It’s been two weeks since Mom died, and I am still trying to catch my breath. It’s strange how I worked on a sort of auto pilot for two+ months, working on the manuscript, keeping our house running, and sitting beside Mom’s bed… trying to connect with her an keep her happy, as she slipped away from us. Moments, flash back through out my days now, as I reflect on what were my last weeks with my mother. Interestingly, several people have asked me: “Do you have any regrets?” It seemed a strange question the first time I heard it. My own demon’s could not help but read judgement into it: Did you really do your best? Don’t you think you could have been more patient/loving/diligent/thoughtful/ insert other self-flagellations here. DID YOU REALLY DO YOUR BEST?
This, of course, is not what any of the people who asked intended… at all. I have come to realize that the question itself comes from a few places. It stems from other’s fear that they too will face this kind of challenge one day (watching someone you love die), and they simply are looking for strategies to face it as well as possible. They are asking me if I am ok. They are asking me what it felt like to be there with death, and come out on the other side, without a mother, but whole. Each time the question has been posed, it has been done so in a loving way, by people who I felt safe enough with to answer… Yes, I do have some regrets, but mostly, I know I did my best and I’m proud of how I saw my mother through a very difficult time. I regret that I didn’t climb into bed with her in those last moments (read Peace), as I had so many times in the days and weeks before. I think she would have felt safer, less terrified of whatever she felt coming. I regret that I didn’t have more compassion and patience in the months before hospice, when then ongoing care and issues she faced, wore me down and left me bitter and frustrated… too often.
However, while the question Do you have any regrets does echo in my mind, often, I am keenly aware that it is just part of a process. Life isn’t always easy and death even less so. It is the rare and special death, that come late in life, in the peace of sleep… at the end of a life well lived and appreciated. It is rare in my family at least, and very rare in my life. So grieving, and getting through this time of self-reflection, wide-empty-space, is familiar to me. I know it will pass and ease up. Write it down. Write it down. The writing is cathartic and helps me through it. The fact that you read it and share the experience has meaning for me. The void that is left, where so much of my energies were going (for a very long time) will be filled with much more inspiring and stimulating things. I’m grateful that I believe that and can accept this rough patch… knowing that it won’t always feel overwhelming to be in big groups of people again; that I’ll drive off to do errands and not feel exposed; that I’ll drive with ease again and not feel like I’m about to run into something; that I’ll go to bed early again and sleep well eventually… that this too shall pass. Baby steps.
Of note and much meaning. As I was putting things away and cleaning up, I came across a gift that a very generous and loving friend brought by, just after my Mom died. This same friend cooked far too many dinners, ran errands and just jumped in without me asking. She is a truly good egg. However, when I got this gift basket, I was still very overwhelmed. I noted that the products were pretty, and meant for self-pampering. I did not however notice the label… until yesterday. Suddenly, the thank you note I’d written did not seem enough. Not only did my friend bring me a gift, but she found one perfectly suited for the place I am right now. Read the label carefully. My mother’s name was Carole. Carol’s Daughter Products!
Sound bites from the U.N.:
Please note: Before anyone writes me a comment about this, these flags are NOT in any particular order of importance or size. They’re just what I found, when I Googled flags. One (me) can only spend so much time trying to be Internationally fair.
The crazy, zany U.N that has become my home is a constant reminder that life does in fact speed forward. Three teens do not stop for mourning; nor do they stop to wipe their feet on the cheap Bed, Bath and Beyond (read post) runner I bought, to limit the mucky, winter foot prints that they leave all over my dark brown, kitchen tiles. They pour into the house each day with a mile long list of questions, stories, comments and needs. Need, need, needs… ugh. Their needs are endless: (SG= Secretary General= me/mom):
“I really need my hair cut mum!” China tells me nearly every day, for two weeks now… after the hair salon is closed. I have reminded him, daily, that I don’t hold a single thought more than a few seconds right now and that if he wants his hair cut, he needs to ask me at a reasonable time. Not an hour before dinner, when we’re getting ready for bed, or on a Sunday.
Can we go shopping for lunch meats? (multi-national) I need to get some new ski socks (Denmark); I have to have 37 latkes for my french class, tomorrow, by 11:45. (US). Do you think you could squeeze me some fresh orange juice (the honeybells just arrived!), while I pack my car? (Canada) “Hi, um, when are you bringing the latkes?” SG: At 11:30, like you asked. Oh, well, I made a mistake. SG: When do you need them? Class ends in 40 minutes. Shit! Can you drop me off/ pick me up for shabbat? (Israel) “Woops”, can you send me all the laundry I left in the dryer, and maybe wash and mail the rest? (Canada, from Portland, en route to school in S. California) (As I’m cooking dinner): Can you show me how to work the scanner? (ask dad) Can you show me how to work the scanner? (SG: ask dad) Can you show me how to work the scanner? ASK DAD!! Oh, never mind. (China) I would like to mail this package to my parents. (Which involves me helping pack the package.) Can we do it tomorrow? No, you’ll be snow boarding all day. Sunday? No, again, the post office is not open on Sundays. Monday? No, it’s a holiday. Oh, hmm, well, can you take it on Tuesday? cue sheepish smile. (China) I have this 40’s Hollywood party to go to on Friday. Can you drive me and pick up blank (who lives the other way)… and do we have any clothes that look like Zorba the Greek? Uhhh…. I need snowboarding socks, can we go shopping? (China) My room key was suppose to be sent back to the office of ? by December 21st! Now what am I going to do? I just missed the mail man! SG: It won’t arrive in Massachusetts by monday, unless you send it insured/express. What! That will cost a fortune! NOW what do I do?
**You may have noted that Denmark doesn’t seem to have as many needs, nor does Israel; and, if you’ve been following the U.N., and know that Israel and Denmark are the two females, then draw your own conclusions. The excerpt above, is from one afternoon/dinnertime, about 6 hours, yesterday (Except for the request for latkes). Seriously.
It appears that at least three countries talk in their sleep: U.S., China, and Canada. U.S. claims that China is forever in heated debate during the night time hours, kicking walls and tossing sheets, while calling out things that “sound Japanese at times.” This last bit really ruffles China’s feathers as China and Japan are mortal enemies, and China does not like being compared (in any way) to Japan. Canada tends to call out interesting things that the Secretary General tries to follow, when the opportunities arise, to use later in negotiations. The U.S., as is often the case in waking hours as well, tends to be all over the place in his night time chatter. Denmark maintains that she can discern the difference between dad’s snoring and the Secretary General’s snoring… through the floor. The Secretary General, as supreme
dictator denies all allegations and believes that Denmark’s reporting can not be trusted.
Israel skyped with a close friend in Israel (country) this week. When Secretary General offered her THE best latkes, forgetting for a moment that the SG’s food is not kosher, and Israel declined this enthusiastic offer, Israel removed her computer to the kitchen for privacy… where she reverted to speaking only in Hebrew. Of course, the Secretary General has been on the job long enough to figure out that all conversation in Hebrew is about the rest of the U.N. and the SG in particular… if in doubt, the occasional breaks into English: “she just doesn’t get it!” Were clear confirmation of paramilitary spy interactions.
Upon being told that China could move back into his bedroom, as soon as Canada departs, China responded: Oh! I am so happy. The U.S.’s room is a real tragedy. Canada: (laughing) I think you mean travesty? China: No, it’s a tragedy. Maybe it’s a travesty and a tragedy?
China is very organized, driven and industrious. The U.S. is not. That is probably why more than 80% of the crap scattered around the U.S.’s room, is made in China.
Israel has been given a section of our kitchen counter, to use her 2-burner kosher stove, and keep her kosher items separate from the rest of the entirely non-kosher, pork consuming nations. Israel, having just returned from a friend’s house for dinner, said: “Seeing blank’s “kosher korner,” made me realize that I really have nothing to complain about. Sec. Gen: Hmm, I wish you’d seen it at the beginning of your vacation. It would have saved a lot of complaining.
“How can you remember that you forget something? Really mom. How can you remember that you need to do something as you’re going to bed, but wake up in the morning and totally forget what it is, but remember you forget it? (Canada) Ahh, youth.
“Mom! Mom! Ma! Mum! Mom! Dawn. Mummy! MOM! Ma! Ma! Mum! Dawn.Mom! mom. Ma! Mom!” (Canada, Israel, U.S. Denmark and China… constantly)
“What do you mean?” (SG) “Nothing. Never mind.” (China) “What are you saying?” (Denmark) “Nothing. Never mind.” (China) What! What do you mean? (U.S.) “Nothing. Never mind.” (China). Seems there’a much ado about nothing at the U.N.
So, life ticks on. National issues shift and change, and the U.N. remains solid. Overall, in her annual report, the Secretary General would have to say that each nation rose to the challenges presented during the one month period that all were assembled. A death in the family, health crises, three major holidays (Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years), homesickness, lost packages, presents given and received, and really, all of it was managed with (mostly) compassion, humor, and dignity. Baby steps people, but successful baby steps.
How were your holidays? What challenges are you facing and what helps you face them?
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