Today, Readers, is my Mother’s birthday. Today, she has been from this world for four years, five months, and 11 days; she died December 6, 2011.
It’s strange looking back on grieving. The first year, of course, was the “year of firsts,” as a friend once said to me. The first year she wasn’t there for their anniversary, her birthday, my husband’s birthday, our anniversary, either of my siblings’ birthdays, my birthday, and so forth. It was the year I always wanted to call her and almost did countless times because for a few seconds I forgot she was gone. It was the year that I finally understood why suicide happens. It was the year where everything reminded me of her and minor mistakes or automated reminders made everything that much worse when it came to her.
That first year is the hardest because you continue living, and you realize they will never be able to, at least, physically experience this life with you. You also learn why grief truly is for the living, mourning what will never be–the loss of a future that can never be. The first year is when I learned how much of a crutch my Mother was to me and how utterly unready I was for her to leave.
The first year was a reminder of how my conscious and unconscious mind deals with pain. Background note: When I was in labor with my son, I screamed through painful contractions, and to distract me from the pain, my brain replayed the movie “Psycho,” which I found completely hilarious at the absurdity of the movie and that my brain chose that for me to watch as a distraction. Weeks after my Mother died, I began a year and a half long series of dreams where she literally came back from the dead, much like Lazurus…well, more accurately, like Buffy the Vampire slayer the second (or was it third) time where she literally clawed and dug her way out of her grave and came home. In these dreams, she wasn’t done and doctors were completely baffled how she could survive the usual processes related to a funeral and death. The news went nuts about it for weeks but she was eventually left alone.
I was allowed to begin to say goodbye.
At first, the mere thought of her death (again) terrified me; and while I rarely ever spoke to her (I spoke a lot to my Stepdad) in these dreams, the moments we did speak were important beyond measure.
As I dreamt I lived another life for the first year of her death, my family and I moved in with my Parents. I was determined not to lose time with her again. Yes, I was dreaming of mundane and ordinary things that I would do with her, such as garage saling, shopping for clothes, grocery shopping, and so forth.
I reveled in it.
Even though I consciously knew they were just dreams, dreams of a life that could never be, they helped me so much in grieving the death of my Mother by allowing me to slowly be able to let her go.
The dreams occurred nearly every night for the first six to nine months. And then, their frequency began to decrease; a foreshadowing of things to come. The next three months within the dreams, I became anxious with the approach of the anniversary of her death. While terrified to lose her, I knew her unfinished work here would come to an end but I didn’t know when. It remained in the back of my head throughout those months as I dreamt.
I recall once in these dreams asking my Stepdad if he knew when the end would be. What would he do? Would she have another funeral service? Would they alert the media? Would they make sure everyone knew? The information I received is they both knew an end would come as her physcial death, and they had already arranged everything. There wasn’t a time limit, necessarily; she just had to get done here on Earth before returning to Heaven. I was never told more information than that whenever I would ask in these dreams.
As the dreams frequency lessened, it became a waiting game that, at times, unnerved my dream-self. It seemed she was even avoiding me. There would be times where I would be chasing my Stepdad’s truck down on foot trying to get her to talk to me as they drove away. It hurt so much that she would avoid me. I would awaken crying and emotionally raw. I was scared to let go in the dream world, and the waking world, I didn’t want to stop dreaming of her. It was all I had left of her. I just wanted more time with her.
Somewhere around end of the first year and the anniversary of her death, I stopped chasing them. I would periodically run into them while out and about. I also kept trying to arrange phone calls, like I had actually done in real life before she passed. It wasn’t very successfu either.
Her doctor appointments increased in frequency and my Stepdad, at first, wouldn’t tell me details or that they didn’t know yet. I could see it in her face and her gait; she was beginning to weaken physically and the cancer returned just like it had every time before. This time was different. This time is wasn’t as harsh as before or maybe it progressed more slowly.
Unlike before, my Stepdad took her to all her appointments and handled all the medical stuff. I think he knew what to expect now.
A few months later as the dreams occurrences decreased, she was moved to hospice care in a luxurious place. It reminded me so much of Greek architecture. It had these beautifully decorated columns and the colors were metallic-like. The place was so gorgeous. The bed seemed so comfortable and able to do whatever she wanted, even if it was sleep. She could still eat food! Background note: Before her death, the cancer had metastasized throughout her intestines and she was unable to eat food; she fed intravenously until her passing.
Somehow, she became better for a little while. The dreams came a bit more often. In this dream world, to be closer to her doctor(s), my parents moved. I stayed where I was and would visit. When I would try to surprise them, it would always fail and I wouldn’t see her. At some point, I became aware that my Stepdad began packing her things up and would give me periodic progress reports on her health by phone or in person.
And then, I went through a time where I didn’t dream of this world or life at all. I would dream of the usual fantasy and science fiction. I would still see my Mother in the background or in passing but never talked to her. I was just happy to see her at that point.
Finally weeks later, I dreamt of seeing my siblings and we started talking about our Mother. This is when I learned she had passed away in my dream world. In disbelief, I called my Stepdad but was unable to get him. I was so upset in my dream that when I awoke, I was practically hysterical with grief.
It was another few weeks before I dreamt of that world again, and when I did, I was so hurt and angry at my Stepdad that he didn’t tell me she died or have a funeral. I remember him telling me that she didn’t want another funeral, just a burial with a notification to all who had attended before that she had finally, and permanently, passed. She could be visited at the same gravesite as before.
An odd occurrence happened, I dreamt of seeing her prior to her final death and with the aforementioned foreknowledge. I marched into her house, wrenched the door open, slammed it shut as hard as I could, and yelled at her for hiding her actual plans; all the while crying as I spoke. I don’t recollect the exact conversation but I know how we each felt and what information she told me.
She came back to help me and give me more time to prepare to let her go. She was only trying to help and protect me which is why she told my Stepdad not to tell me she died for a while. She loved me so much. She was told she could only be here so long and there was no way around it. I flickered with anger as I absorbed and processed what she said.
I wanted to be angry with God. I wanted to go scream and curse at the sky. I wanted to take her place. I wanted to save her from death. I knew the world would be better off with her than me. But I wasn’t angry; I didn’t do any of that. I knew she was right. I knew God took her so she would no longer have to suffer from the limitations of the human body that the cancer exploited. I was sad. I missed her already. I wanted her to be there when she had more grandkids and see them get married. I want my child(ren) to know how awesome she is…er, was.
In the waking world, it took a bit of time to accept and made sleep difficult for a time. I wanted to keep seeing her in my dreams.
I dreamt of life after her final death and given the opportunity to go through her things myself. My Stepdad had packed them but left them all open for me to peruse. I did the same thing with her clothes that I did with my Dad’s once my Parents divorced, I put them on and smelled them. I felt them on my skin. I wrapped myself up in them like a blanket trying to keep a part of her with me. I cried in them. I slept in them. I would hug them like a favorite stuffed animal, never wanting to let go. I went through her books and took the ones I wanted. The books she and I both loved, such as Jasoer Fforde’s Thursday Next series. The books she wanted me to read, like “The Life of Pi.” I made digital and hard copies of her unfinished writings to make a book out of them for me to read and share. I went through her jewelry and greedily took the pieces I loved. I took her perfume of redoor. I took her straw hat she always wore. The picture albums of her earlier adult life and some pictures of when she was a kid.
I knew this was it. She wasn’t coming back.
It hurt so much to let go. I knew I had to. If I didn’t, it would eat me up inside and my family didn’t deserve someone like that.
Even though, it was all a dream, God gave me more time with my Mother in the only way that it could be done. I am ever so thankful for that.
I admit this is the first time I have been able to actually write all of that down without being completely overwhelmed and having to stop.
I still dream of her but she is usually a background person, not directly involved in the dream. It is always nice to see her and know she is doing well, even if it is just a dream.