Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Good grief...

Grief. I don't like it. And there really is not much very good about it at all so I'm not sure why Charlie Brown was so fond of saying it.

I once read that people who are on that path of being with a loved one as they are nearing death needs to take care of themselves as well as a marathoner training to run 26.2. The only difference is that you don't know whether the end will come in hours or days. And in case you have never been on this road before, what happens is that you don't feel much like eating. You don't realize how thirsty you are until you take a drink of water. And sleeping? You can sort of forget about sleeping with any peace in those final moments/days/weeks. Taking care of yourself is just about the last thing on your mind.

When our dad died in 2002 I was in Minnesota. I was there with my siblings and our mom during that vigil for him. This time with mom's death last week, I was not there. I'd visited her in the days prior to her dying but was home in Washington, DC when she breathed her last. One of my brothers tried to comfort me as he drove me to the airport after I'd hugged and kissed her goodbye for what I knew was the last time. "It's easier to be far away" he said. "When you are here every moment that you are not with her you feel awful".

I know what he was saying. And reflecting back on those last few days when the hospice nurses had told us the end could come any time, it was easier for me to go about doing the things already in the works. It was Christmas Eve after all. Took Danny with neighbors to a movie. My hand never left my blackberry waiting for the vibration I'd feel when the call came that she was gone. But the call didn't come then.

Into the night I waited. Slept fitfully, waiting for that call. So sad for all my brothers and sisters who'd been sitting with her for hours on end. So sad to imagine her laboring to breathe. Grateful for the pain management I knew she was receiving.

Mom didn't die that night, nor the next morning. Like my father, my mother had a strong heart. After all the other systems had failed her heart continued to beat. At 7 pm on Christmas night my sister Alice called and said "she's gone". I can still hear her words echoing in my brain. I will be able to tell you til my dying day everything about that moment. It's seared in my memory forever.

Grief takes its time. It tricks you. You start feeling a bit better. You remember all the happy times and how relieved you are that your loved one is now free from pain. Then grief gets you. Good.

Maybe that's where Good Grief comes from -M


Jenni said...

Hang in there, Monica. She's still with you. xo.

Jenn said...

Hugs, just hugs.