Monday, February 1, 2010

Another Death

They keep happening, these deaths, time after time, as if there’s an exhaustible supply of people who can die and leave us, when we really don’t want to be left. It’s . . . unpleasant. Let’s go with that.

Last night I received notice of the death of a good and valuable Internet friend. I’d met her in person a few years ago, stayed at her house with a few friends from the same group. It’s a large group though, and we never manage to all be in the same place at the same time. But we manage small get-togethers here or there, this coast or that coast or Australia, or right in the middle of the U.S. Nothing like a diverse group of people for perspective. I heard about this particular friend’s death from the blog of a gentleman in England who’d found out by checking the friend’s blog. She’d been silent lately, and we knew she’d been having health issues. She’s older, a tiny wisp of a woman with a fabulous outlook on life and she was dearly loved. I notified others, and from coast to coast there’s shock. It’s not that we didn’t expect her to die . . . eventually. We just thought we’d have more notice. Or we thought she’d keep going on like she always has, sending out delightful emails, blogging about coffee and cooking, and just being there for us whenever we needed a cheerful word.

Just a couple of weeks ago I’d received an encouraging note from her. Her name was Dee, and here is her blog:

Life goes too fast, and while we’re busy managing our schedules, which are filled with all the things we ought to do, and planning our futures, which are filled with things we want to do, life keeps going. If we don’t pay attention, the future becomes now and we’re still thinking of the things we ought to do, and the things we want to do keep getting pushed ahead to a future we may never see.

I’m still coming to terms with losing my Mom. Was it only in October that I saw her and she seemed almost herself? Weaker and not eating, but still getting up, still eating a bite here or there, still wanting us to know she was fine and normal. Then in November my sister and my brother and I all showed up at her bedside together, the three of us, a very uncommon sight, and her eyes lit up, her entire face awash in the light that comes from knowing one’s most precious possessions are present and well, and she laughed. She was happy, though so close to death, and that one moment would be one of her last lucid moments before she went to sleep for the last time.

We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, my mom and I. But she loved me with a passion reserved only for mothers and their children, and no matter what I chose to do with my life, she thought I was perfect. While I saw someone who spent so much time floundering, never finishing anything I started, my Mom saw someone who was fabulous. None of this was clear to me growing up, during the years when I was always wondering where she was and why she didn’t come to see me more often, but I know it now.

And people loved my Mom. She had a wide circle of friends and relatives who loved her, and she knew how lucky she was. She insisted on looking at the positive side of things, no matter how it would infuriate me, and she insisted on being upbeat and cheerful, refusing to let the past sabotage the present.

There were things in her past she could have used as an excuse for sorrow, but she refused, adamantly, to do so. It just wasn’t going to happen.

My mom would have loved Dee. My Mom loved everyone. Years after leaving my first husband Mom would still keep asking how he was, though she loved my next two husbands just as much. But she’d known the first one for a long time, and so she kept asking. Until I finally told her that he’d hurt me, so I wasn’t as fond of him. Then she wasn't either.

She always asked after my Dad, how he was, and she also asked about my younger half-brother, who she wasn’t related to, and especially my older half-sister, who she’d stepmothered for a time. She asked about my ex-in-laws, and she was happy when everyone was doing well. All these people mattered to her, people she’d divorced when I was so young I can’t remember them together, people she’d never met, people she’d met only briefly. Always.

Like Dee. People mattered to Dee, people and relationships and sharing pieces of our lives, which is often the best thing we can do. Just being there, listening and hearing what we’re saying, even when it seems we aren’t being heard by anyone else.

I miss my Mom, and I miss Dee, and I miss Stew, all of whom taught me to do what I want to do now, because tomorrow might be too late. Especially Stew taught me that, for he never had enough time to do what he wanted, and now it’s time for me to finish what he started. Will you listen to me along the way?

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