When a parent dies

My Mom died…

My Mom died recently. And while it has been difficult for so many reasons, I am comforted by the fact she died an incredibly peaceful and “loved filled” death. She was 87. She took her last breath just as my father touched her gently to say goodnight. We should all be lucky to die the way she did, surrounded by those she loved and who loved her. She was ministered to by those who lovingly and gently cared for her physically, mentally and spiritually as she became incapable of doing things for herself. It was clear to us all that she was ready to go. Not in a passive way, but in a very powerful way, knowing that while she had not always done things perfect, she was passing on after having lived a full and meaningful life. I’m not going to lie, it has been a very, very tough year, watching my Mother die, and dealing with all the accoutrements and emotions that go with watching a person you love go through the whole process of passing on. But for the life of me, I would not have wanted to be anywhere else – feeling blessed to have been able to walk this difficult journey with my parents and siblings. My Mom made a wonderful and profound difference in so many ways on this planet, and knew her time was up. And suffice to say, she was a formidable mother who never said “wait until your father gets home.” She took care of all kinds of business with her brilliance, tenacity and own 2 hands.

The shift that has occurred for me with her death is palpable and indescribable. It is an emotion that just doesn’t go away. It feels like an unexplainable and seismic shift has occurred and bores down into my very soul. The things I know for sure, continue to decrease, which I believe to be a positive and continuing phenomenon for me. What’s left behind feels just a little less solid and certain. I am faced with the stark reality that I no longer have a mother on this planet. People would always tell me how incredibly lucky I was to still have both my parents living. Her death reminds me daily that life goes on. I remember my mother in law saying after her 44-year-old son died of cancer, that she had to come to terms with the fact that, even after such a devastating tragedy, when she felt that nothing would ever be the same, the sun still came up every morning, and set every evening – babies were being born – people died – life was going to go on, with or without her. My Mother shared having had the same experience after losing an infant to crib death at 3 months. The people in their life still needed them to “show up” each day, and they did. Talk about raw and heartbreaking courage…

I am trying to be kinder to myself and not so self-critical. Letting myself just miss my Mother. It feels like all of my trusted “assistants” who have always inhabited my brain – those who help me stay on track, remember things, make decisions, react quickly – have all gone on a vacation together (without me) for a while. Reminding me that its ok to “skip beats” once in a while and that grief does not follow a defined trajectory. I believe that time can be a great healer, and that there’s no designated formula for how long I will feel this way. There is nothing for me to “do” and nothing that needs to be “fixed”.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the reality that everything is always on its way to someplace else. People, things, nature…everything changes and nothing stays the same. It can be a reality that is both exciting and scary. I sometimes accept this as a fact of life, or get into a slugfest trying to resist. I remind myself, that I am one of the first people who would scream the loudest if things never changed.

We are all growing older and moving on everyday. I remember feeling melancholy, realizing soon after I had my first child, that from the moment they were born, they were moving away from me and out into the world. It was the agony and the ecstasy of living out the reality of Kahlil Gibran’s poem:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

 You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

 You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I am eternally grateful for the stable “bow” my Mother has been…