I sit down a lot of days intending to write a post and while I have a lot on my mind, lately I struggle to put it into words. I’m going to just randomly go with it today and see where it takes me.
I’m still going through the grief stages over the loss of my mom. She was an amazing woman, a super great mom, and my best friend. The past 8 years were some of the best years of my life. My kids became adults with families of their own to be enjoyed, and my life took a major new direction. Talk about God taking a bad situation (my very unwanted divorce) and turning it into something very good, these last 8 years of her life were spent with me, my sister and nieces under one very large roof making so many memories. I didn’t have to come home from work and try to squeeze in time to visit or call her, mom lived there with me every day. When I got home from work we sat and chatted about our days over coffee, and once she retired two years ago, she would enjoy my sharing about my residents and my experiences. Often I asked her for advice or she shared her years of wisdom with me when a resident or situation was a true challenge. My heart for this job was there but mom helped to fine tune it by example. She learned the hard way, I learned from her sharing what she learned over her career.
43 days ago my sister and I headed out the door to the grocery store. I said “I’ll be back” and mom said “I’ll be right here!”. But she wouldn’t be here when we returned some 15 minutes or so later. We entered the store and while in the first few aisles heard the sirens of EMS and police responding, unbeknownst to us, to our apartment building. While my brother was reading the dispatch on his phone (he is a fire fighter in our township but was off that day) and calling me to confirm our address and apartment number, my niece was on her knees over mom’s body in the hallway and bathroom doorway of my apartment doing CPR and talking to the 911 operator who kept her focused on the task at hand until medics arrived to take over. He knew. Even denying it out loud and trying to calm my sister as we ran out of the store, I knew. She knew. She tried to call mom and got no answer. She tried to call her daughter and got no answer. In less than 5 minutes we pulled into the parking lot of our complex to many flashing lights. We ran in and my niece was sitting on the floor outside of my door sobbing in the arms of a neighbor as we tried to shove through the door. I could see mom on the living room floor, a medic doing CPR, and I could see her eyes partially opened and no life in them anymore. From the doorway I could see that she was gone. Then the cop pushed us back out of the door. My sister and I were yelling to stop the CPR she was a DNR and hospice patient. They let my sister in to search for the paperwork in the back bedroom. I sat on the landing and called my kids. I knew there wasn’t going to be a sudden intake of breath, her heart wouldn’t start beating again. She was not here anymore. After searching the bedroom that would have been mom’s my sister called hospice and they sent a scan of the DNR to her phone so she could show the medics, the doc on the phone and coroner could make the call to cease trying to bring her back (she wasn’t coming back and we all knew this). They covered her with a sheet, packed up, and each one hugged us on the way out and expressed their condolences. Then they let us in to my apartment.
I sat down next to her body, turned back the sheet and held her hand. There was no life in that hand, no life in her beautiful blue eyes. I brushed her hair back gently with my free hand, talked to her, but she did not answer. She really was gone and everything seemed so surreal. I felt as if I was watching someone else’s life, this had to be a bad dream. In many ways it still hasn’t sunk in firmly that she is not here anymore. Maybe that is because her spirit still lingers, I don’t know. What I do know is every day I think of something I want to say to her, or share with her, and then I remember she isn’t here. I don’t like going back to the house for any reason because that was her home, our home, but this apartment never was home for her. She died after we all made one real memory, and less than 24 hours after we moved in. Just a temporary visitor in my place, she was simply passing through.
As the next few hours would pass my siblings and their spouses and kids would arrive, and my kids. My sister would make coffee, because that is what mom always did in a crisis, started a pot of coffee and then we got down to figuring things out. This was no different. Someone went and bought beer and wine, and we cried and laughed through shared memories and gathered information about what had led up to this sudden but not unexpected event. Eventually the nieces and nephews moved the ‘party’ to my daughter’s house, my siblings went home, and I wrapped mom’s prayer shawl around me and went to bed. Exhaustion helped me sleep.
This past Friday I went to the grocery store, something that I try to avoid these days. Mostly because of that day. The store brings up negative feelings. But I have to eat. I grabbed my cart inside the main entrance/lobby, and started through the doors when I heard sirens coming and the squad and fire truck went flying by. It caused my heart to skip a beat and all those feelings came rushing back. UGH! Deep breath in, exhale, and I talked myself off of that ledge and into the produce section. A few aisles in and I spot my younger brother, shopping with the fire guys for their food for the day. Big hug, and it was like a healing balm to my soul. I needed to run into him right there while I was struggling with those emotions. The rest of the shopping trip had a completely different “feel” to it.
Grief is a funny thing, the stages aren’t in any particular order. I’ve learned you go through some many times over, and just when you think you’ve settled into acceptance something triggers memories and fresh pain. Not sure we ever really do truly accept it. We acknowledge the reality that our loved one is gone, but I don’t think it ever really stops hurting. We simply learn to live with the loss. And coffee. I drink a lot of coffee these days because that is how we deal with life here, one cup at a time.
I’ve always been an introvert. People laugh when I say this because they associate being shy with being introverted. No, introverts aren’t necessarily shy. Once I get to know someone the last word they’d use to describe me would be ‘shy’. But introverts do find social situations can be draining of their energy. The more people and activity in a situation the more it taxes us. We tend to be home bodies because we need the silence and solitude to recharge our minds, hearts and souls. Many close to me have expressed concern about how well I’ll handle living alone. No need to be worried, I relish the quiet, the peace, and the solitude. I can spend hours in a good book, working on a crochet project, writing on a draft for a novel, or a blog post. I dive into my Bible and a good devotional or Bible study and fill my soul with good stuff. My apartment is my nest, my haven, and the time alone is wonderful for me to recharge, process and learn. I’ll be just fine.