I have offered this in other journals but with recent news and in the face of today’s current events, it would appear that now, as a person who cares deeply, is a good time to talk about the process of loss.
Keep in mind that there is never a good time to talk about this. I get it! But life is out there and life is always happening. Therefore, there is no right time. There is only now.
It was seven years ago . . .
Someone asked me to share my thoughts about life after losing a loved one. I explained myself in a loving way. I was careful not to overstep or be insensitive. As a means to provide comfort when there is no comfort, I offered my condolences and regards. I offered different ways to process the unfortunate news, which is difficult for anyone, and then I sent this message out into the cyber world. However, immediately after sending my message, the phone rang.
I was asked, “Am I speaking with Benjamin Kimmel?”
First, I have to explain that calls like this were not uncommon. At least, not for me. My Mother was in assisted living and often hospitalized. Mom was not the same person I grew up with. She was elderly and weak. She was uncomfortable and often belligerent. She was difficult to deal with but in Mom’s defense, she was heavily medicated. Mom was alone. She missed my Father. She lost all of her things as well as her freedom to come or go as she pleased.
Phone calls from South Florida hospitals were common to me. I was never happy about them because the calls were never made to offer good news. No, towards the end of Mom’s life, she was living with five diseases in her spine. Mom was on heavy doses of pain-managing substances; therefore, I adjusted to the phone calls and often I’d roll my eyes thinking, “What is it now?”
I wasn’t sure if Mom was hospitalized again or moved. Or, maybe Mom argued with the head nurse, which in fairness, I met the head nurse once. (What a bitch! But in fairness, she was extremely respectful towards Mom and myself after I offered her the name of my attorney. In fact, she never yelled at Mom again.)
I had to both defend Mom and advocate for her; however, the role reversal was odd and painful at the same time.
I was reminded of when Mom would field calls from the school about me, which I assumed would start with, “Am I speaking with Alice Kimmel?”
Or, “Am I speaking with the Mother of Benjamin Kimmel?”
These calls were frequent too. They ranged from school administrators to law enforcement and hospital emergency rooms — and I’m sure that Mom probably rolled her eyes too. I’m sure she wondered. “What is it this time?”
Here it was that I had offered my support to a person who had lost someone they love. I offered a way to address their grief and process their loss. It was a second after I sent hit send that I heard a southern voice on the phone ask the same familiar question, “Am I speaking with Benjamin Kimmel.”
It is not often that I use my full legal name. In fact, my legal name is only used for official reasons.
“Yes, this is me.”
“Are you the son of Alice Kimmel?”
As Mom’s health care proxy, my eyes rolled again thinking, “Ah, shit! What is it this time?”
The tone in the nurse’s voice changed.
“You have to come see your Mother.” said the nurse.
“We’re not sure if she will make it through the night.”
I hung up with an overwhelming sense of disbelief. I knew this day was coming. In fact, somehow,, I knew my last visit was my last real visit. I knew this in my heart.
I could feel it in my heart but more, this was a thought in the back of my mind.
I knew this was coming. I knew this was about to happen; yet, there is no real preparation for this. There is no natural or normal way to accept or process this information. There is nothing but the news which hits us and the incredible flood of disbelief.
Mom used to say that death is part of living, which is something we are all aware of. But at the same time, there is this ultimate shock of disbelief when someone dies. There is a moment of revelation and sad understanding. I say this because the person we love and knew throughout our entire life is gone. Mom is no longer going to be a phone call away.
I remember ending the phone call. I called my Brother to let him know and together, we planned our trip to Florida. I remember thinking about the irony. I was helping someone through their grief and in turn, I was made to face my own.
I was at work when the call came. I was stationed on a late project that was after hours, which meant that I was alone in an engineer’s locker room.
I remember the moments after making the first few initial phone calls. I went over to the sink in the locker room to splash water on my face.
I looked in the mirror and said out loud, “You have to take your own advice on this one.”
Mom died on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. She passes shortly after my Bother and I arrived at the hospital.
And here we are, world. Today is another day on Project Earth and regardless of how we process or interpret life, the world still turns.
The tides in the ocean rise and fall. The wind still blows. The traffic lights still change. The television goes on and the early morning bread truck still rushes down Lexington Avenue to make its deliveries.
Nothing stops; yet. there’s a virus, a pandemic and next there’s a war. Next, there’s another conspiracy and suddenly, the old fads of politics have switched in a different direction.
It’s enough to make us crazy or keep us unsettled.
There is a process that comes with life. Or, better yet, there is a series of experiences and emotions. No one among us is absolutely automatic or impenetrable. As a matter of fact, life happens to everybody, like it or not.
We all have thoughts and feelings. We have life around us and of course, we have newborn moments and twilight endings. We experience moments in our life where the world keeps moving.
Even when we ask for everything to stop, time says, “No.”
Time is always moving, both consistently and persistently. Sometimes, time moves relentlessly or mercilessly. Ever reminding us to live each day to the fullest and enjoy all that we possibly can.
There are times that we wish we could hit the pause button. Just for a second. But there is no pause button. There is no pause or stop. There is no fast forward or rewind. There is no way to embrace an opportunity after it’s gone, which is unfortunate and unfair. So, say what you have to say and write what you have to write. leave nothing undone or unsaid. Live.
Live every moment possible.
I admit it, life can be like a terrible carnival ride — and you’re about to be sick. You can’t take it anymore. All you want is to stop the ride. All you want to do is get off. You want everything to stop but guess what, the ride isn’t over yet.
Sometimes, there’s too many things happening at once. There’s too much on our plate and it’s enough to make us shake our heads. Even in the most surreal moments of our existence; even at the times when we say to ourselves, “I just can’t take anymore,” life keeps happening.
Time moves at an endless pace and it is here that we are hit with loss; this is when the sheer numbness of realization hits us. Same as when I was given the news about Mom, news like this hits us at the core. We are shook. The unbelievableness of true life is unfolding right before our eyes. And there’s nothing you can do except feel your feelings and think your thoughts.
Albert Einstein once said that energy can neither be created or destroyed. It can only be changed from one form to another.
I like that.
Life is energy. Love is energy. Our memories are filled with energy and more than anything else, Mom was filled with energy too.
I once wrote to you that nothing is as strong as a Mother’s love. However, I have to amend this. There are so many forms of love and energy which, again, neither can be created or destroyed. They can only change forms.
When someone passes, Mom used to say that we weep for ourselves because we are going to miss this person so much. Mom was right again.
I can remember when I had to go and retrieve Mom’s things. I saw where she left her notes. I saw where she left her magazines and where she left her pictures. I saw where she left her slippers and robe in her room. I saw how she hung her clothes and read the notes that she left for herself.
I think Einstein was right about energy changing forms. I could feel my Mother. I could feel her with me. It was so surreal to me to see how she left her belongings. I could see where she placed her things and how even the slightest pitch of something left off-centered was an object that spoke of Mom and her energy.
I could feel it . . .
I was not prepared for this. I was not ready to say goodbye. Then again, why would I be?
I was at peace because Mom was in pain and at last, her pain was gone. I was grateful that I had the trust of my Mother to be her proxy. I was there to make sure Mom’s right to dignity was carried out the way she wanted. It was me who signed the papers to take my Mother off of the respirator. This was Mom’s wish and I was there to carry this out.
As a man, I was proud to handle my Mother’s end to the best of my ability. However, still, there is the child in me that misses my Mom. I have had to learn ways to comfort both the man and the child.
As natural as life is, the unnatural part of life is living without the people we love. I understand this. I understand that life is energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed.
It can only change forms.
I suppose the challenge after losing someone is learning how to interact with that energy. And it’s hard too (you know?) because all you want is to hear their voice. You wish you could rewind the clock and say one more thing or go back to when life was easier and no one was old or sick or unhappy.
There are times too when tragedy happens and the unfairness of untimely ends are too painful to grasp. Not all things are the same. Not all grief is the same.
My attempt is not to say that I understand or “I know how you feel,” because the only thing I do know is what loss or grief and pain feel like to me. This is why I’ve learned to never appropriate or misappropriate a person’s beliefs, culture or process of grief.
Put simply, I didn’t invent rain. I’m only looking to keep from the storms or, another way I choose to say it is there are times when life is messy and I might not have made the mess but either way, all I can do is find the best broom to sweep up the pieces of (my own) broken heart. To each their own, which means I am not saying I’m right. I’m only saying this is my experience with life and death.
Sometimes, all I want is to pick up the phone but the phone doesn’t ring where Mom lives now. And I am not alone with this idea. I am not the only one to experience loss.
I am not the only one to weep or mourn and I am not the only one who looks to find comfort when losses occur.
I write to Mom often but she doesn’t answer me with letters. It’d be nice though. It’d be nice to get a phone call, just so I can tell her what’s been going on.
I know there were times when I rolled my eyes. I know there were times that Mom was trying my patience. There were times when I had to deal with the nurses and the doctors.
What I offer now about myself is a sign of understanding and personal maturity. Yes, I was frustrated when those calls came about Mom. I did not always handle myself lovingly or carefully. I’m sure Mom was frustrated with me as well. But Mom doesn’t get frustrated anymore. This doesn’t happen where Mom lives now.
In fairness, I understand what I was frustrated about. In full disclosure, I was frustrated that Mom wasn’t Mom anymore. She couldn’t fix my troubles with a few slices of cinnamon toast or her chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes with gravy. Life was happening to me. Time kept moving. I had a full plate and Mom was going through things that were beyond my control. And that’s the bitch of it all. This is why we get angry or frustrated. There is no control and there is no way to make life stop.
I have my own belief system, which I can appreciate is different from others so, if you can, please excuse my beliefs if they differ from yours. As I proceed with full caution and in awareness that my beliefs may differ, below is the thought system that helped me with my feelings about Mom and her death.
I agree, that which is of flesh is of flesh and that which is of spirit is of spirit. As I see it, those who passed away can see through eyes more clearly than you or I could possibly imagine. They are of spirit, even if only in our hearts.
As I see it, the eyes of the spirit never blink. Not once. We blink because we need to. We blink because we are of the flesh. We blink because our eyes need moisture. We close our eyes to see our dreams or imagine. But the eyes of the spirit don’t have to blink.
They don’t need to.
I choose to believe in the eyes of the spirit. This is how I keep Mom’s energy alive. So, I can reach out to her and talk (whenever I need to). This is how I choose to see Mom, this way I can find comfort and believe as if she can see me.
Does Mom answer me when I talk to her?
Sometimes Mom’s energy is clearer than others. But that’s okay. At least I have my memories and a few pictures to keep me warm. Mom told me she would always be there for me. And my Mom doesn’t lie. So, I have no choice but to believe in her.
By the way:
Her chicken cutlets and mashed potatoes were really good.
They had healing powers too.
You would have liked them.
I know it.