Daze of My Life: Time Out Of Mind

Daze of My Life
Time Out Of Mind

After my mother's death, it took me over two months to finally write and send thank you notes to the friends who remembered my mother by making charitable donations in her name. And though I'm not particularly proud of the lack of initiative I showed in taking as long as I did to properly respond, I am still most appreciative of the extra effort and thoughtfulness these friends exhibited. As I wrote in the thank you's that I sent, it seemed like the loss of a second parent in two years sort of knocked the initiative right out of me (or maybe that was simply my mother not being around to remind me to do something). I remember experiencing a similar malaise after my father died in Dec., 2006. And though my mother was most definitely alive and well back then, I recall feeling a little unmotivated, a little empty, and not really seeing the point and/or significance in much as I tried to find a new routine now that my father was gone.
Moreover, given the fact that our mother was now widowed, without my father as her companion for the first time in over 65 years, my brother and I knew we still had major responsibilities, not exactly care and feeding since my father's caregiver, Maria, stayed on, but life full-filling nevertheless. And not that we were the least bit put off - or put upon, quite frankly - by the task at hand, it was more that we were fulfilling a role that, unbeknownst to us, we had been preparing for - and prepared for, our whole lives.
And for most of these past two years, we had fun doing it. As difficult as I know it was for my mother to live on without my father alive and in her life, it was really quite remarkable how she adjusted to the loss. Not exactly ambulatory and almost totally hearing impaired, she persevered, and almost always with good humor. Surrounded by pictures of my father as well as pictures of the two of them at various stops in their life, she was never far re-moved, physically, from reminders of what, for her, had been the most important responsibility in her life: her husband (my father) and her family. Yet, she was rarely morose; sad of course, in tears occasionally, but overall, happy to be alive and not "woeing" at all about her loss or physical limitations.
Mentally, she was as sharp at the end as she had been her entire life (so far as we ever saw) and as concerned about others (my brother and I) even as she lay in the bed in which she would eventually die, as she had ever been; still concerned about my brother's comfort (sitting vs. standing by the side of her bed) and whether or not we had eaten or were hungry. Amazing!
This was the second time that my brother and I have been witness to acts of love and unselfishness by our parents as they lie dying. Whatever lessons they sought to impart to us while they were alive pale in comparison to the lessons they taught us while they were dying.
My parents both died with dignity, class and concern for their family. At a time in their lives when it most assuredly should have been about them, they continued to try and make it about us. No wonder we miss them so much.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.