This is my first real experience with grief. I’ve lost beloved pets, of course, and grandparents. I’ve lost lovers, both to death and other things, and had my dreams and hopes dashed. But my siblings are alive and well as are my children and grandchildren. My dad still thrives and I still have one grandmother.
So with my mom passing away last Monday, I’m experiencing something new.
It was new to sit at her bedside for hours as her breathing slowed, talking to her about the grand adventure that awaited her on the other side, and all the people who were eager to welcome her there.
It was new to talk to my brother and sister from her room and hold the phone to her ear so they could say their goodbyes. She heard them, and died an hour afterward.
It’s new to have this physical feeling of grief that I’m carrying around in my chest. I’ve seen many people grieve, and am happy that I don’t carry around a load of guilt along with it. Usually, guilt accompanies grief in enormous doses. But my mom and I had made peace; I had made all necessary amends, and then some. We were good.
In addition to this physical grief, there are an incredible number of things to do, now that she is gone. I am really, really busy, tending to the things of someone newly passed away. I think this is part of the grand design. There are things to do so that we don’t sit and stew. There is a time for contemplation, a time for gathering of family, a time for personal, private grieving, and a time to get on with the business of the day.
My mother was elderly, and had been failing for two weeks, so this was not unexpected. Still, I was incorrect about every single thing I expected to happen in the process of death. In addition to witnessing the magic of death–the astonishing Cheyne-Stokes breathing–I’m experiencing the cleansing miracle of grief. Grief is a good thing.
What I did expect, however, was the outpouring of love from Mom’s myriad friends and loved ones, and it has been lovely. It is very touching, and allows them to express their grief over her passing, too.
But, in the long run, it’s my broad view of our roles as cosmic citizens that keeps me centered. If I thought I’d never see her again, my grief would be a completely different experience. But the fact that I am absolutely certain of where she is right now and when I’ll see her again not only makes this whole event a temporary one, but puts it all into context.
As I spoke softly to her at her bedside while she was busy dying, I congratulated her on living so well the entire human experience. She did a good job of it, and she did it all with gusto.
She heard me and agreed.
Death is just another part of the human experience, and now she’s done it all.
And I’ve got another cosmic merit badge.