Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Different Journey

This has been a journey within my journey.
My mother fell critically ill while I was on vacation in Mexico in March. The day after I returned, she was returned to her assisted living facility under the care of hospice. She knew, and we knew that it was the end.  I made the conscious decision to stay with her for her final journey, and I did , with help from my brother and friends. At the very end, at 1:53 a.m on March 24, she gave " the whisper of death" as I sang every hymn she loved,, and prayed every prayer I could find, and held her hand. And  although it was not a surprise, it still was. I went home numbly.  It was such a different experience than Glenn's death that I wasn't sure how to respond or how to feel.  I spent many hours reliving his death and loss again mixed with pure grief for my mom. It was hard to tell where one stopped and the other began.
We decided for many reasons to wait almost three weeks for her funeral and burial in Milwaukee.
During those weeks, it was incredibly hard to carry on in life and work as if everything was normal. Apparently my brother had the same experience. He would awaken in the night and hear the Louis Armstrong songs we played for her in his head, over and over.
She had left such explicit directions of what she wanted, and what hymns were to be sung  and where she wanted the service, and what was to be done with her cremains,  that it became part of the journey to make sure it all happened as she wished. I was committed to honoring her final wishes.
And so, on Thursday afternoon I stopped by the funeral home and picked up her cremains, lovingly put them in my carry on (yes I checked with the airline) and began the journey that I considered to be taking her physical self home to rest in eternity with my dad. I believe her spiritual self is already there, of course. On Friday morning my brother wanted a turn carrying the box too as went to deliver them to be comingled with my dad. He felt the same sense of a journey I think.
But, if there  is such a thing as a joyous, or "fun" funeral, this was it. It was a service of celebration and remembering,and the time leading up to it, and afterwards were times of laughter, and remembering and quality time spent with lifetime friends and family. Ryan and Henry were on " hug alert" in case Grammy got sad and needed one.  I'm humbled by the effort that my friends the Boos' and Erica and her mom made by driving from Brainerd, and by my oldest and dearest friend Sue Moynahan by flying in from California.
I expected it to be difficult because it was held in the church Glenn and I married in, the church where he did hundreds of services, and I did choke up a bit. His absence was felt when I walked in.  But so was his presence. And hers. They were both there.
And when I look at the pictures I took,  everyone is happy and smiling and celebrating her life.
Which is exactly, exactly what she would have loved. Every now and then I kept expecting to turn to her and say, " Isn't this great?" And when I got home, I wanted to call her and tell her what a wonderful weekend we had for her. Those will be my new normals to adjust to.
My mom sincerely believed that she had been blessed above all and that she had had a perfect life. That's why she told me not to grieve for her. That's not possible, but the whole weekend reminded me of her favorite saying. She had a big sticker on her mirror in the apartment where she lived before assisted living.
It said, " LIFE IS GOOD."
Yes it is. It is indeed. You taught us what that meant.
RIP Mom.
On the journey.