I’m pretty sure you are no stranger to grief. So even though your grief encounter may not be from losing your mom, you probably know the “strangeness” that comes with grief. It’s nothing you can prepare for, and it’s nothing you can practice in advance.
When mom died just over a month ago, she had been in hospice for three weeks. My sisters, Julie and Lori, and I stayed in her cute little apartment with her, finding great relief and joy just being with her. Being present. And even though the hospice nurse told us she’d be leaving us soon, when it happened, we were genuinely surprised. We watched her take those last couple breaths and when the next breath didn’t come, we looked at each other through our tears, and said, “Really? She’s gone? For sure?”
We miss her. We’re each trying to find our new rhythm. We miss that time together, especially crowding around her bed every evening to watch taped shows — one of us in the armchair that was squeezed into the corner of her room, one of us in her wheelchair, and one of us in another chair we managed to situate sideways between the hospital bed rails and the TV. We cherish the couple moments when she’d come out of what appeared to be a vacancy, and she’d smile. Or out of the blue she’d whisper, “Love you.” Or “Joyful.” There were a lot of really good moments during that time. Sacred moments.
I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write here, since it’s been awhile. There is still so much in my head and heart – feelings, memories, re-thinking, wishing, celebrating – and of course, the “to-do” lists and weariness that comes with all of this. I want to connect with you and I need to write. But everything still feels a bit jumbled. Keeping it perky and light just doesn’t feel or seem right, and I’m not sure how I’d do that. But neither does writing only about grief and sadness. I’ve wanted my words to be beautifully strung together, using them wisely to honor this space and my mom. But I’m not feeling very profound. Nor articulate. And I’ve decided that’s OK.
There is one message, though, that has been stirring in my heart for the last few weeks as we’ve gone through mom’s 92 years of life and decided what we could save, what we should give away, and what we were brave enough to throw away…
“This is livin’!”
That phrase has always connected me with living a rich, full life. Finding the joy in life’s smallest moments and biggest celebrations. I’ve never associated it with death. Until now.
But mom’s death has reminded me so much about how she lived. And we had a front row seat to see how she died. She wanted to live. She wanted to be well. And even in those last weeks and days, she chose to live fully. Yes, her body was breaking down, but her faith in God was always present, and it lifted her to a different place. Her heart knew the joy that was coming. Even in death, she was living fully, knowing that God was with her and He was preparing a place for her. Pain and confusion were there, but we knew that her joy and hope never left. She knew Jesus. She trusted Him. She kept living until the very end.
I’m still thinking through this…what it means to still live a full and rich life when life is ending. But for now, I’m finding it very encouraging to see that it can be done. And mostly, I’m remembering that’s how mom lived. She was a woman of faith who lived well.
My dad is so lovingly remembered for “This is livin’!” – one of his trademark exuberant expressions. What a treasured gift to see my mom live it, even in death.
Life is short. Even when you’re 92. Let’s not miss a moment.