The grief and the grace of death

Death came quietly for my mother in the pre-dawn hours of a rainy spring day. Nobody was in the room. The Reaper took his opportunity when the watch nurse went on a short break.

Mom was only in palliative care for nine days. She had stopped eating and was just skin and bones. She might have been 90 pounds.

Death is a mercy. She was so tired and confused.

Alzheimer’s Disease stripped away so much of her identity, but gratefully, it didn’t take away her essence. She was kind and loving, she still remembered Olivia and me, and she still appreciated a sarcastic joke. I’m so blessed she showed me all that the day before she died.

After hospice called to inform me of her passing, I drove down and spent half a day sitting with her body. I sobbed and crawled into bed to lie with her and hold her. It was hard to leave, knowing this would be the last natural setting I would see her in.

I love my mother. I am so fortunate to have had a lifelong, wonderful relationship with her. I hope Olivia will say that about me.

Death still brings grief. No matter how much advance notice one has, there is no preparation for that final step. It still hurts deeply.

I spent the rest of the day in a daze, moving through time and space in slow motion. People were asking me practical questions about her funeral plans. I couldn’t even form the words.

I am tired. I want to get through the obligatory motions of what one needs to do after a death. I want a quiet moment to grieve and commune with her in my own way. But life doesn’t stop.

The day after Mom died, there were a couple of family crises to handle. Days after the urgency subsided, I finally found an hour to take a nice long beach walk with my daughter.

“Why don’t you ask Popo to join us on this walk?” I suggested to Olivia. We believe my mother watches over us now. “It’s been a long time since she could go to the beach.”

So Olivia did. I could have said the words, but my mother loved Olivia best, so I thought she would like to hear her granddaughter issue the invite.

“What do you think she looks like now?” Olivia asked.

“I think she looks young and beautiful, like when she was dancing,” I said, and pictured Mom in my mind. That was before I knew her, when she was a glamorous showgirl traveling the world.

The thought of my mother light and free again made me happy. In her heaven, she’s shuttling herself between work as a pro on Dancing with the Stars, and social visits with our family. She is delightful, sparkling, and vibrant, and she never has to stop dancing.

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