I have been through some of the worst loss in the last two years. In November of 2008, my Dad passed away after a battle with kidney cancer. He had Alzheimer’s for several years before he died, so the part of him that was my Dad seemed to slip away before that. He could remember things that happened years ago, but couldn’t remember yesterday.
For example: I took my boys to visit and to do a project for boy scouts. They needed to talk to someone who was older in scouting. Dad told stories of his scouting days. He was at scout camp when Pearl Harbor was bombed! He was the first (Lutheran) boy to rise to the rank of Eagle in the (Methodist) Church where his scout troop was based. He thought that was extremely funny. He continued on in scouting at the national level well into college. After we left, he couldn’t remember which one of my boys was which, but he told Mom he had enjoyed the afternoon.
Mom got sick not too long after Dad died. She passed away in November of 2009. Isn’t it interesting that so many people who have lived together for many years just can’t seem to live after one of them passes away? Mom had a small lump in her leg that didn’t do much of anything until after Dad died. This is evidently not all that uncommon. It seems like the caregiver stays strong until the one they are caring for is no longer alive, and then something inside them gives up, too.
Hospice was wonderful when Mom was in the last phase of her life. For some reason, they put the whole family on their mailing list. I understand that they are trying to be helpful. For me, it was like tearing the scab off a wound that was just starting to heal. I got the mail, and there’s a letter reminding me that my Mother is dead. It’s hard enough to talk about her death when I am prepared, but this is like a slam out of nowhere. I don’t even know these people. While I appreciated that they were trying to help me through my grief, they were just aggravating the whole process. I finally called them and asked them to take me off the mailing list. They were very understanding.
I do like hearing from people who I know who knew my Mom and Dad. They have told me some stories that have made me smile. The good memories are helpful. They ease the ache and fill the void that is left inside.
Being in the medical profession, I talk to people all the time who have recently lost a loved one. I used to just say I was sorry. Now I can say that I know how they might be feeling. And ask if there is anything I can do. Do they need someone to talk to? Do they need some antidepressants? (That’s something I can certainly help with, and not make anyone feel embarrassed about asking for.) Of course, many times it makes me tear up, too. We keep lots of boxes of tissues all over the office.
Some days are better than others. Things will sneak up on me, too. I was looking at my brother’s Facebook page, and saw a photo he had posted of him at about age two with my Mom. She looked so young and pretty. I really missed her. I teared up automatically.
I used to always call my Mom when it snowed here. She lived about 80 miles away. We would compare our snowfalls, and chat about my kids and my brothers and sisters. Sometimes we would spend an hour or more on the phone. The first time it snowed this winter, I cried all day. I know it’s silly, but I miss my best friend.
I have a son who is autistic who does not understand when I cry for what he considers “no reason”. It can be really hard to explain to him about what has reminded me about my Mom or Dad. He gets upset when he sees that I am upset. I have finally learned to tell him that “Mommy is sad”. He will give me a big hug and sometimes bring me a tissue.
My brother called the other day. We are getting ready to have a memorial for Mom. He was saying that it is really hard to keep up with all the brothers and sisters, since Mom was always the person that kept us in touch. We all enjoyed our long talks with her, and she would let us know what everyone else was up to. Since we don’t all live in the same area, she was the glue that kept us together. So we will all be together again for Mom. Maybe we can figure out a new way to keep the family together without our glue.