Knowing a person in life is one thing; coming to know them in death is another. Three and a half years ago my husband died, and two and a half years before that my mother, who lived with the two of us for nine years. In those years together we became a close knit family.
After she passed I much avoided facing the pain of my mother ‘s death only then to realize in Lewis’ passing so closely thereafter that my heart strings had been torn from their moorings and I was adrift and very alone.
I had not been acquainted with a deep grief like this ever before and I had much to learn about the process of mourning. For example, I have come to learn that our mutual life continues even in death and that the two of us actually continue to exist and evolve together in unanticipated ways. My knowing of Lewis–my wonder, gratitude and joy in our love for one another–has been kindled over and over again as I recall the many facets of his personality and uniqueness and turn the pages of our life together in my memory. I cannot help but believe there is some kind of mutuality to this ongoing process.
So, too, the memories of my mother have re-percolated in my mind. Scenes of my childhood, of our sometimes desperate, but mostly calm and wholesome life return to cheer me. With her there was sadness at her death, but little sadness at all in any of the memories I share of her. She was a cheerful and optimistic person, frank and unpretentiously warm, and while she suffered many burdens in her life, she did as much as she could to relieve me of mine.
Yesterday morning I dreamed of the both of them. It was a fragment from a time in our common life about nine years ago. My mother was living with us and in the dream Lewis and I were going about our usual morning activity, planning and sharing our thoughts to decide how we could best help my mother get through some challenges during some part of an ordinary day.
After waking slowly and centering my thoughts it seemed as if I had just opened a door and stepped into another room and they were still nearby. Somehow, it is comforting for me to know that these memories will always be this accessible to my heart: that I can see their faces and hear their voices and enjoy their company yet again. A painful jolt of grief was also felt when I realized how many years have now passed and gone. Fresh. Gone. All in the twinkle of time’s eye. Do you not think they may have come for a timely visitation? Perhaps. One cannot know for certain.
What is for certain is that the three of us shared a deep and positive human companionship together. Our children grown, we had time and a desire to care for my mother and she was always wanting to be helpful to us.
And the three of us came to enjoy even more the Christmas season when Lewis’ mother would come from Cincinnati and the four of us could have a family holiday reunion and spend relaxing time with our children and grandchildren. Peels of laughter and intrigue would be in the air as mother and Agnes shared the daytime and evening hours while Lewis and I were at the office. They could work on personal projects and liked to share their life stories and when we would arrive we would be met with tidbits of vital information on the day and what they had learned and observed with one another.
So it should not be a surprise that I find myself in a dream with my husband that my mother is with us there. These are the two people who have been closest to me and who have loved and cared for me most of my life.
Today would have been my husband’s 69th birthday and I honor him today.