My dad died on Mother’s Day 12 years ago. He always hated the holiday so it seemed fitting that he left mom on that day. The year was 2001, the same year as 9-11, and I remember how mom cried because she didn’t have the comfort of her mate to share the grief of such a horrible tragedy.
For the first two years after dad died, mom was understandably very sad. She felt like she “hadn’t done enough” to help dad in his battle with cancer. The truth is just the opposite. She was the most amazing, patient and loving caregiver. Whether she got up in the middle of the night to make him a milkshake or help him off the floor after a fall, she was there for him.
For over 40 years, dad was pretty tough on mom. She desperately wanted to please him and often her efforts were not good enough. She loved being a mom and was arguably, one of the best there has been.
The reality of facing death really changed the way dad treated mom. He became more loving and treated her with a tenderness she had never known before. He would hold her hand in the middle of the night and tell her when he was scared. As he got closer to his death, mom half-jokingly said “Why in the hell did you wait so long to treat me like this?”
Twelve years later, mom is enjoying a very social and vibrant life. For her 75th Birthday, she went to Alaska and took a helicopter ride to the top of a glacier. She loves to spend time with her family (especially her granddaughter), cook and have people over for dinner. She is funny and loves to play cards and dominoes. She is a pistol.
But she is lonely. Having a lot of friends and staying busy doesn’t replace losing your husband. You miss the comfort of sharing your day over dinner and waking up together. After years of having another person there, she was suddenly alone.
We all die a little bit every day. Death is inevitable. But as mom gets older, she continues to lose more friends. Last week, one of her best friends passed away leaving her with yet another hole in her heart. And she had to grieve alone, as she has done for the last 12 years.
Loneliness kills—a little at a time. But the accumulation can result in being “ready” to let go before your time. Mom has told me that she is ready. I think she secretly wishes she would just fall asleep one night and not wake up in this world. The desire to hold my dad’s hand again is a powerful pull.
It makes me sad beyond words…but who am I to judge?