Our family is full of stories –
Most of them I would never tell you. But, I do I remember the one about my mother and her twin that first time the Beatles showed up on Ed Sullivan. In my house the story was famous because of the overzealous reaction of “the Twins” – as my mother and her identical twin sister were always called, as though they were Siamese or something. Throwing themselves on the ground in hysterically happy girl fluttering Beatle mania – I love that vision. Apparently they had entered such a frenzy that my mother had nearly fainted, catching the wave of excitement emanating through the small 15 inch black and white tubey contraption they called a television in those days.
We have other captivating and intriguing stories including all of the “great twin mysteries” – like why one felt labour cramps when the other went into labour – and one was living in Africa at the time. Or one broke their leg, and the other was practically booking a plane ticket – to Labrador- before she even got the call from the hospital. That stuff was pretty normal between them – a strange psychic link which seems to be uncut by death of a body. They did everything together. They did strange things like being at the convent together – imagine?? If you only knew them you would know how silly that is. In our family. they are “the Twins”. At Christmas they sing silly unpronounceable French Christmas songs together – Ones none of us have ever figured out the words for, because only they understood each other fully – I figure. Our family has stories – and this one is another unfolding. One of us dying is a very sad state but one that as the youngest of the clan I will be facing – (unless I get hit by a truck) – allot. I had better get right with the most inevitable of life’s inevitabilities…
It’s a strange and individual process everyone goes through when someone they love dies. I figure everyone does it the way they do it. No two people are the same, but when dealing with an illness there are certain slightly predictable things you will go through. like stages of illness and stuff. There is the ‘finding out they are sick stage” – sometimes that can last for a very long time, so try to have no expectations if that’s possible. It WILL be completely different than anything you can imagine so – don’t waste your time imagining.
My mom and I figured it like this – life is terminal for us all, so acting like someone is dying just because they are is really futile or you should be doing that for everyone you know. keep life in life. But to get to the place of accepting that someone has a life ending – terminal – illness is a difficult and you negotiate, you contemplate, you cry you deny – it’s all there. Then, you pass through them again, but in a sort of rough way, when your loved one’s health begins to decline. For me, I got “stuck in the past” (and still do at times) where I had these continuous visions of my mother as a younger self, full of life and vibrancy. When I would look at the sick body on the bed, it made me sad to relate how far she had come from living the full life she had always known. Like I said though, there are stages. And the stark contrast in who she was now and then had not really hit me until close to the very end, when memories began to have their way with my exhausted brain.
Experiencing death with someone I discovered, is allot like a birth. It happens in stages, and the intensity can increase and decrease depending on the stage. And, just like a birth, death at the end is very much a sigh of relief. It was, in the case of my mother’s death, a breath out and a pure feeling of ease and comfort. But this was my experience. I am sure each of us experience death in a very different way. My eldest daughter was present for my mother’s death. She had never seen a person die before, never mind her beloved grandmother. She was arduously brave and I felt my heart smile as she looked up at me and said
“This is gonna be ok. It’s kind of wonderful”.
We had talked about this. in great detail. death, what to believe. what happens after. No one…I tell you NO ONE likes to talk about it – but its the ONE THING FOR SURE we are ALL going to do in this lifetime. So, I am pretty open with my kids about being able to make their own mind up about how these things work. My mom spoke openly as well – and the kids were not afraid to ask questions when they could. her illness made them very sad.
Some of it was strangely joyful. We sang songs as she was dying. They told us that the last sense to go was auditory, so I sang. Boy did I sing. I sang the Barney song (please don’t tell my band), I sang Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds over and over…
‘Don’t worry – about a thing,
Cause every little thing
Is gonna be alright”
And I told her I loved her…over and over. I wanted her to go to heaven – or wherever one ends up after leaving this body – hearing the words love.
I watched my family,. her sister, her husband, my husband and daughter and some dear friends that she loved very much, all around her, all talking about loving her. I saw strength and amazing spirituality in my family and a rock solid loyalty to my mother.
It was difficult when she began to go. In fact, I think I went through all the stages of grieving in a massive rush – the need to reach acceptance looming large. At some point there is no choice about this. And you also realize that not letting go is not helping your loved one to leave the body. I discovered that the number one thing that affects and disturbs those who are dying, it seemed from my experience, was the fear of leaving those they loved in distress of any kind. It appears that at the end of the day, we don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about ourselves.
The stages go from ne to the next, indicated by changes in breathing speed. The closer the time comes, the slower the breathing. My mother likes to throw out the text book on most things so, against all odds and having been told it was simply impossible that she would ever speak 12 hours earlier by a palliative care nurse, she got a last word in, just a few seconds before her death. predictably my mother said:
We all heard it. It threw us into a mass of smiles and lots of “yeah I knew she’d get something in…ha ha”. 🙂 smiles.
Everything happened as it should – as everything all ways has. Everyone was exactly where they were supposed to be at exactly the right moment in the 24 hours preceding her death. It was truly miraculous. It was like angels choreographed the entire thing. The guy at the funeral home, the son of the same man who has buried quite a few folks in my family, was gentle and sweet. It was a strange thing – to arrange a funeral. But in a strange way, I enjoyed this feeling of love for her and how much we wanted to do something “with her” one more time. arranging the music is my job, and my mind will be busy in a happy place.
As I was wondering about the nice man at the funeral parlor, the son of the original owner, and what it must have been like for him to grow up in our home town as the funeral director’s son – he said a very wise thing.
“Sharing and telling stories about the process, the person or the feeling helps us the move through the grieving process faster.”
It is a final act of love on their behalf”. I like it.
I figured, everyone has to face death and so maybe sharing this experience will help someone not to be so afraid or to see the beauty in letting go. However that works I am comforted that my mother continues to teach me – and maybe even you.