Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning

As April approached, it was time for us to start trying to go through some of Mom's things, and I do mean "try." I knew it would be a hard task, but did not know exactly how hard.

Dad, Joy, and I were to be the ones involved in the process, the ones making the decisions. It proved to be very difficult to have us all agree on what to do with some of the things, or to be able to disassociate ourselves and emotions for the day to get through some of the things, or to even find a day that we could all get together to "try." The days were rare and infrequent, as none of us were just rushing to the process. It was not something we looked forward to doing with eager anticipation. It was more like dreading it, but knowing it was something that had to be done. I would've rather had my nails pulled off one by one. There was so much emotion and attatchment to things, even when we tried to detach ourselves. It was impossible. We never got through one room or even one drawer without one of us crying. And we still have not gotten through everything. We did make our first purge, of things that were more easy to let go of. And we did set aside and keep some of our most treasured items. But we did not really get too far past that with the process. It was such a paradox. At times you think you want everything gone, put away, to see no harsh reminders of her, but then other days you do not want one thing touched or moved, fearing you are slowly letting go of her, one piece at a time, and that is all we have left.

Her closet and bathroom were the worst for me. All her personal items, her glasses, her purse, her toothbrush, her lipstick which she never left the house without. Items she had just touched days ago. Items she used right up until the last day of her life. I remember brushing her teeth with her toothbrush the morning of what would be her last day with us. Then I used her favorite Mary Kay creme to wash her face. We had just put her lotion on her itchy legs hours before her final breath. I could still smell that scent from her Jergens bottle. What would we do with all of these things? How could we part with them all, and that was only the beginning. She had so much stuff, it was over whelming....more than any of us could have imagined. I remember going into her big walk in closet many times and just sitting on the floor crying, looking at all her clothes. They were hung so orderly and color coordinated, some even hung inside out so not to get any dust on them. And then her shoes, neatly kept in their original boxes all labeled on the outside in her neat handwriting. I could sit in the closet and even smell her. This is where I felt the closest to her, not wanting to leave.

It is now months later and we did finally move the clothes, per Dad's request. But what about everything else? Her things all all around, she is everywhere you look. She loved her trinkets, and they helped make her house a home. I was often with her when she got them, and if I wasn't, I could tell you where she bought them. She loved so many items becasue she could always find beauty in anything. She would often just buy something that she knew would brighten up a room, or buy something for someone else because she knew they would like it or it was their favorite color or their birthday was coming. I knew I would have a hard time with all of these things, but did not know I would find attatchment to so many of them. I found it difficult to let go (and still do). I want things to be left the same. I don't want things to be different, but they are different.....very different. And they will
never be the same again.

It has been a slow process, and we still have lots to do, but the Spring Cleaning had begun. And I hope that with time, it may perhaps get a little easier. I hope one day to find joy in looking at her memorabilia and maybe even to be able to smile while doing it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

After the Flowers Fade

Shortly after returning home from Grandma's funeral in North Carolina, things began to slowly change. It was a quiet feeling. A sad feeling. A very lonely one. All the family and friends who had been there for us and had done so much went back to their normal lives. The amount of grieving time that feels right for our society had now passed. We were now left to face the beginning of our lives without Mom, on our own. While eveyone else returned to their normal lives, we were facing one that would prove to be anything but normal! And NO ONE can understand what it is like to be in the shoes of someone who is truly grieving, grieving in ways you would never have known possible, until it happens to you. You are left with feelings you don't know how to express, feelings you have never had before, and feelings you don't even know what to do with, and no one can seem to help. Oh, yes, people try, or some do, but they just can't seem to say the right thing. And is there even a right thing To say???.......probably not.

The phone calls were less frequent, the meals were no more, the cards and notes had stopped, and the flowers had all faded. The world went on with life, life as normal, but for us it had stopped. It would never be the same again, and NOTHING could change that.

Losing Another Piece of Mom

We did know just how soon it would be after Mom's funeral, that we would be together again at yet another one. This time it would be Grandma Vera, Mom's mother. It was February 16th that we received a call that she was not doing well and may have had a stroke. And sure enough, a second phone call came, only 2 days later, telling us that Grandma had died. She had not lived even two and a half months more than Mom. We were so sad to lose Grandma, to lose another family member, and to lose yet another piece of Mom. It was so hard to muster up the energy, the emotions, the thoughts needed to do it all over again. Just the thought of it was almost too much to bear. But, we knew we had to go and that we had to be there. And I knew, somehow, that we would get through it.......and we did. Joy and I were even somehow able to read a poem about Heaven that Grandma had written only months before. What an honor.

Dad, Joy, and I traveled up to North Carolina for the service. It was so hard to be at another funeral so soon after Mom's, so hard to face death again, so hard to sit around with all of Mom's family witout having Mom there with us. It was our first trip without her, and we missed her so much it hurt. It just made things more than real. And although an extremely difficult task it did prove to be, it also served as another step in our grieving process that we were already in.

This whole other story about Grandma Vera had also been taking place in our lives, simultaneously, as if what we were already experiencing was not enough. The story of Grandma was a sub-plot to our main one. It inter-linked, over-lapped, and confused matters all the more. While Mom was having her most difficult months battling her cancer, Grandma was also having some very tough months of her own. She had experienced a fall, broke her hip, been in the hospital, undergone surgery, and been moved to a rehabilitation center. She was having her own battles, physically and emotionally as well. We all knew that Mom was the one who usually took care of her and she was obviously not able to continue doing that anymore. And no matter how hard we tried to help Grandma, we could never fill Mom's shoes. We dispersed our energy between the two as best we could, but were relieved when two of Mom's siblings stepped in to assist the tired troops.

The day came when we finally had to tell each of them, Mother and Daughter, about the other's conditions and how serious they each were. We had tried to "protect" them from the worst of things as best we could, but the inevitable was coming, and it was coming all too quickly. They had to see each, and nothing was hidden anymore. They met once more, and said their final goodbyes to each other, until they would meet a much more glorious place that this earth can not provide. And although Grandma had her good days and bad ones after that day, she would never completely bounce back from her fall and all that she experienced. She knew the days for Mom were getting short and she hated the thought of having two of her daughters precede her in death. She was just missing something. She was missing her will to fight, missing her will to live. She was missing Mom. Many days she ached and prayed to go "home" to Heaven, where they would be reunited once again. And sooner than we all would have thought, God answered her prayer.