With their comments of concern and condolence, some well meaning church ladies imply that I shouldn’t be feeling well now that my mom has passed. Part of me wonders why I’m not in constant desolation, finding it difficult to get on with life. Less than a month since my mom passed away, less than three months since she entered the hospital because they found a new mass, I’ve lost a lot in my life, but through this loss have realized some tremendous graces. I had been afraid that grief would overwhelm me, but it hasn’t. Am I doing something wrong?
Over the eight weeks of hospital and hospice care, I was in a suspended state of disbelief and grief as I responded to changing realities each day. A medical intervention suggested, pain medicine increased, food digested, hope grasped. I wanted to believe that this would be like the other cancer diagnoses. I held on to the fraying thread of life before me. Even so, I had a nagging thought that this time was different. There would be no physical healing. This was the end. Over those days I grieved, fighting the latent fears I’ve held since my mom was first diagnosed with cancer. At times I wept for hours, at others all I could do was sit in the hospital room, waiting. I had known that some day these cells would return, and with a vengeance. This was that time.
I have also had moments of deep sorrow since her death. Crying as I think about going through her clothes. Wondering what to do with unfinished projects around the house. Realizing that I won’t hear a heartfelt thank you after cutting the grass. Sitting at the dinner table set for one.
Yet, since she passed into paradise resting in faith, I feel freer, not gripped by grief. I no longer have to fight to keep her here; instead I can look forward to the work of honoring her life as well as the work of creating a new home for myself. Converting this home that my mom and I have shared for six years into a place for friends and family is a gift she left me. For years I’ve been dreaming about having my own place. Now I do. A place to write. A place to flourish. Small and large renovation work is before me, both to the house and within myself. I’m eager to get going.
Still, I wonder if it’s okay to be excited about a new part of my life so soon. Shouldn’t I be mourning more? Unable to work or go through her things for at least several weeks? Can I already be moving on and have really loved her? Though my mother’s life on earth has stopped, her legacies of joy and faith continue. So, it’s a time to share these stories and to live more deeply into life. For me, I would be dishonoring her memory to stay mired in sorrow and regret.
Upon reflection, I guess I am mourning, but in my own way. I’m living in a mixture of sadness and joy knowing I carry with me the memory of a mother who loved immensely and desired everyone around her to be happy. There’s a bittersweetness about going forward as I hear her commend me for wanting to create a new place and to be excited about new opportunities before me. To live fully until that joyful reunion with her and others in the future. Yet there’s also a renewed energy to wake up and live.
I’m glad grief is not what I imagined. Death has not won – neither by taking my mom, who is in a better place, nor by stopping those who loved her to continue living.
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.
– John Donne