It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been away from writing with Mark on this blog for so long! It’s been far too long! So much has happened during that time. Many wonderful things, people and events have come into my life. But, I’ll defer to Mark and let him catch up on some of these great happenings.
I want to turn my thoughts instead to other, more somber, areas: grief, gratitude and healing.
A rush of bittersweet memories rushed over me as I read through my last blog. A couple of months ago I lost one of my great super heroes: my Mom. In the last few years, I frequently thought about Mom and how lucky we were that our Mom was still in our lives and, for the most part, in good health. I wrote about her new life and the importance of social connections and activities in that last blog. Mom had re-discovered her joy for life and living since moving into an independent living center. She had made great friends. In fact, I didn’t realize until recently just how good those friends were.
Then, suddenly, with no warning and no good-byes, she was gone. Just gone.
Her death would certainly not be considered a tragedy. She lived a long, good life. She enjoyed a 54-year marriage to my father who adored her every day until his death 11 years ago. She lived in a beautiful place, filled with activities and surrounded by many friends. She had a family that loved her dearly. She even spent her last day with her Texas family before driving herself home and expiring later that night. For heavens sake, she even had a box of her favorite chocolates, half eaten, on the kitchen counter! And, she did not suffer in her final days or hours, maybe even in the final minutes.
In the immediate days following her death, her new friends came, as they say, “out of the woodwork” to tell my sister and me how much they loved our mother. We heard funny stories, shared many tears and even threw a party in her apartment to surround each other with more stories while I played a little concert on her piano. It turns out, my mother was the life of the party. Little did we know!
We all told each other how great it was that she did not suffer. We agreed, it’s how we all want to go.
Maybe the circumstances did make my grief a little better. I’m not sure. It didn’t feel like it.
What I am sure of is the enormous waves of grief that still overtake me from time to
time. Grief for not being able to say good-bye. Grief for not being able to share my grandson’s latest new vocabulary and antics. Grief for not being able to hold her hand and tell her how much I love her. Grief for the things left unsaid. Grief that I felt I was not entitled to because she was an elderly woman who died a “good death”.
So, what about the gratitude and healing part?
Well, first there’s Mark. My amazing rock who knows how to permit, support and even encourage me to grieve. Gratitude fills me daily for him and for that. There’s gratitude as well for the opportunity I had to share our marriage plans with Mom just a few days before she died.
Gratitude has shown itself in another way that was unsuspected: that is Mom’s piano and the opportunity to reclaim a part of my life. I mentioned the grand piano that accompanied Mom to her apartment in my last blog. Now, it lives at our house. That was the plan, agreed to many years ago.
At one point in my life, I was a very serious pianist, even majoring in it in college. This is the piano I practiced countless hours on during my most formative years. But, in recent years, due to arthritis, a joint replacement in my thumb and multiple re-locations, playing the piano had become a less frequent. Slowly, I lost my way around the piano and the muscle memory began to disappear.
Now, with Mom’s piano, I am relearning my way around the ivories again, remembering her admonitions to me as my first piano teacher, and even seeing some of her markings on her music that now lives with me. It is with deep gratitude that I am recapturing this part of my life. There’s deep gratitude as well for her role in making this a part of my life as a child.
Many days now, she’s sitting or standing right next to me while I play. Her spirit is there contributing to my healing. Sometimes waves of grief and tears roll over me while I pound through Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata or stumble through a Bach Prelude. I want to ask her how to practice a certain passage, and I listen for her words. I really wish she were there, but I think this is a part of my healing.
Much has been written about grief. What I know is that for me, deep gratitude for Mark, for my family and for this amazing legacy left to me, which is helping me rediscover a part of myself, contributes daily to my healing. I’m very fortunate.
Do we ever recover from the loss of a parent or loved one? I doubt it. I think our heart just becomes a little softer and we learn a new way of living.
I’m not going to end this blog with the usual tips. Instead, I want to leave you with a poem I wrote to my mother as a high school senior. I read this poem at her funeral. I promise to not be gone so long from this blog in the future.
Would that I could stay and leave,
But I will cry softly and cheer loudly
I am sorry to have grown as old to hear
My own bell calling,
No longer so young to still believe in my child games.
And I am glad to have known you.
So, I will look back quietly until I am halfway
Then I must look brightly ahead.
Would that I could stay and leave,
But I will cry loudly and cheer softly
I am glad you have sent me forth, that
I might come to know me,
And sorry to have shown you so little
Of myself as yet
So, I will look brightly ahead until I am halfway
Then I will look back quietly.