Thoughts, Memories and Feelings, Another Kind of Grief

My Mother died 2 weeks, 2 Days and 12 hours ago.

 It seems impossible that even that much time has passed. Such a beautiful being and now she is no longer on the planet. It is such a mystery, death. The echoes that are left behind. The honor we pay to someone by remembering them. My elder sister and I were trying to write an obituary for her. It started to look like a book. There was so much to say. So many accomplishments, so many gifts, so many talents. We ended up with two. The first one I wrote  just feeling her and my grief. It arrived at 4 am a couple of days after she died. Shown to the family they all rightly wanted it to include more details about her actual life, so my sister wrote the second one and that is what we posted publicly.
(The original one I wrote was posted on this blog and I left it here.)

In the first one I spoke of the Dementia she suffered through these many years. She lost my Father, the love of her life in 2007 and a huge part of her heart, almost all of her went with him.
Her broken heart and bereft soul, then began the descent into Dementia, and for over 7 years, she continued to fall.

There is a grief in losing a parent or anyone this way that is different than the grief of someone we lose when they are still wholly themselves. Not stronger or better or worse, just different.
It is the experience of losing someone piece by piece. Watching someone you adore disappear in front of your eyes.
 In one visit I had with her, it had become clear that she had entered a new level of the disease and I asked her if she understood what was going on. She said, No. I asked her if she would like me to explain it to her. She said, Yes. So I did my best, as gently and simply as possible, to tell her what was happening to her brain and how it was manifesting in her life. At the end, I asked her, Does this scare you? She looked surprised and said, Scare me? No. I said, does it confuse you? She immediately said, Yes, it confuses me. 
At times, when she could still talk, she said it was like being in a strange dream.
 The truth was, her greatest fear had already happened. My Dad was gone. There was truly nothing left to be scared of. 
 In addition my Mother NEVER, EVER, complained. In the 64 years that I knew her, I never once, in my entire life heard her complain. It simply did not exist in her. She acclimated to every situation, with Grace, Elegance, Humor and Dignity. She retained this quality until the day of her death. Without being able to speak or move or do a single thing for herself, she somehow emanated all these qualities of being. 

It is quite a different kind of grief. I have been grieving her continually for almost 8 years. As each part of her slipped away and she drew further into the world she would inhabit until her death, I grieved and tried to learn to live with each loss. 

I would say the hardest one was when she stopped talking and when she stopped smiling. She had such a beautiful smile and had had such a happy love filled life. To see her sad seemed to be against nature itself. How I miss her voice.

I begin now to integrate the two losses. The loss of her over time and the final loss of her sweet presence, her beautiful face, her always gorgeous hands. I mean the woman was 89 years old, had not a line in her face and her hair never even went completely gray. She still looked like a brunette. An incarnation of Beauty.

I feel joy that she is free and sometimes I hear far away music that is filled with the sound of joy. It gives me comfort. 

There is nothing quite like losing your Mother. It is an empty space that cannot be filled. And yet, she is inside of me. I see aspects of her when I look in the mirror, or when I look at my siblings or my nieces and nephew.

But she is gone from this planet. A quality of being like none other has left the Earth, never to be seen again while I live.

She birthed four beautiful children. She always kept an exquisite house. She taught me to house clean but I never mastered folding a perfect contour sheet. She was not a cook and liked to cook everything on broil or high which made for a lot of burnt bagels on Sundays and probably more than one set of pots and pans. 
( I believe this was a genetic predisposition as her Mother used to annually set her kitchen on fire when she would make jam and leave paraffin melting on the stove ...)

She put round walls in her houses, as if she knew somehow how disturbing I found corners...

She could put lipstick on perfectly without a mirror. ( She taught herself to do this in a darkened movie theater when she was a teenager.)

She was joyfully fearless in her creativity and when she created the Sue Gordon Bridal Salon, she supported new designers in a way that changed the entire industry forever.

I have many memories of laughing so hard we would have to pull off the road.

She was full of music, and had the amazing gift of being able to sight read any piece of music put in front of her. She studied classical piano with the great Mischa Kottler, in Detroit, who was a friend of Rachmaninoff. She didn't practice as  result of her gift, and just wanted to hear stories of Rachmaninoff. He eventually suggested she take up a different vocation! But she played all her life, utterly inspired her grandson to become the amazing musician he is, always responded to music, and was surrounded by it on the day of her death. I am quite sure there are angelic choirs rejoicing in her presence. Music never dies.

 Grief I have found is unlike any other emotion. There is no way to control it. It has its own life and its own time and arrives in waves at moments when it is least expected. 
 A fragrance, a sound, someone who looks or moves like my Mother... many, many, many moments.

It is comforting to talk to other women who have lost their Mothers. Everyone understands something that is hard to find words for.

In a few weeks we will mix her ashes with my Father's and scatter them where they both wanted to be, together. 

It will help I think to feel they are in the wind, in the water, flying free at last.

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