by Teri Clifford
Every now and then a piece comes out of our writing workshop that is the best thing I’ve read all week. Teri runs the workshops with me, and our prompt this week was “write about love.”
Both professionally and personally, I have been a part of numerous conversations on the meaning of love lately. They left me reflecting on an experience over ten years ago that I had with my mom as she lay dying at my house. My mother and father had eloped when they were in their late teens. It was wartime and I imagine a sense of love and urgency was in the air, as well as a lack of sufficient funds for a formal wedding. My parents were married for nearly 40 years when my dad died at 56 years old. Fifty-six is young by current standards.
My mom went on to live until she was 82 years old, at least we think that she was somewhere in that age range. She didn’t believe she should tell her age or that one should ask a woman. True to form, every important paper we looked after her death had a different birth year. This was before hospital births or electronic records.
Mom never remarried and she gave various reasons for this over the years. Reasons like she never loved anyone else after my father. Or that men of her age were too controlling, and she never wanted to be under anyone’s thumb. As far as I can remember, she rarely if ever dated after my dad died.
Decades later, she lay dying in a hospital bed at my house and over time she slipped into sleeping more and more, and finally she didn’t have any waking states at all anymore.
One day I was sitting with her and telling her that everything was all right and that we would always love her and would always miss her, but if she was ready, it would be OK to let go. I’m not sure where I’d heard this type of thing but I was very sincere about it. Perhaps since both my dad and my older sister had died at home, I had a bit more thought and practice on the process than some. I decided to keep talking.
Growing more prolific and specific in the space of the deep quiet of a deathbed, I suggested that many family members would be waiting for her, in fact. I began to list the members of our family who had passed on, such as her mom whom she loved very much, and her dad although I did remember that he died when she was young. The father of 9 children, he called all the girls “Sis,” suggesting he hadn’t bothered to remember their names.
Without slowing down I reminded her of her beloved sisters, Aunt Mary and Aunt Reece who would be waiting as well, as Uncle Bud and Uncle George. At this point I must have been in a welcome party hallucination inviting the dead from the worlds beyond. Finally saving the best for last, I recalled for her that her dear daughter Gina would be waiting, as would her only husband. Dad would be waiting to welcome her, too, after 30 years of absence.
At this suggestion, my mother opened her eyes, sat up and grabbed my arm with surprising strength and declared, “I don’t want him to be there!”
Startled out of party planning reverie and more than a little shocked I said, “OK, he doesn’t have to be there.” I glanced anxiously around the empty room hoping someone else had witnessed this.
After this declaration, my mother lay back down closed her eyes again and returned to her coma like state. I slowly recovered and offered a compromise of optimism for her peace of mind and soul (as I believed at the time).
“Well Mom”, I said, “Dad’s been dead a long time and I think its possible he may have changed and been growing over the years. You might enjoy meeting him again.”
With no apparent response from mom, I was finally quiet.
Now more that ten years later I still wonder about my parents love. I don’t believe my mom ever stopped loving him. But I’m pretty sure she had not forgiven him for dying young and leaving her either.
Teri Clifford is a masters level trained hypnotherapist and change coach with a private practice on Queen Anne. She loves to help her clients free themselves of limiting beliefs, habits and lifestyles. Teri believes that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood and live your life fully.
contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) 282 5676