Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Caregiver takes off her mantle ...

Not much time has passed since my mom passing.  Looking over that short period I find that I am a little surprised.

I miss her, but I am not mourning her!  And I feel there is a big difference between those two words.

Maybe I should explain.

I heard all the well meaning sympathies - all offered by people who care for me and shared their best advice from their own experiences and expectations.

Take your time with recovering ...
Only time will help this process ...
Don't try to do too much ...
I am worried for you because she was so much a part of your life ...
Those daily little reminders of her life will be difficult to get passed ...

And these statements are all generally true, but how can I explain not mourning my mother now.

Today on my walk I realized that my mourning began long before she died.

Thinking back I mourned her in a million small ways over the last 10 years.  The first tug on my heart happened when I realized she was really no longer completely viable living independently.  Moving her into my home 8 years ago made me happier - she was safer - but I remember sadness too knowing she needed this kind of help.  In 2011 her frequent hospitalizations and in-house rehabs created another jarring realization. Yes, her mind was failing, but her body was too.  In December 2011  I remember standing by my kitchen sink crying like she had already died - she was leaving my home and being admitted into Assisted Living.  Watching her leave me mentally and physically this last year was a terribly mournful time for me.    I mourned at each and every decline for too many years.

So I am not in a state of mourning today.  It sounds almost sacrilegious to say that.  But for me, my time at my mom's side was like one long goodbye.  And as I lost pieces of her through the years, I mourned and made my peace with those losses every step of the way.

I miss her.  I am not mourning her.  I think she would be happier about that.

I think each individual goes through the process of losing a loved one differently.  I had years and years of little goodbyes and periods of sadness and mourning.  There is nothing left now to mourn.

***

I have two last memories to share - and then I am moving on in a different direction for the blog.

About 4 days before mom died, she had a few wakeful periods.  She was not eating or drinking much.  She was not speaking.  I knew she was dying.  I think she knew too.  That morning when I came into her room I bent down to say good morning and kiss her face - something I did every time I visited.  This time, however, she slowly lifted her arm and put it around my head as I kissed her.  Her message was simple - I am saying goodbye.  I will remember that embrace for the rest of my life.  That same day my sister arrived and mom did exactly the same thing again.  A simple action and yet so meaningful.

My last memory caught me by surprise.  I expected her actual death to be hard.  I was prepared.  I was not prepared for the last moments at her grave site.  The priest had performed the last blessing and had left.  It was a cold and rainy day - too dismal to linger.  The small gathering was breaking up.  At that moment, I couldn't seem to leave.  I finally walked to the end of her casket and placed my hand on it trying hard to understand this emotion.  I think the realization that I was finally no longer needed even for the shell of her body had finally hit me.  I turned quickly and left.

I left my caregiver mantle at her grave site.  I didn't need it any more.

***


Next time I post ... and there will be a next time ... I will focus on what the "new" me is doing!  Hopefully you will stick around for that.

8 comments:

  1. I understand completely. I have been mourning my mother for several years now even though I see her nearly every day. Looking forward to joining you on your next journey.

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  2. I understand what you're saying about your long goodbye and many losses along the way. I have a close friend who is in the process of losing her husband in the same way -- bit by bit. My own experience has been quite different: everyone in the older generation of my family succumbed to sudden death, actually dropping in their tracks, my parents four months apart when I was only 35. I don't think one experience is better or worse -- just different. I'm so glad you had the blessing of a last goodbye embrace from your Mom and felt able to leave that caregiver's mantle at her gravesite and move on. Will look forward to hearing all about the new you!

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  3. Leaving a mantle, a role; that would be hard. I haven't experienced that yet, but feel a little better prepared because people like you care enough to document their journeys. Thank-you.

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  4. Another moving blog post. Of course I will look forward to reading your "new" blog.

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  5. Thank you all.

    I am a lucky blogger to have readers who return after an absence.

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  6. I am very touched by your words. I know it's hard to lose a parent, but I can't imagine what it's like if you've been a caregiver. Hold on to the good memories.
    Cathy
    CraftyCat

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  7. I am sorry to read about your mom's passing. I am coming up on the 3 year anniversary of losing my mom this weekend, and I know exactly what you mean about mourning her before she died. I also experienced that...and it was difficult to explain to people! Don't be surprised however, if you actually experience a second round of grief at some point down the road. I wasn't expecting it and it hit me hard a few months after she was gone...I think it was right around the 2nd anniversary of my dad's death...it was like I finally realized that I was an adult orphan. Not to mention that other than my daughter and husband (and his family who are all out of state) I had no other family left...such a lonely, scary thought :( God Bless!

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