I’ve lost count of the number of times since mid-April that I’ve sat here at my desk in front of a blank screen, fingers poised on keyboard, yet remained at a loss for words – all of the organized thoughts I had just had for a brilliant blog replaced by overwhelming grief and guilt. And before I knew it, I couldn’t even see through my tears to type a single thing.
Several times I mentioned to a special someone close to me that I was just going to give up, delete this whole site, because other priorities prevailed leaving me less free time, and besides that, I just couldn’t break through this block. And each time he urged me to reconsider, to be patient. He assured me that I would find my voice again. (Thank you luv, for not giving up on me, and helping me to not give up on myself.)
I thought perhaps at Samhain, I would begin the Witches’ New Year with renewed inspiration. I would honor the loss of my Mother at this appropriate time of year, get through my grief, let go of my guilt, and move forward once again. Though I found myself doing just the opposite. I thought often of a Dreaming the Dark ritual for Samhain, to help me embrace these shadows within and transform them. Yet I was lacking another person or two experienced with such a ritual to actually hold one. As if reading my mind (which is nothing new since we’ve often wondered over the years if we share the same brain), my Spirit Sister over at Deaf Pagan Crossroads included me in a virtual Dreaming the Dark ritual she posted for this Samhain. (Thanks Sis…from the bottom of my heart – this was exactly what I needed to do. It took me a few weeks though, to proceed through this process and emerge into the light. Better late than never, eh?)
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve had to prepare, how much you think you’ve come to acceptance that inevitably, your loved one’s battle with cancer will come to an end, and you will one day be face to face with the final farewell – it’s never enough, and it’s not any easier. When it actually happened, as I stood there and stared at her closed eyes, listening to what I knew were her last breaths, I said “Goodbye, Mum. I love you.” knowing that was the last time I would ever see her – and I felt like the whole hospital was collapsing down on me. My heart hurt so bad the pain was almost unbearable. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my life – to stay or to go. I feared if we stayed, that she would keep hanging on for our sake, and I couldn’t bear to see her suffer anymore, or my Dad for that matter. As I touched her hand for the last time, my final words were in a whisper that I don’t think Dad heard, “It’s okay Mom. We’ll be okay. You rest now.”
And we left the room. We solemnly strolled out of the hospital and to our separate cars, and as we each drove to our respective homes alone, I prayed. I prayed to whatever gods were listening that they not allow my Mom to suffer any more, that they put an end to her pain and allow her peace. I prayed that Mom understood, that I didn’t want to leave her alone, but that I thought it would be best – that if we let go, she could do the same. I arrived home and sat on my couch in silence and waited.
I’m not sure exactly how much time had passed, a couple of hours anyway, but I suddenly felt like there was someone else in the room with me. Absentmindedly I started to get up, thinking it was the dog wanting to go out. But as I glanced around, I realized that I had left the dog at Dad’s house because I didn’t want him to be alone that night. There was nobody there. I froze in place, still feeling that strong presence, and I called out, “Mum? Is that you?” A moment later, the feeling passed, and I knew – her spirit had taken one last look in on her distraught daughter before moving on. I was not at all surprised when the phone rang shortly thereafter. I showered, dressed, and drove to my family home to rejoin my Dad and my dog, and begin dealing with all that stuff you have to do when someone in your family dies.
I suppose some feelings of guilt are normal. But as I transitioned through the stages of grief, and even started to move forward and enjoy life again, these feelings of guilt and anger became my debilitating darkness within.
Had I done enough to support my Mom and Dad throughout the lengthy battle with cancer? I could have done so much more. Did I do the right thing in choosing to leave the hospital before she passed? Did she feel abandoned and alone? Was she scared? Should we have stayed? Am I doing right by my Dad now? It often seems like he’s taking better care of me when it should be the other way around. Am I angry at Mom for leaving us, when I was not in a good position to take over the role of matriarch in our family? Or am I really angry at myself for having screwed up my life to the point that for several years I was not in better shape for this? Am I really angry with my friends who I felt abandoned me in my time of need? Or did I push them away in my grief – did I screw up more, not thinking that their lives were moving on too, and they may have needed my friendship and support as much as I needed theirs during this time? Was I being all around overly selfish?
I know that for awhile I was drinking way too much, but I also know that drowning your sorrows with alcohol only does you more damage than good – it doesn’t help you deal and it doesn’t help you find the answers you seek. I became a bit of a procrastinator too, putting off some priorities that were just too painful, but I also know that I must get back on track and find balance if I am truly to move forward. I am now being honest with myself, and have taken necessary steps to relinquish my self-destructive behaviors. With the holiday season upon us, there are times when I’ll be missing Mom, a lot, and that’s to be expected. Time with family is a big part of the this season, and a major member of my family is missing this year. It’s okay to feel the sadness of this loss. But with clear sight, I can see how much I’ve gained this year as well. As a new chapter of my life began, some acquaintances became good friends, and some wonderful new people have come into my life too. I’ve shared some damn good memories with people who have come to love me, even when I didn’t love myself very much, and I’m thankful for this. Mom would want me to embrace and enjoy this happiness, not feel guilty and undeserving of it.
I also recognize that much of what I already had in my life is not lost. My Dad and I have a good relationship. Together we endure the difficult times, and we continue on. Mom’s vibrant spirit lives on in us, in our memories, and in our actions – in what we’ve learned from this wise woman, and how we apply that wisdom to our lives. Several of my old friends are still there too – even though we haven’t been as close (and I know I am mostly to blame for that). I’ve learned lessons in my life that I’ve shared with others, but had temporarily forgotten for myself. It’s high time I am “practicing what I preach” again. “To thine own self be true.” Life is fleeting, and I shouldn’t waste my precious time dwelling in the past, or in what I don’t have. Instead I learn from the past, grow, and move forward on my journey, making the best of what I do have.
Just now, a song from my younger days of Girl Scouting with Mom came to mind, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, and the other’s gold.”
To all of my silvers and golds – my sincere thanks for putting up with imperfect confused little me this year and helping me through it. I love you all dearly.
And to my Mom – I miss you so much, especially now at the holidays. But I know that you lived a good life, and that much of it was happy for you. I know that your love did not die with you. I know that you are at peace now, and that I can be too. And I’m working hard to keep my last promise to you.
I really will be okay.
Mom & Me
In Loving Memory of Mom: 6/2/31 ~ 4/17/08