I sit at the keyboard, cursor blinking on my laptop’s screen, and I know there’s only one topic I can write about this week: My mother. You see, she breathed her last breath two weeks ago today.
To say I’ve been overwhelmed with support would be a gross understatement. Loved ones near and far have expressed condolences and concern, offering help wherever it’s needed. Those thoughts, prayers, love and care have been an enormous comfort.
Still, there’s a tremendous void. A chasm, really.
The end, when it came, left me wanting and needing something none of my well-intentioned family members or friends can deliver.
I want to wake, snug in my bed, realizing this has been nothing but a prolonged nightmare. I want to be able to call or visit Mom. See her smile. Talk about the mundane or things that matter. Hug her. Tell her I love her.
Of course, I can’t do any of those things. Death is final. There are no do-overs.
The end, when it came, wasn’t unexpected. The grief that followed was.
I’d naively hoped I would be all cried-out by this point. Not so. Not yet, anyway.
Tears are ever-present, ready to spill without warning. Some mornings, a profound sadness hits before I ever climb out of bed. Other times, grief sneaks up on me out of the blue, assaulting me when I am least prepared to fend it off.
I’m struck by the realization that I didn’t know my mother even half as well as I wish I had; not nearly as well as it seems others know their mothers. We didn’t have a typical mother/daughter relationship, Mom and I.
My parents divorced weeks before my eighth birthday; my Dad raised my siblings and me. My relationship with Mom was always strained, overshadowed by that history and by the demons she wrestled with most of her life.
To her credit, she tried. I tried too.
Things improved some over the years, but ours was never a close relationship. Mom was never someone I felt I could confide in, nor was I her confidant. Still, we forged a bond of sorts. I relied on her as much as she relied on me.
That co-dependency, made stronger in the last few years of her life, made it that much harder to say good-bye.
The end, when it came, was mercifully fast.
Mom entered the hospital for the final time on a Friday.
Three days later, on Monday morning, her doctor visited and talked to her about hospice care. Mom was a fighter, but she’d reached a point where she simply couldn’t fight anymore.
By Tuesday morning, she’d slipped into a comatose state.
She passed away early Wednesday morning.
The end, when it came, left me with too many unanswered questions.
Death stole my mother away before I could ask her all the things I’ve only thought of now that I can’t ask them anymore. What was her favorite color? Favorite Christmas carol? Most treasured childhood memory? Favorite place to visit? Proudest accomplishment? Deepest regret?
There’s so much more I don’t know.
Did she know I was there, holding her hand at the end? Did she hear my words of comfort and love, uttered haltingly through a veil of tears?
I don’t know.
Mom’s only “ask” in the conversation with her doctor less than 48 hours before she passed was that the end not be scary. Was it?
I don’t know.
I do know that the end, whenever it arrives, will come for each of us. That death is simply a part of life. That grief comes part and parcel with loving someone.
I also know Mom wouldn’t have wanted me to wallow in grief or self-pity. Instead, she would have offered encouragement, gently prodding me to get back to my routine. To get back to making my own memories with loved ones. I know I would have likely bristled at her advice, but that in the end, Mom would have been right.
I know I’m not the first (or only) person to lose a parent. I can’t claim this grief as something uniquely mine. It’s a club I wasn’t ready to join. Of course, nobody is every really ready.
I know I’ll feel my mother’s loss for the rest of my life, but that her memory will live on inside me. And, I hope that the end, when it ultimately comes for me, will finally reveal some of the answers I seek.