The last two months have been a bit of a blur. My mother-in-law, who had been fighting stage-four kidney cancer made the decision after Christmas to end treatment. She carefully weighed the pros and cons, and with her healthcare team concluded that due to the fast rate in which the cancer was spreading in her lungs that cessation of chemo made sense.
I cannot contemplate making that decision. She did so with incredible grace. Bill, Ella and I flew down to Florida at the beginning of February so we could spend a final ‘good’ weekend with her… and it was good! We ate lemon meringue pie, and spoke openly about what she had meant to us.
I also spent time with her talking about her funeral Mass (Alice belonged to Holy Family RCC in Port St. Lucie), and we selected music and scripture. She confessed to me that she wanted to make sure this was all set so that none of her children would be faced with making these decisions. She shared that she was saddled with this responsibility after the sudden death of her own father, and that she wanted to spare her family from this difficult task. She was fretting about small details – and we began to talk a bit about ‘letting go of it all” and the how difficult that was. Part of the problem, we agreed, is she also knew that of anyone, she would do the best job of planning just about anything! Including her own funeral! We both recognized that same streak in the other. When we’re good, we are very good… and it is hard to let go and allow others to do what needs to be done.
When we left, Ella and I did so knowing it would be the last time we would see her. The plan was that Bill would try to get down there prior to her passing, and that once services were set, we’d join him.
All of that took place just a few weeks later – and much sooner than any of us expected.
Now, each of us is left with an Alice-sized hole in our lives, and the understanding that our work at this point is to move forward and to live. And so, I return to the theme I’ve chosen for this year – a year of Jubilee. I do so seeing this through a different lens. Jubilee, for me, has been an intentional removal of some of the things that block me from true joy. It’s been about developing better patterns of health and life, focusing on the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. It’s been about letting go of the bad… and embracing what is good. One of the things I’ve leaned from Alice, however, is just how difficult it is to let go of what is good… or what I’m good at as well.
It’s Easter season – the great 50 days that lead up to Pentecost. I enter this time with renewed hope and energy on my Jubilee intentions – but have realized the need to include a few that open me up to letting others be ‘good’ at what I’m good at. Life’s short, but regardless of whether it lasts for 40 more years, or 40 more days, living with intention just about my own needs, but in tune with those around me is part of my declaring jubilee.
I’m enjoying reading your blog Karen. You are a really good writer, you know that? I’m reading your entries as I wait for updated photos to load onto my Mon Soleil website. This post literally took my breath away. At first glance I thought you were talking about some other Mother-in-Law I didn’t know. But no, you are writing about Mom!
That entire time was a burr for me as well. I do know I was in denial that she was going to leave this world. Thanks for being there with her and helping her with her funeral arrangements. After you left, I tried to persuade her to go to the beach with me, but instead she pinned me down to work out the details for Dad’s funeral! I think it was easier for both of us not to say good-bye. Once you acknowledge that, how do you stop crying and find a way to go on?
Deb… I don’t think there are any is any set way to move forward, which is part of what makes it so difficult. I do know that part of it is allowing the tears and at the same time allowing ourselves to feel joy again. A good friend just remind me that grief and joy can be felt simultaneously… something that I needed to hear in this Covid season.
Thanks for reading! Recent posts are often oriented toward my work and congregations, but every so often something else slips in there.
Happy New Year to us all!