She fell, broke her hip, and was taken to hospital – emergency surgery. But they couldn’t do it. She went into palliative care and died three hours later. I am grateful that she was in no pain – put under by drugs, made as comfortable as possible – and passed over quickly.
I got the call at six this morning. When your mother is 102 years old, it comes as no shock to hear that she died, especially when she’s been tired of life and wanting to leave for a long time. And yet – and still – it is a shock. Suddenly, she is not longer there. There is a void. There is something missing. A light has gone out.
I have spent the day processing this – I wrote a story because I am a writer and writers will take any event and make a story of it. In my case, it’s more a matter of writing being the way I process events, it is a way I delve into my feelings, it brings out my thoughts, it reveals myself to me – I have to write truth.
Writing today was also my way of honouring her life and her passing. They say we need rituals in life when people are born and achieve milestones – especially when they die. The rituals associated with death exist to help the living to come to terms with their loss.
I think I did that today – at least I did most of it.
In my writing I came to this:
My relationship with my mother was never an easy one. We were not best friends. We didn’t hug with abandon. Saying “I love you” didn’t come naturally. What was it about her? Why did I feel guilty so often? For not loving her the way she wanted me to?
I told the story often – that my mother taught me a great deal about how not to be. But in telling this story over and over, I was making myself a victim – and not seeing her for what and who she really was. My mother’s biggest fault was loving too much. She loved deeply – my cousin, Hiltrud showed me that today in the words she wrote about her. She said that my mother was strong. She’s right. I would never have thought of that adjective on my own. But here was a woman with three young children who left her home, got on an ocean liner, and sailed to a country she knew nothing about – not even the language – and she started again. She may as well have travelled to Mars – it was that different.
She loved her children. It spilled out of her. She forswore her life for them. And this is where I made myself feel guilty – my story had always been that she guilted me. That’s clearly BS. No one makes you feel a certain way. I had two things going on – trying to run from her and wanting to please her. I failed at both.
I feared her overflowing, overwhelming love. It was too much. I couldn’t give that much back. And then believed that I was incapable of love – especially incapable of loving her. I went through the motions, but where were the feelings?
I have questioned my ability to love at all.
But now I look back over this life with my mother. She was a good person. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She suffered greatly. She had moments of joy. She learned to love my father all over again when they grew old together. She gave too much, She was fragile in her feelings – easily hurt. And yet she wanted nothing but to give love.
And back to my story being BS. I was a victim of no one – not my mother nor anyone else. I chose to be the way I was. She didn’t drive me away or hurt me. She always wanted the best for me. It was not her fault that I had no children of my own. I can tell myself that story but it doesn’t make it true. I am responsible for my life.
She gave me life. She nurtured me. She loved me. And here is my dearest hope – now that she is gone (but still with me in some way) that I will now learn to love her and when I do, I will become a more whole, loving, caring, and giving person. When it comes to giving love, I could not have had a better example.