I went to a funeral this morning. In fact, I sang at the funeral with my sister. She was a lovely woman from our church (and the mom to one of my sister's close friends); she passed away from a stroke and she also had cancer.
As I sat there, listening to the words of affection that her children spoke, I couldn't help but to think about my mom. And the inevitable fate that awaits us. Since my mom's diagnosis, funerals haven't been the same for me. I look at things differently; I know that death is lurking around the corner. I mourn for the person whose funeral I'm attending, but I also mourn for my mom as I reflect on the emotional loss that I've gone through and anticipate the physical loss I will, in time, endure. I can't help but to think about how my mom's funeral will be. Will there be a lot of people in attendance? Who will come to honor her and to support our family? Who will give the eulogy? Will I have to speak? Will we laugh at the funny memories of Mom or will we be too stricken with grief to smile? What songs will we sing? Will I have to sing? I can't sing at my mother's funeral. Even if it was her request before she was sick. (Sorry Chris-I think you're going solo).
I feel the pain that the family members are experiencing at these funerals because I am experiencing that same pain. I have been experiencing this pain over and over for the past 4 years. I have gone through the emotional loss of my mother, but her physical presence won't allow me to move on. In a conversation with my sister the other day, I made a comment that I almost envy those who have lost their parent quickly in a stroke or accident. It isn't dragging on for an indefinite amount of time as they sit back and watch someone they love deteriorate for months or years on end; they aren't constantly wondering, month after month, year after year, is this going to be it? I'm not saying that their loss is any easier. A loss is a loss; it's hard any way it comes. But the heart cannot begin heal while it is still in battle.
I feel guilty for having these thoughts. More times than not, I don't know if I am quite ready for that physical loss yet. I don't know if I ever will be. It will be hard and it will be another kind of pain to work through. People will say to enjoy what time we have left; enjoy my moments with her. I do feel comfort in hugging her, stroking her hair, telling her that I love her, but how can I say that I enjoy watching my mom struggle and lose her abilities everyday? There is very little left of my mother. Every now and then I may get a smile out of her, but for the most part, she hardly responds to any of my interactions with her and it is another reminder of everything I've lost.
I love my mother. I love her and miss her so much it hurts. I don't know that the pain will ever go away; the battle may end but the scars will remain. But knowing that she is free from pain and from the prison of her body may be the first step to start healing from the nightmare that dementia has brought into my life.