Family... my family in two parts.... my biological father... leaving my mother, younger brother and me so suddenly, a car accident taking his life 5 days after my fifth birthday. We were in California then, along with our grandparents and the extended family. Mom went back to college, thinking it was the only way she'd be able to support two kids; brother and I went to live with our paternal grandparents.
In college, Mom met Ed, who two years later became our step-dad. We packed up the car and moved to Minnesota, where Ed had just gotten a job teaching at the University. There started the second part of the family... Three more kids and down the road 4 grand kids and just recently a great grand kid.
Ed, bless his beautiful heart, died in 2006. Mom, missing him terribly after 59 years of the happiest and most congenial marriage I've ever seen, started to have health problems, which eventually lead to a need for nursing home care. Last January mom turned 94.
Two weeks ago, she developed pneumonia (again) and a high fever. They started her on a round of antibiotics and for a while we thought she might recover as she has in the past. A week ago Wednesday morning, my sister-in-law called to say her fever was down. But later the same day, it spiked again, higher than before. By Thursday evening, it looked like Mom might not make it. She was not rousing at all and her breathing was labored. Friday evening, March 18th, she died without waking, one of my brothers and his wife at her side.
I was not there. I have some mixed feelings about that, even though they tell me she seemed to be unaware of anything from Wednesday through the end. We don't know, do we? We just don't know what a dying person knows, what awareness they have, through which of their senses... Did she know all of the Minnesota family members, her grand kids and even the great grand baby, were in her room the day she died, holding her hands, wiping her brow, talking to her, stroking her cheeks? We don't know if she felt the love we all have for her surrounding her during this final journey. I don't know if my thoughts and prayers reached her.
Mom and I have always been close. We're alike in many ways. We look similar and have many of the same mannerisms. We share many interests... always have. Even in my rebellious years, I always got along with her. Or maybe I should attribute that to her... SHE got along with me... I've always admired and respected her, everything about her. I can't even begin to think how much I will miss her. I haven't really been able to go there yet in my mind.
Wednesday I few "home" to Minnesota to be with the Minnesota part of the family and to attend the memorial service which we had on Friday. I am so grateful to be here, to have had the opportunity to share this family time of grief and mourning. We've cried and we've laughed together, held onto each other, looked at pictures.
But under it all, I feel numb. I recognize that I'm holding back my emotions; not totally feeling my feelings, staying in my head, not allowing much of my heart to show. I've been eating a lot... not my abstinence foods, but much more snacking and larger meals than my plan allows. It doesn't seem to matter to me right now. Comfort. I'm looking for comfort and finding it partially in food, partially in sticking close to my siblings.
I'm the eldest family member now, at least on my parent's side of the family, a 68-year-old matron of the clan. I think at least three of my four siblings look at me that way. I don't know how I feel about that... I can not fill my mother's shoes, that's for sure. Dearest Mother, if only I could.
One thing I do know for sure... My mother's love surrounds me somehow... it is with me wherever I go, forever. And my love surrounds her too, wherever she is, forever. That part is absolute.
So tonight, with gratitude that she didn't have a long, suffering, painful departure, I send her a kiss and a soooooooooooooooo big love.