It took a year for my sister’s to divvy up my mom’s personal effects and send some things on to me. Included were the “Memoirs of Elizabeth Hope Copeland Woodlen,” which are two volumes of essays my mother wrote and I edited and published. This morning I pulled out the first volume and began to read, and then it hit me:
There is some irritating noise in my right ear. Groggily, I identify it as the telephone and pick up the receiver by my bed.
“Hello, Anne. It’s Jean.” It’s my sister and she’s crying. And I know my mom is dead. We talk a few minutes. The sun is just edging over the horizon; the day is predicted for clear and sunny. Then I have to hang up to go to the bathroom—morning biological functions do not pause for the passing of a life.
Mom died about an hour ago, and now she knows. She maintained that she had no soul, there was no life after death, and there is no God. Now, as I face this beautiful early autumn morning and prepare to go to the New York State Fair, Mom knows.
Is she, like the world traveler that she had been, busy signing into her new trip, getting her baggage seen to, and meeting new people? Is she, like the traveler returning home, busy greeting the family that awaits her—Dad, her brothers, her parents? Has she been called into the presence of the Holy One? Is there welcoming or is there judgment? Is she somewhere in transit, looking back on me?
She is, at last, free of the clay vessel that held her for 93 years but that had become so corrupted that it could no longer contain life.
Good by, Mom. Thanks for the life. See you soon.
Mom died a year ago today. I burst into sobs. My mom and I loved each other a whole lot, and I miss her enormously.
Today is in the middle of a heat wave and I am again preparing to go to the New York State Fair, but this year with much trepidation. I am only planning to stay two hours, but is even that too much? Am I able? Is it foolishness? What price will I pay?
It is already bad enough. I don’t ever want to get out of bed, even though I do it anyway. The payback is frightening. I awake in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and have a terrible feeling of weakness and falling-down-ness. Will I make it? Will I fall? Then what? Lay on the floor until I can crawl to the emergency cord? Will I pull it?
Returning to bed, I lie awake, feeling terrible and wondering how bad it will get before I die. Will I let an ambulance take me to the hated Emergency Room? Will I have to go into an institution? Will Hospice take me?
When I queried them two years ago, I learned that Hospice isn’t for the care of the dying; it’s for the care of the living. If you are dying alone, they won’t get involved. If you are dying with family caring for you, they will come in to relieve your family.
And, of course, there is the fact that you’re supposed to be within six months of death to get referred for Hospice care. The doctors haven’t been able to diagnosis my illness for the past ten years! How the hell are they going to know when the end is within six months?
I will be dead and six-months buried before the foolish doctors even acknowledge there’s something wrong.
Tombstone of the hypochondriac: I told you I was sick.
My friendly local chiropractor told me that he had two patients in care who got kicked out of Hospice because they failed to die in a timely manner. Physicians and pharmaceuticals ensure your death; chiropractic care, with ayurvedic medicine (i.e., herbs, just like Mom put in the spaghetti sauce), causes you to live longer. Treat yourself right and you don’t qualify for death care.
I have to make way for the exterminator now. My apartment building (though not my apartment) has bedbugs and Chris, the bug man, is inspecting every apartment, top to bottom.
I have always thought that there should be a baby at every burial. There you are, gathered in the cemetery around the casket containing the remains of the person you loved, who is about to be sealed forever under the dirt. You are crying, regretful, frightened, angry, sad, hurt, alone—feeling all these things—and then the baby starts to cry. It needs feeding or a clean diaper or to be put down for a nap, so you draw back from the open grave.
The demands of life pull you away from the presence of death. So it is with the pest man. Life goes on.