leaving us and 3 years to the day of my Mom being gone, I still cried. This isn’t what either of them would have me do.

My memories of my parents are in my heart, in my brain and they are good memories. They are happy memories. It is how they would have wanted to be remembered. Now, I must spend a good amount of time, wiping the thought of that plaque, the cemetery, regardless of the scenery, from my mind. Nothing happy is connected to that place.

I don’t know why I went to the cemetery. So that tongues wouldn’t wag? Possibly. No…probably.

I won’t do it again. No one has the right to determine how I choose to remember my parents. If I choose to avoid a place of endings, of death, of grief and choose instead to recall happy times through memory and through photos, that is my choice and a choice of which my parents would approve.

Keep memory in your own way and allow others to keep memory in their way. Few things are as personal as honouring loved ones who have left us.

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Honesty-4I start my vacation on Monday and as usual, I am analyzing this to the last nucleotide…it’s my way. I am anticipating this vacation as if I were back in 3rd grade at the school year’s end. It made me think. Why was I so excited for the upcoming 2 weeks? I’ve had vacation before. Over 30 years’ worth of vacations from work but this one harkens back to childhood for enthusiastic anticipation.

The truth is painful. Truth usually is. The truth, the bare bones honesty? This will be the first vacation in over 5 years that will not be fraught with worry. Vacation came, over the past half-decade, and we would go away, usually camping. The time was shadowed by worry for my parents. My father was very ill; he had leukemia and blood transfusions were causing him illness. His organs were suffering. He was in constant pain. Then Daddy passed away and Mom was alone. She grieved and she grieved heavily. She was also unwell. COPD, blood issues and she was unstable on her feet, prone to bouts of unexpected dizziness. The house was too big and too dangerous for her. She came to live with us and I worried. I worried when I was at work. I worried when I went shopping and when vacation came around, we stayed home. Except for last year, Mom went to visit her brother in another city and we went camping. I worried. She was in good hands but I worried none the less.

That’s the ticket. I have no one to worry over this year. It is a harsh, life reality. My parents are gone. They aren’t coming back and are now beyond worry. What a horrible thing – to be relieved that there is no more of this kind of all-encompassing worry. It is frank honesty and an honesty with which I am not, at all, comfortable.

I’ll find myself thinking something is wrong and when I look within? I realize, that the gut pinching nervous-worry thing is gone. This is what it feels like to be relaxed. Mom knew, all along. She kept telling me to stop worrying, even if we were just watching television together. She would tell me to stop worrying about her. I didn’t see it or feel it but it was there. I guess it showed.

I find myself going for a walk with the dog and not constantly running over medications in my mind or ways to ensure medications were taken. I am not running over the design of the house, wondering how to make it safer. I am not running through the week and reviewing doctors’ appointments, blood tests and hospital visits in my mind. I’m not wondering how to find nutritious and appealing foods. I’m not worried about absentmindedness and pots on the burner. Future potentials of constant medical care.

And it is all a bit too much, this lack of worry. I would give up this relaxed state of mind, for all the worry, if I could have them back. Oh, I’ll work this all out. I’ll deal with the grief, the loss and this strange sense of relaxation. It has only been 2 ½ months since Mom passed away. It will be assimilated into life experience. The pain will ease and I’ll be able to accept the lack of over-active brain function but it’s tough going for now.

How bizarre is this! To question not being anxious. To analyze relaxation? I can see Mom’s face now, shaking her head and rolling her eyes at me. I’ll get it, Mom. I will. It will just take me a bit of time.

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Dear Mom

Mom and Me Pauls weddingYou’ve been gone for 41 days. I guess you know that though…

We went over this eventuality many times while you were living here. We went over the legalities, we went over the emotions, we went over the family but there is no real preparation when you lose such a large part of your life and there’s no way to retrieve it. I still choke right up when I have to walk into your place. I tried to do your clothes, bad plan. Did not work out well at all.

I know you were in pain. I know you had lost your sense of life quality. I know all these things and while in conversation with people regarding your leaving this old mortal coil, I don’t seem to be able to accept my own words; strung together to help others talk about the situation. In current parlance “I just can’t wrap my head around it.”

That you are never coming home again. That I won’t walk into the house after work and smell the Jigg’s Dinner cooking. I go to pick up the phone at work to remind you to take your pills and then put the receiver back down. I can’t call you, you aren’t there and you never will be again.

You were right, by the way, as always. Didn’t that ever get boring for you 😉 I was stressed. Yes, the stress was centered around you and because you did the same during my teen and early adult life – you recognized it but I didn’t.

When you were ill, you kept saying you didn’t know what you would do without me. It always perplexed me. Of course, I was there for you. It wasn’t a choice. It was never a burden. It was something that seemed entirely natural to me. Both Dad and you were always there for me. Nothing was more important to me than ensuring you were okay. That you were as happy as you could be, after Dad died.

There was nothing left unsaid on my part. I learned that lesson years ago, when Papa Jack died. I learned to never forget to say “I love you” because you never know when it will be too late. Never let an opportunity go by to tell those around you, how much they mean to you. One day, they will not be there to hear those words and they mean so much.

I know that we followed your wishes – there were no “widow weeds”, no outpouring of grief that you were gone. We had that celebration you so wanted. And it was good Mom. I like to think that you were watching and you approved. So many people came, so many people together – it was bittersweet but it was good, Mom. It was real good.

I will take your ashes to the ocean. I am thinking Hampton or Cape Cod. We spent some really good times there back in the day. The ocean, the waves, the sand and the boardwalk. I can still almost smell the cotton candy, the fries and popcorn. Those crooked arcade games. Walking the beach and each shell was a new treasure, to be carefully placed in a bag. I remember pulling them out, when we back home, smelling them and seeing the ocean in my mind’s eye.

Eventually, this huge hole in my heart will become easier with which to deal but for now, it is so raw, so big and I hurt so bad. I miss you Mom and I promise, I will try to “get over it” and get on with life. Just give me some time.


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When Your Life Takes A Hit

Mom and Me Pauls wedding My mother passed over. Monday of this week – May 12th. She has been in hospital since April 21st. She had a heart attack last fall and things went downhill very rapidly for her. She passed away, quietly, having lost consciousness during the night of May 11th.

I’m in a strange state of mind and I think Mom is the author of that state, she had spent a good deal of time teaching me that she was not immortal and that she was ready to join my Dad.  She had been living with us for close to 4 years, following my father’s passing in Dec/2010. It wasn’t because she couldn’t look after herself – she was totally independent. The family home was simply too large for her to keep, too many stairs and too much property to maintain. An apartment would have been a waste of her financial resources and again, it would have required maintenance and in her early eighties, she would have been a prime target for those slime-balls who favour the elderly as their victims of choice.

My husband and I wanted her close, wanted her to be a part of our daily lives and so, she downsized the home and moved in with us. I loved it. She was safe, she was wanted and loved. We live in a good community, all amenities were close and so this was a good thing.

But, she missed my father dreadfully. You don’t spend 60 years of marriage without the significant other becoming an extended part of you. She would write little notes to him, about how much she missed him and thought I didn’t know. I did. I saw a couple of them and it broke my heart. I’m a fixer. I don’t like people being unhappy and I try to fix it. Life doesn’t work that way so I’m often frustrated. We tried to ensure that while she grieved the loss of her life’s companion that she knew that she was an important part of our family. Not just as my mother but as a member of the household.

Then she became ill. Very ill. She was in a lot of pain. Her quality of life was diminishing rapidly. She was unable to drive. She had doctors’ appointments every week – one specialist or another. Blood tests were a weekly routine as well. We would drive her and it made her so sad; she felt that she was being a burden. She wasn’t and although we tried to tell her, she still felt bad about taking me away from the office. Or when she needed to go shopping – taking up our spare time. Ridiculous trend of thought to us but she was so used to coming and going as she pleased.

During the 4 years she was here, Mom often spoke of her death. She wanted me to understand what she wanted and what she didn’t want. She did not want me to be victimized, as she felt she had been, by unscrupulous funeral directors. She did not want me burdened by the bureaucracy of death (I live in Quebec, there is NO avoiding the bureaucracy). So she had pre-arranged, up to a point, what she wanted in the event of her death. She also set about trying to prepare me for the eventuality.

I didn’t deal with my father’s death very well. He had not prepared and there was so much to do, afterwards. I was executor because I speak French and because I had already closed 3 other estates. My Dad was the executor of two of those estates, my husband was executor for his late father; I have the dubious skill of being able to navigate through paperwork. And I do speak French which made filling out the reams of government forms easier that it would have been for Daddy. I was busy with the paper shuffling for some time and didn’t allow myself to grieve. I didn’t allow myself to examine what was going on in my head. Couple that with extreme work pressure and I melted down. I went into a severe depression and melted down. I had to take almost a month off work and be on medication. A real wake-up and shake-up for me. I thought I was, emotionally, invincible. Apparently? Not.

Mom was living here when I did my impression of Chernobyl. She knew the root cause. She would bring the subject of Daddy up, very carefully. She didn’t want a repeat performance so she also began to prepare me for her leaving as well.

I am trying to allow the grief process to work itself through. I know Mom was tired. I know she was in pain. I know that had she survived this round of assault on her health, her quality of life would have been non-existent. I know that she was ready to leave. I know all these things on an intellectual level but I am still a daughter who has lost her Mom. There is so much to do, so many forms to fill out and legalities to close. So many people to worry about – my husband loved my mother and this is so hard on him. He is stoic. Doesn’t express emotion easily. He is busying himself looking out for me. Telling ME it is okay to cry. To grieve. He is being the husband – the protector. He is not being the grieving family member.

My brother. I worry about him. He is emotionally vulnerable and is hurt easily, deeply. He didn’t handle my Dad’s passing very well and it led to a wedge being forged between him and I. Mom’s passing seems to be wearing away at that wedge. We were together when Mom passed. We shared this. It is bond that, while not one either of us would have ever chosen, it is a bond that will bind us forever. We shared our hearts breaking for someone who gave us life, who loved us regardless of the bonehead moves we’ve both pulled in our lives. That is a raw moment that can’t be erased by time.

I’ve tried to ensure that he is involved in the decisions I have to make. Mom took care of most of the arrangements herself. She left me instructions on how to proceed – which funeral director to be used, how the ritual of death was to be handled. And with my husband and my brother’s help; we have stuck to her plan.

I’m not sleeping very well. It’s the grief process – I know this. I also know that I need to sleep otherwise the serotonin levels go out of whack and depression sets in before you know it but I need to think. I need to analyze all of this. I know Mom is at peace. She is no longer in pain and that her passing was a blessing to her. She was ready, even if we were not.

I feel her around me. I feel her peace but I can’t seem to hold on to it long enough to apply it on a personal level. It is like seeing something beautiful in a distance and being unable to reach it. Like a rainbow. As a child, I would run toward it and of course, never reach it. It’s like that. I want to grab that peace and hold onto it but it isn’t MY peace. It’s Mom’s. I want to share that peace with my family. I want them to know that she is relieved, that she is happy to be gone from the pain but I have no tangible way to prove this to them. Hell, I can’t even prove it to myself. I just feel it.

Sunday afternoon will be the final chapter – the closure absolute. It is a reception to celebrate life – specifically Mom’s but all life as well. I am tasked with ensuring that this is a gathering of family and friends who will share laughter, love and a positive memories of who Mom was, not tears, sadness of her leaving. I hope that I am able to fulfil this wish of my mother’s. I hope that the reception is just that – a reception of life, love, happiness and the importance of living life now.  Then, I will grieve. 


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