When a member of our community died two years ago, it was a major blow. He had been a cornerstone of our tiny enclave of tight-knit and aging-in-place families. His wife had moved him to their daughter’s home eighty-five miles away. During the last months of his life, the two moms lovingly tended to him until his passing. The daughter continued caring for her exhausted eighty-two-year old mother until she was strong enough to return home.
A year later I sent the daughter an email:
It’s been some time since we corresponded.
I wanted to let you know your dad has been on my mind a lot recently. Today, as you know, marks the one-year anniversary of his passing. I must tell you, the time went by slowly. Yes, I seem to think of your father enough that I had to actually go to that memorial site to check the year of his passing. Can you believe that? It feels like two years! For me, this signifies what a presence he was in our lives and how much I miss him.
I hope you enjoyed Mother’s Day with your mom, this weekend.
I plan to call your mom today and depending on how the day goes, may take her out to dinner. Waiting to hear from David whether he’s coming home from travel or not–could be just girls’ night out.
She responded with the following message. (To preserve the family’s privacy, their names have been changed.)
Hi! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I haven’t checked my e-mails for a week or so …. Yes, it is hard to believe that a year has gone by since Dad passed away. In a way it seems like yesterday and in other ways it seems like he’s been gone forever. I miss him so much, Brenda. I didn’t realize just how much of a “force” he was in my life until he was gone. I still find myself crying when I think about him or see his picture or a piece of paper with his neat printing on it.
On Tuesday, I went to the cemetery with some flowers, polished his headstone, and trimmed all around it as well. (Dad was always so meticulous and I know that he would appreciate it if he could look down and see that his resting place was looking good.) I had a good long cry, but it was good to get it out of my system. I don’t think I will ever stop grieving though. A man came up to me while I was there who had just lost his wife two months ago. I could tell he wanted to talk so we had a nice chat. His grief was so new, but it helped me realize just how far I have come in the “process” and that time alone is the ultimate healer. As we were talking, I couldn’t help but notice that he actually resembled Dad a bit. There is also a very sweet man who I believe is from Guatemala, who is a grounds keeper at the cemetery. “Juan” doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak any Spanish, but over the year we have developed a nice friendship. We try to communicate with each other and have fun doing so. He is always so kind to me and he saw me on Tuesday and drove his little cart over to where I was at my Dad’s “place.” He always welcomes me with a big hug, which I usually always need. So all in all, it was a nice visit.
Yes, I did enjoy spending Mother’s Day with Mom. Melissa [daughter] and I drove up on Saturday night and then took Mom to church on Sunday. John [brother] came up in the afternoon and we had a nice tri-tip dinner. It’s kind of sad…the first time we all had a meal at Mom’s house after Dad died, we all sat where we normally sat and it was so hard to look over and see Dad’s empty seat at the head of the table. John asked, “Should I sit here (at Dad’s seat)?” I said, “Yes, John, I think that would be nice.” (Not that John is now the “head of the family” (ha) but it was better than seeing an empty seat, if you know what I mean.)
Thank you again for remembering Dad and for conveying your love for him. It makes me feel good to know that you cared about him and enjoyed him so much.
Take care and I hope to see you soon!
Brenda Avadian’s Postscript: A few weeks after my mother died–it was hard enough that she died on April Fool’s Day (April 1, 1993)–in a moment of mindlessness, I went over to the card aisle to look for a nice Mother’s Day card. Then it hit me! I no longer have a mother! I tried to hold back the rush of emotions that overcame me right there in that aisle. I started to walk away and then realized; oh, wait, I have a mother-in-law. Sadly, she too perished in 2005 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on her birthday and buried five months later on my husband’s birthday.
Please treasure the time you have with your mom; she won’t be here forever.