Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mother Loss

Sometimes when I sit down at the laptop to write in my blog, I have an idea in mind that I thought of earlier in the day. That is, if I had the forebearance to write the idea down on a piece of paper at the time it popped into my head. Other times, I just sit at my laptop desk, and an idea will present itself as I stare at the screen before me. I usually have no idea how my writing will turn out; I just start typing. I can tell you that the idea for today's post was inspired by a recent post on another blogsite, but right this second, I have no idea what this post will look like once my fingers leave the keys after the final edit.

My mother died when I was barely 13, the oldest of five children, and my son died when he was a few months shy of his 18th birthday. When my son died, I was a single parent but on very good terms with my ex-husband. My ex was actually with me at my home the October evening when we got the news. I remember shortly after Sean died and my family was still in California with me for the memorial service, and someone made a comment about god having a reason for taking Sean at such a young age. And I remember storming angrily into my bedroom and saying to my sister, "What kind of god takes a mother from her 13 year old daughter and a 17 year old boy from his mother? What kind of god is that?" I could not comprehend any god that I learned about in catechism class doing such a thing. God is supposed to be all-knowing, all-loving, and all-fair. How do you reconcile this dicotomy? (If you want to know one response to this question, read Rabbi Harold Kushner's time honored book on the subject, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People".)

Its been over nine years since Sean was taken from me, from his dad, from his family and friends, from his future. He had no chance to leave a legacy in this world, to leave his stamp on history that a certain man-child named Sean lived and breathed on this planet Earth. This is not in any way fair.

The summer my mom was ill (she had breast cancer in the 1960s), they kept her in the hospital until the very end. Hospice services did not yet exist, at least not in this country. Her children were not allowed to visit her; they did not let children into the hospital to visit unless they were at least 16 years old. She went into the hospital the very end of June; I never saw her again; she died on August 8th.

The week before my mother went into the hospital, before what I think both my parents knew would be the last time she spent with her children, my parents took us on an overnight vacation, the first and last overnight vacation I ever spent with my parents. We went to Rhode Island, and stayed for a week in a beach house owned by my mother's cousin. I remember that we all had a great time at the beach. We kids were not told that my mom had cancer at that point. I very clearly remember acting out; I could not understand why my dad let my mother get drunk at night (she wasn't really drunk, but woozy from whatever pain relieveing medication my dad was allowed to give her, but I didn't know this at the time). So I was banished from the house one evening and had to stay in the front yard until I calmed down.

I am 56 now. My mother died when she was only 37 and I was barely 13. (I turned 13 while she was in the hospital that summer of 1967.) My mother died 43 years ago, more years than she walked this earth. My son died over nine years ago. Sometimes it feels like it was a long time ago; sometimes it feels like yesterday. These losses have given me some experience with grieving, experience I would gladly give up.

I have learned from reading books and from sharing with others who have gone through similar losses, that there are some commonalities among the grief-stricken. However, everyone grieves in different ways and on different timetables. What I can say is this: the loss of a very close loved one never fully goes away, but the pain does lessen over time. How much time I cannot say, as the timing is different for everyone. Anniversaries and holidays and special events or places bring the memories and the sadness all roaring back, but with less ferocity over time. And that is the best comfort I can give anyone suffering from such a loss.

How to end such a downer of a piece? My "best comfort" does not sound comforting at all when I re-read what I have just written.

There is a song on a CD that I have whose last verse I love to listen to. It says "Be happy, and if you can't do that, make sure good friends are near". That's the best advice I can give anyone. That, and spending time with young children; they will raise your spirits and lift your sinking heart and put a smile on your face. They are innocence and sunlight, they are the future and the hope of the world. So my friends, be happy....and if you can't do that, make sure good friends are near.

No comments:

Post a Comment