Novel NewMy recurring thought? I can’t believe my mother is dead

[I remember] many years ago the daughter of a longtime family friend died. And, as is normally the case, myself and other members of our family, were present at the church for the funeral service.
Some years later, the matriarch (she was preceded by her husband a few years earlier) of the family succumbed to an undisclosed illness. Shocking news to all who knew her. She and my mother worked together for many years at a now defunct downtown healthcare institution and enjoyed a decades-old friendship.
She was a woman that I would occasionally meet as I went about my business downtown, and being a family friend, and especially one close to my mother, she would sit me down and counsel me (in a sort of motherly way) about life and living… and how I should live what, to her—I would say puritanical, Christian way of thinking—is a perfect way of living. “No fornication, be happily married” and so on, as far as her interpretation of morality goes.
Yes, she was bold enough to venture into areas where my—I guess prudish—mother refused to. I always respectfully listened to that lady. She was like my other mother. Call our recurring meetings and conversations wise counseling, she always on my lifestyle: how I was living, my civil status, and how to lead, or at least live, a better life, meaning living according to religious doctrine, “no fornication” and so on.
I always listened intently to that woman; she truly believed everything she told me, and I respectfully accepted her wise, motherly counsel.
Yes, when I received a phone call one day to say that other mother had died, it was difficult to believe, especially because the last time I saw her she seemed to be in fine shape and good health. Nevertheless, I prepared myself to go to another funeral. And was there, along with members of her family on the scheduled day.
As funerals are wont to be, it was another sombre occasion; but it was imperative that I be there. She was like family.
The sadness of that woman’s death was compounded when, within two years of that lady’s passing, her other daughter, and eldest of the siblings, suddenly died. Damn, another funeral? I really wasn’t ready; I was developing funeral fatigue. Once again I was forced to don my funeral clothes and be present for another celebration of the life of the daughter of a recently departed mother and family friend.
Imagine, three consecutive deaths in the same family. All that remains in that particular family’s sibling pool are three sons and their offspring.
I had become very familiar with the matter of death and its inevitability over the years, but with death visiting that particular family so regularly, it made me begin to question whether it was important that I be present at the funerals of all the people I’ve come to know over the years.
Honestly, I got tired of attending funerals; worse than that I felt like I was getting closer and closer to death, as if I was encouraging it. In fact, I would tell people that I’d either be late for, or miss, my own funeral. So I began to devise a way to keep death at bay.
My plan was to evade death, the “Grim reaper” as some refer to it. I figured by standing at the entrance—rather than be seated inside the church, at the front as it were—I would be able to make a mad dash out if death should try and get close to me.
So at subsequent funerals, as the minister conducted his going home service for another departed soul, my mind was racing, constructing images of the grim reaper extending his extraordinarily long, bloody index finger, beckoning me. And me playing coy, scoping him (or is it her?) askance; pretending not to know he’s trying to get my attention.
That way, when he, or she, comes pointing at me uttering and repeating that terse, ominous, phrase, “You’re next; come in and be seated. Pretending not to hear, he would tap me on the shoulder and look me straight in the eyes, repeating, “Yes, you’re next…”
No questions about an extension to complete unfinished business. It would be a realization that the grim weeper doesn’t grant (life) extensions.
I’m not quite ready to deal with [my] death just yet is my thinking…
Wishful thinking indeed… With each passing of someone I know the world is unfolding as it should. That point resonated recently with my own mother. Life and chronology were catching up to her. And I began to ponder on the reality of the inevitable. Mother’s imminent death, acceptance and funeral arrangements became the conversation.
As her physical condition and health slowly and visibly declined, I would watch as she desperately and feebly try (to will herself some strength), meaning back to good health and her younger self when she was able to do normal, everyday things… like holding a spoon, fork, a cup of tea… She loved to do stuff. And In her mind, as sharp – or otherwise — as it was on any given day, no one could do the things she wanted done better than she. Strength was dissipating, hands at times slightly shaking, all the while saying what became a mantra, “I’m not the Maude I used to be.”
“You’re right,” I would tell her. “You’re 91, 92, 93 years-old. ” And I would assist her.
Telling signs that a once independent, vibrant, always-finding-something-to-do mother we knew was truly “getting down.” I’m not talking dancing here, but she also did a lot of that during her long life.
Seemingly unable now to fathom her new reality, and prepare to “go home,” (“going home” became another of her daily mantras. At first it was her real home in LaSalle, then it became her place of birth, then eventually that eternal place, the eternal spiritual home. Her calling the names of her long and more recent dearly departed was evidence of that.
At times, despite failing health, it seemed like my [our] mother would live forever as she battled imminent death, but never managing to deliver a punch. [Oh yes, even in her latter years she sometimes threatened to punch, hit, and I would dare her. It was all in good fun. “Her mind was willing…”] Then, it seemed like suddenly (yet not unexpectedly) there she was late one Saturday afternoon, mouth agape, looking to the heavens, as if asking for, and expecting another flow of oxygen…
The rehearsal was over; it was time to end the conversation and transform words into action over the next week. The reality truly set in and the reminiscing began, and continued… I reminded my siblings that in keeping with the chronological and generational order, we are next. It was our turn to get in line.
Days and time elapsed. Then there she was for all to see, asleep in her eternal bed, looking younger than ever.
And while in the church for the celebration of her life I found myself seated immediately left of her eternal bed. Hmmm… Wonder if it was a pre-planned arrangement and deal between my siblings and our mother, or the grim reaper, to have me seated there, as we fell in line. Death, after all, doesn’t respect [age’s] chronological order.
And as we bid mother another farewell in our individual way, I also promised that I would meet her on the other side of life – the netherworld – but hastened to remind her not anytime soon, if I have my way.
Because as awful as this bad, mad, mad world may be, there’s so much more I have (want) to do before my ‘best before date’ arrives. And I must willingly go with the grim reaper whenever he beckons.