I thought that losing Caitlin taught me all there was to know about love and loss and “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” but with my mother newly departed from this earth, I’m reminded that life is constantly teaching, and my faulty human self always has more to learn.
The practical side of my nature has often been bewildered by the fact that after someone’s death, the people closest to them seem to develop amnesia regarding who in fact the deceased had been. Before my father died, my mother, who had been divorced from him, always referred to him as “your father.” After death, he became good old “Dad.”
I saw this happen with others. Friends and the parents they’d never really gotten along with. Exes. Although I certainly agreed with recognizing the good in a person, I was perplexed by the all-over coloring in of the negative.
For four months now, we knew our mother could pass at anytime, but it was only during her last days, when she was definitely in transition, that the alchemic something happened inside my own brain. We were finally allowed to visit her in hospice, where she lay uncommunicative, and as I held her hand, I could not see anything but the positive in her, and wondered why on earth I’d ever been bothered by the negative.
Later, I sat at my desk to write her obituary. One’s final day is such a punctuation mark, the arc of the life laid out, with all the good (and the generally understandable reasons for the not-so-good) there in plain sight, forcing us to consider, what really matters in the end?
Some people seem to know what really matters from birth. Caitlin was one. And I have siblings and nieces and nephews who are others.
My niece Jillian summed up “what matters” very well in this Instagram post, and I would like to share it.
This light crossed over today, on her way home to join the ancestors ✨
In March, as covid came to Maine, we got a few hours notice that the facility she was receiving end of life care at would close to visitors for the foreseeable future. I was the only one who could drop everything and get there that day to be with her. I asked her what she wanted from the outside world. Pink lipstick she said. That sums up her personality exactly; truly a Sagittarius, bucking all social norms, always looking for an adventure…
So I bought pink lipstick and soup from a local deli and spent a few hours with my Nana while I could. I was afraid I might never get to see her again. I tried not to show it. She told me that day that she had never thought she’d die, but she realized now that it was happening.
For the last three months we have only been able to see her through a glass door, talking on speakerphone. Every single time was painful. I kept feeling like she was holding tight, waiting to go. Waiting for covid to pass first.
Then on Wednesday, because she had transitioned, I was able to go see her. After months of seeing that building as an impenetrable fortress, I found myself casually walking through it’s doors. I put on my medical gown, my mask, and went to find my grandmother.
What an honor, unexpected relief and joy to be with her as she died. To massage her wrinkled hands, her shoulders, her arms. I traced her face with my fingers the way she traced mine as a child, something I always loved, something that feels so gentle and loving. .
Earlier that day I had an ancestral healing session. One of the many exchanges I’m in the midst of for the ancestral healing practitioner training I’m in. In the session my ancestors showed me the way she was being held, surrounded by love, nurtured… They showed me the healing taking place between her and her many years deceased mother. They showed me how well received she would be.
Humans are complex. We have as many faults as we have strengths. But at the core, this is a woman who lived and died with her heart intact. And for the example, I’m truly grateful.
These past months, I’ve been grateful to have siblings who are people of good character. When our mother went on hospice care in April, and with all of us unable to visit, we began lighting candles and texting photos of them to each other every night at 8pm. It became a lovely ritual––the buzz of the phones, the screens full of light. I shall miss it.