We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.
~Madame de Stael~
Today is the 4th anniversary of my mothers death. May 31 was the 10th anniversary of my fathers death. This time of year is a bit depressing for me. My dad died when he was only 56. Pancreatic cancer. We found out 6 months before he died. My mother would die 6 years later. She lived pretty recklessly after my father died. They had known each other since they were 14. I think in the end she wanted to die. Her life did not go well after he left, she was never really happy again. While they had their problems it was obvious to everyone they loved each other.
There's quite a long sordid story involved around my mothers death. Suffice it to say, it was unexpected, sprung upon us quickly. We knew she was sick, she had been in the hospital for some time. but we never thought she was near death. At least not until 4 days before she died. She was in Florida, my sister and I are in Illinois and my brother is in Arizona. In retrospect we should have gone down to see her well before she became so ill. We thought she was being taken care of. No point in looking back now. She ended up bleeding internally, and it could not be stopped. When they found her she was already in kidney failure. By the time we got to her late on a Saturday night (midnight actually, after flying most of the afternoon, or really sitting at O'Hare airport most of the afternoon) she was near death. All of her organs were failing. She was on life support. They were pumping bags of blood into her. It wasn't pretty. After talking to the doctor, we ended up taking her off life support at 7 am that Sunday morning.
It's a funny thing when your parents die. I wasn't particularly close to my dad. I loved him, but he was an emotionally closed man, and it was hard to get deep with him. I had a few conversations with him as I got older, and I suspect that had he lived, our relationship probably would've deepened. I was still greatly upset at his passing. I was only 30 years old. My kids were only one and three. They would never get to hear his laugh, (he had a great laugh). They would never get to hear his jokes, or listen to his political views. He was a smart man and had a lot of good thoughts on a lot of things. It's a loss I feel for my children but they'll never know. Recently we watched an old home video, and my youngest didn't even realize it was my dad (her grandfather) in one of the videos. That is sad to me.
When my mom died I not only mourned her, I mourned my dad all over again. Something happens to you when you realize both of your parents are gone. Maybe not for everyone, but I re-lived my whole life. I flashed back to my childhood, to stories my parents told, I thought about my grandparents and living in New York and moving to Illinois. Everything kind of came back in waves. I couldn't stop thinking of my life with my parents and how now they were gone. I was 36 and I was an orphan. I know it seems weird to say, I was an adult with my own family, but I still felt like an orphan. No parents, no grandparents, everyone (besides my siblings) from my family of origin was gone. Both of my parents were only children. Maybe if they had siblings that were still alive I wouldn't have felt so alone. I don't know. It was a very lonely time. I cried a lot after that. The first holidays with no parents were very lonely times. Even though I hadn't spent all of those holidays' with them, especially since they lived so far away, I couldn't call them or talk to them. I used to call my mom every Thanksgiving to talk with her while I made her Thanksgiving stuffing. I knew how to make it, but I was always afraid I was going to forget something. So I would call her to make sure. It was weird to make it that first year and not be able to call her.
So here it is, 10 years since my dad died and 4 since my mom. Time goes by so very quickly. It just doesn't seem that long ago. The pain has lessened with time, but I do still really miss them. It makes me worry about my own children. I don't want them to go through this pain when their father and I go. Maybe if my parents had been older it wouldn't have hurt so much. Maybe if they hadn't died when they were still relatively young and healthy. It seems a blessing sometimes when older people go. They are unhealthy, or in pain, or forget who they are. People grieve then, but also feel relieved. I never felt relieved after my parents died. I felt cheated.
Despite my sadness, my parents live on. They are still alive in my memories. They are in the pictures I keep. They are in the stories I tell. I see my own mother in my face. I hear my father in the things I say. I see my father in my sister and I hear my mother in my brother. As their parents lived on through them, they now live on through us.
So here's to you mom and dad. I know you must be together, I can't believe God could be so cruel to keep you apart. I hope right now you are walking down a sandy beach picking up shells and watching the sunset with a martini in your hands. I look forward to the day when I will see you both again. I love you.
Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.