I’ve delayed posting, hoping to find a neat, poetic way to tie up the major events of this last year. It’s been about letting people die, helping people die, and honoring people who die.
In April, my mother died. I’d braced myself for it for years, because I knew I would grieve the mother I didn’t have as well as the mother I did have. The one I wished to have. The one she thought she was and the one I hoped she was or wasn’t – take your pick.
This month, February, my mother-in-law died. She was so full of life and adventure, we fully expected her to go on another five or more years. Move to the independent living community near us and get a new lease on life, with new friends, card games, stimulating conversation, outings, etc.
My father-in-law is also dying. We thought he was the weaker of the pair. His body is stronger, but his mind, and even his will to live, seem weaker. I’ve heard of this paradox – that the weaker outlives the stronger because the stronger expends himself or herself carrying the weaker.
Is Dad’s dementia so great that he could survive this blow without realistic sorrow? Can he compartmentalize his loss and carry on five or so years (he’s 92) as someone we cannot recognize after depending upon his wife for seventy years?
I’m looking for a motif, or at least bookends. How can I open and neatly close this chapter?
We said good-bye to Mom, on what we knew was her deathbed. We hugged and kissed and filled every wordless void 10 days before she drifted off. We were complete. She was complete.
At the same time, we saw we were losing Dad, but not to death. Worse. To dementia. He cannot care for himself fully and healthfully. Nor does he acknowledge need for assistance. Reluctant to infantilize him, we try reason. Reason fails. He is incomplete. Yet that’s all there is. Does that mean he is complete?
I like closed circles. The cycle of life. A reason for living, for dying.
This story is unfinished. I know not how it will end. I know only it has been challenging, and on some level resplendent. I picture Mom free, soaring, in no pain, laughing and relishing how much ice cream she ate in her last two weeks on earth. But Dad is shackled to a sooty black ball and chain. Do we have to have one in order to have the other?
Perhaps my mother was the coalescence. The depressed, forsaken soul who also chose when to let go and be free. Hers was not a happy passing, but a relief nonetheless because of the torture she endured. Torture Dad is experiencing with frontal lobe dementia–fears, paranoia, and realization his “brain is scrambled.”
I’d like to sew it up for you in this blog – sew it up for me. But life is messy and unsymmetrical.
Not easily coaxed between bookends.