The phase of life that I dreaded most began the day that my father suddenly transitioned to his heavenly home. It encompassed saying a temporary goodbye to him and helping my mother adjust to life without him.
Because of where my parents lived, my sis and I were anxious for our mom to be near one of us, not alone in a rural community. It took some time for mom to research her options and decide what she wanted to do, but the day came when she found the right place and put plans quickly in motion to move near my sister.
When it came time for mom to move, my husband and I helped on the packing end. We went to mom’s home a few days ahead of time to help prepare. Mom had lots of lists of items that were important to her that she planned to take to her new home, so we did our best to gather things and plan.
Mom and I made a trip to the cemetery to see Dad’s resting place and leave a memorial of their dog, Annie, who passed away a short time before him. She was a constant companion to my parents and spent a lot of time tucked in beside dad in his recliner. He had ordered the marker and it arrived shortly after his death. It seemed appropriate to put Annie’s memorial beside him.
Two men arrived early on packing day. I did my best to give them a quick tour of her home and point out the things that were to be taken. One man set to work in the kitchen, and the other at the opposite end of the house in the master bedroom. I ran back and forth between them answering questions, and occasionally putting a halt to something that wasn’t supposed to be packed. Once, I entered the kitchen to find all of the mismatched coffee mugs being wrapped just in time to stop him. Those guys were amazingly fast, so despite my best efforts, I found it impossible to adequately monitor them. No telling what all they grabbed without us knowing!
Mom’s precious family heirlooms disappeared into bundles of paper, and then into boxes. As those boxes began to pile up, my parents’ beloved lakehouse became increasingly sterile. Looking around, I recalled a favorite photo of my parents sitting on the steps with all five of their grandchildren, and memories of playing Scrabble on the corner of the porch, and late evening chats beside the busy bug zapper. I knew how hard it was on my mother. How many times had she mentioned how much she loved that home, especially the big wrap-around porch?!
The chandelier that mom inherited from her mother was taken down for the move. It had hung over a large round walnut table inherited from her great aunts. I remembered all of the times that our entire family of eleven crowded around that table to eat or play a silly game.
My most recent precious memory of that space was a fly-on-the-wall photo I captured of my parents. It was shortly after my mother had a stroke and dad was helping to monitor her blood sugar and heart rate. It felt very Norman-Rockwell-like to me. An unglamorous slice-of-life that, to me, represented the nearly 60 years of marriage that my parents shared, and the fulfillment of their vow to love each other “in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
The following day the movers came to load everything up. As they removed items from the house, we started discovering things that had been overlooked. My husband and I rushed around to find boxes and packing material to hastily get them ready to go.
After several tiring and stressful days, we returned home. That first night I had bad dreams about finding things that didn’t get packed. When I told my sister, who had been on the receiving end at mom’s new apartment, she said that she had dreams about the things that did get packed. We had a good laugh about that!
The next morning started off alright, I started laundry and did some picking up, but I got very sad and didn’t feel well. I went back to bed for a while and tried to rest, but all the different emotions and worries were filling my head until it became unbearable. I called my husband to tell him I was having a hard time, although I couldn’t explain why or how, and he said he’d come home.
I made a cup of hot tea and that felt comforting. Quiet time sounded good, too. I ended up deciding that what I really needed to do was to write, to put all of the thoughts out on “paper” where they could be sorted out and dealt with, so I called Scott and told him he didn’t need to come. I settled into my chair with my ipad and let all of my emotions spill out through the keyboard.
There’s no way to adequately prepare for the loss of a parent. I knew it would be hard, but it affected me physically and emotionally in mysterious ways. While with my mom, I was so focused on helping her that I didn’t have time for much else. My own thoughts and emotions were stuffed into their own tiny box and it wasn’t until I got home that it burst open and the messy contents demanded to be reckoned with. More than knick knacks had been bundled up in all of that paper, and my mother wasn’t the only one who needed to unpack.