Welcome back to Blogville my friend. Today I am drinking a ginger turmeric tea blend as we visit. I know that this is the Holiday Season and I am not sure how much that is going to influence this blog, but I know that grief will continue to be evident in my words, because it continues to walk with me every day. I appreciate your company on this difficult journey, but know that if you too are grieving, there may be triggers in my words.
I feel grief most strongly as I experience the conflict between the adult executrix and the grieving little girl. The adult executrix selling mom’s house for all those practical reasons while the little girl stomps her feet in protest is one example. Believe me, I often envied that little girl’s ability to protest my own decisions. In my last blog I spoke about having to decide the fate of all the articles in mom’s home. I had to make those hard choices despite the strength in that little girl’s wish to preserve everything, every decorative plate, special fork, knitting needle, and pretty sweater that held a memory or a scent. It was my wish to keep it all too, as my mother’s daughter. But I also had to acknowledge that my mother left me the role of executrix because she trusted me and had faith in my decision making ability. That faith in me, so bittersweet.
I think the little girl analogy explains the water works I continue to experience suddenly and unexpectedly. I unexpectedly cry all the time and for the silliest reasons, or sometimes no reason at all, just a feeling, or a sudden reminder or thought of mom. Someone will ask me a simple question and I find myself tearing up and struggling to speak. As embarrassed as I often am there is a part of me that wants to give in, throw myself down in defeat and cry until no more tears can form.
What’s wrong with me? Mom was 97 years old I remind myself, a part of me has been half-expecting this and trying to prepare for her passing, but all the rationalization fails me while that little girl screams “I want my mommy!” I just want to yell “Me Too!, I want my mommy too”. Somehow, I don’t think that would be appropriate at the bank, in line at Tim Hortons, or at Walmart in the gluten-free aisle so the adult me holds it together, well, mostly.
I have now returned back to my home community, surrounded by family and friends once again. Remarkably though, still mostly alone. I’m discovering that grief is a lonely journey. Well, just me and that little girl prone to some pretty big feelings!
The other sad reality is that just because I am home does not mean that the work stops. Preparing thank you cards is a good example. I would honestly rather call or give you a thank you hug. People who know me are aware that I do not send out Christmas cards (except for the one I would send my mother) and that card sending is not something I enjoy. It’s just an inexplicable thing with me. I mean, I barely got my wedding invitations out all those years ago. Spending three hours on that task left me emotionally drained because with every thank you card I prepared, I relived each kindness I was thanking people for. My tears made it hard to write the addresses.
As I was placing a thank you card in one of the envelopes my husband put our mail on the table. Anxious for a distraction I started opening the mail. There were sympathy cards from caring relatives and one Christmas card. Suddenly I realized that in your house now, among your Christmas cards, our thank you card will rest. The very idea of that made me burst into tears. See? Crying for the silliest reason.
Though there is still much to do, the pace is slowing as the urgent decisions and duties are behind me, but somehow this pace serves only to speed up my thoughts. I was washing my hair the other morning and instead of thinking about which box to pack or unpack, I thought about how I would curl my mother’s hair when I would visit and how she loved that. I think there were more tears coming out of my eyes than water out of the shower head. See? I’m crying now just thinking about that, how such a simple thing brought her so much joy.
For heaven’s sake, the other day when I was looking for an estate paper I needed, I moved a pizza flyer out of my way. I flashed back to how we had to special order a pizza for mom because she was gluten-free and lactose intolerant. A pizza flyer for God’s sake!! Cried my eyes out. Then I remembered how one of my best friends is also gluten-free, maybe she will let me order her a pizza for nostalgia’s sake. Scrolling through Notes on my phone I came upon one of the GF recipes I would use for mom, and it was like looking at your child’s baby pictures on their wedding day. Yep, crying.
I notice how many times a day now that I have random thoughts of mom and it leads me to wonder if I used to have those when she was still here, and question that if I had, was I too busy to act on them? I think back to the many times I would think of mom and look at the clock to see if it would be a good time to call her and then get busy or distracted and forget to call. I don’t know how many times that happened but in regretful hindsight, once was too many. Or I would call and she would say, “Oh Ruth is here playing cards.” Or “That Burchat girl is here visiting.” Or “My girl is here to help me with my shower.” I would always say, “Ok, mom, I’ll call you back.” But I rarely did, at least not that same day.
When I was cleaning out mom’s house I found little notes in many places with my brother’s home number, his cell number, and my home number. This was why I have always said I will keep my landline as long as my mother is alive. That sentence, once innocuous, now brings a flood of tears. Did I really think I would never see the day I would be cancelling my landline? On the rare occasion that it rings the little girl in me looks anxiously at the caller ID with the hope that it will be mom. So if you call my landline and you hear it picked up but no one says hello, listen for the tears. Don’t hang up though, just give me a sec ok?
Every thing I read about grief and grieving is the path I am now walking. The brain fog that has me looking everywhere for her locket when it is in my other hand, check, the displaced anger when I cannot open that package and start yelling at it, yep, yelling at a brick of cheese, that’s me, or the inability to decorate the house, or a tree, in anticipation of the holidays, check.
If I seem detached, I am, because my new reality is weird and I’m not sure how to present myself. Poor bank employees, Tim Horton’s staff, retailers and other helpful people. Often we will be talking about the most innocent things when suddenly they find themselves on the phone or face to face with a blubbering mess. I think somewhere inside, maybe it is safer to cry with them? I am grateful for how they always respond to my apology, not by hanging up or walking away, but instead by saying, “It’s ok, take your time, I understand.” I thank them for that (but I cannot possibly write and address another thank you note, sorry).
My mother was the most amazing, kind and caring person. So many people tell me wonderful stories of how she made a difference in their lives. It is funny how much a person influences others without those closest to them every really being aware isn’t it? I feel that it shows how humble mom was, and how genuine in her acts. She did things for people simply because they needed her, or she wanted to, with never a thought to how they might be grateful. My mother acted without any motivation other than to help another human being.
Mom would always say that she wanted to be a nurse but ‘life got in the way’. You would have made a wonderful nurse mom. I may have said this in another blog but my mother raised my brother and I to always smile and say hello first when encountering another person. I remember her saying, “Don’t wait to smile back, smile first, because it may be the best thing to happen in that person’s day.” Let’s all work at carrying on that legacy. Let’s all smile first in memory of my mother.
Thank you for visiting with me in Blogville, as ever, I would love for you to share your comments. If you prefer a less public forum to do so please feel free to email me at email@example.com. See you next time, thanks for reading.
Lynn Deiulis' personal and professional journey sparked a passion to write a book that offers an opportunity for children to learn about how they came to be living together as a family or living with another family.