The voice on the phone said your mother’s heartbeat is slowing down. She has entered the active dying phase. I suddenly felt like I was under water – every movement dragged, the words came out slowly, my mental processes felt like they were running on glue. It has been several days and I still feel like that – as if I am walking under water, pushing for each move.
There is so much to do – getting papers together, getting my own house in order so that I am prepared for the time away, writing the obituary. I am getting none of that done. The tape in my head is running over and over – Mother is dying, Mother is dying.
I am surprised by the overwhelming sense of sorrow that surrounds every moment. In the cycle of grief, maybe this is the acceptance phase. Mother is dying – it is happening right this minute and I can do nothing to delay it, nor do I know exactly when she will leave us. I am not ready and I don’t know what to do to be ready.
Going through an end table while I was with her, I found a journal that I gave her years ago. This journal asked her questions about her childhood and young adult years –what she liked and hated, what she wore and where she liked to go. All the pages are blank. Mother was always a very private person, reticent to talk about her growing up or her inner life. One of my hopes has been that we could break through some of that barrier before she dies. It will not happen.
The deep sorrow for me is that Mother is dying without my really knowing her as an adult. We are still mother and child. I don’t know her, but she also does not know me either. My questions will never be answered. I have few stories to tell of her after her death, and that seems to me to be a second dying. Memories connect us with our past and enrich our future, and I feel stranded without these bridges.
So what do I do while I am waiting? Continue walking. That is all that I can do and all that I am given to do. Friends have rallied around, and my prayers are reaching the heart of God as a place is prepared for my mother’s eternity. I wait. I struggle under the weight of sadness, knowing that others have walked this path before me and will come after me. I try to remember Mother when she was active and beautiful, when she laughed and smiled, when she was a woman in charge of her world. But the sorrow is still there, every moment. It feels as if I am drowning even as I breathe in and breathe out.