Part of Life
On Father's Day 1989 my family gathered here to disperse our father's ashes into the Atlantic. The location was a summer cottage in Maine where we'd vacationed as a family for almost forty years.
My father had shot himself the November before. The worst form of rejection for a wife I should think. My mother literally never forgave him for this punishing act.
Years later- my mother informed me, my father never wanted his ashes to be placed in the Atlantic. He had wanted to be placed in the river locally at the site of our last family home. Apparently since his death was untimely and at his own hand, my mother decided all bets were off. She had us throw him in the ocean. Her rationale being that the river ultimately feeds into there .
Seventeen years later as my mom lay dying from lung cancer, our running joke was whether or not she would greet my father in the afterlife. Whether or not she'd embrace him and move forward with him in eternity.
I'd come into the room and ask, "So what's the verdict? Are you taking him back?"
She'd reply resolutely, "No".
Her illness progressed rapidly. There was a seven month period of time after diagnosis before her death. Almost all of it confined to bed with a broken hip from metastasized cancer. I'm afraid she had much too much time to think during those long, slow, fast months.
About six months into it I walked in and asked, " So are you gonna take Dad back?"
"Maybe" she said.
The day she died was indescribable. She fought it with everything she had. She spent most of the day unconscious after awakening from her deathdream.
I had awakened to her mumbling monotone over the baby moniter, "I don't wanna go home, I don't wanna go home...".
When I went into her room she told me she'd dreamed her father and grandfather had come to get her and that I shared the dream with her. I was scared witless.
I was still running my daycare. I hurried to get dressed before my clients arrived. People came and went throughout the morning to visit her while I worked. She lapsed into unconsciousness by noon. I summoned everyone to come and get their children.
She and I spent the afternoon together alone. She never roused.
My sister - in- laws joined me in the vigil later that evening. One, a nurse who encouraged me with the morphine, which was given liberally but appropriate to the situation.
The four of us sat together for hours. Easing my mother's pain and waiting.
There's no way to tell you nicely. My mother had spent the day drowning in her own fluids. Death had been making itself known all day.
It was a surprise when my mother's eyes flew open at eleven p.m. She couldn't speak. She clasped my hands and poured herself into me with her eyes. My sister - in -laws later said they felt she was looking at me with the deepest expression of love. I can only say it felt nothing like that to me. After her comment in the morning about me accompanying her in her death dream I felt as if she were trying to rip my soul out of me and take it with her.
I knew she was leaving but reisisting with all her might. I tried telling her it was okay to go, that I loved her and that she was brave and that it was alright for her to leave. Her eyes continued to beseech me. I didn't know what to say next. I was using the guidelines hospice gave me. They weren't working. This is the point where my sister- in - laws believed she was looking at me so lovingly.
The sounds emanating from her body told me she was in great distress. There was no turning back.
I probably breathed in . I'm not sure. What I said next surprised me as much as it did my company.
I looked my mother in the eyes for the last time and said, "If you're going to catch up to Dad you better get going- he has seventeen years on you, you know.
I remember the gasp my sister - in - laws let out.
My mother closed her eyes and left. September 30, 2005.
On Thursday July 24, 2008 we will scatter my mother's ashes from a plane over this Connecticut River Valley she loved so much.
My brother half jokingly suggested we should throw her ashes off the bridge into the river where our dad wanted to be.
I think the poor woman suffered enough. We'll do what she asked.