I just learned that a dear friend's mother died today. She had been ill for a long time. It was not a surprise, and I suspect she was ready to let go. And I am sure that my friend was ready for her mother to find peace from being sick and weak and in decline and helpless. Never the less, losing your mother is the something so private and imitate that nothing quite prepares you for it. It put you a step closer to being in the older generation in your family. When the second parent goes, then, you are "promoted". Not something anyone wishes for.
I have lost both parents. Nick has lost one. This is the "natural" progression. But now, we are beyond old enough for the newer generation to come along and give new meaning and hope to the world.
Transition is the stage in childbirth when the new person leaves their protected world and enters a new world. Totally dependent upon those who gave life to this creature. Transition can be hard and loud and messy and frightening and wonderful.
When we leave this world we transition again. I don't have any answers to where or why this happens. But to me, it carries very much the same importance. It can be loud and unexpected and tragic, yes. But, it can also be a gift. A chance to help a loved one leave in peace surrounded by love. My own mother's death was like that. Peaceful. Surrounded by love. Saying goodbye. She gave us the gift of grace.
I wrote this over eleven years ago. One line strikes so true, and even more true as my father and then my mother died; "As if the rope holding us to earth has somehow been broken."
What is it that tethers us here, to the earth. Why don't we just float away? The older you get of course, more and more of the ties break away and less and less holds us here.
June 23, 2001
Yesterday we buried Dale. My brother. My big brother. My only brother. We stood there after the priest (damn him) said the words and we watched as they lowered the coffin into the ground. We, Carol and I, picked up some dirt and tossed it into the grave. Onto the coffin. The dirt was softer than we expected. Like baby powder as it fell with a phfpt against the hard wood so deep down and far away. I know others followed us. I don’t know who all did, or why we did it. It is certainly not a tradition. We have no tradition. We have not had a death in the family until now. And so the spell of mortality and invincibility has been broken. And we have been broken and we feel the raw edges from the break. Like shards of glass. Pain where before there was complacency. Vulnerability where before there was none. Fear like never before. Fear of losing each other. As if the rope holding us to earth has somehow been broken. Or at least is fraying. We are closer now to our own mortality. How do we hold on? What do we do now?