On Death And Dying

August 28th, my mother would have celebrated turning 65 years old. Every day on this date for the past six years, I think back to that time and how our family changed so much in less in only three years.
I would say, I’m stoic one between my brother and me. I’m the one less likely to show any emotion, happy or sad. I stay a straight line, an art I have perfected over the last 34 years. I never saw my grandmother get emotional, even on occasions where you would think she would. She never broke and I never will. It doesn’t mean that underneath it all she wasn’t falling apart, it doesn’t mean that underneath it all I’m not either.
Between 2006 and 2008, my family lost my grandmother, followed two weeks later by her only son, then my mother in 2007 and finally my grandfather three months before my daughter was born. I think about them all on this day, her birthday. Birthdays were always happy and cheerful in our house. Our mom and grandparents always made a big deal about them and holidays in general. These are the things I miss now that they are gone. The traditions that you have that stop the moment they cease to exist. The ones that go on become monotonous and have no meaning.
When my mother started her walk with cancer. I tried to have those conversations with her about life, about leaving. Conversations you have when you know you want to leave the living with something to carry on with. Conversations I would want to have with my own daughter, if I were ever in those shoes. Things I would want to leave behind for the grandchildren that were yet to be. These things never came to pass. While my mother and I had a good relationship. We never got to the point where most of my friends are now with their parents. The adult relationship I never got to have because time ran out.
I remember on this day, the day she died. I was at work, the beginning of my day. The conversation short and to the point. I told my manager I needed to go home and I left. I was prepared for this day to come. I went home to my apartment and spent the next three days alone, in bed not really eating, in an almost catatonic state. The third day I was found, cleaned up and taken to my mother’s funeral. I was so horribly ill that day. I was sick with fever, my head exploding. I arrived at the end of the viewing and saw her lying there. It wasn’t her, it looked nothing like her. Something was missing. I touched her hand, said a prayer and floated through the service and burial following along with all the ritual.
I am grateful for all my friends that were there that day, they were the bright spots in the fog.
That afternoon, I left with my grandfather and I remember him, sitting in his recliner while everyone else prepared food. He was staring out the window and had my grandmother’s obituary in his hand, it normally resided in the chest pocket of whatever shirt he had on. That was when it hit me, I may have lost my mother that day but he had lost both of his children and his wife in the last year. I sat on his lap, something I hadn’t done since I was a child and we said nothing because we didn’t need to.
One of the many things I’ve learned about death and the process of dying, is that it changes you. It chips away at your heart and at your soul. It leaves a void that never gets refilled. Though you may try in vain to fill it with many things, it will always be there, waiting in the wings for you to let down your guard enough for it to seep back in. I went to bed the night my mother died the old me and woke up a person I still don’t fully recognize or understand. Things that once used to mean everything to me lack their appeal. I spend every day trying to find some meaning in it, some purpose, and some enjoyment. There are days when I’m still angry. Angry that my mother never got to meet her grandchildren. Angry that my daughter will never know the rest of her family except through stories. Irate that she’ll never know the comfort that came from sitting on her great grandfather’s lap. Sad that she’ll never know me before the fall. I used to be a fun person, a “never leave the party until the very, very end” person. I would gladly relinquish my soul for one day that my children could spend with them. This is what death does to you.
I’d like to tell you something positive, like time heals all wounds and all that nonsense but it doesn’t. Time is the great eraser. It destroys your memories because you create new ones. It pulls the dead further away from you but it never fills the hole that was left behind. You will carry that around with you until the day you join them.
Now with my daughter, I appreciate the time I had with my mother more. There are times when I wish I could still call her on the phone and tell her, now I get it. Mostly, I just want to tell her thank you.
In memory of my mother on her 65th birthday.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. I have not lost a parent, and can't imagine what it must feel like. I do believe that when you pass away you will still want your daughter to, of course, mourn your passing, but continue to be her, be who God created her to be. To continue to shine light in the lives of others. To continue to be the last one that leaves the party. I think the best way to honor everyone's memory is by creating amazing memories for everyone else, including you. Many prayers for you and your family and lots of hugs from someone whose heart you touched today. 🙂


  2. Thank you so much for your kind words.


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