April 25, 2020
My dear mother passed away on January 28 after many years of struggling with diabetes and vascular dementia. I thank God I was able to be with her and take care of her all those years with the assistance of five home-aide/caregivers who became like family to us. I often think of them. We could not have done it also if Mom had not taken out long term care insurance 25 years ago.
I’m especially relieved and thankful I could keep Mom at home when I read heartbreaking stories (that is, when I can even bear to read them) of people in nursing homes dying alone and not being able to have loved ones with them because of the Coronavirus pandemic. I really don’t know how I would have handled it. I might have been a basket case, I so deeply loved and cared for Mom.
The pandemic has, however, been so much on my mind — and at my age I fear going out in the public sphere, even to the grocery store — that it had robbed me of what would have been a more normal period of grieving. So, when I’m not worrying about myself succumbing to this hideous disease in some ICU on a ventilator, if there are even any available, I still have flashbacks to the last two days of Mom’s life and that last day when hospice earlier in the day, and then the minister, were there in her bedroom. We were there to let her know how much we loved her and that it was okay to rest. The scene when I discovered Mom had passed at 2:30 am is forever etched in my brain. This is when the grief pierces me most — when I see her at that moment when I came into the room before anyone else.
So the pandemic, plus the loss of my mother occurring at the same time, have combined to make me aware of how truly fragile and temporary our lives are here on this earth,
how aging takes a grievous toll, and how unexpected and lethal disease epidemics can sweep across the world and change our lives in an instant of time.
In February, before the pandemic was a terrible fact of life here in the U.S., I was starting to realize that my grief was not going to be paralyzing. In one day my whole life had changed, but Mom’s suffering and anguish were over, she was in a better place, and I was starting to pick up where my life had left off years earlier. Then the pandemic closed down everything, millions lost jobs, food banks became overwhelmed and I realized life would never be the same again. I was going through a type of grief that came from the loss of the familiar world that had sustained me up until now. Today I look back in wonder at the days when it was the safest and most normal thing in the world to go grocery shopping. No more.
On our busiest roads away from the nearly deserted downtown tourist areas, life can almost seem like it’s going on as usual. It’s a comforting illusion. People and businesses that are non-essential are just hanging on. Fear for the future is everywhere, but I ask myself, how this fear, anxiety and mistrust be turned into changes that take us away from the horrible and destructive practices of the past. We have a chance to finally save our civilization and planet. This moment in history may be the catalyst.
But for now, I am taking full advantage of my ability to be self-contained with the help of a few friends here and with many through the Internet. I’m living one day at a time as never before in my life. I think Mom would be pleased at how I am holding up.
As I try to push aside the dire thoughts of what our world is coming to in real time, I am comforted in knowing that Mom does not have to be a part of any of this, and that I have been spared the agonizing decisions that would have had to be made during this seemingly unending pandemic.
Mom always said her children were her greatest blessings. Sometimes it was hard for me to feel that I was living up to that. But now, I feel I did my best for Mom and that she was my greatest blessing. I am continually reminded of that.
Not long ago I found in her writing desk upstairs a copy of her handwritten prayer journal for the year 1993. What a pivotal year that was for both of us! She had only the year before lost her husband to cancer and was figuring out how to live on her own. She was going through the grief of that loss, something I never experienced after he died because I had felt estranged from him most of my life. But that year I also had my own troubles. I had returned home to the South after living in the Pacific Northwest for the preceding year and a half. I had no job and so was trying to start over again in life. I ended up falling into a very deep depression near the end of that year.
Thus Mom had to deal with the loss of my father, plus what seemed like the slow loss of her oldest son. In her prayer journal that year she daily prayed for her three children and thanked God for the blessings she had received in life.
Early that year she wrote this: “Dear Lord, how I thank you for this day and all it’s blessings and beauty. Thank you for this beautiful home, flowers and lovely old things to enjoy. Bless this house and all who find rest and renewal here…Be with each of my children. Let them walk with you and find contentment and happiness…”
In my online journal of Nov. 11, 2012, I found these words: “…This morning relaxing in bed for short while, I looked through a photo album with pictures of Mom, me, my brother and sister, and niece and nephew, taken over the past ten years or so. I saw my mother as she once was and with her beautiful smile. That is something I see just as powerfully in recent pictures. Despite the infirmity of age and dementia, she still has the glow of that inner spirit and spark of life she always had. Nothing can ever take that away.”
Whenever I look at a framed copy of my favorite photograph of Mom in the upstairs hallway, I feel a surge of emotion, sometimes brief sadness and grief, but more often than not I feel the power of her love and her continued presence with me in this house she built and loved so much.
Yes, the pandemic has robbed me of much, including today’s planned memorial service. Our minister, who did so much to cheer and comfort us and to bring into our home God’s word, contacted me yesterday and said how sorry she was that we were unable to hold the memorial service. I told her all of Mom’s children understood completely. And I wrote back, “when we do have the service, it will be all the more memorable and beautiful.”
Finally, a dear friend here at Prosebox and Open Diary, wrote this to me about the loss of her husband just a few years ago. She said, “People like to say that grief is forever. But it is not so. Love is forever.”