Grieving May Come without Grief

My mother died last Wednesday morning (Jan. 14) and I wanted to write about her and what she meant to those of us who loved her. The time will come when I can do that. So much has happened in just a few days, I think I’ll wait until the time feels right.I know that having a parent die is a natural thing. It is supposed to happen to everybody as part of the life cycle, so mourning the loss of my mother does not make me special or unique. The greater tragedy is when the child dies before the parent. Aging, even in the longest and most productive life, is shadowed by the inevitability of death. We should all be prepared to die, because it will happen to each and every one of us. We don’t think much about death when we are young, because it is natural to feel that either you are invincible or that death is so far over the horizon that it barely warrants a glance.Aging is more frightening than dying. Dying is final and everyone moves on after mourning one’s passing. Mourning itself is selfish, because we are grieving over our own loss. An exception is the passing of one who has died too soon, and then we are mourning what might have been but never got to be. Death at the end of pain and suffering is often a relief, a respite, whether it comes after an extended battle with cancer or through an act of violence or accident.I was not expecting my mother to die when she did, but I had come to terms with knowing she would never again be the person she was. Most of all, that well-worn expression, quality of life, was clearly out of her grasp. Mom was struggling with a deteriorating memory and mental lapses before she broke her hip shortly after midnight on Christmas morning. The hip was mended, and it was just a matter of rehabilitation and recovery from there. She had broken the other hip just a few years before, followed by essentially the same surgery, and she had breezed through that and was back home in short order. Even so, she became more immobile at home and less willing to go out in public, even to the Sunday services at her beloved church in Camptown.The smile and sense of humor were still there, but she was repeating the same stories and bits of information. She seldom recalled what she had done earlier that same day. The second broken hip seemed to set her adrift. When rehab at the hospital stalled, accomplishing little in helping her to perform the basic tasks of dressing and caring for herself, we decided getting her back home might be the best medicine.It wasn’t long before we realized that she might never get out of that bed, which she didn’t seem to recognize as her own.While on night vigil, she would call for us every 10 or 15 minutes with usually the same question.“Where am I?”You would explain again, as you had a dozen times before in the preceding two or three hours, that she had broken her hip, underwent surgery and now was home to get better. That would calm her, and she would quietly thank you.Fifteen minutes later, she would be crying out again, as if she were in desperate trouble. You’d rush in and….“Where am I?”The worst thing was that the smile was gone. Even during the weeks in the hospital, except for the last couple of days, she would smile. I could even get her to laugh if I said something silly. Right up to the end, despite not knowing where she was as she lay in her own bed, she knew who you were. That would have been heartbreaking if we had become, as often happens in these cases, strangers to her in her last days.Dad felt totally helpless. He could not take care of her, take away the pain and anxiety or cheer her up by taking her for a ride. Just a few hours before she died quietly in her own bed, Dad told me he had one wish at that time: “I would just like to see that smile again.”That night, we had succumbed to bringing in nursing care throughout the night and were looking ahead to making it a 24-hour thing. It would be the first and only night of home health care assistance.About 6:30 the next morning, I was literally on my way out the door for scheduled knee surgery when the call came. Mom was dead.I was surprised, of course, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by grief. There were no tears on my part. I only cried when my father met me at the door and he said, “We lost her.” Both of us cried quietly, during a long hug, but that was it for me. There were pangs of sudden sorrow over the next few days—a catch of the voice and the welling of tears—but no deep sorrow.I found myself wondering if I shouldn’t be more distessed, grieving more openly. Was there something wrong with me? Then it struck me that living for her had become more to bear than the dying. Mom is where she wanted to be, and if there was ever a person who earned a ticket to salvation, it was her.

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Wes is the sole copywriter/editor at SkillUnlimited and provides copy-editing services for internet marketing, website copy, book editing, and more.

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