” For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
“Where there is love there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi
“A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.” Thomas Carlyle
Many years ago, the movie Forrest Gump debuted. For those of us who saw this enchanting film, enough cannot be said about the endless displays of humanity between Forrest and the cast of characters with whom he interacted. So many stand out, but for this article, I would like to illuminate one in particular: It is the scene between Sally Field and Tom Hanks in which she reveals she is dying and states “death is a part of life.” Yes, Ms. Field could not have been more eloquent and straightforward. This ending of our life on earth is unavoidable no matter how much we deny which we must do until it is our time.
My mother passed away on February 4, 2015. We were extremely close, and it was my mother and father who provided me with a foundation which cultivated optimism, a strong work ethic and an openness to the possibilities. As a result, I maintain this more than ever in the post middle-age part of my life.
I think of my mother everyday and whisper a loving hello when I pass by her picture. Quite frankly, I thought I would take her death much harder than I did. Being a typical therapist, I wondered what might be wrong with me that I had not. My anticipation around eventually losing her evoked images of angst and grief, but surprisingly, I am at peace with her death. When I share my questions about this with close friends and colleagues, they tell me that I had a complete life with my mother and the feelings I experience are a response to this. As much as I miss her, I believe they are correct.
My mother was like a lioness. She could be ferocious but, oh, so lionhearted with her magnanimity and love for people especially children and animals. At times, she could be blunt and direct which was off putting to some. Others took it in stride and appreciated her no-nonsense style. She had a beautiful, youthful appearance and a vibrant personality, and when she was dying, she said to me that she knew she was 82 but a young 82. My mother did not wish to die, but she did not continue to fight when it was her time. The last two weeks of her life were spent in our home, and with the magnificent assistance of Hospice, a gift to humanity, my husband, sister and family, I took care of my mother. We worked as a team to prevent as little suffering and pain as possible, and my mother reassured me the drugs were doing their magic keeping her comfortable. Our two Shih Tzus and her little Yorkie made my mother smile, and she experienced much laughter and joy during those arduous days. I was with her when she took her last breath, and I cannot be more thankful for helping her in the final leg of her earthly journey. Now as I write, I see my mother’s smile and feel a mix of emotion but believe she is with me in some form. I will forever hold her in my heart and am confident we will be reunited some day.
Being a human being is truly a strange experience. We are born and must strongly attach to become healthy, nurturing individuals. Subsequently, we become more separate while remaining close to those who love and sustain us. Always in the back of our minds and eventually moving to the forefront, we come to terms with the ultimate truth of the mortality of loved ones as well as ourselves. As quoted above, to everything there is a season, and it is the natural order of things for a parent to die before a child. In fact, the reverse is inconceivable, and for those who tragically experience such a loss, and understandingly so, find it to be irreconcilable. Thankfully such a loss is not a common occurrence. Nevertheless, no matter how old or how ill, it is never easy to say goodbye. Indeed, we must subject ourselves to this strange experience of attachment and loss in order to live a splendid, joyful and robust life.