Saturday, August 27, 2011

A year of change

My cousin has her great great grandmother's day book - a ledger that she wrote in each day between 1889 and 1909 when she died.  This woman was married to my great great grandfather's younger brother who died of typhoid leaving his widow and two small children for her to raise.

The journal is an eye opening look into a person's grief.  Without her husband, then her father, and then each of the boys as they married, she sees a bit of her life chip away.  Most poignant are two rituals that she goes through on two different nights each year.  Each New Years she states her name and her age and she asks for God to take her; she cannot bear another year.  And on the date that is the anniversary of her wedding day, she sets a dinner place for her husband who died thirty years before.  It's the same routine on these days. This was her life - a day to day enduring of the stuff of life.

I was thinking about her when I was last sitting down with my crazy doctor, who tells me that I am far less crazy than I was a year ago.  We discussed how the world changed for me a year ago today.

It was the day I learned that Mom was sick - real sick and it wasn't going to end well.

Anyhow, the doctor said that today would be a difficult day for me and I am prepared, but I think I'm going to be OK.

In the nine and a half months that Mom has been gone I have had more good days than bad, more good memories than bad.

I still miss her, but I am at peace.  I still reach for the phone when I want to tell her something, but the shock of not being to reach her has passed. 

The worst part of any of this is the feeling that you get when both parents are gone. You are now alone at the front of the line, there is no one blocking your view.  Life takes on a whole new clarity as mortality stares you in the face.

If I have to find something to take away from this day is that she went quick, her dementia help to shield her from the inevitable, and that I am lucky man to have had her as my mother because was an original, not a pale copy of anyone else.

Grief strikes us all differently and its unpredictability is its sharpest edge.  We never know how or when it will hit, we only can predict how we feel at a moment and expect that in the future.  I always thought that when this day came I would be a wreck.  But talking about it and writing about it and seeing your support for me in this transition has helped me a great deal. And that, I am grateful.

From here I'll keep taking one day at a time, but as I get closer to the year anniversary passing of her death - the traditional end of mourning in Jewish life, I will be more careful about wishing away time, I will work more on serving the living instead of mourning the dead and I will enter a new phase of life - that of simply being in the moment in hopes of keeping that moment alive in my life longer than it was before.


  1. You will never be the same as you were before, and you're not meant to be. You have made it through a rite of passage, difficult yet inevitable, even as you mother has made her own passage. You're doing a fine job, my friend, even though it may not always seem so to you. You're exactly where you're meant to be. And you are loved. Never forget that.

  2. Thank you Thom for that.

    Today marks the one day anniversary that we got a concrete diagnosis, and it is also the day that we closed out the estate, and I like that. It's not often that one gets to start a journey and end it on an exact day.