In the balmy, festive last days before Christmas, 2015, a friend I’d known for 30 years died of liver cancer. We had visited Lyall/Ella and I remember sitting with her. She said, “My liver’s shot, everything’s shot.” I said, “I’m so sorry.” Ella said, “It only hurts when I cry.” I said, “Then, I’ll cry for you.” And we had a hug and bit of a weep together.
She died two days later.
When I returned to the city, I went to visit with her wife. We sat with Ella’s ashes, looking at old photos between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Therefore, this year began on a sombre note and a special light had gone back to the cosmos.
Today is St. Patrick’s Day in New Zealand. March 17th is also the birthday of my brother’s first wife, the irreplaceable Tanya, mother of Anthony and Daniel. Tanya died fourteen years ago, in the hospital after becoming suddenly paralysed and ending up in Intensive Care.
Every year, when St. Paddy’s day comes around, I think of Tanya. I missed her a lot today. I think it was finding the right pictures to go with my blog post and remembering her so clearly that I wept for her again. The hardest thing about getting older is losing people. It’s really tough. However I think the acceptance comes around more quickly as well.
On June 25 of this year, my family will be gathering for the first year anniversary of our family matriarch’s passing. We are going to do the unveiling of Ma’s tombstone, and we’ll probably, let’s face it, drink quite a lot. We will definitely eat a lot and we’ll remember Ma, in all her glory, we’ll repeat the stories. We’ll talk about what was funny, and what we miss the most. We may even dance “The Gnu!”
I rationalise that it is because of these circumstances that I’ve been feeling weepy lately. I’ve been letting a little rain fall to release the sadness. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the love for those we’ve loved and lost. All this has brought me to thinking about loss. About how it has the power to absolutely stop us and the world in its tracks.
My brother tells me that when he rang to give me the news of Ma’s death, I swore like a sailor repeatedly throughout the next five minutes of our conversation, yet I have no memory of it.
In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her book, On Death and Dying, postulated a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death.
The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
The model was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients, according to Wikipedia.
‘Although in later years, Kübler-Ross claimed these stages do not necessarily come in order, nor are all stages experienced by all patients.
She stated, however, that a person always experiences at least two of the stages.
Often, people experience several stages in a “roller coaster” effect—switching between two or more stages, returning to one or more several times before working through it. Women are more likely than men to experience all five stages.’
I’ve definitely gone through the stages of denial and bargaining. After that, I think I skipped a couple of stages and jumped straight to acceptance. I really do feel a great soothing sense of peace in my soul around my mother’s passing and I think the whole family would agree.
Mum had become very fearful about dying in her later years, afraid she would suffer, and she was forcibly resistant to the idea of going into care. After suffering five strokes in the five years before her death, however her quality of life was going downhill and her mind wasn’t what it once had been.
Yet, despite all her anxiety, and her frailty, she managed to stay in her own home with dad looking after her right to the end. Ma really did “pass away peacefully in her sleep.” Her ending was such a comfort for us all, especially my father. Though it was hard for him, he knew it really was for the best. We can remember her the right way. So I do feel a great sense of acceptance and that helps.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.
Who are you missing today?
Yvette K. Carol
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” ~ Seuss
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~ Mae West
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