Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lessons from a Funeral

In no particular order, these are some of the thoughts that have stuck with me these past days with the passing of my mother-in-law.

1. “How old was she? Was she sick? Oh, it was expected right?” I’ve cluelessly said some version of this myself. No, I wasn’t expecting it though I was expecting it because she was sick, but I can’t really believe someone’s gone until they're gone which then feels unexpected and out of no where. She was gone before she was gone, but it was important to me to witness that last little bit of the going and then it still felt like a surprise.

2. “I’m sorry for your loss,” is enough. Get comfortable for an awkward millisecond, I’ll come ‘round.

3. Don’t lay your loss on me right then and there, I’m staggering already. See above, just a little bit said is really enough.

4. Flowers are for the living. Have all the dang flowers you need, beauty helps in these moment.

5. Rituals, friends, community, and random people with their stories of, “She helped me,” helped me. Eventually, you have to stagger out on your own two feet, but there’s a time for support. Later, years later,  the loss will catch you off guard, but for right now, closure, a way to say goodbye, and an opportunity to share the grief and memories are enough. Sharing stories about the person who is gone helps, just not the one about when you lost such and such at least not right here, right now- see above.

6. I thought my father-in-law was going to die watching my mother-in-law die. It pained him to see her suffer, but it almost killed him too. Dying is grueling. Pace yourself. The living must rest, relax, chill, take a break, eat good food, go for a long walks, you just have to do it especially when accompanying the dying.

7. My mother-in-law was a dynamic woman who made lots of things happen in her life. I had moments of doubt that she always meant well, but I see clearly now that she always had good intentions. It occurs to me to trust that most who cross your path, mean well. Second guessing is a waste of energy.

8. Photos collages recollect all of the times, roles, and parts that the departed have played in life. It’s good to gather and assemble a lifetime of photos.

9. I’m avoiding the cards. More cards have arrived than at Christmas. It’s a little overwhelming. I’ve stacked them up for my husband, but he hasn’t opened them either. I’m slightly afraid of the grief that will be shared or maybe it’s the dazzling sentiments that I’m ducking. Who knows.

10. Every person who came, wow, just wow, it means a lot. When my husband’s college buddies, who were also in our wedding, walked into the church for the funeral, I lost my composure.

11. You get through the messy stuff of life because other people don’t let you fall through the cracks even though you are surrounded by flesh eating sinkholes. Just showing up helps, see above.

12. In the end your body is just a vessel for your soul or whatever it is you call the difference between a corpse and someone you love. You don’t take the body with you. I realized it’s ok if it’s got holes in it or parts missing. I thought the body and keeping it intact from medical interventions was way more important than it turned out to be. The body eventually fails and falls away, it's part of life. Be an organ donor, have the procedure done if it might help.

13. My mother-in-law nearly died last fall, but she came back, however, her body no longer worked very well. She gracefully accepted the changes as she tried to recoup her physical strength. I seriously doubt I could be as magnanimous as her. Honey, let me go the first time round, and I know I’m being selfish in asking for this. Those extra months she got really helped me appreciate what she was going to have to do to get back to a level of activity. When it’s my turn, have mercy on me, let me go. She was a saint, I'm an ogre- no testing necessary, I'm confessing now.

14. In life, we need less stuff. I’m as guilty as the next person for having stuff in my closet and life that just takes up space. I don’t care why you love it, but only keep the stuff that brings you joy. Otherwise, thank the unneeded stuff and pass it on.

15. It’s never what you think will do you in that does you in. Was it the chemo or the cancer? I tell you this, it wasn’t the Piña colada, exercise program, or cruise to the northern climes that did it. I’m not saying smoke the smokes, but do live a little, you can’t take it with you.

16. It’s going to take me a while to write thank you notes. I don't want to think about it all for a while.

17. That was physically an exhausting experience. I could easily spend a week maybe two in hibernation. I have pains that I've never had before. I’m definitely an introvert.

18. Every face, every smile, every nod felt like encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without all of you. Thank you for making the path brighter and the way, lighter.

19. The day of the funeral, I played my Moody Mama playlist. R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Sade’s “By Your Side” helped.

20. My kiddo had a nightmare shortly after the funeral. She couldn't go back to sleep so she got up uncharacteristically early. I didn't press, but a few days later, she told me about her nightmare. She said, "Someone stole Square Pig  (her "lovey"), and I couldn't get it back. When I woke up, I wasn't holding even one of my stuffys." Oh! Crackle my heart. Death snatches our loveys from us,  and we don't get them back.

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