It’s been two days now since my mother died, and I’m just beginning to plumb the depths of the hole her absence leaves in my heart. I know that this will take much more than two days to discover – in fact, I still can’t really believe it’s true.
In the days leading up to her death, as her lucid periods became shorter and less frequent, and her periods of physical discomfort became greater and more frequent, I longed for her death to arrive soon. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it. It was hard. Terribly, horribly hard. It was hard to see her suffer, and not be able to ease that suffering. It was hard to hold her hand bravely and speak soothing words, when no position could bring her comfort, and even in sleep her brow furrowed with pain. It was hard to sit up most of the night, alert to each sound and each silence, knowing that I was powerless in the face of her disease.
That was all very, very hard.
But the second she was gone, I knew that this – her absence, the hole she leaves in our hearts and our very lives – this was worse. And I realized that although I had hoped for her death as the only possible end to her suffering: I did not want her to be dead. Because even in the most advanced stages of her illness, my mother was a powerfully positive presence in the lives of her family. In her words, she gave us wisdom. In her embrace, she gave us comfort. In her existence, she gave us love.
Now, in her absence, she gives us her legacy. And so we pick ourselves up and begin to live up to it.