Today, during an afternoon shower, I started sobbing. I got to thinking about Mom. Again. When she passed, and during her funeral services, the tears wouldn’t come. There were plenty of tears in the the weeks after she was put in Hospice care, but when the time came to pay last respects? Dry as a desert. At the time, I thought I was all cried out. I wasn’t so naive as to think I was done grieving completely, but I thought I had completed a good portion. After all, my family had been grieving for the past two years, watching her decline. When she finally passed, it provided a bit of closure, and offered the opportunity to heal and move on. But now I know grief is a weird, puzzling process. A good chunk of time I’ll be fine, but then, when it’s quiet and my thoughts tend to wander (like during today’s shower), they often wander to thoughts of my mother. And that’s when the grief sucker punches me in the stomach, and I double over in tears.
While Mom’s death did provide closure and start my family on the healing process, it made me a little uneasy. After trying to figure out why, I came to the conclusion that it was the unknowing. I truly don’t know how my mother felt about dying. I don’t know for sure if she even knew she was dying, although a part of me suspects she did. And I think she was scared. There were times she appeared to be in distress. I’m not sure if it was because of the pain from her bedsore and her morphine hadn’t kicked in, or if it was because the dementia prevented her from understanding what was going on, or if she did understand what was happening to her, and was scared. And that scares me. My mother was religious, and had an unshakeable faith. That faith comforted her during the deaths of both of her parents, strengthened her during turmoil (like the time my dad got hit by a car while riding his bike home from work when my sister and I were kids), and shaped the way she viewed life, herself, and her family. God had a plan, and He loved us. We may not know what He has in store for us, but it’s always in our best interest. And when the time comes for us to pass on from this world, we’ll go to live with Him in paradise, so long as we recognize Him as our Savior. But seeing her during her last days, seeing her distressed and scared, made me doubt. If you truly believe in an afterlife, doesn’t that take away a little of the terror of dying? After all, it’s not over after death – your spirit simply moves from the home it occupied on this Earth to a spiritual plane (or whatever you want to call it).
Truth is, we have no idea what happens after we die – and that scares me shitless. I want to believe that I’ll someday see my mother again, but what if the reality is we just go to sleep and never wake up? After we take our final breath, it’s just nothingness? That idea terrifies me. I enjoy being conscious, and I’d like to continue being conscious, whether I’m alive on Earth, alive in Heaven, “alive” on Earth as a ghost (which, tbh, sounds pretty fun), or reincarnated into someone else.
Maybe my Mom confronted this reality when she was dying. Or maybe she didn’t even know what the hell was going on, and I’m projecting my fears onto what I observed during those final weeks. Or maybe this is just another weird aspect of grief, and I will eventually be at ease with my mother’s death, truly believing she passed peacefully and joyfully. And that somewhere, she’s watching over the family and smiling.