Thursday, May 19, 2011

Through Mr. Greene's "Hour Glass"

My friend has been away from his wife and home this past week, watching his father die. Alongside his mother in a Hospice care center, he wrote a few paragraphs each day and posted them on Facebook. Those of us reading his words felt as if we were standing right there beside him, holding his father’s hand, watching the last breaths of a great man slip quietly away as his ‘hour glass’ emptied. It’s been the most touching and real and raw and remarkable thing I’ve read in a long time. A very long time. The experience was an honor. I can’t thank Don enough for his strength and courage, I wish him and his family endless love and peace.

I hesitate to say I’m envious of  his circumstances, but saying it’s not an apt description would be a lie. Since last weekend, when I first read Don’s words on Mother’s Day, it has been impossible for me to live these moments with him and not think of my mom and wish I’d had a similar, more loving and poignant opportunity to say goodbye. She died of a heart attack in November, 2007, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was a shock, but not a surprise as we’d known something was wrong for some time. Mom continually denied anything serious. Amid the confusion of those first few days, when we learned our lives weren’t what we thought they were, and although my brother and husband whipped up the most memorable Thanksgiving dinner to date, I felt robbed of a lot of things – we all did – including the one thing we needed most at the time: grief. That’s where Don’s story strays from mine.

My sister has recovered, I think. And Dad seems to have made peace with it all. A couple of us are still on the fence, though, struggling to reach that place where, when Mother’s Day rolls around, we can glide through without a knot in the pit of our stomach, a bitter taste on our tongue, and a litany of unanswerable questions that begins with, “How could you hide all that from us?!” It’s such a waste of energy, and it’s extra baggage I’d prefer not to drag along with me.

I’ll likely never understand, but I’d like to get over it. When someone says, “I’m sorry about your mom,” I’d like to not have to consciously remind myself not to gnash my teeth. I’d like to respond with, “Thank you, I miss my mom,” and really miss my mom like we’re supposed to, with memories of french toast and Disneyland. I’d like to curl up in a ball and cry and grieve for her, for the pain she was obviously in, for the years of unhappiness and regret and guilt she obviously endured, and for me, for the loss of that one person you’re always supposed to rely on to pick you up when you’re down. I’d like to forgive her, for dying too soon, for the lies and the secrets, the favoritism and the martyrdom. I’d like to…but, there’s too much. Just too much.

The tears do come. Like on Mother’s Day. Reading Don’s portrayal of his mom as she remained at her husband’s side hour after hour, they’re impossible to hold back. I missed my mom the day she died. The news was paralyzing. I was overcome with sorrow, for me, my dad, my sister and brothers, our kids, my mother’s family. We flocked to Dad, clung to each other, and rode out the storm of sadness and horror and loss together. Our bond was the strongest it had ever been. Then everything changed, or, rather, we discovered the truth. Sorrow turned to anger, anger to resentment. The bitterness still stops my tears shortly after they start.

It’s said grieving is a process, and I’m nowhere near the end, but through Don’s pain I’ve found a measure of healing. Seems an odd and wondrous thing to be thankful for. In his words, I feel a peace I so desperately wish I could find for myself. It’s close sometimes, right there in front of me. As I read the stories he tells about his childhood and his dad, I almost believe it’s possible I could apply the same reverent eloquence to stories about my mom.  Then I remember the questions, grief remains elusive, and so goes any type of reverence.

But, Don’s ‘Hour Glass’ has given me hope. Each time I allow myself to become immersed in the outpouring of love he and his family shared in his father’s last days, I feel a little bit closer to letting go. I wish he hadn’t needed to endure what he did, and I wish life’s lessons didn’t have to be so hard to learn, but at least on some degree we’ve walked through this together and have emerged on the other side, bruised but not beaten. A better friend to accompany me on this journey doesn’t exist. Thank you, Don, for showing me the road. And thank you, Mr. Greene, for living your life with integrity, passing on with grace, and leaving such a wonderful family in your wake. Even as the tears fall, my heart is full.

~ Dawn

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