For Chip: He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. —Unknown

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Abandoned on Earth

It could have been a child, a spouse, a friend, but in this case it was my mother.  How could you have abandoned me while on earth? She was so strong.  Little did I know that a stroke could cause the loss of swallowing and the only alternative was a feeding tube?  It’s been three years and I am not sure that the grief has subsided.  The most common advice given freely is that time will heal all wounds.  This advice is total rubbish.  There is absolutely nothing in this mostly material world that will replace a mother or any loved one.   I had my mom for 98 years and I still wanted more.  Is that a bit selfish?  It might seem so to others, but I could have used a few more days or weeks or months. 

Do you know that the hospital sends in “palliative care” who basically reassures you that if you use nursing care it will not last long because this person will be dead soon.  Then you have hospice, which is wonderful to families, but are they not a little blunt as they tell you the signs of death that will occur hours before death? Well it was an eye opener, but not what I was looking for.  I really needed a servant of God to reassure and help me through the journey.

Why can I remember the details of various chapters of the end of her death?  Like a director of a lifetime movie I can recall every scene, every word, and yes every tear.  I would like to say that this person who was my mom is in a better place.  I hope that is true, but you have to have incredible faith to completely believe.

I never took her name or number out of my phone.  I am sure my co-workers are delighted that I quit talking about death and dying every darn day.  The only way I could get around grieving was to shut down.  How do you shut it down?  Well you program yourself to not think about the details in the same way people stop thinking about other hurtful memories. 

My mother’s former neighbors seem to still be proponents of her life and even told me once that they were going to text me, but wanted to hear my voice.  I do not think they wanted to hear me, but they missed my mom.  She gladly interrupted their life randomly.  I began to see how older people become less concerned about etiquette and manners as she would sometimes answer the phone with a gruff voice and say, “Who is this?”  She would not hesitate to call a neighbor at the drop of a hat if she needed something.  She often called me and asked, “Where were you?”  Most of the time I was at work and never had my phone on me.  Her persistence was amazing.  One time she called me thirteen times in a row.  Of course she probably would not have done that in her younger years, but this woman knew what she wanted.

I sometimes am puzzled as to my loyalty to her even after death.  After all, I considered my dad my savior as a child and who would keep me from her sometimes-extreme wrath.  Moms and daughters have their ups and downs, but I could always depend on her. The advice she gave always seemed like the right thing to do.

I was a very small child and we were standing in front of the bathroom mirror.    My mom wanted me to say I was sorry.  There was no way I was  going to spout that phrase.  I was just as stubborn as her.  Eventually, she got very tickled and started laughing as we both starred at each other in the bathroom mirror.  She did love to laugh, but she could be harsh and slightly rude to others.  I think my personality developed as  a way of avoiding confrontation at all costs as a result of being with her.  She was the most incredible “bargain master”.  If a sales person said an item was $10.25 she would turn around and say $1.25?  It was the most ridiculous response and she kept going in the store like a “proud peacock” and never showed any weakness. 

Her most memorable and grueling interactions were buying a car which was her passion.  A new car meant success and achievement.  She grew up so poor with many older siblings.  Although she had many half sisters and brothers she was the only child of her parents.  Her parents remarried with both having large families and she was the only product of their marriage.  Unfortunately, she was the only child left after every sibling died.  She outlived all her friends.  She had a church directory near her chair and she had an “X” on everyone’s picture that had died.  By the end of her journey there was hardly anyone left in the book that had not been eliminated.

Driving or sitting at work I often find myself as a spectator viewing before and after death scenes of my mom in the most intricate detail.   I quickly grab a Kleenex and try to pretend I have a teary eye or bad contact hoping no one walks in.

Does grief ever end?  I can tell you grief enjoys company and is as certain as death itself.  I feel like letting grief have the upper hand robs you of your life.   You keep living in the past instead of the future.  One of my friends in desperation blurted out that it was the devil’s fault.  It was the devil that was robbing me of my life.  I quickly pointed out that they had never had a loss such as mine. I know my story is not special or better or more dramatic than anyone else’s.  However, it is now part of me and I will cherish every memory close to my heart.

There is a Jewish custom of putting a pebble or stone on the grave of the deceased.  I did that the last time I visited my parent’s grave.  When I consulted my Jewish co-worker about the custom he laughed and said he really did not understand that idea and would ask the Rabbi.  He said he had seen people move the stones from one grave to another.   I like the idea that the grave had a visitor.  By the way I know my parents are not in the grave, but as my mom’s neighbor relayed “Where else can you go?”

2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.