I wasn't sure if I was going to write about my experience of the last few days or not...but I decided I want to at least try. Maybe I just want to record it for myself - so I don't forget.
* I'm so glad I was able to be there when they finally took my mother off life support. Difficult as it was, I wouldn't have had it any other way. My father, sister, brother and me stood around her bed in a circle and said prayers and our goodbyes. I think it's what she would've wanted...
* I definitely believe in an afterlife. Had a weird, supernatural experience the night my mother died.
* It's strange what you find out about your family at times like these. For example, I just found out that my mother founded the church in her hometown in Puerto Rico when she was about 17! The nearest church was too far a walk for the people where she lived, so she got a petition going...; at the hospital, while waiting for word that my mother had passed, my sister and I stood outside on the roof, and she bummed a cigarette off of someone. I never knew she had ever been a smoker, because she hasn't smoked for over twenty years. But then she told me that when she was younger, and my mom (who was apparently a closet smoker at the time) found out that she smoked, she said Good, now I have someone to smoke with! and they would sneak smokes together! I found out that my sister and brother had both tried pot when they were younger when I told both of them that I smoke pot (a big deal, considering that they were like a second set of parents to me, so telling them is the equivalent of telling my dad. Sort of). Found out some bad stuff, too...
* I discovered that the saying "There is nothing to fear but fear itself" is so true. I cried over the idea of having to pick out something for my mother to be buried in, but when I actually had to go do it, I just did it. I even had a little fun with it, accessorizing and whatnot. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting.
* One should never watch the Star Trek: TNG episodes "The Offspring" and "Sarek" when one has lost someone. Or maybe you should, depending on the effect you're going for. Normally, when I watch "Sarek", I relate to it, because Alzheimer's Disease runs in my family...but this time, I related to it, because in it, we see a Vulcan being ashamed of letting his feelings show, and at the same time being frustrated that he can't communicate his love for his wife and family. As I was watching this episode the day after my mother died, I realized that I was trying too hard to keep a stiff upper lip. Trying too hard to "suck it up and deal" and be strong for other people, when what I needed was a good cry. So I had one. Star Trek as emotional outlet - yet another reason why that show was so awesome.
* I've gotten so much closer to my brother and sister having to make all of these arrangements with them. I went with my brother and dad to make the arrangements at the funeral home (and my bargaining with the funeral director ended up saving us a couple hundred dollars! This surprised my brother), I went with my sister to drop off Mom's clothes, and helped her make a photo collage for the wake. Chipped in money toward expenses. I'm the baby of the family, but I'm not a baby anymore. I think they finally know that now.
* I worry about my dad. He's so lonely, and this whole experience has him so discombobulated. He also feels extremely guilty for a million reasons. I've been doing my best to be there for him, do for him, etc...but it's so hard to listen to him when he talks about missing Mom. I know he needs to do it, and I want him to know I'll be there for him so he can do that...but the feeling is just so big, you know? My parents had a complicated relationship, but they were married for 45 years! I can't even begin to imagine his kind of pain.
* I have the most amazing friends in the whole world. Everyone's been so wonderful - and I have to give Robin extra special credit for being the one to organize it all. A whole bunch of them chipped in for a flower arrangement for my mom's wake, and it was the largest arrangement in the room! Robin, Joanna, Eileen (all the way from Florida!), Adam, Liz, Alex, Jean, Kevin, Katie, Liz#2, Tina, and even Vanessa (my first best friend whom I've known since I was born!) were all at the wake to support me. Jean made some amazing food for my family. I've gotten calls, thank you cards, and flowers from people that I might not see too often, but who really showed their true colors and what good people they are by supporting me when I need them most. I am a lucky person in that I have people in my life who might not be blood-related, but are family just the same.
* The grieving process is weird...I've cried, I've been numb, I've laughed, I've made inappropriate jokes, and I've gotten irrationally angry at my friends for no good reason. I wasn't expecting it to be this way. Then again, who does?
* I was filled with an overwhelming sense of peace on Sunday night. I was talking to my dad trying to comfort him - and I didn't plan what I was saying, it all just sort of came out...but I came around to the fact that my mother wasn't afraid to die. She accepted it. And as sad as we are, we should be a little happy, too, because her suffering is over, and she was ready for it to be over. We sat around marvelling at her strength, and went to bed kind of buoyant and peaceful. I thanked God (and my mom) for giving me the grace to be able to comfort my dad in that way - because he actually went to bed smiling.
* I was a wreck on Monday morning. Knowing that you're seeing someone's physical form for the last time is a big deal. The closing of a casket is very final. And I had no idea that when a casket is closed they have to lower the person into it (because they're propped up for the wake). So, it's like watching someone be buried twice. However, I was glad I closed it with my brother and sister. Robin, Adam, Joanna, and Eileen came to the funeral mass and burial. My father spoke at the funeral mass, and he made a beautiful, impromptu eulogy that was pretty much the hopeful conversation we'd had the night before. So I feel so honored that, in a way, I was able to help my father find his words. I was so tired from crying and so sad. BUT, two things severely cheered me up. 1) Eileen following the wrong funeral procession without realizing it! HA! and 2) the deacon who said the prayers graveside had a VEry SIngsongy VOice that I FOUND VEry FUnny....So on a bright sunny day at St. Charles' Cemetery as a deacon was saying prayers over the coffin of my mother, I was fighting back laughter, biting my lip so hard I almost drew blood! But in my head I was thinking...Mom, you know why I'm laughing! This guy is funny!
Yesterday ended with lunch at my sister's, a little bit of hanging out with friends, a little anger toward my friends (which I expressed to Robin, and she helped me through), and then cleaning to the sounds of bad mid-90s pop music. I don't know when I'll feel normal again, but I know that I have a wonderful, strong family and great friends to get me through it. That, and the strength I inherited from my mom.