That Which I Have Feared the Most

A quote by Joss Whedon says, “Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there.”  Concerning my Mom, I don’t fear her dying.  I know she will go to Heaven and I know she is ready to go.  She is weary and tired of life.  I don’t fear the funeral.  I spoke at my Dad’s funeral and I will also speak at my Mom’s funeral.  What I fear more than anything is BEING ALONE.  For years this fear has preyed on me, following me into my dark moments and even lurking out in the bright sunshine.  It’s a fear so overpowering that for a number of years I was adamant that when Mom went to Heaven, I was going to follow her shortly after.  I was NOT staying on this earth by myself.  It has only been in the past year that I have mustered the courage to commit to staying here on earth till my last breath is chosen by God not myself.

I have struggled to understand this incredible sense that I will be all alone.  My friends annoyingly ask me,” Well, what are they?  Chopped liver??”  Don’t they mean anything in my life.  I am also told I will have my church family.  Yes, I know that full well and am very grateful for the wonderful people in my church and I know I will need them like I have never needed them or any group of people in my life before.  I have my wonderful brother and sister in law and an amazing neice and nephew and other cousins.   But for some reason that escapes me it is not the same as having your mother alive.

Hope Edelman who wrote Motherless Daughters: the Legacy of Loss has this quote which helps me understand a  bit of what I may be going through.  She says, “When one parent dies, the world is dramatically altered, absolutely, but you still have another one left.  When that second parent dies, it’s the loss of all ties, and where does that leave you?  You lose your history, your sense of connection to the past.  You also lose the final buffer between you and death.  Even if you’re an adult, it’s weird to be orphaned.”

For me, my mother has always been a huge part of my life even when the huge part was negative.  For years I struggled with a love/hate relationship with my Mom.  I also struggled with feeling very abandoned by my Mom as her autism ( and my autism) played a role in her parenting of me and my responses that left me feeling very detached from her. She was often very depressed and not emotionally available to me and this left me with a huge hole in my inner most being where I longed for her and the hole ached all the time.  I also longed for her acceptance.  Mom in her lack of understanding how words can hurt has told me ( and others) that she wanted and boy and she got me.  Not a month goes by and I am again reminded of this family fact.   It was only when Mom moved in with me 3 years ago that slowly that hole filled up and now it is basically healed.  It has healed because for the first time in my life she sees me as valuable and acceptable.  She recognizes that without me she is totally lost in this world with noone to look after her. I now have worth.  I hold no grudges and have forgiven her.  Looking after her, God has given me such a love for her that it is overflowing.  I love her with such tenderness I never knew I had in me ( and actually I don’t – it is God in his mercy giving me the gift of service and love for my Mom)  I am forever grateful for the last 3 years because now when she passes I have no regrets.  That is a precious position to be in.

I really feel that when Mom goes I will be totally alone in the world.  It is the fear of all fears.  Mom has always listened to my stories, my news in my life, she has prayed for me every day, she even listens to my endless  passionate chatter about my beloved cats.  Who will do that when she is gone??  Noone that I know.  Only a mother would do that.  But like the quote I mentioned above, there is something much deeper,  a much more profound loss when you lose your last parent.  You are indeed an orphan in the world.

If I am going to remain here after Mom leaves this earth I must find a way to survive and not just survive but to continue to grow and flourish in who I am.  Janet Fitch in White Oleander quotes, ” Loneliness is the human condition.  Cultivate it.  The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness.  Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space.  An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception.  If you expect to find people who will understand you you will grow murderous with disappointment.  The best you’ll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let cattle stand in your way.”

Did you know that God talks about orphans in the bible?  John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you.”   And in Psalms 27:10 it says, “When my father and mother forsake me ( or die) then the Lord will take me up.”  And Heb. 13:5  says, ” I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you.”  These are precious promises that I intend to hold onto with a grip so tight that nothing can take them away from me.    And one last one.  Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not FEAR, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.”  I can either choose to accept these promises as the total truth that they are or I can continue to tremble in my fear of being alone.  I know I will feel alone but there is someone bigger than that aloneness that I can take refuge in and find peace.

My job now is to plan for the future without Mom.  And I am doing that.  God is a God who believes our purpose is not wrapped up in another person.  Our purpose is wrapped up in God.  Yes, my purpose now is to look after Mom but that will end and I will have to find new passions and purposes to carry on with.  This blog will be one of those purposes.  My job at the library will be one of those purposes.  My desire to speak and advocate for those with autism will be one of those purposes.  My passions like photography, my greeting card business, my new love of knitting, my books, my desire to write a book, my crazy cats are all ways I will carry on in this world.  But as I carry on with all these things I will carry my mother’s memory in everything I do and think each and every day.  As long as I remember her she will never be far away.

No matter how much planning I do, no matter how much courage I muster up, I know that which I fear will come true.  I will feel alone and feel like I am nothing in this world.  But when you have nothing left but God you have more than enough to start over again.

I read another quote, this one by Ayn Rand who said, “Every loneliness is a pinnacle.  I am not exactly sure what this author meant by these words but I looked up the word pinnacle and one of the words for it is “Peak”  like a mountain peak.  I imagine myself on the day Mom dies as standing on a mountain peak surveying my world. I could jump to my death and follow Mom to Heaven or I could fulfill God’s purposes for me that have not been carried out yet and be an adopted child of God with much to do.  There is still a promised land out there waiting for me, a land with milk and honey and as I stand on the peak of an new dawn and the sun rises I see all the richness I still have to live for.  Yes, there are giants in the land to be conquered but I am confident me and God can make mincemeat out of them one giant at a time.



Anniversary Grief – what’s that??

Today is May 1st.  May is an anniversary month.  No, not a wedding anniversary – it is the month in which my Dad died.  On May 20 it will have been 7 years since I’ve had the chance to talk to my Dad, give him a hug, tell him I love him and joke with him.  I miss him all the time but when May comes around the missing him that was there in the back recesses of my mind comes to the forefront – right to the centre of my thoughts and my life.  No, it is not as intense as it used to be but it still affects my days.  What I miss most is not being able to tell him all the things that have been going on in my life.  I was never able to tell him of the incredible experience it was for me to be librarian at the brand new school and how I set the library up myself and how it was the best two years of my whole 33 years in the school system.  I couldn’t tell him that I retired after struggling so hard for so long to work and be a “normal” person with a job.  I couldn’t tell him that I now work in the  Public Library system and I look after the library at my church.  He’s never met my new cat, Gus Gus and does not know of all the crazy things he has done.  And most of all, he doesn’t know that Mom has lived with me the last 3 and a half years and that I am keeping the promise I made to him on his death bed – to look after Mom in the best way possible.

What is it about anniversary grief that is like a sore that just keeps opening up and oozing.  Does it ever heal?  I don’t know.  Actually I hope not.  Anniversary grief for me is a way of never forgetting. I have always been very sensitive to anniversaries of all kinds.  Dates and events in my life hold such meaning that they are played over and over each year like a broken record.  Even if my conscious mind forgets the anniversary, my unconscious mind will react and I will realize with surprise why I was crying or feeling down.  I don’t know if this is an autism thing or not.  I just know my brain runs in sort of a groove year round with different things coming to the forefront at the precise time each year.  A sense of order even in my memories, categorized by date, severity, and a number of other slots they fit into.

Anniversary grief also for me has a sense of anticipation to it.  With Dad, I dread May 20th getting closer and closer and I think it will be a horrible day in some way.  In reality, it usually turns out to be a fairly regular day.  The anticipation is far worse than the actual event.  I know this but somehow it doesn’t really help.  And when the day is over there is a relief that I got through that dreaded event.

I need to make a plan.  I need to make a plan to do something positive on May 20th.  I could work in my flower garden, the garden that is a memorial garden to my Dad who loved to garden and plant flowers.  I could write him a little letter telling him of all the things I wish I could say to him.  I could buy a can of peanuts and munch away at them.  I always gave Dad a can of peanuts for Christmas because he loved them.  The trick was to wrap it in such a way that he did not know what it was!  I could phone my Uncle John and tell him I love him ( that’s Dad’s brother) because I do love him bunches and bunches.  Maybe if I think about doing some of these things the knot in the pit of my stomach that gets tighter and tighter as the month goes on may just instead loosen it’s grip and wrap around the oozing sore and send some healing to the grief.  It’s worth a try don’t you think?