I’ve been keenly aware of life’s extremes lately. I have experienced devastating sadness and loss this year. Maybe because of, or perhaps in spite of this, I’ve also been keenly aware of life’s joys. Of love. And how, most assuredly, life is for the living, because no matter what has happened, this big ball does keep spinning.
I also just turned 50. Add an awareness of the fact that, in all likelihood, you have a lot less time ahead of you than you have behind you and well, it can bring things into focus.
The last time I wrote a Life Between the Bottles article, I had just learned that my Mom had entered hospice from a stranger. I posted that article on May 12th. My Mom would leave this earth, quietly in her sleep on May 24th. I am so grateful for the time I had with my Mom at the end of her life and for the privilege of witnessing her transition from this life to the next. As heartbreaking as it is to lose your Mom, I believe dying is a sacred event and I know she is in a better place, with complete health and free of pain.
I don’t believe I have truly grieved the loss of my Mom at this point, mostly because I am her only child and her death created a lot of responsibility for me and as I write this I am still trying to meet those responsibilities and put the “technicalities” of her earthly life to rest.
On June 17th, Father’s Day, we put our dog of 13.5 years to sleep. I waited about a week too long to make this decision and if there had been any doubt in the week prior, there was no doubt that it was the right thing to do when it happened. Still, the emptiness that followed in my own home was devastating.
I spent June and July making trips to Ohio to deal with emptying my Mother’s home of all of her earthly possessions. From furniture which was easy, to checking the pockets of her coats and cleaning out her purse and wallet – easily the hardest and saddest thing I’ve ever had to do that, even as I write this,reduces me to sobs.
In between all of this sadness though, I was the recipient of such kindness and love. And I was so grateful for that. Sometimes it was the smallest gesture – other times it was grand – these are the things that kept me afloat. God truly does hold close the brokenhearted.
My Mom’s Mom, my Grammy, survived my Mom. We all have August birthdays within 7 days of each other. My Grammy’s 95th birthday was August 19th. Mine is the next day, the 20th, this year my 50th. My Mom would have been 70 today, August 26th.
I had planned a beach vacation for my birthday – during this time I have managed to somehow keep a full time job – working with wonderful people and having wonderful managers is another blessing I am so grateful for – but rest assured, working full time and managing two households – one of which is 750 miles away, administering an estate and crushing grief made me a very tired woman. I cannot find the words to truly describe the level of exhaustion. My husband, without whom I cannot imagine going through all of this, is also exhausted. This vacation was almost a necessity – rest, relaxation and restoration of both of our souls was required.
As it would turn out, my Grammy would have a fall that would result in a brain bleed that would move her to Hospice care on August 10th. I had to decide if I was going to fly up to try and see her before she passed – she was not fully conscious and my Uncle was convinced she wasn’t able to know if I was there. And if I flew up to see her, did I then go up when she passed? At 95 she has out-lived everyone, including two of her own children, so there would not be traditional funeral services. Did I go right now, or after our vacation? In the end, I flew up on Thursday, August 16th and spent the afternoon with her. I also took an afghan that my Mom had crocheted that I wanted her to have now and when she was buried. I think she knew I was there, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I flew back home on Friday, the 17th and left for vacation on the 18th as planned. My Grammy would pass on Saturday, August 18th, the day before her 95th birthday.
My Grammy had a huge role in raising me – my Mom divorced from Dad when I was two and I spent most of my early years with my Grandparents. My Mom was also always present but she worked full time and I spent the majority of my days and many weekends with my Grammy and Poppo. Someday I will try and write about the last 6 years of my Mom and Grammy’s life. It wasn’t pretty and put me in a horrible situation. It will take me time to heal from the trauma of the last 6 years before I can find the words to appropriately express the reality of it while still being kind and respectful of the women I loved most in this world. But this is also the kind of wisdom that comes from life experiences – both good and bad. No person, no family, no existence is perfect. Far from it. We love, we live, we cry and we grieve and that is all part of the divine plan.
These pictures are from my Bachelorette party – like mother, like daughter no? 🙂
So, in less than 90 days I have lost my Mom, my dog and my Grammy. Prior to the losses, I spent 5 months going back and forth between here and Cleveland and knew in my heart that my Mom was finally losing her battle. It’s a lot of loss. I could say that 2018 has been very unkind to me, but then I would not be acknowledging the blessings that have also graced me. I have felt so much love and support from family and friends. I also had 7 perfect days in Italy – blissfully unaware of how drastically my life would change when I returned. l have had 7 days of rest and relaxation with my toes in the sand, where I was able to see smack you in the face beauty of this planet we inhabit.
Love and loss. Peaks and valleys. Sun and clouds. This is life. And the only thing we can be sure of is that it won’t last forever.