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How do you process your own mortality, perhaps our greatest fear?
Last week, when a doctor delivered some extremely pessimistic news to me about my mother, which has not proven yet to be true, it hit me so hard that when she dies, so will a piece of me. In his arrogance and unruly bedside manner, I think he has prepped me for when the time does come. Well, as much as one can be prepared. There’s something so basic about losing your mother. I’ve been so fortunate to have mine over 50 years.
What, exactly do we lose?
• Our identity.
• The one person that has known us longest.
• The one person who has always cared for us even in times it made us crazy.
• One of the few people who truly knows us.
• Our innocence in being able to be childlike with someone.
• Our ideal of invincibility.
• A connection.
• Someone who will love us no matter what.
• The person who came before.
• The person who carried us.
• Our daughters’ grandmother.
Life becomes more important when exposed as fragile. We take it for granted less. We pay closer, more careful attention. We live more in the moment. We become more grateful.
We also get stressed, begin to grieve, get caught up in care needs, tend to the other’s spiritual needs, sometimes neglect our own, pray, storm at God, are amazed at her power and deflated by our human stamina.
It’s such a tangled web, this web of transition. Through it, however, I am realizing I am more afraid of dying than death. The suffering, to me, seems worse than the escape. I understand not all dying is filled with pain.
Then I look at my mother who, admittedly, on paper, appears sicker than she is. Her cardiologist agrees. This is the fourth or fifth hospital stay in three or four years, yet the first real time I felt her life was in danger. But, maybe I have forgotten. I have never received such grave news from a medical professional. Fortunately, he is NOT her regular cardiologist. One week exactly after his awful phone call, the nurses who shepherded me through that difficult spot were elated at the change. One even said, “We do know Who’s really at work, don’t we?”
The day before her release, a nurse assisted my mom to some physical therapy steps as she said her thighs were getting like jelly from being in bed or sitting so long. She tried to do some fancy steps and even pretended to kick me. “She’s baaaaaaaaaack,” I joked with my sister.
She’s back – for how long I have no idea, but do any of us? – and I am ever so grateful. I will try not to take her presence for granted.
• When have I been confronted with death?
• What reaction did is trigger?
• What has (or would be) such a pivotal loss been like in my life?
• What has life’s fragility taught me?
• What has facing, or contemplating, death taught me?
she’s driving my
11-year-old on errands
infection in the ICU
never losing her
verve, also not
buoyed her spirits,