My mother died a few weeks before Christmas, 1990, after a very long illness. During this time she was often in a lot of pain - physically and emotionally. But her greatest pain was her fear of death. She seldom shared her fears with me. We just pretended they didn't exist and that she would live forever. On the day she died, she went through surgery, and as I walked her to the elevator I told her: "I'll see you later .... I love you" -- all the words we take for granted.
When I finally saw Mother after the surgery, she looked different to me - her eyes very glassy. She didn't complain, didn't ask for her usual items -- her rosary, her medals, her teeth; these were important to Mom. I was able to talk to her; she would nod with a simple yes or no. It was not long before Mother died. I remember is so clearly -- no warning, no gasping for air -- just a blissful giving up of her spirit. Having watched Mother suffer so much, her death was a peaceful and consoling experience for me.
At the funeral I felt such a painful void, but I disguised it very well. I was a hostess to friends and family, rather than a bereaved daughter. I greeted everyone, comforted everyone. All the while I was feeling a tremendous pain in my heart. You see, I can't cry. My heart cries, but there are never tears. Many years ago my father died a sudden tragic death. In retrospect, I think it was then that I turned off everything related to expressing emotional pain. Discussing my feelings is not a natural thing for me to be able to do. I hope, through the grace of God, that I can in someway help others who also have a hard time expressing and dealing with their emotions. I still don't understand the "why" of it all. But, I have faith that God will always take care of me and help me through the painful grief.
In the days that followed the funeral I initially felt relieved because I knew Mom was no longer suffering. But I soon began to question whether I was relieved for her sake or for my own. Guilt soon set in and went on for several months. I was not dealing with my feelings and soon shut myself off from day to day events. I went to the doctor and was treated for depression. I realize now that during my Mom's illness, I took on a lot of her emotional and physical suffering which soon consumed me and resulted in my depression and physical illness.
Throughout my painful struggles, I continued to persevere in prayer. I have a great devotion to the rosary (as my Mom did). It is a prayer that gives me great joy. I also found consolation sitting with our Lord in the Adoration Chapel. So much peace came when sitting in the presence of the Lord. I was able to place everything at His feet and leave it with Him. Family and friends were very helpful. A listening ear can be so comforting.
It's been almost a year since Mother's death. I sometimes still reach for the phone to call her, then I realize that she's not with me anymore, but with the Lord.
As I write I'm still struggling, trying to discover where I am in all of this. I still feel the void and I am still unable to cry. But through all of my pain and struggle, I know God is near me, carrying me along the way.
I recently heard a very dear priest say something that deeply touched me. He remarked that perhaps God holds a tiny piece of my broken heart with Him in Heaven, so that only in Heaven, as I gaze at God, will I be able to love totally -- perfectly. Only then will my "void" be filled.
My prayers go to all of you who have lost a parent.