Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grief, briefly observed

It's not going to become a grieving blog. Grieving is a major part of my life right now, and if I've learned anything at all, I've learned that "the only way out is through." I wouldn't try to bury the feelings and Soldier On like everything's swell, but I haven't got much in the way of words or insights so this is a one-timer.

One thing is that my feelings change so often. I could write about Sad, or Lethargic, or Life is a Joyful Gift, or Irritability, or the peaceful feeling that Mom's life was complete and fulfilled, or the frustrated, angry feeling that she got cheated out of some years. Pick any one, and by the time I get it written up and reviewed and spellchecked, it isn't even the way I feel anymore and I've shifted into one of the others.

Maybe the one unusual thing about my experience is that I got such a long, long, deferment from grieving. I've never really experienced this before. They say that all major losses -- job loss, divorce, etc -- are types of grieving, accepting a loss and remaking your life. I did that during my life-implosion in 1994 when my job and my brief marriage tanked all at once. But this is different. That earlier sorrow was one of grieving my own illusions, facing the reality that people I'd trusted were not who I thought they were. But this is the loss of one of the best people I'll ever know. There's no "something better" out there.

And it's odd that grieving feels so new, because I dearly loved my grandparents. We were close. They were my advocates and supporters. My grandmother sent me to graduate school. Funded the whole thing. I could do so little for her in return except visit her in the nursing home, write them funny letters, give her university souvenirs and, when I was done, my diploma.

But the era of great trips to see them on their farm, of all the good times, was so long over by then. By the time I lost them, they'd had years of illness and it felt more that the "real life" of having them had been gradually going away for awhile.

Mom was born in 1927. This cherished little girl made it through a decade before antibiotics were available. I remember my grandmother telling me how parents worried about getting their babies to live through their "second summer." The second summer was a precarious time, I guess because when breastfeeding ended, its immunity benefit ended too, and they seemed to have a somewhat higher death rate.

This baby lived to be over 80, flew in jets, owned a computer, had children and grandchildren, yet I feel like she was entitled to more years, and I guess I'm still at the grief-stage of looking back, thinking, Why didn't TWO doctors find the infection years ago? She'd be here. She still seems so close. 6 weeks ago, she stood in their kitchen scrambling an egg, and I feel like she's barely moved out of reach.

Most of my readers, unlike me, have been through grieving long before this, through deaths timely and untimely. I feel guilty about finding Mom's death a few weeks short of her 83rd birthday "untimely," but there I am.

But on her last day in the hospital, my Mom said to me, with a smile, "Don't worry about all this. It's just ridiculous." I didn't know what she meant, but she either knew, or had decided, that life was ending, and wanted us all to feel that this was right. I guess she deserves to be taken at her word on that, so I will get there. Eventually.

Meanwhile, here's a flickr photo set of my beautiful, dear, funny mom. One of the smartest people I ever knew, and what stands out about her to me was her complete lack of bullshit. She could see through, and cut through bullshit in a heartbeat. I think that's what I treasure most about her, but there's plenty more.


Christy said...

I loved the pictures. You mom looks like someone who was fun to know!

I'm so sorry for the whirlwind of emotions. I do fear, however, that through is the only way. Praying for you as you walk that path.

Catherine said...

I'm nodding my head in agreement with all that you said. The ride through grief is so difficult and so danged bewildering at times. I'm praying for you, my friend.


ronnie said...

This is a beautiful post, and thank you for the photos of your mother.

You don't want this to become a grieving blog, but this is your blog, and this is where you are right now. Sometimes - many times - right now, there's grief. Those who read it care about where you are right now, when we read the blog. Let it play itself out.