One Year Ago Right Now

It is a day she would have loved — grey, cloudy, overcast, cool for July.  She would have loved it.

She loved darkness.  She loved storms and wind, and the colour black.  She loved heavy things — fat furniture, big cars, chunky jewelry.  Substantial, formidable things.  Things Built to Last.  Like she was.

By the end, one year ago today, she was none of the above. By the 29th of July, 2015, she was small, broken, bruised.  One year ago today, she lay silent and immobile.  Had done for almost a week.  During that week, her smooth, pale skin had grown even more luminous, as though the light of her being was pressing against it from within, making its way out, pushing its way to freedom.

The last time she opened her eyes to me, they were clear, cloudless, grey points of glistening light.  I gave her water which I, of course, managed to spill on her.  I was crying so hard I couldn’t see what I was doing.  The water was icy cold, just the way she liked it, and yet she responded very little when it hit her skin.  She only weakly motioned toward the spill with a crooked finger.

Then she realized I was crying.  And everything changed.

I watched her call herself back from wherever she had been, from wherever she was going, call herself back to the present, this present, my present, the present in which one of her children was crying.

“Don’t cry, baby,” she mouthed, voiceless.  “Please don’t cry.”

How was it that I didn’t realize she was dying?

I, who have been watching people die for most of my life.  How did I not see that my mother was dying?

Death doesn’t discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break

And we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it
I’m willing to wait for it

For most of this year, I, like so much of the world, have been obsessed with Hamilton, an American Musical.  The past two weeks have been filled with the song Wait for It on continuous loop in my head even when it’s not playing.  Only today, listening to this particular verse have I understood just why.

I spent the last decade of my life with my mother.  Nine years living with and caring for her, one year trying to figure out how to live without her here in the form I knew so well, the form I miss so much.

It’s not that I spent that decade waiting for anything.  I wasn’t waiting for it to get easier nor for it to be done, over, finished, in some way.  I wasn’t waiting for my life to begin once hers was ended.  In fact, those ten years were some of the richest most fulfilling years of my life, professionally and personally, beyond and including the healing time spent with my mother.

And it was healing.

Of her four children, I was the one least likely to be chosen as Primary Caregiver in her final years.  To say that our relationship for most of my life was “challenging” is the greatest of understatements.  And yet the last nine years of her life allowed us to build the kind of relationship I would never have dreamed possible.

For that, I am forever grateful.

So, no, I did not spend all those years waiting.  But, today, I realize that, in some ways, I have been waiting, waiting for Something during this past year since her death.

I just don’t know what it is.

I know from what my hospice patients and their families have taught me that following the death of a loved one after a lengthy illness, the Primary Caregiver is often left without an identity, with a nameless emptiness where the Caregiver identity stood for so long.

I just never expected it would happen to me.

Who am I now that I am no longer my mother’s keeper?

Who am I now that I am, officially, an orphan?

I don’t know.

Sitting here writing this as the sun sets, as I approach the actual moment 365 days after her death, I realize there is so much I do not know.

I also realize that’s ok.

Real problems never stem from not knowing.  Real problems always result from thinking we know it all.

And I so do not Know It All.

Still, there are a few things I do know.

I know that, orphan though I am, I am still my mother’s daughter.  Nothing can ever change that.  It is its own “legacy to protect”.

And, I know they never really leave us.

Never.

Earlier today, I went for a bottle of wine. When I opened the car door to step out, this awaited me:

DebMomma

As some of you know, my sister, Debbie, collected pennies.  This is a penny covered in something that has embedded it into the parking lot pavement and allowed a white feather to attach itself to it.  Since she died in 2007, Debbie has sent me pennies at the most difficult times of my life.  Today, my mother added an angel feather.  And Deb out did herself, scattering pennies all around the feathered one:

scatter 1

scatter 2

No, they never really leave us.  Not after the first year, not after 100 years.

So…

…if there’s a reason I’m still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I’m willing to wait for it

I’m willing to wait for it.

And I will do my best to remember I’m not waiting alone.

 

6 thoughts on “One Year Ago Right Now

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