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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking for signs

Hard to believe my Mother will be gone a year in February. It’s hard because it doesn’t seem like she is gone at all!

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the grieving process… it’s not what you think.

I always thought when my Mother died I would never get out of bed again. I thought I would never be able to stop crying and the grief would be a black cloud over my head forever. But that’s not what happened.

The first couple of weeks were hard… getting through the wake and funeral, going through her personal items, figuring out who gets what and what to send to Goodwill. It’s hard to pack up your Mother’s stuff and send it in a box to a charity. The funny things you think about when doing that. I had this vision that I would be driving down Water Street and I would stop at a crosswalk to let a homeless lady cross the street and she would be wearing one of my Mother’s sweaters…. And that would be a sign from my Mother to me, to tell me that she was ok.

But it never happened. I never saw the homeless lady wearing my Mother’s sweater. She never appeared by the side of my bed, even when I thought for sure if I opened my eyes she would be there. I never caught a glimpse of her standing behind me in a mirror or saw her ghost when I turned off all the lights downstairs before I went to bed.

She just never came back to me… I think it is because she never left me.

We think we are going to grieve like it is portrayed in a Hollywood movie. We have all seen those movies where the grieving widow throws herself on top of the casket as it is lowered in the ground, or when Patrick Swayze comes back to Demi Moore in Ghost to warn her that she is in danger, or like Norman Bates who kills his Mother in Psycho and keeps her corpse in the house with him because he can’t get past the guilt.

That’s not how it happens in real life. No one threw themselves on my Mother’s casket, I don’t own a pottery wheel and my Mother’s body is safely planted in a graveyard.

The truth is, life goes on. You have to return to work. There is laundry to be done. Dogs to be walked. Kids to be fed. Life to be lived. That’s life!
A friend of mine (who is a psychologist) pointed out to me that there is healthy and unhealthy grieving. It’s healthy to cry during a funeral, periodically over the next few weeks, marking holidays and events (birthdays, Christmas) etc. It’s not healthy if three months later you still can’t get out of bed or get back to life. She also pointed out that if you have no regrets, it is easy to move on. People who can’t move on are stuck because they have regrets. I made sure before my Mother died that I thanked her for everything she did for me. I apologized for all the times we fought. She did the same.

The one thing she did do for me, which helped me to move on, is she set me free. She told me not to feel obligated to stay in touch with people I feel no connection to. Without getting into details she said, “Be happy. That’s all I wanted for you. If you didn’t get along with someone when I was alive, you won’t get along with them after I am dead.” It was the best gift she ever gave me.

I had no regrets. I went on living while still looking for signs that she was with me.

I rarely go to the graveyard. I don’t feel her there. It doesn’t do anything for me.

This past summer I looked out in my garden and to my surprise a carpet of blue Forget-Me-Nots had grown throughout my yard. She had planted them there a few years before. I took my tea and went out and sat down on the deck. I could smell her perfume in the air and I could feel her in the garden.

Just before Christmas I searched frantically for weeks for a X-Box One for my son. There wasn’t one to be had in the province. One morning I dropped into Future Shop just as it opened. I had checked the web site and it said they had one in stock. The young sales girl assured me it was a mistake. As she went off to the back room to check I whispered “Please Mom, find that X-Box for Daniel. He’s going to be so disappointed if I don’t get one.” The sales girl came through the door holding the last X-Box One in the Province and handed to me. She said “You must have someone watching over you today. I don’t know where this one came from.”

Was it Mom? She always delighted in spoiling Daniel.

It’s almost a year later and every night when I come home the first thing I do is check to see if the message light is blinking on the phone. If it’s not, my first thought is “Mom forgot to call me today.”

This is the first Christmas I didn’t buy her a gift. It was always a dilemma anyway. What do you buy a Woman who has everything, doesn’t need anything and don’t want nothing? I used to put together a gift box of items; Oil of Olay products, a new lipstick, a sweater and an Azaleas flower.

The Azaleas flower comes in a box. You put the bulb in a small planter, put some dirt on it and it grows three feet tall and flowers. It never worked for me but she could make that thing flower three or four times before it died. I bought one at Dominion just before Christmas and followed the instructions on the box. I put the planter on top of the kitchen counter and wished it luck, warning it that I probably wouldn’t remember to give it any water.

To my surprise, it grew and grew and grew. Then Christmas morning I was so happy to find eight big red flowers had bloomed on it. It bloomed right into the New Year. Me growing anything was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. I was so pleased with it I took a picture and put it on Facebook. A friend commented on it and sent me a link to a story about “signs from beyond.” I took a closer look at the picture I had posted and noticed my Mother’s sweater hanging over the chair next to the flower. The only thing I had taken from her house.

It was a sign. A sign from her that this wasn’t my first Christmas without her. It was my first Christmas with her… in a new form. I’ve discovered that the “Feeling of peace” people talk about really does exist. When I think about her, I do get a calm feeling of peace. It feels like a warm blanket or a hug.
I hope I never run into her ghost in the living room after I turn the lights off but I do hope I see her work in my garden this Spring. The blue Forget-Me-Nots will be my sign that she wants me to keep moving forward, keep being happy.

Merry Christmas Mom and Daniel says thanks for the X-Box One.