My mom passed away early Tuesday morning just as she had prayed. I was relieved when I learned the news as I had spent the last nine months at her bedside. Each morning I would walk in with coffee and magazines and she would say “dame-it, I’m still here”. We would laugh, cry, and settle into our usual routine. We would talk about the royal wedding, talk about the grandchildren, and waste away the day listening to her favorite music.
As her death doula, it felt natural that we would talk about her wants and needs but even harder was looking back at all the things I didn’t ask her. Now that she has been gone for four years, I have a slew of questions to ask, stories to share, and memories to laugh about. Somedays I find myself aching to call her with my daily update and adolescent drama she is missing. “There is nothing wrong with you for dying,” suggests Shoshana Berger in A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death. She describes “our ultimate purpose isn’t so much to help you die as it is to free up as much life as possible until you do.” I wish I could ask mom about heaven? Tell me about St. Peter. Did Helen and Amy meet her at the gates? Can she hear all the political drama she is so fortunate to have missed?
Grieving mom has been different than grieving Helen or Amy-Hampton, she was my best friend, the best grandmother, and super at making me feel validated and empowered. As a therapist, I gravitate towards feminist theory. I find myself empowering others, advocating for the underserved, and speaking with a passion for equality. The only feminist I ever knew was my mom. She was unstated, empathic, and strategic and everything Southern. Mom taught me to help those who need help, listen carefully when someone is speaking, and lead with grace.
As the maternal leader of the family, I find myself surrounded by men and I want to ask mom, why did you leave me here? Between my fathers and brothers, I am stuck. In the only regrets, we had as a family was the Dr. had not been honest with us, stating “your mom has 6 months at most, you need to go to the beach and stay as long as you can”. We would have spent six months in the Lowcountry, laughing, crying, celebrating the children, listening to James Taylor, and drinking a lot of wine!
A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death by BJ Miller &, Shoshana Berger