I hesitated to put my thoughts & feelings down in this post because I know there are plenty of you who have lost a parent (or both of them). I don't mean to sound like I'm the only person that has been through this. But then I decided that I needed to write this...for me.
Some of us went to Mama's grave yesterday since it had been 1 month since she died. In some ways it seems like it was yesterday, and in some ways it seems like it happened forever ago. The grave marker is now in place, and it is absolutely beautiful. It is a joint marker for both of my parents; it has dogwood flowers in the bottom corners. It had to be very sobering for my father to see his name on the marker.
I didn't think it would feel like this. I guess I didn't know how it would feel to have that hole in my heart. I never imagined I would cry when someone told me I look like Mama.
We all know the 5 stages of grief. The denial (Stage 1) is still there at times. I just can't believe Mama is gone. I can't believe I won't be able to call her up and ask her questions that come up, like the priests' names that were at our parish a few years ago. She's the first person I think of to ask about things like that. And then, I remember that I can't. And so I accept it (Stage 5).
Stage 2: Anger. How can I be angry? My mother lived a full life: she & Daddy raised 10 healthy, well adjusted children. She was able to see most of her grandsons grow into handsome men & her granddaughter grow into a very beautiful, poised young woman. She even had the joy of seeing a few great-grandchildren. They got to do some traveling...just the 2 of them. She left this earth the way she wanted: quickly, before Daddy, and before her mind was too far gone. I am so thankful that we didn't have to go through Mama not knowing who we are when we saw her, like some friends and cousins did. God really spared us and was extremely merciful in that aspect. As I look back over the past few years, I realize that He actually prepared us for her leaving us: Daddy had taken over the cooking and cleaning, and we (the kids) had learned not to depend on her quite so much. We didn't want her worrying, so there were a lot of things we kept from her. Angry? Not at all. And I can't imagine myself going through that stage, either. Mama isn't worrying, and she isn't hurting any more. For that, I'm extremely thankful.
Stage 3: Bargaining. There's no reason to bargain, for the same reasons I stated about anger.
Stage 4: Depression. Mama would kick my butt if I got depressed about her passing away. There's no doubt that she's in heaven. Do you remember the song Last Kiss by Pearl Jam? There's a line in it that says, "She's gone to heaven so I've got to be good So I can see my baby when I leave this world." That line has been going through my mind since her passing.
Stage 5: Acceptance. I think I accepted it from the day she passed away. I know she was tired; she told that to me and at least 1 sister. She was tired of her back and hip hurting all of the time. She was tired of being anxious and worrying. It's hard not to accept it. It is what it is; we all knew that day would come. We have no choice but to accept it and take what Mama taught us and live our lives.
During their trip to Australia to visit one of Mama's cousins, she had the opportunity to visit a school. She ran across this; it left such an impression that she requested that it be read at her Funeral Mass:
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room. Whatever we were to each that we are still. Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without effort. Without the trace of a shadow on it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of your mind because I am out of your sight. I am but waiting for you for an interval somewhere very near - just around the corner. All is well. Nothing is past, all will be as it was before - only better infinitely happier and forever. We will all be one together with Christ.
(After googling it, I found that the author is Henry Scott Holland. The phrases in pink are from the original.)
I can hear Mama saying "Life goes on". And so it does.