We got a bill in the mail two days ago from the elder law lawyer who we had hired to file Mom’s Medicaid application after her last fall. It was a small bill, $45, but curious, as Mom died a year and three months ago, and we thought her file was closed. At Dan’s suggestion, I called to inquire about the charge, finally reaching the financial person after a bout of phone tag on our way to the grocery store. She was very nice, and after a short discussion, she found that a phone call with the lawyer’s assistant had been charged to Mom’s account…but it had been intended for another one of their five Williams accounts. She told me to disregard the bill, and wished us a nice holiday. I had already been feeling Mom’s absence as the holidays approached, a time when she had always seemed larger than life, and this opening of a chapter that I thought had been closed concerning Mom’s death opened a wound in my heart.
It’s so funny how grief works, its waves washing over you out of the blue when something triggers memories. The memories I have of frantically trying to deal with the nursing home administration, the hospital, closing down Mom’s apartment- and trying to be at Mom’s side as much as possible- are quite painful still. I felt torn and twisted, trying so hard to take care of my mother and make sure that she had a good place to land after her hospital stay. It wasn’t needed after all, as she died there, but I felt such panic as each door seemed to close on us…all while trying to keep the worst from Mom and put on a happy face as I watched her decline, my heart breaking.
We walked into the grocery store, and I felt the tears rise. We walked by a Christmas display, and Dan (who hadn’t noticed yet that I was struggling) turned to show me a bobbling snowman, very much like the one we gave Mom on her last Christmas, and that she absolutely loved. Dan tried to put it back, accidentally knocking over a whole army of bobbling snowmen, Santas, and reindeer, making matters worse as he tried to catch them and stand them back up. It was just what I needed to bring laughter to the surface, and I thought about how Mom would have laughed at him, acting all embarrassed that someone would see the chaos…but really she’d think it was funny. She was an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode waiting to happen. I am the same…so my mother’s daughter.
Grief is a part of life, and while we continue on and live our lives, the pain of losing someone so precious will always stay with us, even if it is hiding deep inside. It is human nature, and when it surfaces, it is not a bad thing, only a reminder of great love. I am fortunate that while I have some very sad memories of the end, the memories that come to me most are the many, many happy memories I have of life with my mother. Even during that last month, we found laughter, we talked of our love for each other. I would go through it all again in a heartbeat to help her, to be with her until her last breath.
As this holiday season stretches before Dan and I, we will begin to create new traditions without our parents. We have the opportunity to honor the great love we had for them, and to move forward in joy and gratitude together, the path we will always choose. Instead of thinking of a wound opening when I think of my mother, I will see it as a crack…a place to let the light in.