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This is dying.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

...and this is my Mom:

Yesterday, Monday, May 25, 2020 at around 7:10 AM, at the age of 79 (six weeks shy of 80 and exactly one month shy of her 60th wedding anniversary) she died, suddenly.

At 6:00 AM she woke and went to her little community garden plot to begin planting this season's bounty.

She and my Dad moved into the city two years ago in December, and the tangible thing she missed most about the town in which she had lived (all of her life to that point) was her garden.

She planted 3 rows before returning to her car, sitting in the passenger seat with the door open seemingly to rest... perhaps she felt unwell, perhaps she was just a bit tired. We'll never know.

Just before 8 AM my youngest sister drove past the garden on her way to work... she noted Mom's car was there and had wished for the time to stop for just a moment... it's probably for the best that she didn't.

About 8:10 AM the garden supervisor arrived and called for emergency services. The police officer first on the scene performed CPR for 15 minutes until the EMT people arrived and called for the coroner. Her conclusion was that Mom had experienced a "catastrophic cardiac event."

By 9:00 AM my world was forever altered.

My Mom died doing what she loved... with the early morning sun on her face (Monday was a truly glorious day) and with dirt under her fingernails. It's still there.

By Monday evening we had all arrangements made... it was my Mom's wish to be cremated, and we will postpone the funeral until mid-June, when our whole family can attend (all 17 of us). Right now we'd have to leave the grandchildren at home, which is unthinkable.... so we wait. Mom would approve. Her grandchildren and her great-granddaughter meant the world to her.

This morning, we spent our last minutes with Mom.

She looked lovely... like she'd wake up any moment and scold us for making a fuss over her (she hated to be the center of attention yet, somehow, she filled every room... with energy, righteous purpose, vision, conviction... she was a force with which to be reckoned).

We said our good-byes with rainbow sharpies written directly on the wooden bed in which she rested... mere reflections of the love she has carved onto our hearts and woven into the fabric of our lives.

It is a strange time... all at once unreal, surreal, and all too painfully real.

I realize anew that everything can change in an instant.

Every thing.... leaving only before and after.

...and negotiating the 'after' is messy and beautiful and clarifying and fraught with expectations and hopes I didn't even know I had.

"Grief, I'm learning, is really just love.
It's all the love you want to give, but cannot.
All of that unspent love gathers up
in the corners of your eyes,
as a lump in your throat,
and in that hollow part of your chest.
Grief is just love with no place to go."

My grief, like our relationship, is complicated... in many ways we've both been grieving each other all my life, I think. I could never quite figure out who I was supposed to be within Mom's range of influence, and now I must figure out who I am to be without her. I really wish I didn't have to try.

My Beloved asked me today what do I need... what do I want?
I need and want it to be this past Sunday... before Monday... time suspended indefinitely. Giving me... what? I don't really know... but something... I think my heart would know it when I saw it.

I've traveled such a very long way in the last 40 hours. What I do know today as I head toward sleep (I hope), that I didn't know yesterday when I woke up, is that 'complicated' isn't as untenable as it seemed forty-eight hours ago, and that if you can open your heart wide and set fear aside, 'complicated' can be a truly great gift.

...and while I do feel a curiously new and vital sense of freedom, I equally and achingly long for more time to learn how to feel/live this freedom within (or despite) the complications.

The last six months of my Mom's life are the best our relationship has ever been... after nearly 60 years, we were finally learning how to actually dance... taking tiny steps closer... together. I wish, with all my heart, the dance had been allowed to continue and blossom into 'more'.

More than anything I am so deeply grateful:
...for faith, first and foremost... the only thing which makes this in any way bearable.
...that Mom was not driving the car when her heart broke beyond repair.
...that Mom died quickly and without struggle... she so would have hated the indignities inherent in prolonged illness, or helplessness.
...that in death my Mom's woundedness ceases to matter... waiting for her are my baby (twin) brother, and her own mother and father who left her too early in life. These losses broke my mom in ways we will never fully comprehend.
...that I have an unexpected opportunity (grace!) to see my Mom through the many eyes of those whose lives she touched in marvelous and deeply significant ways.
...that I have two amazing sisters with whom I can share this journey and my truth, while also celebrating theirs... we each carry our grief differently, yet with full respect for each other's truth and perspective.
...for a deeply compassionate husband, My Beloved, who is the earthly rock upon which I stand, and my soft place to fall and rest when I can stand no more.
...for 'The Will & Determination of Audrey'... my Mom's legacy for her children and grandchildren... the gift each of us carries within, and that upon which we can call to get us through and beyond... every. thing. Even this... even in death the gift my Mom was to us will carry us all through.
...because I am my Mother's daughter... and that I can now say this with pride, rather than a sense of shame.
...for mercy and grace... because saying, "I am my Mother's daughter" now feels like a benediction, rather than a curse.

A Fallen Limb

A limb has fallen from the family tree.
I keep hearing a voice that says,
“Grieve not for me.

Remember the best times,
the laughter, the song.
The good life I lived
while I was strong.

Continue my heritage,
I’m counting on you.
Keep smiling and surely
the sun will shine through.

My mind is at ease,
my soul is at rest.
Remembering all,
how I truly was blessed.

Continue traditions,
no matter how small.
Go on with your life,
live your truth and stand tall.

I miss you all dearly,
so keep up your chin.
Until the day comes
we’re together again.”

~ Author Unknown ~

A Parable Of Immortality

I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze
and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other.
Then someone at my side says,
' There she goes! '

Gone where?

Gone from my sight... that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
'There she goes!'
there are other eyes watching her coming...
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout...

'Here she comes!'
And that is dying.

~ Henry Van Dyke ~

Loving and merciful God,
I entrust Mom to your mercy.

You loved her greatly in this life:
now that she is freed from all its cares,
give her happiness and peace for ever.

The old order has passed away:
welcome her now into paradise
where there will be no more sorrow,
no more weeping or pain,
but only peace and joy
with Jesus, your Son,
and the Holy Spirit
forever and ever.

I love you Mom.

{{{{{{{{{ HUGS }}}}}}}}}

My Mom, Audrey
07-Jul-1940 - 25-May-2020

Mom's Sunflower Marker

Mom's Garden, May 25th... all she managed to plant on her own.

Mom's Garden, June 3rd... the planting finished by us.

Tomatoes, June 3rd

Mom's Garden, July 21st

Summer work for Winter goodness!

Mom's Garden, August 13th

Veggies picked, August 13th
The cucumbers are growing funny... everyone's are.

September 6th - time to harvest and clear. We pulled the tomatoes before what is supposed to be a killer frost tomorrow night.

September 6th - sunflowers here, too... perhaps they'll survive the frost.

September 9th - dug the potatoes (about 50 lbs.!) and pulled all the bean plants.

Harvested the onions, too.

Now there's only carrots and beets left... and, of course, the sunflowers... the frost didn't dampen their spirits a bit.

September 12th, harvested the carrots and beets...

...but couldn't bear to pull up the sunflowers. We left them until they fell on their own.

It took three of us to fill Mom's garden boots. We hope it was enough.

Christmas Eve 2020 was 7 months since my mom died. In the Ukrainian tradition, I set a place for her at the table. This was strangely very hard and comforting all at the same time. This past week was the first time since she died that I have been able to stop tearing my nails off my fingers... to the quick. She'd have been so upset at my fingers... and equally relieved that I've managed to stop tormenting myself. Don't know what the New Year holds, but I'm not looking forward to putting that place setting away. SIGH.

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