It was September 2004 when my mental illness worsened more than ever before; due to several factors I won’t go into here. My husband was quite concerned and decided to take me to the mountains to recover. Prior to the trip, I found that my mother seemed quite unwell, always in her bed napping. My father and I discussed the matter, but he said her doctor just told her to get some rest and take some pills he prescribed for her.
Hubby and I made it to the mountains, but not yet to the cottage we rented before a phone call finally reached us. It was my dad sounding beside himself, beckoning us to return. My mother was in the hospital. He wouldn’t go into details then, but told us it was very serious. When I reached my parents’ house, my dad didn’t mince with words. He said the doctor at the hospital said she was dying.
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I refused to believe it. Even when I visited my mom it was clear I was in great denial. I must confess that during the seven days that she had left I was unable to even visit her frequently, given my distress. The last time I saw her it was finally clear that she was unwell beyond repair. I remember on my way out of her room looking at her straight in the eyes and saying “I will love you forever.” Once we left the ICU (out of her earshot and sight), I broke down in extreme. My husband had to hold me up as I struggled to walk away from her for the very last time. I remember wailing, not just crying, in a way I had never done before.
Though everyone in my family was clearly devastated at our loss, my youngest nephew seemed to take it particularly hard. I remember hugging his head to my breast and telling him that she will never be truly gone. “She will live on forever in our hearts, and in me, your mother, your uncle, you, and your brother.” I was trying to be strong.
I indeed took my mother’s death particularly hard. It was only a short time before I found myself hospitalized. Over a four year period, more psychiatric hospitalizations followed. At no time during these years could I think of my mother’s good days, her sweet ways, or even her special smile. I couldn’t even look at her photograph without sinking further into despair. It actually took about four more years until positive memories of her returned. And when they did, I realized that in my youth I had been able to memorize even the smallest details of her movements, sayings, voice, and face. Now I think about and look at her photo every day with a smile, and blow her a kiss. I even find myself giggle when I catch myself or siblings sounding or moving like her. Yes, I was right when I told my nephew she would live on in us.
Loss of a loved one is always a tragedy, but nothing is worse than losing someone dear in the spring of their life. That nephew I held to my breast, soon after my mother’s death, has also recently passed. Cancer took my mom, but depression took my sister’s son.
I was fairly well just before my nephew suddenly left us. That afforded me enough strength to quickly prepare (with my husband’s help) some remembrances before his memorial. Though the grieving was still so painful, I still see him in my mind clearly. I see him throughout his youth, up until soon before his last day. I’m not exactly feeling the same kind of denial I felt before my mother passed away. Yes, I know he’s no longer present in full body. Well, sometimes I think he’s just still alive and I’ll see him the next time I visit my sister. Or that he’s off somewhere to college, like I always wished him to be. I don’t know. That gives me some comfort.
I do know that my mother and nephew are together in beautiful woods overlooking a majestic river. Plant life grows on that spot, and animals pass by. To me, this is another way beyond my heart and family that make it impossible for them to ever die. I plan to walk there often in upcoming years, and see them grow in nature. We’ll all remember that special spot, and our memories and love for them will live everywhere and forever.