Hello my Blogville friends, welcome back. Today is simple orange pekoe tea with milk, it’s what mom and I drank when we were together so it brings some comfort. Trigger alert if you are grieving.
As many of you know I just lost my beautiful momma and my world is a little less colourful right now. I feel though, that it is important to talk about all of this. Maybe it will help normalize things a little for some who have walked this sad journey already, or perhaps help prepare some who may be about to. Maybe it will just help me to write about it, I’m not sure.
Walking away from the hospital where I had my last few moments with my mother felt surreal. But I found strength in the story of how excited mom had been to surprise dad when I took my first few steps, how she watched bemused at how panicked my father was as she let go of my hands and her description of how he dropped everything and ran to catch me. As I walked to my vehicle I thought, maybe dad is running to catch mom now, just as he had run to catch me, in another time. It was hunting season then too, dad was just returning from his hunt camp when I learned how to walk. In her last few years mom would wonder aloud why dad hadn’t come for her yet, questioning why she was still here. Getting into my truck and driving away from the hospital the night we lost her I hoped that he had finally come for her as I again took my first few steps, this time sadly, without my parents’ help.
When I arrived back at her house from the hospital and let myself in there was such loud silence. I never realized how much the silence actually hurts your ears. Though I had already been staying alone for several days and nights at mom’s it felt like there had been this sound, or that, to keep me company. I wonder if they had been the sounds of optimism and the hope that mom might yet come home, now silenced by my new reality. There would be no homecoming. Only the sound of my own voice on the phone telling relatives and friends that mom was gone broke the silence that night. At one point, I remember wondering who was sobbing and then realizing it could only be me.
Those of you who have travelled this journey understand the irony of complete exhaustion being in full conflict with the hyperactivity of one’s mind and thoughts. My subconscious system of hope and disbelief filled the night with the sounds of the tap tapping of her cane, her walker humming along the floorboards with the slight click of the brake handle, the beeping and electric hum of her stair chair ferrying her off to bed, and the staccato of a deck of cards being shuffled, in turn, all making me sit up suddenly in my bed at different times with a sense of hope that momentarily released me from my despair. A hope that quickly faded as I realized that those sounds must have been in my dreams because my reality was a nightmare.
I had told mom that when she went, I would not cry for her, because I knew she was ready. I had also told her I would cry for me because I would never be ready to lose her, and I was right. I was so naive. I had no idea of the enormity of feelings that would overwhelm everything in me, the sense of loss so immediate and unexpectedly cruel. Crying was the easy part. I had no idea. The adult in me appreciated that she was no longer confused and uncomfortable but the child in me yelled “Come back Momma I’m not ready!” I stomped my feet, pouted, and crossed my arms in protest, all to no avail. She was gone, I was motherless. I fell into the abyss of grief.
Suddenly the abyss was filled with questions and decisions. Just as I tried to run I was tethered to a workhorse called, “Final Arrangements” and as I hit the saddle I was in for one heck of a ride! It felt a little like this, ‘casket, singers, luncheon, obituary, jewelry on or jewelry off, this person’s availability at that person’s time frame, viewing times, pall bearers, making sure he has been notified, she has been notified, they have been notified, selecting collage pictures, choosing and ordering flowers, determining charities, meeting with this person, that person, decide, decide, decide’. So many death certificates, who has been notified? Who can notify others?’ Suddenly they expected me to act like an adult when I had just been orphaned. Overwhelmingly it occurred to me, I am no one’s child anymore.
The hospital had gently handed me a list of things to do. It felt more like an encyclopedia of finality. Do they really expect me to be the one to wipe out my mother’s existence as a human being? Ours is a country of accountability before compassion as I had never really understood before now. It seems that a paper trail is started at our births and runs along beside us until the roll is empty, like some sad allotment of toilet paper. Ultra soft, regular, industrial strength, 1 ply, 2 ply, single or double roll . . . all minor details because in the end we are left with an empty cardboard roll.
When a baby is born it is relatively easy to create their existence in this Province. Fill out a couple of forms, get the correct signatures on them and a new identity is formed! Even in the case of adoption, the Court can create a new identity on top of the original identity! Wait 6 or 8 weeks and you can apply for the start of that paper trail, known as your birth certificate, or in the case of adoption, an Adoption Order and amended birth certificate. Either way, welcome to planet Earth, we hope you enjoy the ride. Don’t worry, we can follow your paper trail.
As I said earlier, the trail from life to ‘final arrangements’ is fraught with rights and wrongs! From who should read and what should they read, to who will sing, what should they sing, and to what should we have for the luncheon to follow the service? From what should she wear (mom and I had that discussion several years earlier and I highly recommend it. I even took pictures of the outfits she had preselected) to what should I wear? She had only picked out tops though so now I had to decide between a skirt or comfy pants for her? Would I want to wear a skirt for eternity? Comfy pants it is! Comfy footwear too. Now I just had to pick out what I should wear! Not much selection when you threw clothes into a suitcase after receiving a frantic call saying, “You better come Lynn, it doesn’t look good for mom.”
If you have walked this path will understand it when I say it is incredible how many times I thought, ‘oh, well I’ll just ask mom’ only to be struck dumb by the shock of the realization that she cannot tell me, I have to figure it out on my own. Only you can understand standing in the grocery store crying over the selection of yogurt available. When I say that a sound, a laugh, a noise, can suddenly make your eyes burn and fill with tears, you get it. The formality of making final arrangements is both a curse and a blessing of having to decide things, having to attend things, and some days, simply having to get out of bed.
Those of you who have travelled this path will also understand that just when you think you cannot, you can, because there are people who walk beside you, strangers, relatives, your friends, friends of your loved one, people you expect to see, people you are surprised to see, and each of them holds you up in some way, helping you put one foot in front of the other. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel toward all of you who have or are currently helping me to understand this new reality and begin my new, now motherless, journey, a sad journey where I am no longer anyone’s child.
As ever, I welcome your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.