In the way I’m feeling it now. Yes, I experienced death working as an intern and resident chaplain at Emory Healthcare. Yes, I’ve walked others through death by officiating numerous funerals. And yes, many uncles, an aunt, and my grandmother have died over the years. I’ve felt those deaths but differently.
You see my mother died (no limp euphemism of passing away that makes death sound like an ocean cruise!) last week.
It’s only now though in the quiet time, the remains of the day that I drift into mourning: no high speed texts are being exchanged about her decline and death . . . no funeral arrangements left to be made . . . no lasagne to be prepared and baked for the many visitors . . . no shopping for paper plates . . . no memorial to attend . . . no dinner gathering filled with the laughter of loved ones after the memorial. Many left after the service, returning to their lives as it should be. Life has a way like a stream of irrevocably moving forward.
Many good family and friends stay in touch by phone and email with a few trickling in to visit. Yet if I were surrounded by thousands at a stadium, I would still feel the sting, the the grief for my mother’s death who was on the long terrible march of Alzheimer’s for eleven years. No, no, she’s not coming back.
And I am forced to sit still in my grief, my mourning. I have to do what I’ve told countless people as they sat by the bedside of dying loved one or in pain at a funeral: live into your grief and don’t avoid it as it will seep out anyway in inappropriate ways. Am I able to take my advice? Time will tell.
For now, I remember my mother’s last moments as I sat by her side. I didn’t even realize she pushed out her last breath at 11:50a on Monday, August 22, 2016. The hospice nurse alerted me when she jumped up saying, “I think she is gone.” Yes, mom is gone.
I am reminded of how I’ve supported others in their grieving avoiding platitudes like there is another angel in heaven. This is not a salve for the living in the midst of the rawness of death. Yet my prayer is that even though I did my best to support others before my mother’s death that I can now relate in another way more deeply with those grieving.
For now, I will rest in my truth that my mom was my super hero.
What comes next? I’m still with my dad for the moment in our shared grief. I will listen.