Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

4 05 2012

Spring,  with its warmer temperatures and singing birds and open windows, is nearly always a time of personal awakening for me as well.  It happens every year.  But for some reason this year it feels like more than waking up from a few months of winter.  This year I feel like I’m coming up and stretching from five years of slumber, back to the time before my husband died.  Waking up after a long dormancy is overall, I think, a good thing. Outside of a restlessness and a sense of wanting more of nearly everything. More time, more talk, more sensation, more contact, just MORE. I suppose that’s a normal response to a long time of taking care of business.

I don’t want it to sound like I’ve been merely existing for the last five years. It hasn’t been that at all. It’s just that the focus has been so strongly on other things. About the time my son graduated from college two years ago was when things started getting more difficult with my in-laws, in terms of health and mobility – although, thankfully, it didn’t get medically bad until last year. It was really during the last three or four months of her life that things got hard for my mother-in-law. At the time it seemed endless. In retrospect, and looking at what other people have dealt with in end-of-life issues, it went fairly quickly.

I was with her a lot towards the end. She was in and out of sleep, and often confused – while she remembered who everyone was, she didn’t always remember when they had been in to see her, and she lost track of time. I spent a lot of time answering the same questions. And sometimes she’d realize that she had asked me the same question more than once, and she’d get upset with herself, and I’d tell her that it was okay, I didn’t mind talking to her about anything she wanted to talk about, even if it was the same things. I could make her smile, and I could comfort her when she was afraid. Because at the end, she was confused about where she was, and she was frightened. She didn’t understand that she had been in the hospital for weeks. I could hold her in my arms and tell her what had happened, and why, and feel the tension leave her. She told me, in so many words, “If you’re saying it, I know it’s true.” The depth of her trust in me, and her willingness to place herself completely in my hands, is a gift I will never forget. I treasure those hours that I sat at her bedside, watching and listening to her sleep. And I was able to tell her, over and over, that I loved her.

I lost my husband very suddenly, one moment here and the next just… gone. And I still think that’s the exit of choice, if you can get it; live until you’re done, and then go. But being with my mother-in-law for those last weeks and months of her life were life-changing for me, and removed yet another layer of mystery from death. It isn’t always pretty in the way we usually think of it, but there can be beauty and grace to it, and a sense of things working as they should. I have been blessed (I mean this sincerely) in feeling the beginnings of life in my own body, and also in witnessing the end of life. I know why people are frightened, but I can tell them that they don’t need to be.

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