The Pain is Exquisite

Thursday night, my mother passed.  

It was a long battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half.  During her final months, as we watched her slow physical decline, I never saw her lose the optimistic, upbeat personality she must have developed long before I was born.  

I have felt the pain of losing a parent and the sadness that comes with it happening too soon.  My confession is that it is more intense than I would have ever imagined.  Whether I had lived 40 years or 400, the pain was always going to be the same.  

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to her that was tear-filled and marked by pangs of sadness.  In it, I listed the 'no more's.'  I have since concluded that I did it out of gratitude I felt for all of the times I was able to enjoy doing those things that unfortunately cease when a loved one is gone.  

I loved her deeply.  

I had the opportunity to spend many a day and night in the final two weeks of her life, at her bedside, trying my feeble best to ease her pain and suffering.  It was never enough and in hindsight, I know that.  

The morning I departed from their home, she was resting in the hospital bed in the living room hooked up to morphine and a bag of liquid nutrition.  I whispered some things near her ear and told her that my 15 years as a parent have taught me that she was good for me as a mother.  I have a deeper appreciation for what she did and what she tried to do.  I also apologized for my imperfections as a caregiver.  Those imperfections of which I'm ashamed have nothing to do with actual imperfect care.  After all, I was always gentle and patient with her in those final weeks.  Instead, my imperfections had to do with the anger and resentment I had felt toward other people in the times of caregiving.  What mother would want to know her son was angry over the way others engaged with her to ease her pain and suffering in her final mortal moments?  

I also felt some anger and a touch of melancholy over the situation and how things happened and I know it didn't help anything.  It wasn't until my final 24 hours in her presence that I finally felt at peace with what was happening, the contributions of all others and the fact that I couldn't fix everything.  Those are life's tender mercies.

I'm grateful for that. 

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.