Many of my friends and I are at the age where we are experiencing the death of our parents. Obviously, some people have dealt with this life changing event earlier in their lives and although we all deal with loss differently, the age we are at the time of the loss is an important factor. Life looks different at different ages and that holds true for how we view this loss. I also have friends dealing with sick and aging parents. That adds a whole other layer of feelings. The amount of distance we are away from the parent, time of life, other commitments, prior relationships and many other things affect how we feel. There might be situations where one is closer geographically or emotionally. There may be other persons who stand between an adult child and a parent. The factor list is endless; relationships, interactions with caretakers, finances, contact (or not,) distance both physically and more. Dear ones are providing hands on care. Some look on from afar, fearful of every phone call. Some are right there, dealing with the issues on a minute by minute basis. Some are feeling guilty for not being there enough or feeling guilty for not having enough patience, time, effort. Regardless of the degree of contact, there are emotions to be dealt with.
My Mom was born in 1924. I learned a lot about her life over the years but there are still things I wish I had asked her and told her. I lost my Mom in 2004 and now my Dad is very disabled physically. His memory is not what it once was. So much for asking about past history. In a way, I was lucky. I had the time, opportunity and presence of mind to say some what I wanted to say and hear what I wanted to hear from each one of them. Even so, it was and still is a trying time. I really thought that once I had been through it, I would know just what to say to those who are now going through it. In fact, when my mother died, if someone would share with me how their loss of a parent affected them, it did seem to help me. But I am not so sure anymore. No words can express and no amount of sympathy can take away the particular pain that is involved. I believe that it is a very personal loss that is different for everyone. How can I profess to tell any one person that I know how they feel? In all honesty, I cannot. I can only say, that I have been though something similar and that I know that at some level it hurts, even if you think it won’t.
There are times when you cannot be thinking about that hurt as life for the living does get in the way. (Maybe thankfully.) Except out of the blue, something seemingly odd will trigger a thought that is so potent; you hardly know how to respond. Sometimes there may be tears, even laughter or simply ….nostalgia. I think often about my parents’ younger years. I mean the years when they were raising my sister and me. Mom and Dad were busy, enjoying their lives and I imagine they were just like me when I was at that stage in my life, living and not thinking about living. That is the time I like to reminisce and remember them. Years spent in sunny Florida, picnicking, boating, visiting relatives, working, cooking, home repairing and most of all, raising us.
Raising us was a lot bigger job than I realized at the time. Perhaps what I want to say to them most of all is that now I know how hard it must have been. Maybe the fear comes partly from not saying that enough. You know, giving them enough credit. After all, did we come with directions? They did the best they could with what they had to work with and knew to do. So, I will say it again, “Thanks Mom and Dad for all you did for us!!” When my mother lay dying, I worried about things I needed to say to her. I thanked her for being a great parent. Maybe I did not have to worry about saying it because what she said back was, “it was my pleasure.”