Wednesday, September 3, 2008

to grieve

This is supposed to be a Wednesday Weigh-in post. But, to be honest, I haven’t been paying any attention to my weight or the scale in the last couple of weeks. I apologize to my fellow OSB “b’ches”. I’ve got a weight watchers meeting later this week and although I dread getting on that scale, I know I need to do it.

The past couple of weeks have been somewhat of a blur. An intense and surreal blur. I feel compelled to share some of the details with you. I don’t know, maybe it will help us get through this weird and yucky place. Sharing has usually helped me in the past.

From the moment we received the phone call on Saturday afternoon up to today, everything has seemed to be somewhat dreamlike. Nothing sinking in comfortably. Emotions moving from numbness to deep aching. Constantly vacillating between doing OK and then feeling completely overwhelmed by heaviness. Wanting so badly to find a place to put it all. But there’s no good fit.

Saturday. Brian had just gotten finished vacuuming the front of the house and we were getting ready to feed the babies solids. We were joking around in the kitchen. In just a couple of hours the babies would be in bed and Brian was going to his Mom’s and Grandma’s house. Just a couple of hours.

His cell phone rang.

This is going to sound SO CLICHÉ, but I knew something was wrong. Usually, when he gets a call, I let him have his space. But this time I was watching him. I was watching his face from across the kitchen. He looked blank.
I couldn’t hear what was being said on the other end. He said, “What do you mean?” But imagine it without the question mark. It wasn’t really a question.
He then said, “I’ll be right there.” I was desperate for him to show me something but his face was blank. He hung up the phone and said, “Mom died.”

I sank to the floor and started crying. I didn’t know what to say. I said, “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”

“I was going to be there in just a few hours”, he said, already beating himself up.

As he was getting ready to leave, I realized that I wanted to be with him…that I should be with him. I called my mom. She was over in less than fifteen minutes to watch the babies for us. We left as soon as she arrived.

I can’t describe the lump in my throat the moment we pulled into the driveway. Brian was quiet. There were three nurses and the hospice coordinator (I think that’s who she was). The three ladies were tearfully emptying bottles of medication, preparing them for safe disposal. The coordinator lady was talking to Grandma. Mom was lying in her bed. She looked different. I wasn’t prepared for that. I wasn’t prepared to see her. She had been gone for a little over an hour by the time we arrived.
The TV was blaring. It was the Olympics. Brian and I immediately went to turn the TV off.
I was sent to the store to buy cat litter (used to absorb and neutralize medications for responsible disposal) and while I was in the store, I realized it was the first time I had ever purchased cat litter. I don’t have cats. These people will probably think I have a cat. They have no idea what’s really happening. Its interesting the things that run through your mind sometimes.
I paid for the litter and went right back to the house. There she was, still. Of course she was. Where would she go? I kept wanting to be very quiet, like she was sleeping or something. I kept catching myself almost saying, “Shhh.” But there was no reason to whisper.
The coordinator lady left and eventually the three nurses left and it was just Grandma, Brian and me. And of course Mom. It was so surreal. No more nurses. It was too quiet.
We were waiting to make the call to have her picked up. We didn’t want her taken away before Brian’s sister could get there. She and her husband were driving as fast as safely possible from Santa Barbara. They were just visiting for the weekend. A quick trip before their baby comes. Brian’s sister is 37 (now 38-ish?) weeks pregnant. Mom was not supposed to die yet. We thought there would be more time. My God, there was supposed to be more time. She was supposed to at least meet her grandson…her daughter’s first child.

They came to take her away after Brian’s sister and her husband made it there and everyone was able to see her one last time.
The guys were creepy to me. Very nice, but creepy. I think one of them had eyeliner on. I think.

Brian drove me home and packed a bag so he could stay at the house with Grandma for the night. I knew none of us would really get any sleep.
The days that followed were up and down. Brian went with his sister, her husband and Grandma to the funeral home and church to make arrangements. There was so much to decide. So many choices to make. He said its like planning a wedding except #1 you have no time and #2 it totally sucks. Yes, it does totally suck.
He is so grateful for his sister, as she has been the one with the reigns throughout this whole process. There is comfort in having a sibling while having to bury a parent. It feels less ‘alone’.

We spent the next few days talking. Preparing. Reflecting. Processing. Is your suit clean? How do you feel? What do we do with the babies? I need new shoes, nothing fits. Are you OK? What is the weather going to be like? Should we carpool? Focusing mostly on logistics helped push things along, I guess.
Its strange how even though it wasn’t a surprise – she was sick – it is devastating to have her gone. She is no longer here. Its hard to really grasp. I have her cell number in my phone. I recently cleared my text messages and her last text messages to me were erased in the process. Why did I erase them!
I don’t know what the week would have been like without the babies. Our house was still filled with joy and giggles because of these wonderful babies. I thank the Lord for these babies. They are comforting my husband and they don’t even know it. They just love him and kiss him and snuggle him. Thank God for these babies. He is comforting my husband’s aching hearth through these blessed babies. What gifts these children are.

Friday. The day of the funeral came and I don’t know that we slept too well the night before. There was a lot of anxiety, knowing that the funeral was coming.
I have only been to a Catholic church several times before, and each time was for a wedding. This was Brian’s childhood church and school and the place brought back so many memories for him. There were so many people from his childhood. This was, I am sure, both pleasant and painful for him, under the circumstances. The funeral was beautiful. It was wonderful that so many people who loved and respected her – friends, family, colleagues, students, etc. – were there to show their love for her. A lot of people loved her. I know that provided some comfort for Brian. It was nice to hear the wonderful things people said about her. She was their friend, mentor, teacher…She was many things to many people.

The car ride to the graveside service was long. Lots of traffic and emotions quickly welling up. My throat and chest were tight. I offered to drive but Brian said he was fine. I think he needed something to focus on so driving was good.

The graveside service turned out to be tougher that expected. The service itself was actually short and very nice. People stood up and gave their quick tributes to Mom as we stared at her casket. It was a pearly pink. Really beautiful. Brian’s sister did a good job choosing it. It looked like something Mom would like.
The hardest part was walking away after the service. One last touch to her casket. It would be the last time. It seemed so final. After that day, it would be in the ground and we would never see her again. I worried about Brian. I wanted to give him space as he said ‘goodbye’ but I still wanted to be by his side to support him. As he walked away from her casket, I thought he would surely lose it. I think he was using everything he had to keep it together. I didn’t want to look at his face. I wanted to give him that privacy in case he wanted it.
I actually lost it when we drove away. We could see her casket as we drove out. It felt like were leaving her there all by herself. I didn’t want her to be alone in the middle of that field. Of course I knew better. It was only her body. But it still felt wrong to drive off without her. I didn’t want her to feel lonely.

We drove home as fast as possible to change and pick up the babies to quickly take them to the gathering at Grandma’s house. We knew it would be hard – right around their bedtime – but it was important to bring the babies. Mom would want them there to cheer everyone up.
Thankfully, my sister had them all dressed and ready to go. Thank God for Pam. The babies were well received at the house and although Zachary had a mini-meltdown (he doesn’t like crowds) they did great. They were wonderful. They bring so much joy. My parents agreed to take them for the night, which allowed us to spend some time with closest friends into the night.
It was as if we didn’t want the night to end. Because if we went to bed, then tomorrow would come. And tomorrow is quieter. No crowds of people to keep things moving and busy. It would be quiet enough for the heaviness to really sink in. They say that it’s the days and weeks after the funeral that get really tough. Everyone has gone home and moved on with their lives. The world goes back to business as usual. We are in that zone right now and I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I am watching Brian as he tries to process the reality of it all. He spends a lot of his time being quiet and keeping busy. I assume he is thinking about things. Or maybe thinking about nothing and trying to keep it that way. Either way, I know that he is hurting and I am hurting for him. I also hurt for his sister who is days away from giving birth to her first child. She has to somehow allow herself to grieve the loss of her mother as she also gets into gear to welcome a new life into hers.
It all seems so unfair. Although there would be no good time to be sick and die, it seemed that we somehow thought there would be a more appropriate time. Not this soon. Not yet. She was supposed make it while we waited for a miracle. A cure would suddenly be discovered and make it all right. She wasn’t supposed to actually die.
But the mercy in all of this is that she is no longer in pain. In the end she struggled and thankfully was prescribed morphine as needed to help ease the pain. I wish I knew what she was thinking in those final moments. If she was somehow relieved to know that it was finally ok to let go. That is what I hope. I hope that she felt at ease knowing that her suffering would soon end and that she touched many people. We are proud of her for doing the best she could to fight. She gave her very best. We are grateful that she got to hold our babies and even kiss them when they were in the NICU and right after they came home. I know it hurt her very deeply that she would not be able to be around for them like she had dreamed.
She always told me in her text messages to kiss their toes for her. I’ll continue to kiss them for her everyday. At least until they stop letting me. Hopefully, they keep letting me do it for a long time.