Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Grief and Going On

I've been trying to reenter my life this week, but so far, I'm just poking at it a lot. It's been a while, in many ways, since my days have been what might be called normal. In addition to our quick holiday jaunt to Florida and recent trip up to Western New York, we're just finishing up moving our household for the second time in four months; my year of political campaigning ended abruptly on November 7th, leaving me free to either return to my former employment or to try something new (or both!); and right in the midst of all these changes, I lost my mother, and I'm still struggling to cope with that shock.

In a way, I think I've been enjoying the luxury of being able to resist whatever will become my life's new normal. The election is over, I'm done traveling for now, we're in the new house. Yet, I'm maybe dragging out the continuing effort to settle into the new house. Yesterday I had a carpenter over to deal with a few issues, and he might be back for more before the week is over. I've been spending a lot of time getting the rooms presentable, arranged and box-free. It's all stuff that needs to be done, but none of it is all that urgent. I could be busying myself with more quotidian tasks. But as long as I can avoid the day-to-day-ness of life, I can go without fully realizing how many millions of times a day my mother was a part my life, even from the distance that was between us -- from the quick phone calls and emails to the promise of being able to share a thought or a bit of news with her the next time we talked, to knowing that more than anyone, she could be depended on to appreciate certain things -- stories from a recent trip, a great passage from a good book, my photos (especially my Friday Creatures -- I think she was my biggest fan). It hasn't sunk in yet that she's gone, and I'm not sure I want it to.

I've experienced the grief in fits and starts, as I worked to win an election, and then to move a household. It's probably a good thing that I didn't even have the option to dwell on the huge gaping void that suddenly appeared in my life, especially early on, because even now, it's hard to look directly at that beast. Those first days were rough -- the only time I've ever experienced heartburn before was when I was pregnant and it wasn't that bad, but I had such a severe case that first day that my throat stayed raw and sore for much of the week. And even in a crowded room I felt unbelievably lonely, like Van Morrison's motherless child. I'm past that part now. Getting together with my extended family, the patience of my immediate family and the unbelievable support from friends -- all these things have let me know, in no uncertain terms, that I am clearly not alone and further, that a lot of people know what a great woman my mother was.

I've been accumulating a little stack of articles, photos and discs since my mother died -- the news story, editorial and obit from my hometown paper, a song my sister's friend recorded in memory of our mother, photos from the trip my parents were enjoying when another driver cut their travels short, and so on -- but I don't have the strength to go there yet. The pile can wait a bit longer. I have read the sympathy cards, though, and am grateful to everyone who has reached out, through snail mail and email, in comments, and in person. You've lifted me up. (An example of the disconnect, though, is that when I read one particular comment in a sympathy card, my first thought was "How nice. Mom's going to love hearing that." Heh -- while reading a card sent because of my mother's death, I'm thinking I should call her so I can read it to her. Oops.)

One thing I've done this week in an effort to revisit familiar pleasures is try to get caught up with my fellow bloggers. You've all been sitting on the back burner while I've been occupied with other things and I've missed some pretty big moments in some of your lives. In those cases, I'm very sorry I wasn't there for you.

In particular, I was horrified to learn of the death of Barbara Jamie Bearden Kilpatrick, an intelligent and talented writer I knew until recently only as GAC. She blogged with her husband, AT, and a few other East Tennesseans at Atomictumor. I've spent the past few days catching up on AT's play-by-play of BJ's brief illness, and am still trying to wrap my head around the idea that a twenty-something mother of two could mysteriously go from perfectly healthy to dead in just over seventeen days, and there was nothing modern medicine could do to keep it from happpening. I am in awe of AT's openness and composure as he continues to blog his way through the whole experience.

I've also been thinking of another local family lately, the Mendonsas, as they have passed the first anniversary of their teenage daughter's death in a car wreck. Andy, Hadrienne's father, also blogged through that experience, and before that, through the months after his son, Asher, had a devastating accident.

As you're working out your holiday budget this year, you might consider remembering these families as they move into the future and work at connecting with the wonderful things in life, even while struggling to cope with its challenges. One of the things that I found in those first few days after my mother's accident was how much more often I was noticing the beautiful things in the world -- sometimes in a bittersweet way, but those breathtaking moments were jumping out at me more than usual. AT noted a similar thing on his blog a number of times, so perhaps it's not an uncommon part of the process. I'm happy to take that part of my grief and run with it. It is something I can cling to through the rough spots -- my own little box of rain even.

Anyway, I'm rambling now, so somebody better go fetch the dart gun. I am still trying to get back to a regular schedule of posting. Now that I'm home to stay, that should get a bit more doable. The blog may not return to its former glory any time soon, though -- I've been taking a break from politics and as we settle into the new neighborhood I may have new and different things on my mind. Maybe I'll even take you along as I explore.
If you're in a giving mood...

Hadrienne Kathleen Mendonsa Memorial Fund

Barbara J. Kilpatrick Memorial Fund (or use the Paypal link on Atomictumor)


eeek said...

P.S. It was you that made the difference and put brought the Senate to the Democrats. We owe you!

eeek said...

It'll take time, Alice. If there's anything I can do to help, please feel free to ask. You've been there for me in the past and I'll never forget that.

Beep said...

Dear Alice,

I posted a comment already but I think I messed it up...

I just wanted you to know how much you are in my thoughts and prayers right now, that I admire you tremendously for how well you are coping, and to offer you my super deluxe air bed if you want to take a break and come out to California :)

Please let me know if there is anything I can do that would be a tangible help.

much love,


DD said...

that blank comment was supposed to have a "less than" "3" heart. oh well. the computer has soundly trounced my attempt at affection.