On May 6th, my mother passed away at the age of 89. It wasn't unexpected, really, but I'm still processing it. She was diagnosed with dementia around six years ago, had a stroke about two years ago. Her husband Alvin acted quickly, took her to the ER, and she eventually recovered. Not fully, but as well as one could expect.
And then, on April 30th, she had another stroke, this one much more severe. She was in a care facility this time and the staff did not discover it until they brought her breakfast. Again, she was sent to the ER and then admitted. At this point she was paralyzed on her left side, unable to speak, and would not open her right eye unless coaxed by hospital staff. I drove down the following day to be with my Mom, knowing it was probably the last time I would see her.
It was difficult to get to spend any time alone with her. Alvin, other visitors, staff and doctors, all milling about, fussing over my Mom. Eventually I told everyone I would like ten minutes with my Mom. I needed to say goodbye.
I told her I loved her and that she didn't have to keep fighting, it was okay to let go. I told her to say hello to Aunt Velma (her twin sister) and my brother,Marvin. I took her hand, kissed her on her forehead, told her I had to go back home.
I drove back from Carbondale to Madison on April 3rd, spent the weekend getting ready to turn around and go back. Monday came and Mom's caregiver called to tell me she had passed away at 6:03 that morning. I called into work, woke Valerie to tell her.
We drove back down Wednesday, attended service on Thursday, drove back that night. I didn't want to stay any longer.
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Eleven days later, I am set on getting my shit together. It's hermit time once again, my studio is disheveled, and there is work to be done. I am allowing myself to grieve. I find I am being set off by the smallest things, but I am giving myself permission to do that. A cartoon posted on Facebook about comedian Tim Conway (who passed away this week) meeting Harvey Korman in heaven sent me into convulsions of sorrow.
But there is work to be done. I am not ignoring or attempting to quell the sorrow I feel but instead using it as an impetus to keep busy.
I have always been a big fan of Natalie Goldberg. Her books "Writing Down the Bones," "Wild Mind," and "Long Quiet Highway" are still a considerable influence on me, even if I don't have a daily writing practice (even though I should). The one thing that has always stuck with me is her Roshi's teaching that every day, at least once a day, make a "positive effort towards the good."
This week, I did just that, even by small actions. Wednesday, I made myself sit and draw. Thursday, I sent a press packet e-mail out for a show next month that will have my work. Yesterday was a wash, so to speak, but I accept that. This was my positive effort towards the good instead of taking "no-action."
Life is fleeting. Honor its brevity, honor the wonder that life contains. And call your mother, if you can, and tell her you love her while you still have the opportunity...