Tag Archives: mourning

Tell Me More

I wrote this piece several days ago. Most of this lament came out in one sitting as it appears here. The formal tone in this seemed fitting for the mood that I was in, even though I had a very warm and loving relationship with both my mum and dad. I had found out that my dear aunt will be celebrating her 90th birthday(!). I was in a reflective mood, thinking about mothers, mine in particular, and age and the thought that I would love to talk to her again. If I could place a phone call to Heaven, what would I tell her? What would she tell me? We get so caught up in the stories of our lives that we forget that the older generation that raised us has their own stories to tell. We think we know our parents, until they are gone and we can’t ask them questions any more. I thought I had listened to my mother’s stories, but I realized, as I was going through her possessions after she died, that I didn’t know much about many of them. Who gave her the hand-made metal ring with the X’s and O’s on it? Which of her older brothers gave her the bracelet from France during WWII? Why did she keep that particular ribbon that I found in her hope chest? I can no longer ask her, but how I wish she could tell me more.

Dear Mother, tell me more about your mud pies, your broken arm, your quarantine for measles in those Depression days. Tell me more about where you were raised, and your mother and coal miner father. About those irascible brothers of yours, my uncles who loved you and have been loved by me: The one who raised you, the one who teased you, the one who caught hell from your father for not protecting you. The one who left to go to war. The others who followed.

Tell me more about moving when the mine went dark. About leaving your best friend behind, finding new ones in your new school, and how you found the love of your life on the roller rink. Tell me more about these rings that I cherish, that I remember resting gracefully on your hand even after he passed into the arms of Jesus.

Tell me more about your life as a young newlywed couple, the lack of money, the abundance of love. About my brother, about me. Tell me how you rejoiced at his birth and cried because of me. Help me remember your nurturing hands and loving arms, your pride in all we did. Tell me. How did you feel? I want to know more.

Tell me about my wedding. Tell me about your happy tears as I walked down the aisle on the arm of your man and into the arms of mine. Tell me about the sad tears that fell as we moved across the country, away from you. Tell me how one survives the cleaving. As a parent, I need to know.

We kept you waiting, so tell me about your elation to hear of your new grandchild. Tell me. Tell me once again how happy you were to hear. I could see it. You love was visible, but I want you to tell me more. Tell me about that love that is so much more than a parent knows. Tell me about being a grandparent. I’m not sure that I will become one, so I need you to tell me more. Just in case.

Tell me about your last trip with him to where the country began, searching for family history, for roots. What did you find there? Tell me more about your thrill of discovery. A new ancestor. A new connection from long ago. Now that you know who we were, who are we now? I can only pick up the thread you left and hope that it leads me down the same path. We are family, but you are no more. Am I still a daughter without you? Tell me.

I desperately want you to tell me more. But you cannot; you are not here. You are my past, but such an ever-present notion in my head reminding me of the future you wanted for me. Telling me that there are more days to come. That I have more to live. You are no longer here, but you still exist in love, in my heart, in who I am. Even so, how I wish you could tell me more.  I would listen closer.

And remember it all.

Because I still have a lot of things I want to know.

How I wish I had asked you more.

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Through my tears, I see your gentle face,
I feel your tender arms, your loving heart,
In the middle of the night,
As my heart breaks once again.

Relief Comes at a Steep Price

I wrote this by hand as I sat by my mother’s bed on July 31st, 2014, watching her labored breathing as she slept, one day before she passed away. I make no apologies for the content. It is unedited. I stand by what I wrote on one of the most difficult days of my life.

By way of explanation, my family and I live a full day’s drive away from either of our families. We had just started our annual vacation back in our home state when my brother, our mother’s primary care giver, wound up in the hospital and Mum was placed in respite care until he returned to good health. Two days later, she came down with a fever of 103.5 axillary and passed away the next day. My brother remained in the hospital for one day shy of a month, unable to even attend her funeral. He told me later that he didn’t think he could have made the same decision as I did. For what it’s worth, I have no regrets even now two months later.

I’m publishing this because I need it to be out in the world rather than stuck on my computer. I keep obsessing over the things that I’ve written, both in pain and frustration, and it’s not healthy for me, so I’m letting them go. Where they end up is up to God for He is my hope in my mourning.

 

Relief comes in many different ways to those in the midst of pain. Mental realizations. Physical changes. The circumventing of certain circumstances. For me, relief has come through some hard decisions made from the heart.

 
I signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order for my beloved mother this morning. I don’t know if she is on her deathbed or not. There’s a possibility that she will recover.

 
I hope not.

 
Why would I say such a thing? More importantly, how can I say that and feel relieved? As I sit here, watching her labored breathing, I feel pain – heartache. This once vital woman is a skeleton, a shell of her former self. Is this living?

 
I wish the heavens would open up and God’s mighty hands would reach for her. I wish that she would reach back, knowing that my daddy is waiting for her.

 
It’s not easy to entertain the thoughts that someone I love is better off dead. Yet, I know it’s true. It was when I realized that very fact that I felt my first fluttering of relief. It absolved me from guilt; I struggle with guilt, but not in this case. As much as I love my mother, I hurt to see her in a quality of life that puts a lie on the rest of her life. This is the lie – this “life” that has her bed-bound, befuddled and emaciated. I’m angry at that lie.

 
It’s making me a warrior for her. I’m fighting for her dignity, for her peace, for her history. Her past. Her.

 
I would give the world if this were not our reality right now. But it is. I made the decision to sign the DNR papers on my own. It was a good, caring decision. I’m relieved that she will not be manhandled and resuscitated, only to come back to a life no longer worth living. It was a good decision. It was a painful decision and a right one. It brought relief.

 
It’s the little things that relief relies on. The realizations that my brother, her main caregiver, would have had to make this decision instead of me. I’m glad it was me.

 
The primary caregiver position comes to me as my brother, my only sibling, also needs to be hospitalized. So my only two blood relatives, my family, both need me since both are hospitalized. Brother has POA (Power of Attorney), but due to these circumstances, under PA law, it’s fallen to me. I’m ready for this. It’s hard to be thrown into it without appropriate knowledge, but I’m okay.

 
I’m relieved that this happened during our vacation when I could be with them.
Never in a million years would I say this to my mom. I love her. I want her around, but she’s also not healthy. I want what’s best for her, even if it’s what’s most painful for me. It will bring her relief, this death of hers. She needs relief. I need her to be relieved, so I will sign every DNR paper they put in front of me.

 
Nothing will be the same without her, but there’s nothing worse than this hanging around. Praying for relief and if that’s selfish of me, then so be it. I’ll be selfish if it helps her. Daddy’s waiting, Mum.

Hierarchy of My Grief

I realized recently that the passing of Robin Williams has not affected me that much. While I feel for his family, his death has little bearing on my life. A great comedian, a layered actor: he was both of these and much more. I am sorry for his family’s loss, for the loss of a comic genius to this nation and the world, but I do not mourn deeply for him.

When I compare his death with the death of my mother just a week before, there is no comparison. There are only levels of mourning. The loss that I feel for my mom – my rock, my friend, my confidante – can only be described as deep, bottom-of-the-abyss pain. What I feel for Robin Williams is a vague, numb sympathy, a divot, a pothole, a bump in the road – nowhere near the sinkhole of raw nerve endings that itch and prick for Mum. It consumes me. I do not have room to mourn for him while I have mourning left to do for her.

How I wish she was still here. How I wish she had been healthy towards the end. In some ways, I have mourned over her since last year even though she died only recently. Her disease took away the intimacy, the laughter, the heart talks that we have always had. As a daughter, it was every bit as devastating to my soul as that disease was to her body and mind. I am mourning for her as only a loving child can.

I understand what Robin Williams’ children are feeling so intensely right now. However, I cannot mourn for him at the plummeting depths that they will. That is reserved for my mother, just as it is reserved for them for their father. In my numbness, I see the tributes to him on my FaceBook wall and my heart cries, “But what about my mother?” I’m not ready for her to be forgotten and my grief to be sidelined by others as they carry on with their lives. The changes that come with her death are mine to bear, not my friends, but still, I envy, and maybe even resent a little, that they can go on, uninterrupted, while my piece of the planet has been bulldozed.

Robin Williams will be mourned for many years by many people for the laughter and generosity of spirit that he left for the world. That is one of the benefits of being well-known. My mother will be remembered by me and my family privately. She did not influence the world, but she did influence my world. Deep love must be mourned deeply.

In the hierarchy of grief, personal relationships trump celebrity.