My mother passed away less than two months ago, on July 16th, after three years of illness. I spent a good deal of time with her through her decline. It was difficult sometimes to see her wasting away, to help her with moving from one room to another until she could no longer do that. I didn’t want to see her waning away, but I didn’t want to not be there. In the end I was wiping her bottom, which was weird but felt right, as if we had come full circle.
In her ensuing absence, I have cried, but not a lot. I kept waiting for a full wave of bring-me-to-my-knees grief to hit, as it did with my brother last year. The kind of grief that leaves you hiccup-sobbing, rocking back and forth as you hold yourself, for if you didn’t, you might completely fall apart.
A whisper voice in my head says, “What’s wrong with you? Your mother is gone and you should be unable to function for at least six months! Didn’t you love her?”
Well, yes, in fact I did. She was my best friend. She was the one who was always there for me.
And she still is.
When my mom passed, I was there with my dad and sister. We sat in her room with her for a while. It was strangely peaceful; her journey was over and her suffering ended, while ours was beginning. How would we make a life without Mom, who had been the center of all things? I felt emptiness. She knew how much I needed her. I would have to be brave and strong on my own now. But then something incredible happened. I felt an energetic shift. I can’t really explain it well. It was nothing discernible, nothing anyone else would see or feel. It was a sudden warmth and comfort deep inside; suddenly she was within me. In a final gift from one who gave so much, she gave me her spirit.
And although I move forward in sadness, I don’t feel like she’s gone. I am surrounded by artifacts: I wear her nightgown to bed, I have notes in her handwriting all over my house (for she was the greatest of note-givers and letter-writers.) I open a book and a bookmark she gave me marks the page. More than that, her voice echoes in my ear when I doubt myself. She lives within me and lends me her strength; she doesn’t need it anymore.
She gave me the gift of unconditional love. I saw things she struggled with and I learned great lessons from her pain. She was there for me always, even in her final days. And she always kept her sense of humor. One of our last conversations was about how weird she felt the dying process was. I wondered how she knew it was time. And she said in her weakening voice, “I feel like I could just jump up out of bed and say – surprise! I fooled you!” I told her it was a pretty elaborate ruse just to make a practical joke.
In my head, I do miss her every day. But my heart is full of Mom’s love and spirit. The final gift she gave me lives on, and now it is my job to live my best life accompanied by her strength. Because she was so much a part of me, she is still there to guide me. And that feels right.