Posts tagged ‘loss of parent’
I wonder if my mother was beautiful. I wonder if we shared the same hair color. If her eyes were blue. If she grinned when she held me. If she held me. I wonder if she thinks of me.
Surely she must think of me. At least on my birthday.
These are things normal daughters don’t have to wonder. But I’ve wondered these things all my life. Now I wonder if my mother is dead.
I was adopted. I don’t go around thinking about it a lot, but earlier this week, USA Today published an article by Betsy Brenner on its front page. She was adopted in the 1950s, a decade before me. She was 14 when her adoptive mother died and a new, emotionally-distant stepmother was insufficient to fill the void within her. Eventually, she sought out a meeting with her biological mother through an intermediary but was denied. By the time her state’s adoption records were open later, Brenner’s biological mother was dead.
Who was your first Valentine? Maybe that cute boy with the cowlick who sat in the back of the classroom comes to mind. Or maybe you think of your daddy. I do.
Our dads get us ready for all the Valentines that come afterward. If our dads treat us well, we look for a romantic partner to treat us well, too.
I didn’t always get a man who treated me well, however, I never settled for emotionally abusive behavior. My daddy hadn’t been like that. In the end, I found a Valentine who was like my dad. Unfortunately, Dad died before I met Richard.
I realize Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday, but I value its message – that love and relationships are important.
I found the lists after he died and wished I’d been more attentive to and thankful for who my father was. He’d put check marks beside the names and addresses on the list. They signified thank you notes he’d sent to each of the people who’d given him a gift.
My father was a mail carrier, or postman, and each Christmas Eve he arrived home with a bin of goodies plucked from mailboxes. It’s my understanding that mail carriers aren’t supposed to accept gifts, but apparently his office was lenient because everyone accepted the treats.
Dad shared. I tasted shortbread cookies in round tins, homemade fudge wrapped in cellophane and candies in rectangular boxes. But I didn’t grow up enjoying these Christmas treats.
What does an unfinished life look like? One way is a half-empty container of Coke.
That’s the first encounter I had with an unfinished life. My father had been dead only a few hours. I walked into the kitchen and there was the rest of his Coca-Cola in a sippy cup.
It wasn’t the last evidence I’d find of a life interrupted.
The “Crime Scene”
I found Mom’s half-done crossword puzzles. Her hand-drawn plans for a circular driveway that was never poured. Dad’s paint-by-number pictures. A harmonica he’d hoped to learn to play.
All this time, I thought I’d given the funeral home the wrong lipstick color.
I never was much of one to wear makeup, though I’d grown up seeing my mother paste it on before the rare occasions she’d leave the house. So I didn’t pay attention to her lip shade.
Itty bitty nonessential details gain new importance after a death. If you are like me, any morsel of new information is precious. My parents can’t tell me things anymore, but I long to know the things I’ve forgotten and to learn the things I didn’t know.
It’s been 8½ years since I dug in my mother’s train case – boxy luggage that sat on a lady’s lap and contained the makeup she may use on a train. I selected a lipstick. It looked too orange. Too bright. Surely this wasn’t her color.
Beginnings are full of promise, aren’t they? Filled with anticipation and hope, we launch into a new career, a new home, a new relationship or, as now, a new year.
But death and grief are about endings. We mourn what was. We’re sucked into a vortex, unwilling at first to believe we’ll be happy again. But I assure you, there’s hope ahead.
It’s been said that every ending is a new beginning, and I’ve found that to be true. We often focus on the ending, though. On what was lost. On what will never be again. And that is grief.
We must mourn unhappy endings to get past them. Of course, we have the choice not to fully grieve and to distract ourselves instead. But if we hope to achieve joy equal to our sorrow, we must grasp grief’s hand and cry. For as long as it takes.
I got married three months before my mother died. She was terminally ill and unable to come to the wedding. After the reception, my husband and I visited her at her home. I wanted her to see me in my wedding dress. I wish I’d insisted on a photo, but she didn’t like her photograph taken. She’d always made herself up, but now she didn’t have the strength.
I want to pause to thank all my readers for their support in 2017 and recognize that excitement over a new year might escape us as grievers, especially if our loss is fresh.
The country stands at the precipice of 2018, glancing behind and gazing ahead, but as grievers we likely have been doing that all along, since the day death took the person we love.
We rehearse the memories, good and bad, and tiptoe into a future we didn’t predict. We stand between past, where our loved one lived, and the future, an existence without their touch.
But life isn’t without hope. In fact, life is pregnant with hope. As in all pregnancies, we must wait for hope to come to full term in our lives. In recent posts, I’ve shared how hope is being realized in my life and how grief and death don’t have the last word in our lives.
Each Christmas is the first Christmas for someone – the first Christmas without mom or dad. Or without a husband or wife or child. Or without a grandparent or uncle or best friend.
All the carols, all the joy, all the tinsel. It feels like a dagger to the chest. The loss of who isn’t there is so profound, so consuming. So in the face. Is there any end to this pain?
The contrast is so clear – at Christmas we celebrate God’s gift to us. But we’ve been robbed, for all death is a theft. What will God give to us? What balm does he offer?
Will we ever be happy again? Will Christmas ever be beautiful again?
Sometimes we blame God because, at the very least, He did not prevent the death. We know everyone dies but we want a say-so in how and when, yet we know we do not have a say-so. We know death will come and then we get mad when it does. We know evil lurks in the world to “steal, kill and destroy” and we are surprised when it successfully takes our loved ones. Grief will not be quelled with logic, with factual data about how the world works. We mourn.