It was a “Friday the 13th” morning in June 2003, and I was supposed to jump in a car to drive from Grand Forks, ND, to Minneapolis, MN, in order to attend the wedding of some good friends. But when I went into her bedroom to say goodbye for the wedding, I knew that attending a wedding far away from her bedside would be a bad idea. Instead, I called the huz and told him that he and the kids should come to Grand Forks.
And before noon that day – before they had arrived – she was gone.
The six month battle with cancer – one with an unfair disadvantage of being too rare and found too late – ended quietly and most likely, aided by strong medication that had clouded her thinking for a few weeks, painlessly. In fact, to call it a battle implies that both sides fought, and – though she tried a few medical treatments – for the most part, her side of the battle was fought by those on their knees.
Many people had begged God to intercede…
On the Monday night before, she had eaten her last real meal with us – ravioli. From then onward, she sipped on liquid food; I think it is called Ensure which makes me think of old people…and, at 53, she was far from old. The hospice nurse visited often, and we knew that we had entered a new stage. She no longer argued with my presence to help her with her needs, and – though she tried to help – I had moved into “the know” of the business side of their lives. Just the night before a medical professional had visited her in person and had said, “It is most likely weeks at this point rather than months.”
We did not know it would be hours.
In the nine years since my mother’s death, I have wrestled with every stage of grief, have revisited them often, and have found that the strangest parts of life will make me the saddest. Perhaps others “do grief” better than I do, or perhaps they just do not wear their emotions on their sleeves.
Maybe I do not either.
In fact, for the most part, I would assume that anyone who does not read my blog frequently would guess that I am “over that.” It often catches people off guard – those who did not know me through that time of my life – when I talk about my mom in past tense, but past tense it is as there is no other tense which serves well.
There is also no tense that serves well the limbo that a now motherless daughter can use to talk about the years between her mother’s death and the present. There are so many things that serve as time markers in our lives, and the death of parent is definitely one of those markers. It works well in the list of markers (put in the order of my life which differs from others): graduation from high school, marriage, the birth of a child, graduation from college, the birth of another child, moving to a new state, moving to a new country, returning to the original country, moving to a new state, and the death of a parent.
And a line is drawn there – at the ominous moment when all that was became different, when what I knew to be true no longer was, and how I lived my life was altered by that one permanent outside force called death. When we moved to another country, we knew we would return some day…it was temporary.
But there is absolutely nothing temporary about death. Someone who was here is now gone, and that person will not come back. For those of us left to grieve, it is a new state of being that is full of difference, overwhelming feelings, and an utter loss at how to move forward. What was is gone, and nothing that comes to be will replace what was.
Life as we knew it will never be again.
But life goes on. Each morning greets us with new daylight. Children must be fed and nurtured. Businesses must be run. Jobs await our return. Life goes on…and so does the sadness. Every day, it is different. Every year, it changes. Even so (to steal a line from Les Miserables), “the grief goes on and on and on…”
The amazing part about grief and hope is that they are not opposites; it is not that we have a certain amount of one and a balance of the other. They can co-exist. We can be 100% grief-stricken while having 100% hope.
I do not think that I knew that or even realized that until recently when a friend introduced me to a new version of Myers-Briggs type personality scale called LuminaSpark. The concept of the Myers-Briggs scale is that you are either introverted or extroverted, either intuitive or sensory, either feeler or thinker, and either judging or perceiving. LuminaSpark measures how much of each one uses in every day life. As readers might guess, in my bipolar tendencies I find this to be true. In fact, on the scale I am nearly 90% extraverted as well as nearly 90% introverted. It keeps every one guessing, I am sure!
When we apply this thinking to grief and hope, we no longer have to think about whether we are grief-stricken or hopeful. We can be both! And that thought in and of itself gives me life. I used to think that if I missed my mom too much or too often that I was just caught up in grief and neglecting the hope that I have in the resurrection through Jesus Christ.
But this is just not true.
It is not grief or hope.
It is grief with hope.
That makes all the difference in my life.
Accepting that grief and hope will be my reality – possibly for the rest of my life – has been so comforting. I do not have to get over anything in order to be a healthy and productive individual. I can give grief its due and embrace the hope that I know to be true – that one day I will dance with the angels next to my mom who has been practicing for years.
The huz wrote an amazing article this week over on his blog. He combines theology with a tribute to my mom. It was great, and it made his point well. You should really check it out.