Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Getting On With It

The first indication that the world was not going to stop for my mother's death: I had a plumbing emergency yesterday -- well, it was an emergency to me but not to the plumber, who showed up just before noon today.

It was good to have a reality check. And I've been having a lot of those. Yesterday I was busy with memorial service arrangements and banking -- I haven't gotten Mom's death certificates yet so I can't start the real nitty-gritty of posthumous paperwork on her behalf; then I came home and continued my spring cleaning program. Today while searching through the pantry for something I wound up tossing out pounds of past-dated cans and boxes -- Mom was a Depression child, and loathed throwing food away even if she herself had no real intention of eating it; I used to surreptitiously slip a questionable item or two, when I could, into the trash on pickup day -- and I wound up cleaning and rearranging half the shelves. (If this is loopy behavior under the circumstances, at least it's loopy in a productive way.)

In between these bouts of housekeeping mania there are some pretty low moments. This morning I was looking through my mother's wardrobe for an outfit that an aunt living in a nursing home could wear to the service. I really hadn't touched my mother's things since she died; it was hard to go through her clothes like this, for a task like this, and hard to think that at some point I'm going to be sorting them into boxes for my aunt or for the church yard sale or to throw away. Later a church friend called me -- her husband had died a day before my mom, after a long illness; his funeral was today -- and we had a mutual cry over the phone. And waiting for the plumber yesterday, I found myself almost paralyzed at the window; couldn't move, couldn't think. (My pastor recalls one of his bereaved parishoners responding, when he asked how she was doing, "These days looking out the window is a full-time job.")

There are episodes of anger, not always rational: Anger at the tardy plumber; anger at an elderly relative of mine (if any of you are acquainted with the Britcom Keeping Up Appearances -- think of an older, Midwestern version of Hyacinth Bucket ("It's Boo-KAY!...");that is my relative) who was being a pest yesterday; anger at my mother's primary care physician for not knowing, or not communicating, the seriousness of my mother's illnesses to her (even as I realized that she very well may have). Last night while I was doing dishes I lapsed into Anglo-Saxon expletives as I tried getting peanut butter off a spoon; suddenly I realized I was yelling at peanut butter for being peanut butter.

There have been episodes of complete goofiness. I have lost my keys more in the past week than I can count. And last night, on a trip to McDonald's (partly to use a functional public bathroom and partly to split a bag of French fries with my dog), I ran into someone associated with my agency. "Hi! How are you doing?" he greeted me cheerfully. "Fine," I responded with a wan smile. It was about a minute later, in the car with the dog, that I first of all realized who'd said hello to me, and then realized how strange my answer was going to sound to him when he picked up the paper the next day and read the local obits. D'oh.

And I've even had a flash or two of dark humor. Last night a friend e-mailed me and said she was going to "send me something." I e-mailed back: "Send me a plumber!"

Something I've noticed, that is very curious to me -- it's odd how some objective part of me is observing me -- is that, spiritually, I have the equivalent of what my social worker friends call a flat affect. It's not that I've lost my faith, by any means; but it's not in the foreground, the way you'd think it would be at a time like this. It's just there, somewhere. Yes, I've read Footprints. No, that doesn't help me very much. (In fact it's one of the smarmy things I outright rejected for Mom's memorial bulletins...I chose the 23rd Psalm, which has both her and my confirmation verse in it.) If looking out the window is a job these days, then praying is another job; these past few days I run through the Daily Office, when I do, like it's a telemarketing script. I don't feel God's abiding presence in a way that I have felt it at other times of my life; I just have to trust that it's there, perhaps most especially embodied in the caring words and actions of my friends. And the objective part of me is telling me that I'm just "processing" all of this my own way, in my own time, and it's okay, and I can feel anything I want to. (Evidently my objective self has a master's in social work.)

Well, now I have to go to the nursing home and see if my clothing selection for my aunt meets with her approval. The nursing home is very helpfully arranging for her transport to the service, and we are going to somehow get her up and down the stairs of our antiquated church building. (Groundbreaking for our new, barrier-free sanctuary addition is this month, and not a moment too soon.) This visit is easily the hardest thing I have to do today.

19 comments:

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

Yes, you are right to know that your faith IS there, somewhere, because God puts it there. You don't have to work to keep it there. I felt that way after a death. I looked back later and realized that the Lutheran teaching of receiving the Holy Spirit and faith at Baptism was really TRUE. It was there even when I wasn't able to access it or use it or whatever it is we do with faith.

I can just picture the situation of your mother's cupboards and probably her closets. My mom is also of that era and now she doesn't have the energy to deal with all that stuff even if she could change her outlook to be more realistic.

Perhaps this situation of the cupboards and closets is both a curse and blessing. It sure gives you something to do and doing something sometimes gets us through the hard parts of life.

May you find tidbits of blessed memories as you go through the stuff of her life. Cyber love to you.

Nicodemia said...

(((((((((((((LC)))))))))))

We all do the craziest things at times like these!

And it doesn't matter one bit!

Willow said...

A prayer for you and your family from the Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, look with pity upon the sorrows of your servants for whom we pray. Remember them, Lord, in mercy; nourish them with patience; comfort them with a sense of your goodness; lift up your countenance upon them; and give them peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Anonymous said...

You have a right to be a bit 'loopy' at this time. It's ok. 19 years ago I lost both my parents within 3 months of each other, and there are still times when I 'look out the window' and have unknowingly transported myself to another time and place. And when I return to 'now', there is a sensation of peace and gladness to have had the 'then'. Be kind to yourself and allow all these things to wash over you. You are so blessed to have this blog to let it all out. Your e-friends love you and salute you and feel pain with you. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

Ladybug6472 said...

Didn't mean for that to be 'anonymous' - it was me, Ladybug6472. Sorry.

samtzmom said...

My mother-in-law died after a seemingly benign illness and 2 week hospitalization almost a year ago this month, and I've yet to go through the myriad of "stuff" so be patient with yourself and do it at whatever pace suits you. Numb is sometimes a good place to be as you process it all, and yes, God is there, but knows that there are sometimes no words... least, not that can be really heard yet. Feel what you feel, and just "be." Hugs and prayers for peace to surround you...

Kathryn said...

It sounds to me as if you are being emintently reasonable and utterly normal...This is a horrible, miserable situation, and there is no right way to deal with it. I did smile, as I remember vividly the evenign after my mother's funeral throwing endless ornaments that I had always loathed into a large black bin bag...so I could kind of empathise on the cupboard stripping exercise.
I suspect that many people dont; have the emotional energy to engage with, or be engaged by, God at this time...
But there are loads of people engaging madly on your behalf.
Hugs and blessings xxxx

RuthRE said...

I can't tell you how often I am thinking of you lately.

Rainbow Pastor said...

LC, be good and patient to/with yourself right now. As others have said (including your very own objective self) it's natural to be numb.

My sister and I had to spend three days cleaning out my father's house have he died; it occupied us, was productive, and rattled some memories loose (both good and bad, but they needed to be dealt with in any case).

At least you know your won't open the spare bedroom door and find six bags of garbage the home health aides couldn't be bothered to take outside in the cold snowy Michigan winter...

Hugs, blessings, and prayers--

Verdugo said...

The flat affect is a sort of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. It is your mind and spirit telling you that this is too big to deal with all at once. Over the next year or so, you'll find all the pieces of those emotions coming back-- bit by bit, one at a time, sometimes at the oddest and most inconvenient moment.

And you know all that-- I'm just reminding you that it's OK. It's normal-- not that that makes it suck any less.

You are loved. We are here.

(((((LC))))))

St. Casserole said...

God bless you, Dear One. I had to get a plumber immediately after my mother's death. The old plumbing in her old home just quit with hideous results.
Being angry with peanut butter is hereby entering my definitions lexicon about how to explain grief.

Praying for you. I lost keys and had three car crunches. Not an easy time....

Questing Parson said...

I'm still praying for you.

I've been through what you're going through more times than I thought I could bear -- including losing my wife.

Don't worry about not feeling God's abiding presence. The Abiding Presence feels you.

Mata H said...

My dear friend - You know, there really isn't any set agenda to follow after the obvious leavetakings. Take whatever time you need to sort through clothing - and don't feel that you have to heroically do it alone. You'll know when you are ready to take it on. You don't have to be perfect. I am glad that you have the gift of writing - a way to tell and a way to share. Know that you are in my prayers.

Teri said...

i wrote you a nice comment, but then was oppressed by blogger and our spotty internet. so, I say this because now I'm crying too much to write it all over again:

if you ever need an email friend who's been there and still doing that, i'm here and you know how to find me.

and i wish you peace...

rabbina mayik (God with you)

t

Songbird said...

With my dad it was the furnace. Something somewhere needs to spring a leak or pop a spring or just break down, to help us find release.
God bless you in these days, LC, days in which the X#@%^ peanut butter serves a healing purpose, too.

Anonymous said...

What you're going through is normal. When my mom died less than 24 hours I got home on leave (we knew it was coming, but the timing was faster than we thought), the first thing we did was go through everything she owned to get it ready for the Salvation Army and Goodwill.

Something to do for additional closure....

hipastorzwife2B said...

I remember feeling so heavy after my daughter died. I mentioned it to someone and they said that it was because God's hand was on my shoulder.

Teri said...

within a few days of getting home from egypt, my dad and i sorted through mom's clothes and donated them to the local women's shelter. the going through them part wasn't so bad. but leaving them at the shelter was really really emotionally hard.

i like the idea of God's hand being the weight...and at the same time I keep thinking "you said your burden was light--what's the deal?????????"

LutheranChik said...

I seem to have gotten over the squeamishness about sorting through my mother's things.

Some of them I'm donating to our local Council on Aging, so I feel good about that.