I've been thinking about what happens when someone dies, and the world begins to respond to this news. I've also been thinking about what this particular loss (of two parents) means to me. And I've been thinking a lot about not thinking (denial). And then there's the part that I think, and think.
I see myself as a person who enjoys cherishing every experience. I make sure to live, feel, breathe and reflect. So, when I consider what it's like to experience other people's outreach to me after the loss of parent number two, it is with the great energy I give to taking that moment to share their feelings, thoughts, self. Yeah, this is mumbo-jumbo, touchy-feely, but this is the deal: when I let people know that this thing has happened, and especially when I let them know that it's a big stinkin' deal to me, the mirror goes up. Without fail, not only is the person trying to grasp what this means to me, they're also thinking about what it means to them (I remember my own loss, what happens when I lose my blank) and so forth. So that's when I breathe, and listen, hug, and calculate how much we can stop in this moment and be. Everyone plays their part. This is the beauty of community. Not one person's response to me has been the same as another. All of these responses are simply perfect, because it's a member of my community, a living member, flaws and all, showing up when they are ready to show up.
My life, since January has been an absolute delight. I say this only because I feel so fully alive and engaged and passionate that I'm grateful for my own company. As low as I've felt, at times, I've never felt like a dull light dimming. Early on, I felt the awful fear and terror of waking in the middle of the night to the scary memory that yes, it's true, this is over. Even then, even amidst the hard stuff, I've been galvanized into action and good action. I returned to a bitter humiliating winter that brought all of Chicagoland to its knees. I breathed, drank my coffee, my wine, slept at night, and began the cathartic process of purging my entire home of objects that needed to be moved. I pursued a level of organization and order and logical living but never to the extent of over-obsessiveness. I knew that I would be useless in the out-there world, so I worked, day-by-day, at rebuilding the sanctuary of my own home, my own family, and a gathering place for my community. As winter dragged on, my own home took on the look of my favorite place to be.
I've been saying that purging and organizing serve two purposes. One, I'm expecting myself to be grown up, and in my family, order is a sign of maturity. Second, I needed to find a way to move forward in all of our lives. My parents dying, at an appropriately old age, is difficult because it is a sign that myself, my friends, my offspring, my hobbies, everything is getting old. Every object adorning my house, all of my clothes, jewelry….when is the time right to say goodbye? Tough times provide an opportunity to ask those questions.
All I can add, for now, is the part about thinking and thinking and thinking, and still finding myself in solid denial. Early on, I would lie in bed and remember conversations Mom and I had in the last few weeks. I cataloged the food I prepared for her, I remembered her playing Charades on that last Friday before hospitalization. I retraced days, meetings, and more. I would lie in bed counting the nights that I tended her, and the nights that I double teamed with my siblings. I recalculated when I made calls to which nurse and what happened next. I saved four days of Newspapers, because there were only four days of the Register Guard left, in a pile, that she didn't read. And then, when she did leave us, it was all very real. We were there with her at home, we went about all of the work and letting go that seemed appropriate right then. January kept us busy.
But, still, now that all of the time has passed, I still talk about Mom's likes, dislikes, attitudes in the present. Her sense of humor, her sense of order. As I moved steadily toward a place where I would accept and truly let go, I began the process of assuming possession of all sorts of things that would keep her near me. Starting with this hundred-year old ceramic cat. The same cat that she took from her own Mother's home, many years ago, in a similar rite of passage.