Monday, August 15, 2011

Beyond the Grave, a New Day Dawns

Saying Goodbye
 You are never prepared for the death of a parent, even when you have been expecting and even hoping for what you perceive to be their freedom, their final release. Last year, at the Spring Equinox, my precious Mommy passed away. I thought I was ready for that...anxious for her spirit to finally be set free from the prison her body had become. I wanted her to go be with Dad. Yet, when it was finally time, I just couldn't bear to be there, the pain too great. I left Mom in the care of my brother and sister and sought the comfort of my  Blue Heeler, Oreo, famously known for healing the blues.  Weird maybe, but honestly, I just needed to love on Oreo to ease my pain.  Mom and I had already said our goodbyes and I knew with all my heart Daddy was nearby and waiting for his beloved bride. I also knew she would be excited to see her son, Mike, her granddaughter, Dana, her parents and grandparents, sisters and all those who had gone before her and who were waiting for her arrival.
I was a block away from home, 15 minutes from the nursing home, when I got the call. I still felt her leave even though I wasn't at her bedside. I don't feel guilty about walking away, not consciously anyway. We said our goodbyes the night before. I think Mom knew it was just too much for me and was okay with it.   
It is no accident that I have not written about this before today, less than a week after Mom and Dad's 60th Wedding Anniversary. It's taken this long to be able to really say goodbye. 
I deeply love and respect my Mom. I didn't really know or understand her before she became ill. She was just Mom.  In some ways, dementia was a hidden gift. Dementia knocks down the walls and pulls off the masks the ego, so carefully, spends a lifetime creating. The hidden gifts I received included getting to know and understand my Mother in a way I would have never experienced otherwise. My mother had a hard time relating to her daughters, and we girls didn't really feel nurtured by her. There always seems a separation between us even though she and I had a lot of common traits and interests before her illness. 
Strangely enough, after Mom got sick, she became my hero. We traveled a long and difficult journey together.  Beyond the physical and mental changes - and the freaky things she could do because of the dementia,  Mom's opinionated, stubborn, tenacious, strength and love were gifts she was finally able to express, maybe because of her disease. Personality traits which always existed, but I never realized came to light. I doubt I would have ever really  understood just who she really was, otherwise. 
So we adjusted. I thought of it like a new version of downloaded software. This was Mom v.2. We actually had fun. My mom discovered she loved crowns (see "Goddess Moments" post below) and I kept a supply of them on hand for her.  I can only imagine how silly we looked riding in the car the day we wore crowns and feather boas to go visit my Dad! 
One Thanksgiving Day, we went to Wal-Mart and I taught her to drive the electric cart.  What a hoot! The nurses didn't believe her when she tried to tell them I let her drive.  They probably figured I was the crazy one for letting her drive that cart in the first place. 
One of my sweetest memories was the time she was admitted to the hospital because of a sudden weight loss and failure to thrive.    That part was terrifying.  We finally got her settled in a room and I asked her if she had ever seen any Angels (thinking perhaps someone had stopped by to let her know it was "time").  She nodded.  I thought, "OMG, this is it!" When I asked where and when this happened, she looked at me with such amazing clarity and tenderness in her eyes, a mysterious smile on her lips and  said "When I first saw you!"  Oh, Mom! We shared so many precious moments.  We learned to communicate in a whole new way when your words disappeared.  I nurtured you and in doing so, felt you nurturing me, too.  
Oh, we had days that sucked, too.  Lots of late night calls and runs to the nursing home; emergency room visits  for fevers,  falls and urinary tract infections.   Not to mention those couple of times when Mom became delusional, combative and psychotic requiring her  admission to the Psychiatric Hospital to adjust her meds.  Ugh!  She was on hospice at least three times and everyone of those times was a roller coaster of fear that she was dying! Whew! What a strange ride it was!  


 Despite all this and despite my father's fast decline from frontal lobe dementia, Mom and Dad never lost each other to their illness.  They knew and deeply loved each other to the end of their days. Their love was so sweet and precious,  it was kind of magical how bonded they were their whole lives.  That was such a blessing and the  best gift they gave to those of us who loved them, their children and grandchildren. 
After Dad died, Mom's physical and mental decline accelerated. I hated Mom v.3. Okay, I didn't hate her. I hated the disease. That's when I lost her. She couldn't talk or walk and barely swallowed. She hands were knotted up into tights fists, the contractures pulling her hands into her wrists, and her fingers cutting into her palms. She couldn't sit up. She slept most of the time.  The intuitive communication we had established seemed to disappear with her. 
For 5 years I went to see her almost every week, but during that last year, after Dad died, with Mom v.3, I just couldn't do it. It was so hard to see her. I couldn't get past my pain. Luckily my brother stepped up and saw her more often. In the end, she just kind of went into an altered state, developed a fever and went very quickly.  Within 48 hours from my last late night visit to check on her, she was finally released from the physical shell that was my mother's body. 
I miss her. I thought I was ready for her to go. I wasn't ready at all. I won't ever stop missing her or Dad, either. But I love that my parents are together again. That helps ease the pain.
Finally saying goodbye to my Mom, publicly like this, is part of  my recovery - the letting go process for me. It marks an ending and a new beginning. The past 7 years marked by a veritable roller coaster of transitions including death, dementia and my divorce (not necessarily in that order) took an emotional and physical toll on me. I am saying goodbye to a part of my life.   It served me well and has finally ended.
I feel stronger, wiser and more courageous than ever. My faith is strong. I know I am, have been and continue to be very blessed. I am grateful to have survived the "tests of time," and I am moving on to thriving! Creating your dream life requires courage and I am ready.  It's my time now.  I am devoted to reclaiming myself, my health, well being and fitness. I am devoted to living authentically, spiritually and creatively. My new life involves scads of art, loads of fun, laughter and an abundance of love. I'll create. I'll sell what I create. I'll teach. I'll write. I'll coach. I'll love. I'll laugh and play. I'll use all my God-given gifts to help make the world a better place and bring peace and joy to my part of the world.  I want to inspire joy.  I believe it can happen! My heart has grown wings and I am taking flight. Please stay tuned. It's going to be quite a ride - and I'm just getting started.


Anonymous said...

WHat a moving and loving post - best wishes to you as you move into your next phase.

mormon.honey said...

I love that I have the honor of having this wise and beautiful Woman as my MOTHER-IN-LAW!!! I get SO MUCH inspiration from her!!! I love you MOM!!!

Anonymous said...

I understand some of what you have been through and commend you for working towards healing. Beautiful words! xxo Renee

Rose Duncan, RoseHeartNSoul said...

Thank you all for your loving comments. Much love to you all and especially my new daughter, Diana. A powerful and wise name, don't you think. :)