Yesterday, in the midst of a bad morning, my grief counselor’s suggestion played in my mind. During one of our sessions, she advised me to feel my sadness, the longing, the despair, the anger, the shock, the, well, the grief. Let it seep into me and do what I have to do to process it – cry, scream, sit in disbelief, pity myself, maybe even eat some ice cream. Then, I need to do something else. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t feel any of this, all of this, but it does mean I have to be done sitting with it. So yesterday, after feeling all the grief and missing Peter and repeating over and over ‘I can’t believe this is my life’, I got up and went to see my mom.
When I got to her room, she was asleep in her wheelchair with the Catholic mass blaring as her white noise. I stared down at her, a woman I barely know anymore, and I took in all the beautiful memories of her past, or our past together. I shook her shoulder gently with a “Ma, it’s me, Betsy.” Her eyes sprung open, then looked at me in confusion, maybe even suspicion. Once a recognition unrolled across her face, she smiled and cooed, “oh, Betsy. So good to see you”.
I dragged a chair over to where she sat, muted the TV per her request, and we talked. We talked about my new apartment, about my kids, about how she was feeling, about the weather, about her grandchildren, and about my siblings. We talked about her meals and she repeated over a few times she liked where she now lived. We talked and we talked and we talked. Mom seemed better than the last visit. There was some lucidity in her speech. She repeated herself often and forgot some names but she was doing good, her version of good.
There a lull in the conversation and this is where I knew I needed to finally tell her something. I’ve wanted to say this to her since Peter’s death. Yesterday, before she slipped back into the nonsensical, I did just that.
A bit of a background here first. When Peter died 12 weeks ago today – yes, 12 weeks! – I was numb and sad and in denial and in the worse despair and shock I’ve ever felt before in my almost fifty-eight years of life. I didn’t know how or if I was going to make it. I didn’t know what my life would look like. I kept repeating “What am I going to do without him?” It scared some friends. It scared some neighbors. It scared my children. They didn’t know how or if I was going to make it out any side, let alone the other one. And honestly, I didn’t either.
I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I mumbled conversations to my bestie staying with me. And I existed on Lorazepam (no worries, I haven’t been on those for a long time now) and the love and support from friends, neighbors and my kids. I was a shell of who I once was because part of me was killed. It was not a good look for me and it was one some doubted I would ever change. Some thought they would have to take care of me, pick up my pieces as I continued to just exist. Then, about a day before Peter’s memorial service, something changed in me.
I was laying in my bed waiting for the sleep that was not coming, and my mind wondered. Sure, it roomed from topic to topic, especially regarding Peter, and then it stopped on a thought – my mother’s strength. Here was a woman who held her family of nine together, took care of this family, nursed my father while he slowly deteriorated in health, even took in her mother and aunt when their health failed, and she did so with love, patience and resolve. She was a woman of grace when her husband eventually died and moved on to build her own rest of her life. She was a rock and example to all of us, for all of us. She has always been a hero to me because of how she kicked Life’s ass when it tried to push her down.
So, I told my mom this yesterday. I left out kick-ass but I did say her example to me all my life, and her amazing strength to carry on regardless of the burdens Life weighed her down with, is what got me moving again. I told her, when I started to rise I did so with the thought “I am my mother’s daughter. I got this.” I told my mom this is what I tell my daughter too – she is her grandmother’s granddaughter. I said, “Mom, we have your amazing strength blood running through us and that will give us the strength to power through all of this”.
My mom’s eyes clouded up and her voice shook. She thanked me. She took my hand and thanked me. She said, “I really needed to hear this. Thank you.” Then she raised my hand to her lips and kissed it. Then she slid back behind the curtain of confusion. But I followed along, never correcting her, just listening to her stories, her real-to-her stories.
When it was time for my mom to go to the dining room for lunch, the nurse’s aid came to bring her. The aide smiled at me and said, something they all say there, every time I visit, “you look just like you momma. No doubt you are her daughter.”
And on this 12th week of Peter’s death, through all the sadness, the grief bursts, the paperwork, the retelling of his story, the shock and the widowhood road I now walk, there is no doubt…I am my mother’s daughter.