On October 26, my mother passed away. She was 80 years old, but had been relatively healthy and independent. Her sudden death left my family in shock.
My father had passed away nearly 23 years ago from cancer. Not a day had gone by that my mother didn’t feel a deep sense of loss. My parents’ wedding anniversary was particularly hard. My mother would say, “I can’t go through one more anniversary without your father.” Mind you, she said that every year since his death. So when my brother told me Mom passed away, after the initial shock, I said, “Do you know what day it is? It’s Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary.”
I can’t imagine a more poetic way to die. For the first time in over two decades, my mother joined my father to celebrate their special day.
My mother could be somewhat demonstrative, and she wasn’t done yet. During her graveside funeral, a butterfly alighted on her coffin. The crisp autumn weather was typical for Philadelphia this time of year. What wasn’t typical, even non-existent, are butterflies in Philly the end of October. We’re convinced it was a sign from my mother letting us know she’s free, transformed and beautiful.
I won’t wish my mother to “rest in peace” only because she always preferred activity. She said more than once, “Rest is for the dead.” Eternal downtime would not be her idea of a good Heaven. No, I imagine her kicking up mischief and having a ball. I just hope she stays out of trouble.
There’s more I could say and perhaps I will another time. For now, it’s difficult to write so I’ll end with a poem my mother found meaningful and adapted to her own circumstances. We found it copied in her notebook. The words undoubtedly affirmed her after hearing too many well-meaning but clueless comments about her continued grieving for my dad:
Please don’t ask me if I’m over it yet. I’ll never be over it. Please, don’t tell me he’s in a better place. He isn’t here with me. Please don’t say at least he isn’t suffering. I haven’t come to terms with why he had to suffer at all.
Please don’t tell me you know how I feel unless you have lost a husband. Please don’t ask me if I feel better. Bereavement isn’t a condition that clears up. Please don’t tell me at least you had him for 38 years. What year would you choose for your husband to die?
Please don’t tell me God never gives us more than we can bear. Please just say you are sorry. Please just say you remember my husband, if you do. Please just let me talk about my Sol. Please just let me cry.
* The original poem was most likely penned by Rita Moran. Having been re-copied many times, the identity of the real author is not entirely clear.