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.