Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Death Is Weird

My mother and me, 1998 - Negative energy in abundance on display

Late last week, my housemate's mother died in the south of Spain, so there's an air of inevitable sadness around here. Peter's gearing up for a trek to Spain and then on to Denmark to sort out matters relevant to her estate, and that's good because it gives him a place to focus and thus not just fall into a sad place. Peter and Lynn only saw one another every couple of years, though they spoke on the phone weekly, so her death is being felt differently than my dad's was for me. With dad, I spent either every day or every other day with him the last five years of his life, and when he was suddenly gone, I had a huge hole in my world I'm just now (almost four years later) beginning to really fill. There, now I've made myself cry again. I still miss him so much.

*deep shaky sigh*

Back when Peter and I were something other than two people living very separately under the same roof, Lynn wanted me to be her daughter in law; daughter to her, but that was never going to happen. I've had two mother in laws, one of whom was the mom my own mother never managed to be, so I simply had no desire to rebuild another relationship in that mold. Still, we corresponded via the postal system, and I occasionally spoke with Lynn on the phone. I knew she was failing when our telephone conversations were thick with what I call "Danspanglish." Lynn (and her son, Peter) are Danes, with English as their second language, and Spanish as their third. As Lynn's mind started to slip, she frequently forgot I didn't speak Danish, or forgot the English word or term needed, so she lapsed into Danish or occasionally Spanish. Fortunately, I understand Danish well enough to give her the appropriate feedback during our conversations so she could keep talking. Most of the time, anyway. When her mind really started to go, I could answer her in English (or Spanish), and she'd motor on, still speaking Danish.

It seems every time someone dies, I feel as though I've let them down, no matter how hard I worked at being whatever it was I perceived them as needing. Even with dad, who lived with me, and when that became dangerous/impossible, lived in an terrific Assisted Living facility, I felt like a failure. In spite of spending 2-8 hours every other day, I felt as as though I had let him down when I didn't happen to drive across town to be with him the day he died because I was "tired." I beat myself over that, silently shrieking "How DARE you allow yourself to be too tired to visit your father! If you had visited, he wouldn't have died!" The logical side of my psyche repeatedly insists I need to get a GRIP; to remember that he was 96 and had repeatedly and intensely espoused a desire to die.

And then there was Margie, my dear, sweet, wonderful mother in law, to whom I was fortunate enough to fully impart the depth of my affection, but at the end I still felt as though I should have somehow been there for her more than I had.
Me. Today. 56 Years Old and an Orphan

Having read Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, along with the Tibetan Book of the Dead and number of other psychological and spiritual texts and treatises on the subject of death and dying, and as a largely Buddhist-oriented person, I understand that death is part of the cycle of life. I have long done psychopomp work with both animals and humans, so it's not like I'm wary or afraid of death. Intellectually and even spiritually, I get the process and the cycle that both the living and the dead experience, but emotionally? I still ache, just like everyone else. I still experience those five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Knowing that everyone goes through the loss of their loved ones at some point, and thus I'm not alone in my pain, helps a little, but all in all, grief is a solitary experience.

So both our bats are gone, and both our belfreys, too. Peter and I are both orphans now, and marching forward to stand at the front of the line, next to go. Death (and life) is weird, isn't it?.


The Treadler said...

Orphan Girl,
I loved what you wrote about your father on my Family "Gourd Day" post. Quite possibly the most-bestest blog comment ever. We are thinking of adopting you.

The Treadler

Els said...

I'm available! Just give me an hour to pack...