Friday, October 12, 2012

Death of a Parent : An Exploration of Loss

Five young ones lose the attention, love and guidance of a father. Two are granted permission by their matriarch  to mourn this loss: see it, feel it, and know it in a way that only they can express. Three are deemed too young to be part of this dark experience of a life lost and each feels this separation in a disconnected and distinctly unique way. All five feel the effects of death, regardless of their mourning process and grow to depend more and more on one another in a way that does not even begin to heal the chasm of emotion created. It feels familiar at the moment. Safe. So it lingers.

Jump forward 16 or so years. Youngest sibling encounters an earth shattering moment: a car accident that leaves her life and that of her remaining family forever altered. Endless nights and days spent in hospitals, waiting for a sign of life. When it it appears, months later, it has changed, morphed into something none of them asked to be a part of nor would they for that matter. Now, their slowly healing world revolves around the nonstop care of a mothers desperate, controlling need to mend this broken life. She does so at a cost and is seemingly oblivious to its price. They are family. That is the only reason they need. Nothing else matters.

Enter a woman some 10 or so years later. A woman who was raised in a decidedly different way, not touched by such a degree of loss and sorrow. Yet: she feels it in other ways through the emotional distancing of a mother living a life deemed unfulfilled. These three siblings grow up to be thinkers, independent and opinionated, full of laughter and life. They weathered the roller coaster of their youth to be set free from their home upon growing up and moving away. Such a heady feeling of excitement as there are indeed so many choices to make in life that are completely their own: the joy of knowing this excites! Freedom feels so alive with the possibility of "what now?"

This youngest daughter meets the eldest son whose life has been so utterly and completely removed from her own. She is drawn to his quiet strength and unconditional love in a way that felt like coming home to her. Coming home to herself. This man sees in her the other possibilities that life has to offer and he is intrigued. Filled with the inner knowledge that each has found in the other a strength not fully realized within themselves, they fall in love and awaken to all the wonderful potentiality that engenders. 

She is introduced to his family, as he is to hers. Both see the differences and feel the loss of what might have been missing from their own growing years. They explore this in a way that provides them with a host of new experiences and are willing to make changes along the way. 

But always, the need, the endless aching need to cycle his life around  the life of a sibling no longer in control of her own body and mind. It takes its toll and this man sees a chance to make a change, move on, to discover who he is apart from this artificially close and confining world his mother has created. He breathes deeply into the possibility and newness of this concept. This is something he innately senses is needed in his life. So he leaves, bravely traveling into this unfamiliar ground.

His life ebbs and flows with this woman. She gives him the loving acceptance needed to separate from such a cloying existence all the while instinctively knowing it will suffocate him if he stays. His gift to her is the freedom to explore her artistic dreams and creative pursuits while giving her such safe, loving arms to sense the dark and see the light that draws her forth. What they give to each other is the pure and simple chance to be who they need to be, while knowing that together, all things are possible. Circumstances at times threaten to break apart this deep abiding trust they have developed for one another over the years, but this only helped them each to grow and thrive. Never the same as before, forever changed, always discovering something new in each of them to honor.

Now, the loss of his mother is nearing. She is dying the slow, painful death of lung cancer kept at bay, thankfully,  with ever increasing doses of morphine. The remaining siblings attempt to prevent him from learning of her impending death, as it is their hope to ease their pain by causing it to him. Forbidding him to be part of their loss which in some way unites them in their abhorrence of the person their brother became in life. A pain that was struck so hard and deep to all of them them by his literal distancing in miles from the family fold. Left behind by his actions.  A pain deeply felt. But, choices were made by all involved to do what each sensed was right for them at the time.

Is this pain one that stems from his choices or that of their own path not followed in life, or perhaps a combination of both?  One sibling is no longer here, having succumbed to breast cancer at the oh so young age of 38. She was the mottled and chunky paste that held this grief laden family, however scattered and remote, together. She was the keeper of family memories and the one who saw the fun side of life. The youngest sibling resides in a world all her own that no one truly knows or can understand so projection of personal feelings are often the only way they can navigate her frozen life. The eldest daughter loses a best friend in both her sisters. She feels the non stop pull of her mother to home and a sense of duty that is rife with sorrow and pain all her own. She attempts to provide guidance for them all, being one of the two eldest siblings truly given the chance at very formative ages, to mourn the loss of her father. The middle son is the first to leave the tribe and is forever banished, despite the numerous attempts on his part over the years to reconnect. Perhaps this meant they might have to accept and respect the person he had become, instead of the multiple recriminations of endless dissatisfaction and dashed expectations every time they saw him.  Always wanting more of him and a return to what once was given, in stoic silence, so long ago. Could anyone measure up to such perceived standards of idealization? The youngest son stays close to home, marries, raises a family and makes choices to be the provider of all things to his mother out of his sense of duty and rightness, despite the needs of his growing family. A way of being that sees the world only in black and white and not all the subtle shades of gray that could have given it greater possibility and richness.

Perhaps all is not lost forever between them. Maybe the revelation, when confronted unexpectedly last evening by his siblings in his grieving process,  that a son was almost prevented from saying goodbye to his very complicated relationship with his mother, may one day resonate with them all. Just as he was prevented at the age of 8, by their mother, from saying good bye, in a personal way,  to their father. The irony of this fact ripples. The palpable poignancy of the deep rift that was rendered some 20 or so years a go when this woman breathed new life into a man whose world has been forever changed. He chose a life lived and that is indeed a lesson for so many of us to learn. 

And so, the healing begins, "anew" for this family who not by choice, have come to know most intimately the effects of loss. A resting or pausing in the knowledge that everything is as it needs to be right here, right now, in this moment. Just this, as it is now, at so tender a time is all anyone could ask of the other.  Mutual respect and shared commonality to let each sibling  honor the bittersweet loss of a mother who held them all, at one time or another, in her grief stricken arms after her husband died of cancer so many years a go. Nothing can take that away, nothing.

1 comment:

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.