The hardest part of loss, especially when it comes to the unexpected loss, which happened out of nowhere and the one who passed away, is gone, but to us, we feel as if we have been left behind to wonder if they knew who they were and what they meant to us. This becomes the weight we carry. This is the heavy hearted pain we hold; and we hold this as if to acknowledge our loss, as if to prove our love, and we hold the feelings of our loss because whether the reasons are logical or not, there is a piece of us the believes if we let go, then we’ve let go and that this would mean our love was less than loyal.
In my own personal history, I recall the death of an old friend. This man was a good friend to me. He was someone I appreciated in my life. He was helpful to me during a transition of mine. He was someone I admired and more brotherly than just a friend. Nevertheless, the news of my friend’s passing was unfortunate. It was unexpected and sadly tragic. The way he was found and the hour of his death was painful, of course, however the most tragic part of him dying to me was that my friend left without knowing who he was to me. He went without knowing what he meant to the world. This was my dilemma. This was the weight I carried with me.
I wondered if he had only known, maybe his choices would have been different. I wondered if we had the chance to speak one more time, maybe he would have chosen a different direction that night. Or, maybe this was just his time and the rest is the dilemma in my mind.
In all fairness, no one can save anyone. However, our minds work this way. But sickness is sickness, life is life, and in the end, we are powerless over all of the above. It is our grief; however, that refuses to let go. It is our grief that refuses to let go of the fight because to us, we feel this is letting go of our love.
I remember as a boy, my Mother once told me, “We weep for ourselves when someone dies.” This was Mom’s was of explaining, “They are in a better place now.”
My Mother would say, “We weep for ourselves because we miss them. And we cry because we can’t understand why they’ve gone away.”
I believe this is true. I believe that when a loved one passes, whether the tragedy was sudden, expected, or unexpected, the dilemma we feel is the same at its core. We struggle with the idea of guilt. We wish we could have said one more thing or had one more hug or one more smile. But still, even if we had all of those things, —we would still wish for more.
Someone once told me, “Dying is like getting the last word in,” and we struggle with this. I know I do.
In recent years, I lost Mom after her long struggle with pain and pain management. I remember my flight down and the thoughts in my mind. I remember the surreal moment of understanding that I was on a plane, flying down to Florida to see my Mother for the very last time. I remember the thoughts. I recall thinking the, “If I’d only,” and the “What if,” scenarios.
I thought about the last phone call I shared with Mom. It was a stressful one. She was not herself anymore. She was confused about missing articles in her purse, which may or may not have been there before. She was medicated and unsure of so many things. I remember one phone call when Mom asked when I was coming down to see her. She said, “I don’t want to die before you come down here again.”
Meanwhile, I was thinking about these things while on a flight and struggling with the thoughts and feelings I had to contend with. Mom was on a respirator, breathing for her, which was against her living will. She was in a hospital room enclosed by two walls on either side. The front wall was glass with a curtain that ran in front of it and the back wall was a window with a pretty Florida view.
(There is more to this, but I will save this story for another time)
I recall this clearly. When I think of this, I can recall the smile of the nurse who helped Mom remain comfortable. I remember the nurse that came down from hospice to educate me on the next steps. But more, I remember that as Mom’s advocate and proxy, I had to sign papers so that Mom’s wishes would be carried out.
This was a hard paper to sign. And by signing this, I knew this meant I was granting permission to take Mom from the machines that kept her alive. I knew that I would be there to see her last expression and hear Mom take her last breath, which, as tragic as this sound and as sad is this subject is; there was something redeeming about this.
All I did here was listen to my Mother. I listened to her in my mind and thought about what she said. “We weep for us. Not for them.” I thought about the way Mom explained life and death to me when I was a boy. And sure, I cried. Sure, this hurt. And yes, this was painful day. However, I knew that Mom’s dilemmas were over. I knew it was only me holding on to the illogical concepts of my “What if,” questions and “If I’d only done this,” kind of thoughts.
I knew that Mom was right. Her struggle was no more. Her pain was gone. Her aging stopped and she was young again, whole again, and she was freed to be playful instead of kept here in pain.
I knew that although I believed I knew more, the truth is I had no idea what Mom was going through. However, in my mind and in my heart, I believe that God stepped in on and said, “Stand aside, son. You’ve done all you can do. I will take her from here.”
I believe this wholeheartedly. I believe this because I feel better this way. I believe this because I want to, but more, I believe this way because my Mom told me this is how it is. And deep down, I know every boy should listen to his Mom.
I cannot change what happened. I certainly could not have stopped the pain or changed the diseases in my Mother’s spine. I couldn’t have been there when she went to the hospital the first time, and while I am not sure if Mom was conscious enough to hear what I told her before she left, I can only believe she did and allow myself the feelings of grief. I can allow myself the understanding that her departure was and is part of life. As living beings, we all come with a beginning, middle, and an end. And in regards to those things I wished I had told her before Mom left us; I write them down and send Mom notes.
After my Father passed, I watched Mom hold the memory of The Old Man in a painful way. she refused to let The Old Man go. If there was anything I wished I could have told her, one of the things would be to follow her own advice. We weep for ourselves. I would have told her The Old Man is in a better place. He’s not sick anymore. He is not uncomfortable or unhappy. He is at peace and he would never want you to hurt anymore.
With regards to Mom, I viewed her passing like this: I pictured her as she was, in pain, hunched forward with a sort of, hump-back-like posture. Her eyes which used to be a dazzling shade of greenish, brown, and hazel, were half-shut and winced with discomfort. She was uncomfortable, tired and over-medicated in a hospital gown.
I viewed her in her chair, sitting the way she said in a dark room with a spirit of light coming at her. One by one, Mom was able to straighten out. Slowly, her head was able to look up instead of being hunched over.
Her eyes were able to open—and I imagined a look of surprise on Mom’s face as one by one, her body let go of the pains she knew, and piece by piece, Mom became aware that she was no longer of the flesh and moving to towards becoming of the spirit.
I imagined Mom looked around, unsure of what would happen next. I pictured her curious to know where she was, partly afraid, but partly comforted because at last, the pain was freed.
Then I saw Mom like this: she realized herself. She realized that she was no longer dressed in a hospital gown. She was no longer in a hospital room. She was dressed in a beautiful ball gown. The look of surprise on her face increased even more as she realized her abilities were back. She could stand now. But more, she could stand without pain. She could move freely.
Standing from her seated position with a bright light in front of her, Mom saw a figure emerge, walking towards her. There were others there, but the figure coming through was clearest. This was The Old Man. It was Pop. He had come to help carry her across the threshold the same as a married man would do with his new bride.
Mom always said she missed dancing with The Old Man. And as he greeted her with a smile, Pop asked Mom, May I have this dance, and finally the two were reconnected. I see them like this when they were brought together for the first time. I see them dancing with Mom in a gown and Pop in a nice suit.
I see it this way and then I say to myself, Yes, this is the way Mom would have wanted it. I have chosen to see this instead of holding my dilemma. Mom would have wanted it this way
You were right Mom
We do weep for ourselves
I know this because I am weeping now
Tell Pop I say Hi, will ya.
Tell him I miss him
Tell him I have a few changes to make, but I’m getting better.
Let him know I made a few mistakes but I did what he asked and I haven’t given in. Still clean, still working on it, and I’m still playing the game to the best of my ability.
It’d be nice to see you guys though
I miss you both something awful