Last August we flew to Austin, TX, to meet our daughter (and later, our son), and drove to Corpus Christi because Chris’s dad passed. The occasion was sad and ironically happy at the same time. As much as we all mourned his passing, we reveled in the stories that this character provided, and he was an independent, opinionated sonofabitch (no reflection on his mother, who I never met).
The wake we had afterward was unprecedented. He wanted no mourning of his passing, so the ensuing libations and story sharing was exactly as he would have wanted. We enjoyed the stories, the reconnecting with family whom we see far too infrequently, and being able to comfort his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Our adult kids made new, mature connections with cousins they hadn’t seen in a couple decades.
This past week — last Monday, in the early hours on the Left Coast — we received word that C’s middle sister, the caretaker, the SIL who taught me how to be a SIL and had so many humorous insights into family relationships and cats, passed. When T, my youngest sister, was here in May, C got the call that his sister had stage 4 pancreatic cancer with tumors on her liver (and who knows where else; that’s where they stopped looking). She retired in May; she and her husband had plans to travel and do all the things they couldn’t do with the 2 weeks of vacation that their jobs afforded previously. Four days before she died she celebrated (and I use the term loosely; she was failing and knew it; how does one celebrate that) her 63rd birthday.
And then she died.
Her children were in denial (one was 150+ miles away, the other <5 miles but was too self-absorbed to be involved) and that showed in how they handled the funeral mass and subsequent activities. To their credit, their mother would let no one come see her, including her own mother, her siblings and her son & daughter.
Sidebar: By her exclusion of her family from visiting her and holding her hands, hugging, crying, praying over her, etc., she effectively prevented these people, her family, her kin, the people who knew her the best, the opportunity for closure and to say goodbye. She probably didn’t consider how difficult that’s going to be for them going forward. What we saw and heard at the funeral, the internment ceremony, and at the celebration of life, as well as at the family gathering later Friday evening, is that her children and grandchildren and siblings are left with many questions, frustrations, and sadness at not being able to make peace before she passed. I know C, M and I are.
I hope they all seek grief counseling so they can be freed of whatever guilt they feel, and learn to incorporate D’s death into their lives.
My oldest SIL and hubby are worried: They and their mother are the only family members left. And my MIL isn’t 100% aware of what’s going on; she was very fluid in her past memories and her recent memories. I, for one, am glad she’s in as assisted living facility. She gets her meds, her activities, her privacy, her outings, and she doesn’t have to remember details that she can’t. I guess that’s a function of age. I wish her grandchildren and families would visit her more, and I can harangue them, but ultimately I can’t force or guilt them into any action, dagnabbit. I wish I could. My MIL needs to be with her family and extended family and the activities in which their involved. That stimulation will keep her alive and relevant. The nearest child, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will ultimately fail her.
And that’s why I’d consider moving to Corpus Christi, to take my MIL away from her facility a few times a week, so she can adapt to new situations and not be trapped in that place. And yet she doesn’t feel trapped, so who am I to impose my perception of her living arrangments?
All this makes me glad my and C’s wishes are spelled out in excruciating detail in our trust. I might be a control freak (okay, yes, I am) but it’s worth while if you have specific wants after you can’t make decisions.
And I miss my SIL, my FIL, and am grateful for my SIL M, and my MilL. I hope they realize, blog, Facebook or real-life exchange, what they mean to me.
I’m sad for my husband, his mother, oldest sister and middle sister’s husband: I hope they find peace.
I miss her already. RIP, Deborah Lynn Mary Margaret Doyle. I hope you know how many lives you impacted and how you are missed.