Before we were married, and even after, we had our “group of friends” that we hung out with: M, J&P (who later married), K&H (who later married) and C. I don’t think I left anyone out, but if any of you are reading, feel free to correct me.
I was the first to go through a life changing experience – as in I almost died. That was my heart attack. I know that it was eye opening to all my friends, because when you’re in your twenties you feel pretty immortal. Why not? You have your whole life ahead of you. I made them realize their own mortality.
I was also the first to lose a parent. And I think it hit all of them hard – not just because they knew my mom, but because it brought home the fact that they would also one day lose a parent. Most of them still haven’t experienced that. M lost her dad a few years back. P lost his mom several years ago, but up until today, the rest of them have been lucky. K & H’s parents have both undergone health scares, but they’re still with us. Today, J lost her mom unexpectedly. She was still relatively young – her 60s or 70s I believe – and other than needing a knee replacement (the first one had gotten infected and she’d finally been cleared to have another replacement surgery today), she was reasonably healthy. For some reason, an unknown reason to me at this time, she didn’t make it through the surgery. She died on the operating table. J was just here a few weeks ago and spent two weeks with her mom while she was in the care center awaiting clearance for the next surgery. We had a great time catching up since we hadn’t seen each other in 7 years. I think it’s a huge blessing that she was able to spend that time with her mom under the circumstances, but still…how do you reconcile that? How do you accept that? How do you deal with that? Well, you do. You just do. You have no other choice, really, but that doesn’t make it easy. And in fact, it sucks. My heart hurts for her and her brother and her daughter and her brother’s children. And for my daughter who also loved Miss L.
My best friend’s mother-in-law is in stage IV cancer now. And the latest news is that she has about 3-4 weeks. And that sucks, too. At least they have the chance to say goodbye properly – a small blessing in a horrible situation.
I would not wish losing a parent on my worst enemy. It’s one of the most painful things you can ever experience. I wish my friends didn’t have to experience it. I was thinking the other day that, although I know that losing my in-laws will be horrible and sad and it will suck, at least I don’t have to lose my parents again. I miss them terribly and I wish they were still here, but I’m glad I don’t have to go through it again. I’ve lost one with the chance to say a proper goodbye and one without. Both ways suck, but I have to say, given a choice, I’d prefer the proper goodbye, even if it means dealing with the suffering. And maybe that’s selfish, but not being able to say goodbye is heartbreaking. Like I said, it’s a small blessing, but it is a blessing. That doesn’t make the grieving any less, though. No matter how it happens, it’s still so very very hard.
I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to work. We outlive our parents. Our children outlive us. That’s the circle of life, as my daughter likes to say. But, losing the ones that nurtured you, that loved you, that were your whole world – that is incredibly hard. I’ve said before that being an only child, losing my parents is exceptionally hard. I don’t know that it’s harder than losing your parents if you’re not an only child. I can’t tell you that since I’ll never experience it, but I do know that the grief has different layers to it. I think I wrote about it before – the feeling that you are alone in the world – that there’s no one left that shares your memories.
But I think that possibly everyone who loses their parents must have a similar feeling of aloneness – that deep and endless emptiness. I feel like it’s even harder losing your mother because the closeness you have with the person who carried you in their womb is unlike any other feeling you can have other than carrying your own child in your womb. Cutting the umbilical cord does not cut the link you have to your mother. So, the fact that both of the losses my friends are experiencing right now happen to be their mothers is not lost on me.
I want to tell them that it will get easier. It will never go away – that emptiness, but it will get easier to deal with – this new normal we all must get used to when we lose our parents. It takes time, though. And you have to give yourself that time. You have to be kind to yourself. Let yourself grieve. Let yourself feel those emotions. Let yourself cry. A lot. Crying is good. It cleanses the soul. And know there are people there who love you and will always let you cry on their shoulders. And I firmly believe, because of things I’ve experienced since I’ve lost my parents, that they never really leave you. Their spirits are always near you, watching over you and your children. The love of a parent is infinite – it stretches across the boundaries of space and time, beyond life itself – it’s that strong, that enduring, that immeasurable.