Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Mother Died on Wednesday, January 14

Well, it's happened. I can't say that I didn't expect it, because I did. I have expected it for a long time now as my Mother has been getting sicker and weaker over the past couple of years. But it doesn't matter how long you've been expecting it or bracing yourself for it - when it comes, it's still a horrific experience that you really don't know how to handle - or at least I'm not planning to write any self-help books on the subject any time soon. My sisters and neices and nephews feel the same way. My own children, Tim and Andrea, have been away for the past 15 years - and it's actually been that long since Tim has seen her - Andrea saw her just a couple of years ago so it's a bit different for her. Still, I now that it stung them, even with the time and distance. But a mom is different than a Grandma, no matter how you want to slice it. It's strange, but I'm beginning to see the edges of understanding that there is an invisible umbilicus that connects us all to our mothers - no matter how old we are. And only this most final of partings can sever it. It's the strangest feeling of being orphaned. My father has been gone now since 1972, so in a sense, I guess I really am an orphan now. The photograph at the head of this post is of my mom when she was 16 years old. Isn't that something? Look how young and vibrant she looks. **sigh**

I'm sitting in a motel room in a place called Ardmore, Oklahoma. It's where I grew up until I was 18 and moved away to Texas. It is also the final resting place of my parents and my maternal family My sisters and I have been through the wringer with the final disposition of my mother. There have been two funerals - one in the town where my mother has lived for the past 8 years - the town that my sister and brother-in-law call home, and this town. So, I flew in with Mr. Kristopher on Wednesday after getting the call, and Thursday saw us making funeral arrangements, picking music and caskets and ministers and so forth, and Friday was for making sure that all was right and the body was ready for viewing at the funeral home - of course that first time you see your loved one all decked out in their eternal finery it's quite a shocker. And then Saturday was the first funeral - cried and cried...don't remember much else about the day other than we went back to my sister's house and cooked a big meal. Don't think my sister was too keen on that, but I think she got through it okay. Myself, I needed something familiar and busy to do, and it was good to see everyone together and having food and laughing and talking. One of those "affirmation of life" moments that I know my mother would have approved. Then Sunday was for seeing Kristopher off back to Seattle - which was and has been rough on me - I sure miss him being here with me. He was a huge help, and it was so wonderful just to have him to cuddle up next to. Anyway, we caravaned him to the airport to turn in the rental car on our way to this town, which is about 3 hours south of where we were as the crow flies - we got into town yesterday, got a motel room, got almost no sleep and then we had to get up and go through another funeral. I thought I had cried myself dry at the last one, but hell no....not at all....this one was worse. After having thought about it, I believe I have identified the pivotal moment when it GOT worse too. It was when I saw my cousin who lives in a town called Moore, Oklahoma - and I hadn't seen this dude since I was 12 years old. As soon as I saw him, it was like a switch going off in my head that said, "this is your mother's funeral - she has really died and that is why these old relatives are coming out of the woodwork" and that was kind of like a sucker punch. So there was another 2 hour round of crying. The service was nice and it was good to see the old relative show up and exchange email addresses and so forth, but it was completely exhausting. Then we went out to a restaurant where I had a dry steak with no flavor (not sure it wasn't the day and not the facility...not likely to ever eat there again to find out - but oh well). Then went and bought silk flowers and drove to the graveyard to make new arrangments for the urns which were already in place on my Dad's and Mom's duel gravestone. Then, I went back to the funeral home on my own to say a rosary (not my path, but my mom's and I felt like I owed it to her since she did not have a mass for a service - both sisters have now gone protestant! Though who am I to say anything about THAT?) After the rosary, I had a little more talking to do to my mother while in the presence of the body she occupied for 80 years - then I put some flowers in with her, touched her hands for the last time, closed the coffin lid and felt more tired than I ever thought possible. I decided to do something - ANYTHING to take my mind off of all of this (Six days of NON-STOP fun, lemme tell ya) so I went to see a movie. That stupid "Mall Cop" - which was just the sort of vacant stupidity that I needed. So I did get at least 1.5 hours of respite. After that it was wandering around this little town in the car - wanting something but having no idea what - and wanting nothing at all; feeling lonely, yet not wanting any of the company that was around for me to enjoy - like my sister, brother-in-law or niece, being hungry, yet not wanting anything to eat - and, well, you get the picture.

It is a no win situation, lemme tell ya. So, I wandered around a bit more, found a salad to bring back to my room and decided to blog. So now you're all caught up.

My mother, Theresa Ann Chitwood, died peacefully in her sleep in her own home. My sister, through no small effort, was able to keep the old girl out of a nursing home, which I'm sure she is VERY proud of. I hope she's proud anyway, I am certainly proud of her. I'm not sure I could have done it. It is absolutely CERTAIN that I would not have been able to accomplish that feat from 2500 miles away.

Tomorrow is the interment. One more thing, and then I can say that I saw this all the way to the end of the road. I will throw the handful of dirt - say my final, final goodbyes, and then likely not revisit this town again for a long, long time - if at all.

I'm really hoping to come home sooner than I planned, which is Friday. I really want to be back with my own immediate family and to feel things that seem normal once again. Nothing has felt normal, with the possible exception of the keys on this purple lappy, for the past six days and it's exhausting. Here's a last picture of my mom for this post. She was pretty puny in this picture, but she was an apple of health compared to the way she was in the very end.

This picture was taken during my visit in 2006 and my mom was still walking with her walker then. She had not walked since October of 2007 following a fall and a bad break to her right leg.

I loved that old woman, and I know that her spirit lives on in all of us left behind. I know that she is out of pain. It's those of us who remain here, missing her, that hurt now.

And with that, I bid you goodnight.

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