My Mother Was Larger Than Life
… and her absence feels like a chasm in my reality. I am committed to filling the void with her undying love and the love I have for her. In her death, she is still teaching me how to be a better person, woman and mother. These are some of the lessons I have learned in the last week since my Mother passed away.
1. I will never assume that someone’s loss is more or less than anyone else’s.
I sat in her hospice room and listened to my father speak of how he was alone now. I tried to comfort him with reassurances that he had us and we would always be with him. In that moment, my Dad became a man who lost his partner of almost 55 years. I was crushed by the magnitude of his loss. I always saw them as a matching set there at my bidding, never allowing the idea that they were first and foremost husband and wife. Funny, the very thing I teach and believe with all my heart that the couple should always be a priority was lost on me when it came to my Mommy and Daddy.
I also spoke with my uncle concerning his loss. Whereas I saw him as a distant family member who was more trouble than anything else, by my Mother’s bedside, he was her brother who watched as his last surviving family passed away. I hurt for him as he spoke of being by himself and I had nothing pithy to say because he was right. I may have lost my Mother but I still had my amazing sister and brother plus their spouses who are also my siblings. I still had my Dad and all of us were a close and loving family.
My husband’s loss was just as profound as mine. Many people came to me during my Mother’s funeral and spoke of how my husband captured my Mom’s essence. She loved him like a son and reminded him every chance she had to tell him that he was loved. And like Paul and Dad and my uncle, there were many people who felt the pain of this loss; their grief was not easier than mine.
2. I will never give a pat statement of condolences to anyone who is grieving again.
Death is a part of life and at some point we will all experience it. We learn the phrases that are standard fare for those who must approach or deal with the grieving; the further from the feeling of loss, the colder the statement. Some people feel that they must say something but the words fail them. Instead of a “Hallmark” greeting to express yourself, just say that- “I have no words”. That is more heartfelt than a sterile “My deepest condolences for your loss”. The truth is that those words have been so overused that we have zapped all meaning from them.
The word “condolences” comes from the Latin which means “to suffer together” which is not sympathy but empathy. You are with me in my pain! However, the words are being used to mean just the opposite! Tell me you are sorry for my loss. Tell me that you are there for me. Tell me that you love me and are sad. Feel with me. Send me love and light. But, for God sake, don’t fake it.
3. Grief is not something you get over.
You never “get over” a loss. Grief is something you go through. Grief is a perpetual state of being. The moment you lose something you will never end grieving it. Of course, you are not in the same pained experience ad infinitum but you are constantly feeling the loss to a greater or lesser degree of pain. Just these last few days since my Mother’s passing, I have felt deep sadness which has turned to numbness to feelings of being lost to joy of being with the people that I love. I miss her terribly and feel that she is just behind a door or getting ready to make an entrance. As time passes and my anticipation turns to disappointment, I return to the sadness and feel the ache of the loss. I know that pain will ease with time. I trust in the process of grief and am lifted by the love and support my family and friends give me.
But, I will not fool myself. She was a teeny woman who cut a wide swath with her fire brand spunk and her indomitable spirit. You don’t get over people like that. I will learn to live with the memory and knowledge that her DNA is running through my veins and that of my children. It makes me smile knowing that even when she was sick, she refused to let some people know. Sure, that denial and unwillingness to be honest was not her healthiest move but in her own words, “no me da la gana”. Even in the end, she would not let people tell her how to live or let her enemies see her sweat. There is a message there but I am still in the fog of loss to find that lesson. Suffice it to say, she was a bitch to her dying breath and I respect that.
My post may lack the pure love and eloquence of my husband’s but I hope my love and respect for my Mother is there. She was my teacher, friend, care giver, confidant, playmate and rock. I miss her but am heartened by the idea of her fighting for me on the other side. The priest today mentioned that she was now with the choir of angels. As my daughter said, “I don’t know if the choir is where she would want to be”. My guess is she will be management within a week.