In a Better Place
That’s where people go when they die. At least that’s what most people say about someone who has passed on, “they’re in a better place.” From my Christian perspective, I know it’s true but that doesn’t make me feel any better. Does it for anyone? It doesn’t relieve the reality that my loved one is gone from life on this earth. However many years that I have left here, I will never see that person again. Never hear that distinct voice. Never again see old eyes crinkled shut in laughter with tears of mirth trickling at the corners.
My mother died this past Saturday. Though she had been in a nursing home for several years and appeared to have no clue that I was even in this world, I knew where she was and that she was still drawing breath. She was alive and there was still the faintest possibility that she might surface from that haze brought on by Alzheimer’s. In my mind, there was that minute hope that she might open her eyes and recognize me and in that hope that I might have one last opportunity to say I love you. I tried to get to her before that last moment. My brother had called me to say the care staff wasn’t giving her much longer but that she would be with us a few more days. As I made the seven hour trip to be with her, he called again to say that she wouldn’t make it through the day. The rest of that trip I drove at speeds that would have ended in arrest had I been caught. I wanted so much to be there with her at the end, holding her hand as she passed from this life to the next. Closure to a long illness, I suppose. Maybe, if she had any awareness, that she might take comfort knowing her son, who loved her so much, was with her at the end. Maybe in my subconscious, there was some selfish part of me that wanted see if there was a brief glimpse of heaven in that physical connection as she moved on. I hope she saw light. I hope there was an angel there to take her by the hand and lead her to it. I guess that I’ll never know. I was about an hour too late.
I got to see my mother when she was at the funeral home. After we had taken care of the business of death, they dressed her and put her in the casket. It seemed odd that the woman who raised me, cared for me and loved me didn’t much resemble the person lying in that box. Her physical structure had deteriorated quite a bit while in the nursing home and it was obvious how frail she had become. I guess it was the makeup they put on her at the end. There were no wrinkles, no age spots, and no marks of time that the joys and sorrows of life leave on a person. It was almost as if they had placed a store mannequin that looked a little bit like my mother, in that box. I will say that she appeared to be at peace. Almost as if, she was just sleeping.
The service at her long time church was nice. Pastor Caldwell preached words designed to lift us up and give us hope in the eternal peace that is my mother’s rest. A man sang How Great Thou Art with power and feeling. In all, I felt good about her passing. She was old and tired and ready, of that I am sure. I shed no tears through all of this until I witnessed the hearse rolling slowly into the cemetery. It occurred to me that this was mother’s last ride and tears welled up in my eyes. The physical reality that she would be in the cold earth, never again to be seen in this world.
I have brothers and sisters. I have family. I do not discount the love and comfort we can take in each other. I am not alone in this world. Even still, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that I am an orphan. The loss of my mother seems great to me. I don’t know why it should but it does none the less. The range of emotions that I have felt in the last week seems odd to me. At first there was sadness. Then, resignation and joy for my mother in her passing, she is in a better place. I went back to work and pressed on but I notice that I’m still sad and a little angry. The sadness I understand but not the anger. I’m just ill with people now. I want to be alone now more than ever. I guess these things pass in time. I suppose mourning isn’t something that just comes and goes in a few days.
Honestly, I’m not so sure that any of us will ever be quite the same again. How can we be when a part of who we are has died? I feel changed in some way. I just hope that I have the strength and courage to make that change into something positive during the rest of my time, here on earth.
Rest in peace Mother.
We all love you.