“As T and I sat on each side of her bed, we talked quietly of the other deaths we have witnessed together. There have been too many. I looked at him and I thought, “One of us will be here in a bed like this while the other sits in a chair holding a hand.” Just as I had that thought, my mom opened her eyes. It was the first time all night that she was aware of our presence in her room. She turned her head and looked at T. A big smile lit up her face. She reached for his hand and said, “You are a good man.”
She asked him where I was, and he said, “Right here by your side,” and he gently turned her head. She said, “I love you,” and reached for my hand. It all only lasted a moment and she was asleep once more. There was no more conversation or consciousness.
T and I sat there on each side of the bed holding her hand. This mother who caused me grief, strife, and years of conflict held onto our hands, the three of us connected. Forgiveness should not be something that is given lightly, freely, or without justification. Forgiveness is earned. Tonight, I forgave my mom huge, vast quantities of past injuries. She confirmed the one thing I know to be true. T IS a good man.”
I wrote those words a little over a week ago. I was writing them during the final moments of my mother’s life, perhaps I wrote them even as she died. That late night/early morning I sat alone in the living room cuddled under a blanket with my feet propped up on the coffee table and my laptop warming my lap. I needed to write so that I would not forget those peaceful, touching moments. I didn’t know that they would be our last moments together. I knew the end was very near, but I thought she might make it through another day.
That night, I finished writing, shut down my computer, and headed up the stairs to get ready for bed. Only moment later, my phone rang. It was 1:30 a.m. A nurse was calling to tell me that my mother had passed. She had been alive at midnight when the nurse had checked on her, but now she was gone. I was naked when I received that call, stripped bare and standing in the bathroom. I stood there holding the phone, and my first thought was how ironic it was that I was nude.
I didn’t know what to do next. The nurse wondered what funeral home we were going to use. She wanted a phone number. She said that they needed to make arrangements for “the body.” I was naked, standing in the bathroom. It was 1:30 a.m.! I didn’t necessarily carry that kind of information around with me. I wrapped myself in a towel, woke up T, fired up the computer and began making calls. The ball was set in motion. There were an amazing amount of details, arrangements, and phone calls to make.
This past week has been exhausting. I was still borderline sick. T ended up getting sick, and Lola woke up on Thursday with a 102 degree fever. We have had a funeral, cleaned out an apartment, and had a son home for the weekend. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. There have been wonderful visits with family that I haven’t seen in years. Our friends have been kind, caring, and supportive. I love my friends who instead of bringing casseroles brought the ingredients for chocolate martinis. In the midst of pain, there was laughter, friendship, and love.
This weekend is the first time in two years that I haven’t been drawn to visit a hospital or an assisted living facility. I tried to see Mom on most weekends. On the weekends when I wasn’t able to make it to visit her, I felt a weight of guilt. This weekend has been the first time in over two years that I have been able to choose without conflicting feelings the activities I engaged in. Still, it has not been a great weekend. I am drained and exhausted. My emotions are fragile as hell. I looked at a tree today, and it brought back a memory that made me cry.
These past two-plus years have been terrible. There is no other way to describe them. It all began in December 2009 when I lost the person I thought was my best friend. By choice, this person turned away, ran away, changed paths. However you’d like to phrase it, this person who meant so very much to me, decided that I didn’t really mean that much to them. A handful of days later, I lost my dear, dear father. Losing Dad left me with the sole responsibility of my very sick mother. Eventually, I was called upon to support her through the withdrawal of treatment and the weeks leading to her death. Two years of senseless hell. At times, it has felt like I have been trapped in my life, and there was no way out, nowhere to turn. At times, I have crumbled and fallen apart, but for the most part I have just dealt with the circumstances. Like a drone, I have learned to deal with what life threw my way. I coped as best I knew how. I trudged through the days, the weeks, the months, and it all added up to two-plus years.
In the sadness of this past week, there have been moments where HOPE has popped through like bright sunshine. I can take a trip now without feeling guilty. I will have a summer of working in my yard on the weekends instead of running to the hospital. Little by little, I am beginning to see that I have a chance to reclaim my life. T and I are talking about a short trip to Vegas or to a beach sometime soon. I’m planning a trip this spring to visit a friend in Georgia. We will be able to have moments of doing NOTHING, and not feeling like we should be doing SOMETHING.
The apartment is empty. Now it is time to turn our attention to the house. We need to sort through the rest of my parents’ belongings. We’ll keep a few things that have sentimental value, but most of it will go on an auction in a month or so. This afternoon, I went to the house alone. I haven’t been there in weeks, and it was the first time to stand in my childhood home knowing that BOTH of my parents are dead. It hit me hard. I have no one left who shares my memories. I went from room to room, and the memories were vivid. I saw things. I saw my parents as they were years ago. I saw a little girl and her little black dog. I remembered where the piano once stood, and the Christmas tree, and where Dad sat to drink his morning coffee. I remembered addressing my wedding invitations as I sat on the floor of the living room. I remembered my own now-grown children coloring at the little table in the sunroom. Where did my life go? Where did my family go? I wandered from room to room, and I felt like an orphan. I cried and cried. I finally let it all out. Two years of loss and pain.
I couldn’t stop crying until I walked into my dad’s room. I stood in his closet and put my arms around the one special shirt of Dad’s that I had saved. It was just a silly polo. I had bought it for Luke, but he hadn’t liked it. Grandpa liked it, though, so Luke told him to he could have it. It cracked the boys up to see Grandpa wearing a purple American Eagle shirt, but I think that made Grandpa love it even more. I stood there looking at that purple polo alone in the closet. I put my hand out and touched the fabric. My dad had been here. He had been real, wonderful, and loving. Oh, how I miss him! As I stood there, I felt his love. Yes, lives are too short, but the love lives on and on.