Sunday Morning ~ Coming In
Imfa ilibe odi. ~ Death does not ask, “Can I come in?”
~ Chewa proverb
November 22, 2020
Tomorrow would have been my mother’s 100th birthday. She died ten years ago, a week before we were to gather for her 90th. Instead the gathering was her funeral, but it was still beautiful and she would have loved it. We had five days with her before she died and I was able to gather my siblings from across the world to be there for her last days. She was ready. There wasn’t a moment of anguish as she slipped from joking around while watching jeopardy to a deep sleep, to a permanent one. I miss her but I feel her always with me. I was happy we had that time together as a family, all surrounding her as she drifted deeper and deeper into another world. It was so peaceful. We took turns sitting on the bed with her once she stopped talking. It was a perfect passing with all her children together, talking and reminiscing, laughing, caring for each other. I am so grateful for that. When the priest came to give her last rites we all placed our hands on her. She was covered with a quilt I’d made, an appliquéd tree, with leaves, the shapes of our hands, hanging from the branches. I couldn’t imagine it any better–– leaving this world under the touch of her children, loving her and thanking her. Nothing existed outside that room.
A dear friend died this week without the warning my mother gave us. So there was no last goodbye, no reminiscing at the deathbed, no hands on him as he received the final sacrament. I never asked him over the forty five years of friendship if he’d have wanted that. Maybe not. And now in this strange and tragic time there is no sitting with his family, no making tea for them, no bringing a plate of food, no encouraging them to take a bite. No planning a funeral, picking music, deciding who does the readings or what to wear. So strange and unnatural. We sit in our separate spaces, a circumstance we read about in novels and history books, not live through. But here we are.
I’m still working through my stages of grief. The reality hasn’t completely taken hold yet; it’s only been a couple of days. I go in and out of denial and grief, still thinking I might get an email or text from him. I think about an after life and what that means. I was certainly raised with talk of heaven and hell with purgatory in between. I was young when my maternal grandmother died and remember overhearing my mother on the phone saying she wanted her dressed in a blue chiffon. Later, I told my mother I saw a lady in a blue dress flying up to heaven, conjuring up a Mary Poppins-like ascent. My mother was washing dishes, and she turned her head toward me and laughed but said nothing. I remember looking at the knot of her apron in the middle of her back and wondering if she knew I was lying. I guess I was trying to reassure her the system was working and didn’t quite get the humor. I don’t know when the literal shifted but during some developmental stage somewhere the whole notion became more spiritual and fluid. It’s not an actual “life” in the “after”. So what is it then? It’s hard to describe but I feel it as more of a presence, a peaceful and serene presence.
When our friend, Dan, died of AIDS (a painful, tortured death) I had a vivid image of him at his funeral saying, “No! Hey! I’m ok!” as the organ played Danny Boy and we cried our eyes out. Was this my mind playing tricks? Maybe. But so what? It made me feel better and believe him at peace. And now I want to believe Pat is with him, old friends, roommates, groomsmen. Not sitting together drinking beer, but somehow cognizant of being back together in the same club, relieved of gravity and painful joints, tube feedings and nausea, floating free.
Love to all,