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.