The Mom & Me Journals dot Net
The definitive, eccentric journal of an unlikely caregiver, continued.

Apologia for these journals:
    They are not about taking care of a relative with moderate to severe Alzheimer's/senile dementia.
    For an explanation of what these journals are about, click the link above.
    For internet sources that are about caring for relatives with moderate to severe
        Alzheimer's/senile dementia, click through the Honorable Alzheimer's Blogs in my
        links section to the right.

7 minute Audio Introduction to The Mom & Me Journals [a bit dated, at the moment]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Thinking about After Words
    MFS printed a lovely Henry Scott Holland quote and slipped it to me inside a copy of the book Nothing to Be Frightened Of, which she offered in the same grand, loving gesture through which she offered herself to me during her visit last week.
    It seems wise for me to note that the Holland quote is a small part of a larger sermon delivered by Holland on the occasion of the death of King Edward VII. The sermon, in its evangelical Christian entirety, does not actually assert the availability of life after death as does the excerpt. Rather, as it poses a debate between reason and faith in the shadow of death, it exhorts its audience to revel in certain Christian promises inherent in the doctrine of Salvation. Despite its overt message, though, the sermon thoughtfully and accurately describes stages inherent in the grieving process, as well as the process of wonderment about death in which humans are forced to indulge, once we become aware of the fact of death.
    As usually happens after someone of import to one's life dies, I've both sought and been offered all kinds of quotes about death, grieving and sorrow. I'm recently noticing that I'm going through stages in which some quotes work better for me than others. Immediately after my mother's death "It is finished!" worked best. It was stark, final, and brought me face to face with what had happened, which was what I needed. Within days, though, the quotes that worked best for me were personal statements of others about my mother, eccentricities of her character, details of others' acquaintance with her, what she meant and continues to mean to others. A few weeks later, not yet completely awash in the inconsolable loss of her death, it was the story of the ship disappearing over the horizon and learning of the uncanny coincidence of an actual ship christened with my mother's name, also sailing over the horizon, that stirred my soul, as though it was a message from my mother to those of thus left in the wake of her death.
    I know that I still have some grief stages to go because, despite my desire to cling to the Holland quote, I still haven't enough faith in it to allow it to embrace away the loss I feel in the evidence of her absence. I suspect I will, one day, relent and allow that embrace, as I seem to have done so in regard to all other deaths that have intruded upon my life. I'm just not there, yet, with my mother's death.
    Where am I right now? I'm finding, as I read Julian Barnes entertaining, provocative and multifaceted rumination on death, that this attitude is where I spend a good deal of time, when I am not drowning in desolation or distracting myself from the fact of her death (which is also, presently, one of my fairly common activities). There is one quote, though, that I have lately been tolling internally and constantly. It isn't one you'll find at Quoteland, although you may find versions of it in sympathy notes to one person or another scattered throughout the web. It came to me via a long time, local friend of mine. She was responding to a note I e'ed her in which I apologized for not getting back to her sooner but, I explained, I'd gone to my barber for a haircut and when I returned the emptiness of my home overwhelmed me and threw me into a day of heavy mourning. "I know exactly what you faced," she responded. "My father died in 1975. I still have moments when something reminds me of him and I'm bowled over with sadness. He was the love of my life." Mind you, this is a woman who is involved in a hugely successfully marriage spanning several decades; she and her husband raised several children which remain constant delights; they, in turn, have borne several grandchildren, each of whom she treasures and about whom she often talks. She is also 17 years older than me. And, yet, her father was the love of her life.
    I'd been feeling this way about my mother but I was shy about saying it to myself, let alone to others. It seemed absurd and perverted that I'd want to describe my mother this way, that I'd feel this way. It seemed more appropriate, healthier, to say, as others have said, that she was "the first love" or "one of the loves" of my life. When my friend admitted this to me, though, without realizing it she uttered the single most empathetic and valuable sentence of any I've collected, so far; the phrase that spans all the stages of my grief, the phrase that gave me the permission I apparently needed to fully mourn my mother's death without restriction or apology.
    My mother was not and is not the only love of my life. She is, though, the source of my ability to love and be loved. By a quirk of fate and a naive request I was allowed to repeat all those initial, fundamental lessons during the prime of my life so they were freshened, their resonance renewed, as though she had just coaxed my first smile from me; and, in smiling at her, I'd just delighted her beyond measure. Further, I was able to practice those lessons in an environment of equality with my once-teacher. That is a lot to lose, a lot to mourn...and promises a lot in which to revel when her absence is no longer so domineering that it overshadows the radiance of our relationship.
    Although I'm not there, yet, I don't even see a light at the end of what seems like this endless, winding tunnel of isolation from my mother, I look forward, with faith, to a time when her death will, truly, be "nothing at all". I expect my faith will be rewarded because my mother was, of course she was, and is, the love of my life.
    Thank you, Colette.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Just a note to let you know...
...that last week's visit with MFS, MPS toward the end of the week and MPNP in the middle of the week was wonderful, all I'd hoped for and more...and their leaving, yesterday, was much more difficult than I'd imagined it would be. It seems I've finally figured out that my major grief hurdle is getting past the absence of my mother in my home and my life; it's a HUGE hurdle; one that stuns me every time I find myself facing it alone,, it's probably good that I have no more visits to which to look forward, at least for the foreseeable future.
    A few aspects of the visit that have helped me:    I find it astonishing that I am having trouble resurrecting the pleasure I spent a lifetime enjoying in being alone. I know that pleasure is in "here", someplace; but I am having trouble finding it because I am still in the habit of listening for the sounds of my mother's life, especially when I attempt to involve myself in activities that I not only pursued when living alone but also pursued, intermittently and with difficulty, while I was my mother's companion. What seems like hundreds of times every day I am stopped in my tracks by the almost palpable barrier of my mother's absence. I'm discovering that the habit into which I fell of discussing everything with my mother, absolutely everything, which I'm glad I did, as I believe it was one of the key elements that allowed the preservation of my mother's dignity right up to her last breath, was a habit upon which I came to rely heavily, as well. You'd think that this would be an easy hurdle to clear, wouldn't you, simply by continuing to talk to my mother, but I am not in the habit of talking to the dead immediately after they die. I've discovered that I have a type of internal sacred proscription against talking so soon to the dead; I imagine that they are busy reorienting themselves and that it is good manners not to immediately intrude upon this process. I tried talking to Mom, yesterday, out of desperation after my sisters left. It helped, some. But, overall, I wasn't able to continue long enough for the relief to take a solid hold. Today I talked to her not at all. And, as well, the talk in which I find myself indulging isn't anything spiritually significant, like apologies for mistakes I think I might have made or explanations for misunderstandings that I feel cropped up between her and me; in fact, I have none of these urges. It's, simply, our day-to-day banter; which kept her oriented in life and, much to my surprise, kept me oriented, as well. I am so out of practice with my "old" orientation, which, philosophically, I still value, highly, but, within which, realistically, I feel strangely inept. It's not like riding a bicycle years after the last time one was ridden.
    So, anyway, I've begun, I think, a protracted and intense reorientation period. I'm excited, actually, that I no longer have anything to distract me from this process but, oh, my, it is difficult. I find myself often thinking of something my mother said to me when she asked me to be her final companion after having lived alone for nine years after my father's death and having appeared to have done it with zest and success, "This living alone business isn't all it's cracked up to be." At the time she said it I understood it from her point of view because she was not ever a lover or seeker of solitude, but I didn't understand it organically. I get it, on an organic level, now. I have faith that this is "a good thing", for me, for my character, for whatever ability I have to be compassionate and empathetic. I'm just perplexed about how I am, now, going to integrate my life-long love of solitude with my decade-and-a-half interest in, well, the type of fundamental companionship I shared with my mother. I remember, for instance, how I used to gripe in this journal about not being able to read "the way I like to read" (not sure if that's a direct quote of myself but I am sure I wrote very similar complaints here). Now, I'm finding, I can't read for very long before I become aware that I am listening for an interruption and the act of realizing I'm listening in vain distracts me from being able to read.
    In the meantime, I'm, immediately, a little confounded in the wake of the end of this last visit and expect to remain so for another day or two, so it might be a couple of days before I get that recently promised book review out.
    So, anyway, you know, later...

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