Mom DiedDecember 14, 2009 at 9:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 20 Comments
Tags: death, funerals, the Depression
Well, my mother died. Early Sunday morning. She was ninety-three and had needed to die for a long time. Some people still have good lives at ninety-three, but Mom, who’d been in the nursing home in her retirement community for several years, couldn’t see, couldn’t hear, couldn’t walk, and was increasingly demented, which meant, in her case, that she was frightened a lot, and could hardly recognize anybody. Last March one lung filled up with fluid and she was hospitalized; we thought it might kill her then and there, but it didn’t. What the week in the hospital did do is scare her almost to death, so that when she came back to her room at Riddle Village, she was hardly there. Nine and half months later, the rest of her has followed the part that left in March.
It’s very different having someone die by inches than it is when they die quickly. My friend Claire McCormick, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur whom I’d known since high school, died a while back. She got a stress fracture, got pneumonia, and then was gone, at (I think) 83. And I didn’t make it to the funeral. I suspect Claire had no interest in getting hyper-old and helpless. But once in a while it occurs to me to telephone her; part of me just doesn’t get it that she’s gone.
Mom (and Dad before her) died very slowly. And yet I’m always struck by how different a dead body is from a breathing one, even one as radically diminished as my mother’s was, with blood leaking from her deteriorating blood vessels and her body getting thinner and thinner. And Mom’s passing is the end of an entire generation, something that wasn’t true thirteen years ago when Daddy died. So I’m grieving for all of them: Dom and Poppie, (my grandparents), and Dede, my mother’s sister whom I adored. And I’m grieving for my brother Joseph and me, who are now the elders, whatever that means.
My mother’s life was very different from mine. She and Dad grew up during the Depression and suffered from it. Mom once told Emms, my brother’s oldest girl, that the saddest day of her life was the day she graduated from high school, because her education was over. And the working class world she lived her life in didn’t encourage her to change that, even years later when she might have. I sometimes think my thirteen years of graduate education was an attempt to make up for that deprivation, but of course, it didn’t. It may have even have made that deprivation more apparent.
The funeral is Tuesday morning, in Media. My husband, Keith, is a minister, so he’ll do the service. Mom will be buried in Chester Rural Cemetery, next to my father and her parents. Please remember us.