While Mom was under home hospice care we became friendly with people from the hospice: one in particular, a volunteer who came almost every week to visit. He’s a really nice good man and I believe he enjoyed our visits as much as we did. He’d spend most of the time with Mom before she started drifting into her own “place.” I’m not sure if any of us were there – “her place” - when that happened. I can see her staring into space, staring at something someone only she saw, I don’t really know. What I do know is as I watched her I would be momentarily mesmerized by her intent gaze, a gaze that was mirrored through her most beautiful sapphire violet eyes: I can still see her doing it and I cry.
As mom started to emotionally, gradually at first, leave me – us - it was suggested that if I hadn’t already or if Mom hadn’t I should think about making the necessary arrangements for the time when she passed. I put it off and off but eventually realized – intellectually at least – that when that time did come dealing with what had to be done all at once and with immediacy I needed to begin that unwelcomed and frightening process.
Doing that brings on, it did for me, a cursory chill of what is going to happen and the shadow stages of grief, desolation and sadness to come. But I left all that with my “intellect.” I left my heart out of it. I deceived myself for as long as I could, and I am reminded of Shakespeare’s words, “… Tis such a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive …” He didn’t write it in the context I’m using it for, but it really is tantamount to the same sense of what I’m trying to say. The when is not up to us: we, I, put off what we know will happen hence putting off the emotional and mental attachment with it and maybe, for me anyway, it ends up prolonging eventual pain and sadness. I don’t believe that it magnifies – intensifies - our feelings just that it may do us a little more hurt.
With mom having been under palliative care for a few years and bed-ridden for the last 2+ years, I thought to share some tidbits of words/information I read in “Psychiatry in Palliative Medicine” published by Oxford University Press: some of which just did not relate to thoughts and feelings I had and have. “… the anticipation of loss intensifies attachment. Thus, anticipated loss has emotional implications different from those of bereavement.” And, “the resurgence of attachment behavior that commonly follows the discovery that a loved one is nearing the end of life may have immediate value for the relationship and later value for the survivor … relationships often get closer and more honest … Even though awareness of impending loss makes for greater pain the concluding period of closeness often is treasured afterward … forewarning permits certain kinds of anticipatory preparation … There is learning to live with the prospect of loss, so when the loss in fact occurs, it is at least not unexpected … one of the risks of forewarning is ‘premature’ grief … we begin … to accept the death while the person still lives is to become vulnerable to later accusations of having abandoned the person before death …”
I ask you to be patient with me as I would like to quasi-counter much if not all of what I quoted above as it solely/souly relates to me. I do not question for a moment their relevance to and identify-ability for anyone of you: I am only sharing their relevance to me. I am going to do it in a way that I hope will not confuse you - at least not too much.
I kind of didn’t let myself anticipate my mom’s passing. I kept delaying the inescapable eventuality of it. I always had, and still do, an indefinable attachment with her. That doesn’t preclude our disagreeing and/or arguing sometimes but that never lessened let alone affected our attachment. And, if I had any repressed anticipation it would have and perhaps did intensify my fears of unavoidable bereavement. Yet, knowing mom was going to join with dad soon is one of the very few things that gave me some sort of emotional solace and intellectual acceptance: the other was, of course, that she would be free from suffering and pain. I’m not sure that anything can truly prepare us for loss; and, as “expected” as it might be it is never expected in one’s heart where emotional fantasies are forever. I have always and will always treasure my mother and father: in all the closeness during our lives and the closeness that embraced us as they came closer and closer to their passing: for me there is no difference.
I’m going to step back again for now. We’ll share again soon.