Grief is a strange, strange thing. I don’t think of myself as particularly sentimental and yet some deaths have hit me harder in life than others.
Losing friends who have died young, for example, always feels wrong; that they’ve been cheated some how. And about two years ago, when my sweet cat, Saphir, died, I found myself unexpectedly consumed with grief. She was the sweetest cat I’d ever had and was pure love. When she died at 15 – a good run for a cat – I cried and I miss her still.
And now the tides have turned again for earlier this month, my mother died. Contrary to what society tells us we should feel, I am relieved.
She had had a stroke and could no longer speak. She was in pain during her last weeks and yet only agreed to pain medications in her final days. Her passing is a blessing because her body had failed her, long ago, and the fight had become more than she could muster.
But if I am honest, the relief is also in knowing that she can never again hurt me or my siblings, intentionally or otherwise.
To be sure, she had her good qualities and could be funny and kind when it suited her. She was exceptionally talented as a writer and artist and had a delightful sense of whimsy. But she could also be incredibly spiteful. I suspect she’d endured more hurt in her childhood than any of us could know, but she also continued a legacy that should have been stopped.
In the weeks before she died, after she’d lost the ability to speak or write, I began reminding myself that I’d never get another call from her. I’d never get another text, nor a note in the mail. Nothing more would be coming from her. So on the day that I learned of her passing, it was still a shock, but not one I hadn’t thought a great deal about. In fact, she’d survived so many illnesses over the years that I’d nearly duped myself into believing she would never die. We used to joke that she’d “outlive the sun.” And then she didn’t.
On the morning of Friday, December 16th, 2016, in her 86th year, my mother quietly – and I hope painlessly – passed away in Northern California. I want to think that she went to “sleep with the faeries at the bottom of the garden” as she had started saying in recent months. She was a complicated person because she’d say delightful things like that and then turn around and suggest that I was lucky I’d never had children. Many times she told me that being a mother was the worst thing that could happen to a woman.
And yet, I know she loved us in her own way. I feel sad that she wasn’t able to have a different life – one without children – or to have been able to continue her early career in publishing, which she often remembered fondly. Times were different, I suppose. Sadly, she didn’t have the same opportunities that women in my family enjoy today.
Despite everything, she gave birth to five independent and resilient children who have gone on to lead interesting, full lives. She did her best and encouraged us to explore the world and experience life. I will certainly do my best to remember the good things about my mother, for there are many. I will not, however, ever deny the bad; to do so would be a lie and a disservice to my existence and memory.
But I will move on and be glad that she is in a better place. I would not wish a lifetime of misery on anyone and I’m glad hers has finally come to a close. I wish her peace and closure. I wish her love.