The truth is that dying hurts. It hurts for the person who is dying and it hurts for the people around that person. I’ve learned that it’s hard watching the body of a person with an alert, active mind, slowly fall apart. I don’t know because I haven’t experienced it first hand, but I imagine it’s equally as hard to watch someone lose their mind to illness. It doesn’t matter if you lose someone who is young or old, loss possesses a unique sorrow for each and every one of us.
It’s true what they say…that you go through stages. From the time I could first remember I dreaded the thought of losing my mother. I swear I used to worry about it in bed when I was eight years old and I would pray to god that nobody in my family would die. And then I would list all of their names and if I missed anyone I took that as an omen of doom. I was prone to suspicion as a kid and these thoughts plagued my small mind.
Now years later that I’m faced with it I’m thankful for the stages…because they’re true. I think you have these stages because letting go of someone is a process. It forces you to focus on now. More importantly it forces you to focus on your heart and your mind.
I am visiting my mom right now in my old home town where I grew up. She stayed and I left. This is something I think about a lot. When I wander around at night after visiting her in the hospital I feel the memories of this place where I grew up collapse into a single evocation of so many moments and feelings in my life. I feel the past pulling me as hard as the present.
My mom says to me that she likes to be with her memories. I wonder if this is her way of letting go.
The thingI like about her at this stage in her life is her honesty. I like very much that she talks directly about dying. About the things she is facing. About the finality of her life. About the fact that she just isn’t into this anymore. I don’t know if this is courage or just the honest truth spoken plainly by a dying woman. But I feel it is helping to prepare me.
The other things I worry about are that people won’t see beyond her body. That she will be consigned to the invisibility of old age. I want them to see the rich life she has led. Her sorrow and her joy. Her love and her broken heartedness. The young dutch girl, the married woman, the mother, the wife, the friend the dancer, the harmonica player, the laugher, the prankster.
That’s what I worry about.