Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lessons of Love

While it has felt more like we are celebrating my mother’s life than mourning her death for the past ten days, there are often these sharp flashes of realization that pierce me as I grow to accept that both of my parents are no longer here to guide and console me.  I feel like I’ve been handed a torch, and it’s my turn now to pass it on to my child and some day, to her children.

 This morning, following my usual routine for the first time in over a week, I drove to pick up some hay at the farm where I go each Sunday.  While I was driving, waves of emotion swept through me. I have these moments when I feel simply raw. It’s the rawness of having your skin torn off, exposing what’s underneath, trying to hide it but not being able to all the time. I have no band-with for selfish people right now. As unexpectedly caring and loving as some of our friends have been, others do not seem to be able to be present with us right now now or set aside their own issues about death long enough to reach out to us. There are those who will stop by to give me hug or bring dinner. And those who can’t find the time. It clarifies relationships, making some stronger and letting others go by the wayside.

We held a memorial service for my mom at the nursing home on Thursday and had a small gathering of friends and neighbors here at our place yesterday to celebrate Nana’s life. The memorial service at the nursing home was very comforting for us and for the people who work and live there.  I was surprised to discover friendships that my mom had made with some of the residents that I did not know about before. For the people who work there and spent five years caring for my mom everyday, there was a much needed closure.  Too often, they told me, the residents, die and it feels like someone that they’ve known very intimately just disappears without any acknowledgement that they were here. My husband and daughter and I realized that everyone at the nursing home had really become part of our family, and that we wanted to continue to spend time with them, bringing the dog to visit, helping push the ice cream cart on Saturdays to give the residents a special treat. We were so lucky to have them all in our lives for so many years.

At our house, we have many photos of my mom, especially with our daughter, who was her only grandchild. One of our neighbors told her that she looked exactly like her grandma. “Thank you so much!” she replied. It made my heart soar with love for my child.  I think back on how difficult and contentious her relationship was with her grandmother in the last year that we all lived together here in our house.  Dementia, paranoia and old war memories had been turning my mother into a frightening shrew, and my poor thirteen year old child was confused and terrified by what was happening. Overcoming her fear of hospitals, she rose up out of her own personal problems when her grandma was admitted to the geriatric psych ward.  I know that “her precious girl” was what really kept my mother going and thriving for the past five years, and the love and admiration that grandma and grandchild had for each other shone like a beacon for all to see.

I think that Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who lived over a thousand years ago, was a pretty smart guy when he said,  “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Without hesitation, this strong young woman sat holding my mother’s hand and hugging her as Nana took her last breath. It was a defining moment for both my daughter and me, as the tiller of the mothership was handed down to me.


Oak in the Seed said...

The torch of wisdom has been passed to you and you are ready for it, as is your daughter for you to have it. Be kind to those who cannot find the courage to approach you now in your grief, they know their shortcomings and suffer for it.
I am not sure if my memory serves correctly, but did you mention something about writing a book about your mother?

Victoria Cummings said...

Diane - Thanks for your kind words. You are right about those who can't deal with what I am going through. I feel sad for them. I did write a book of some of my mother's stories for her and our family. Some day, there will be a bigger book, but I need a bit more distance before I can attempt that.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I think it's wonderful that you had a memorial service for your mom at her last home. All of the caregivers got a chance to say goodbye. I'm sure like you mentioned most families don't even give them a second thought. Acknowledging the people that cared for your mom and continuing to help out there will make you keep part of your extended family close.

Mother's always pass the knowledge of what they've learned over their lifetime on to their daughters to use as a guide as they bring up their own children. Your mom has passed her wisdom on to you and you will in turn pass it on to your daughter.

Don't dwell too much on what other people do right now. Some don't know how to deal with another persons grief or loss. They may simply think by giving you space and time to deal with your feelings they are doing the right thing. Each of us is different in what we need emotionally and it's not easy for everyone to know what exactly a particular person needs. So they usually do what they think is right.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks, Arlene, words of wisdom. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

C-ingspots said...

Grief is an emotion that, fortunately, most of us don't experience deeply, but for a few times in our lives. It's not an emotion that we can prepare for, and at times becomes overwhelming, and at times, leaves us feeling exposed and raw...without any protection, it's hard to explain in words. And you're right, the pain is on so many levels that we have to work through. One thing I've learned is that people experience and deal with emotional pain, death and grief vastly different. We all just do what we think is best, at the time we're living through it all. Celebrations of your mom's life is exactly what is needed right now, for everyone who knew and cared for her personally. It was very thoughtful and generous to share your mom with her caretakers. I'm sure they loved her too. This circle of life is one we never stop growing and learning from. It just goes on. Blessings Victoria.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks C - I have just asked myself at each step along the way, what would my mom like- and tried to do it so that she would be happy if she were here.