My mother died a week ago today and I've been living in what I can only describe as GriefTime. The hours have taken on a peculiar fluidity which sometimes feels like it has been forever ago and at other moments seems like it just happened. Long past memory blends and blurs with current time and recent events to form a sort of hazy melange in my mental subduction zone. I griefwalk through the motions of the day, sometimes feeling very focused and then, at other times, realizing I've put the coffee cup in the refrigerator and the cream in the dishwasher.
It's a time like no other that I've experienced, even though I have experienced death before. I think it is because my life and my mother's were deeply enmeshed, by her deliberate choice and intent from the moment of my birth. For her, the boundaries between mother and daughter were a permeable membrane and having grown up with that as my default normal, I never truly understood the extent to which the threads of her life were woven through every aspect of my life, forming an integral part of the design of my existence. For most of her life, until dementia began to confuse her, I knew what she wanted, without her having to articulate it and would simply provide it for her. When, late in her life, I sometimes failed to anticipate and provide, she would say in frustration, "You always used to know what I wanted!!!" And I did.
For my entire life, I was Eileene's daughter, first and foremost. Even when I was a wife and a mother myself, I was always Eileene's daughter first. Now her death is forcing me to reidentify myself. While I will never cease to be her daughter, it is no longer the first and most prominent of identifiers. I do not really know who I am anymore. Her death striped me of the one
identity that I have carried since the day I was born. I am having to
ask the question, "Who am I?"
I believe that I will find the answer, but for now all I can see and feel is the hole where the identity once was.
Oddly, the hardest thing so far has been going online and realizing
that I can use the money in her account that I always so carefully
preserved for her bills for myself if I choose. I was always excruciatingly careful to keep her funds separate from mine, even when I was in need and to think now that that
what is there, even if it isn't a lot, is mine to use is disturbing in ways I never anticipated or even considered. It somehow feels like I'm doing something wrong, even when the use is for her last bills and expenses. The sense of duty, of doing the right thing by my mother, is deep within the marrow of my soul. I suspect it will take some time before I understand on a soul-level that I did the right thing until the very end and now there is a new right thing to be done.
The other thing that I am noticing is that the emotional elements of grief are being superseded by genuine physical pain. This part of grief hurts, not just intellectually or emotionally, but deep within my chest cavity, within my bones and tendons and muscles.
Mourning is hard work, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
So I griefwalk, reminding myself that "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." This is my time to weep and mourn, but I have to believe that there will come again a time to laugh and dance.