I wrote this last week, for a childhood friend whose mom is dying. I can’t stop thinking about her and what her family is going through. Even though I’ve lost many loved ones, I am still unsure what to say to my friend. Maybe because the situation is just sucky all around? No matter how you slice it, it’s hard to watch someone wither and die – especially when it’s someone you love.
Wow. I just can't stop thinking about talking to you today. First of all, just talking to someone who was so involved in my *very* early days is weird in itself. And then to know the things you are going through right now, and how it's similar to what Mary and I went through... it just took me back in time.
There's so much more I want to say to you. But it's late and I can't call, and I don't know that you'd want to hear it all anyway! I hope you don't mind that I'm writing some of it here.
I keep thinking about what I know now that I wish I had known in the days leading up to my mom's death, and Dad's death, and Jackson's. If I could do it all again, what would I change?
I would touch them more. I'd take photos of their hands and their eyelashes and their lips, just to help me remember those little details. I'd put lotion on Mom, because she was so dry and brittle and I know she craved touch. But I was too germophobic to get in too deep with her. I touched her some, but not enough.
I'd also record their voices somehow. Even if you just record your mom's voice from her answering machine... one day it will be enough and it will be a gift you will cherish.
I'd also find some way to savor the smells. When we cleaned out Mom's bathroom, I kept a bottle of her perfume. I still pull it out and sniff it once in a while as a way to bring her back to me.
This sounds totally odd, but I would love to go back and snip a lock of Mom's hair before she was cremated. I don't know what I'd do with it, but I wish I had kept that keepsake.
When Dad died, the funeral director returned the clothes that Dad was wearing when they took him to the funeral home. I asked to keep them, and I still have the shirt he wore when he died. It's the same shirt I gave to him to wear the day my daughter was born. It says "Grandpa Rocks." I didn't want it to get lost, so I kept it.
In those last days of Dad's life, we buckled in for the long haul. We thought his death would drag on and we'd have a few more days - at least a week - before he was gone. Life became the routine of dispensing medicine, convincing him to get some rest, and just trying to stay upbeat and as chipper as possible. We were waiting for death to arrive, but assumed it was taking its own sweet time. It surprised us all by sneaking in one night and escorting Dad away. We weren't surprised, and yet we were. I couldn't believe his larger-than-life self was gone. Just like that.
And, just like that, I was orphaned. It was one of the scariest parts of losing both my parents - the labeling of myself as an "orphan." Even though I was an adult in the middle of my life, I felt like an abandoned child. It's still a hard reality to face: not having the keepers of my childhood around to ask questions to (When did I potty train? When was my first sleepover?), and also not having guidance while raising my own kids.
But, you know what? I learned that I'm stronger than I ever thought possible. I learned that my parents equipped me for this, and taught me to be independent and stand on my own two feet - whether they would be here to see it or not. That's what parents do! And I learned that God's love is deeper and stronger than any loss I've ever endured. When I come to the end of me and don't know how to go on, God is enough. He gets me through it.
I don't know what else to say to you right now. I hate that you have to face all of this, and that you are carrying most of the burden. I am on my knees in prayer for you, begging for your mom's release and relief. Hold her tight, then let her go.
Love to you!