On a Somber Anniversary, Sending Grace
Last week was the anniversary of my mother’s death. Seven years! I can’t believe it. It seems like only yesterday and at the same time, a million years ago.
My mom lived with cancer on and off for four and a half years. And boy, oh, boy, that last one was tough. I like roller coaster rides and all, but only at the fair. Not so much at home.
Her dying wasn’t scary, like you’d think. It was a natural thing. Beautiful, in a stark sort of way. And the hospice people were great! What a wonderful organization. The nurses, social workers, chaplain, and volunteers just couldn’t have been nicer. They were there when we needed them, and made us feel like we weren’t so alone.
Mom died at home, in her Barcalounger. My Dad, sister Irene, and me were all there, touching her when she breathed her last breath. Dad kept that Barcalounger in the den where it had always been until we moved him to Mahoosuc Green (our senior living facility) three years later. That might creep some people out, but as he likes to say, “Heck, it was a perfectly good Barcalouger.”
About a year after my mother died, though, I hit a wall. I started to feel kind of depressed and angry. Not that Mom died, but that the rest of life had moved on and started to fill in the place where she used to be. Poor Charlie! I’m afraid I was more than a little short-tempered. When I almost snapped his head off for some little thing that I can’t even remember now, I decided I needed to do something, and went to a hospice grieving group for four or five months. That helped get me over the hump.
And just like that, seven years have passed. She’s still with me, though. Mom helps me find bargains when I’m shopping. And I think of her when I’m making meatloaf, or her famous molasses cookies. And when I’m upset about something, I pray she’ll send me grace.
Every once in a while, I’ll run into someone, one of her friends or some kid, all grown up now, who sold her girl scout cookies long ago, and they’ll tell me how much they miss her, or how nice she was buying three boxes of cookies instead of just one. They might get a little teary, but it always makes me smile. I can still feel the ripples of my mother’s life here in Mahoosuc Mills.
My niece Caitlin always has an interesting take on things. She says time isn’t “linear.” You know, that it’s all happening at once. Well, that’s a little too woo, woo for me. But on the anniversary of my mother’s death, as it approaches four in the afternoon, I don’t care what I’m doing, I stop and take a moment to picture my Dad, Irene, and me all gathered around Mom, touching her and telling her it’s alright to let go. I hold that picture in my head, and try to send myself a message: it’s alright, Ida. You can do this. It’s going to be alright, dear. And I send love and grace back to all of us in that picture.
I know this sounds kind of wacky, but I guess I’m hedging my bets in case Caitlin’s right.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)