It has been just over 3 months since the trip to the VI with all Mary’s family in attendance. Her passing on in that place was all she lived on for in the last 6 months of life. She attended to minute details of travel for her siblings and went on extended and personally exhausting shopping trips in November just to have the right combination of elements for one last big shindig.
She rallied back from near death in October, continued on with chemo just to make it to her last birthday and two weeks later to her last moments.
When one has been the 24 hour a day companion and caregiver for over two years :
checking to see if she is in pain
Checking to see if she has remembered to eat and hydrate
checking every hour or so at night to see if she is still breathing
checking in on her from work, when a friend count not be there
encouraging her to go out and walk or swim with you
encouraging her to have family down for get togethers
transitioning from a strong woman to one who needs help with the smallest of the activities of daily life
helping with her walker for a few months and finally
transitioning to a wheel chair when she could no longer get around on her own.
When one has done all that, then overnight has none of those opportunities any more, there is an endless void in life that has no replacement.
Friends do ask how things are going. But there is not an answer to that question. Things are not “ going “ ; there is a long slow process of finding meaning .
Death is not an oddity, it is reality. No one gets out alive, and no one goes with company. It is a singularly personal and lonely process for the one who dies.
Those in attendance are a help and witness to the most intimate act in life, shuffling off this mortal coil – as the Bard said. But it is quite final for the person.
Those left behind have rituals:
burial in a family plot
visiting the cemetery on holidays
But those rituals are just that. Theater to make us feel better about loss. It is temporary and not fulfilling.
Instead those of us left behind have to be satisfied with memories.
There is a lot of work to be done after a spouse’s death, and it takes time. At 3 months I am almost finished with most of it. Paying bills, getting certifications, cancelling accounts, changing title for property etc. That “death work” helps pass the time, but it also brings up memories both good and bad.
A few friends help pass the time, and talk openly and honestly about life 2.0.
Most people are afraid of who this new person is, and afraid that they might catch whatever it is , that is the lonely passage after the death of a spouse.
One can tell quickly who one’s real friends are at this point and who has been a acquaintance.
While nothing will fill the void, these friends help life move at a new and different pace and direction.
I realize this is not an uplifting tale, but maybe it will help someone else with their passage.
And maybe in another 3 or 6 or 12 months, the trail will have more of an upward trajectory.
Happy Spring to all, hope your transitions in life are smooth.