With death, one often shares thoughts and memories of a decedent to hang onto their love. Remembrances of past experiences comfort you with a soft embrace and perhaps, warm your heart or bring a ticklish smile to your face. For me, little signs and occurrences have been sparking my more positive memories as of late. Negative weight my mind harbors has been slowing wedged out of the way like a plow, leaving behind a glistening, fresh road of positive recollections to relish instead.
My dad passed away in March 2011 and my mother died suddenly in April 2013. Having had severe medical ailments for most of their adult lives, their deaths were not surprising but they were unexpected. At first, my feelings were of relief for each of them. Relief, you ask? Yes, relief.
My father was wasting away in a nursing home, sharing a room with two other nursing home residents. In my opinion, one of the most unfortunate ways to spend your last moments here on Earth. The smell of the nursing home: a bizarre mixture of sanitation, fecal matter, urine, and cafeteria food is strong enough to make my hairs bristle. The visions of countless old people sitting, biding their time until the Angel of Death swoops in to take their last breath is disheartening as you wonder what their life stories are that led them to this “waiting room”. The relentless sounds of incessant beeps from a multitude of alarms emanates from room after room after room waiting for the over-stressed staff to come and hit the reset button for the umpteenth time.
My mother, on the contrary, was still living independently, albeit in a senior housing facility. Despite a life filled with codependency and unhealthy relationships, the final years my mother lived were empowering to her on many different levels. Instead of wasting away in a trapped room, my mother had a social circle in her apartment building and despite using a scooter to maneuver around, she had suddenly become the most active she may possibly have ever been. Her apartment was a time capsule when my husband and I walked in with my half-sister (*that* is another blog in and of itself) to take care of my mother’s affairs post-death. The radio was still playing in the living room, set to the oldies station my mother was so fond of and used to sing terribly off-key to. The dining room light remained on, with light filtering and highlighting the notepad with her blood sugar results she posted the morning of her death. Her nearly empty tea cup sat cold next to the pen she used to keep track of those aforementioned diabetic readings. My mother had plans to return home. She never did.
Despite a very dysfunctional life, the life I grew up with is *MY* life. For all the horrible memories I retain, from the searing childhood abuse from my mother and the pressure to be that perfect child from my father; my experiences molded me into the person I became. See Not All Mothers Are Created Alike and I Miss My Dad.
Last year I posted about Forgiveness. Would I be able to forgive my parents for the behavior and treatment they doled out from the moment they moved in with my young family in late 2003, through my cancer battle in 2007-2008 while pregnant with my third child, to the ensuing years up until their respective deaths? What has happened in a year’s time, you ask?
Alas, I have not completely forgiven or have I been able to resolve all of my conflicting inner-most feelings about my parents. While my anger and more so, my disappointment, has lessened with the passage of another 365 days; my ability to completely absolve the words and actions of my parents has not been entirely fruitful. However, I choose to focus not on the negative feelings that reside within me and instead I find myself carrying out acts that implement the more positive acts of each of my parents. Instead of letting the harboring weight hold me down, little and effortless acts appear in my weekly routines that allows me to pass along the warm memories of my parents to my young children.
My kitchen has lately embraced the smells of recipes that my mom used to make for me; dishes so warm and *huggy* that my children are now enveloped in Grandma’s love. Recently, I was compelled to make a spinach lasagna so I drove to the grocery store for the very ingredients that will meshed together a fond memory of my childhood into a full bellies and hearts of my own family. We talked about Grandma that night.
My boss’s mother-in-law saved a special piece of her homemade South African fruitcake post-holiday after hearing my fond recollections of my dad having a love for fruitcake; an odd trait that was passed along to me. As I savored the small piece of the holiday delight, each morsel helped navigate my brain waves into the cistern of retrospect and suddenly, it was as if my dad was there enjoying a piece with me. My kids laughed at me rolling my eyes into my head in enjoyment of this little treat, but they understood that the indulgence of these ingredients meant far more than my theatrics and taste buds would allow. We talked about Grandpa that day.
My ability to forgive may remain challenged, at least for now. As I embark on my quest to live more authentically in 2015, there is comfort in knowing that with the passage of time, more and more memory *hugs* (as I like to call them) will surface. Each reminiscence will envelope me in the love I know my parents had for me; even when they were most challenged to show it to me. Each recollection will allow me to expand upon my own parenting with my children; offering each of my kids a tidbit of the very threads of my being that is now being woven into their beings. Perhaps, these offerings will equip my young family in their ability to forgive in their years ahead.