The Forever Ache

I'm not sure where to begin this post. There's so much to say, and for once, I'm at a loss for words. I'll start with the facts, and see where that leads us.
November 27th, 2018 mom passed peacefully at home with Dad there. I'm glad that he was there for her, and that she wasn't in pain or afraid. Those were some of my biggest fears surrounding mom's eventual passing.

When it happened, I wasn't really sure what to think. I had thought for some time that she was in serious decline, but Dad was very optimistic that she would bounce back. (As crazy as that sounds - she had a habit of bouncing back from what seemed like the brink. She had more than 9 lives...) I kept it together for Dad's sake, and because my Uncle Paul and I had a really eye opening discussion. He told me that there would be all the time in the world later to mourn and toss myself around like a Victorian damsel in distress - for now there was work to be done.

During my bereavement leave, Dad and I made arrangements, picked out the coffin and burial spot, and many other things that occupied the hours but elude my memory now. Everything runs together.

As luck or chance or fate would have it, my Uncle Pete and Aunt Janet were in town from Hawaii and my uncle Paul was off work for surgery. We were able to see them several times during the preparations. 

From a young age, mom had told me that she didn't want an open casket. Her logic was that if they couldn't see her when she was alive, why come and gawk when she had passed on? Thankfully, Dad and I completely agreed and so there was no conflict between us regarding the preparations. He also chose to forego embalming because mom had wanted things to be a bit more natural than with all the chemicals. I picked a wooden coffin - I didn't want to send mom off in a metal box. It seemed cold and inhuman, and all my life mom had extolled the virtues of real wood furniture. 

Wakes are always uncomfortable, and for mom's I was wound up like a junkie. When I first got there, I ran around placing pictures and small battery-operated votive candles around the room. I couldn't stop moving. Mourners arriving gave my energy a focus. I was a whirlwind of motion and sound, and I kept introducing people around to each other. I wouldn't have been out of place at a cocktail party. Everything I did was to keep from looking at the coffin. If I didn't look at it, maybe it wouldn't be real. The outpouring of love and support was incredible.

That night I wanted to call mom and tell her all about the people who came to the wake, and what a creepy old house we held it in. She would have loved it - even the clawfoot bathtub upstairs. It seemed the perfect setting for our send-off. 

The day of the funeral, I wrote the eulogy in one sitting, and then copied it legibly into a book for a friend of the family to read. At first I wasn't going to write anything, but I didn't think it was fair to send her off in silence. 

We buried my mom on a cold day under a grey sky. Then we went back to what was now my Dad's house. Both were invite-only. We wanted a close circle of people who had known mom. 

Friends showed up who I haven't seen in decades, and we all told stories. Mostly we laughed, because my mom had always had sharp wit and a sharper tongue. But most of all, she had an enormous heart.

We are coming up on the one year anniversary, and I still can't believe that she's gone. I keep wanting to call her and tell her about the Halloween decorations I've put up, about books I've read and movies I've watched. But then I remember she isn't there anymore.

The mourning itself has been difficult. There are moments I cry so hard I can't breathe, and I feel like I'm going to shatter into a million pieces. Other times, the suffering is quieter, though no less acute. During these times I curl into a ball in my bed, turn on my ambient thunderstorm app, and try to shut everything out. Sometimes I can't handle being around people, and I work from home. Or take the day off completely because the thought of navigating any human interaction is daunting.

Thankfully work has been amazing about letting me go through the morning process. Though I continuously add unnecessary pressure to myself. I hate the days where I feel off kilter. Where my energy levels soar and plummet without warning or catalyst. I'm embarrassed by the amount of crying my bosses have seen, and the amount they'll likely see in the future.

I'm taking my Zoloft and trying to eat and sleep regularly. Maybe in time I'll figure out how to be kind to myself.


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