Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory Grief - that's the name given to this state of "pre-loss" before the "actual loss". It can happen months or years before the loss and is in effect a prelude to the painful grieving process. It comes when either ourselves or our loved ones are facing a terminal illness. It is a different grief process than the one experienced after a loss. I am reading a book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler on "Grief and Grieving" which is giving me understanding for what I am going through.

Knowing the inevitable is close; seeing a loved one slowly succumb to the ravishes of disease is a painful experience.

My mother at this present time, is laying in a hospital bed a thousand miles away living and breathing her last final days. She is aware that she is dying I believe, but never talks about it. Today, in a moment of lucidity though, she prayed a few beautiful sentences with my sister - praying for her care, for her family.

She is 81 years old. She gave birth to six children, including a set a twins, of which I am one. Her name is Willow Joyce Docksteader. I have her name "Joy" in my name. Never before has that meant so much to me as now. I will carry her name respectfully and honourably forever. It will remind me often of her.

At the age of 5, mom's father suddenly died and her mother and two other siblings were suddenly faced with life without a dad and husband. They ended up moving in with grandparents for a time, for support and to make ends meet.

My mother became a hairdresser and up until the actual day my brother and I were born, she ran a hairdressing salon in the back room of our house. With six children under feet, she worked hard preparing meals, doing laundry and all the other necessary things needed in raising us. She always overextended herself physically and was relatively healthy till the last twenty years of her life. She honoured and respected my father and her role as a wife is probably the greatest gift she has passed on to me. She deeply loved my father. Mom always looked good. Always. She took great care in her appearance and dressed stylishly and always said she wanted to look good for dad. ;)

My interior design giftings come from my mom too. We always lived in a clean and beautiful home. Her taste for artful decor and warm furnishings were comfortable and peaceful. Mom's ability to create a peaceful environment has served me well as I long to do the same for my husband and family.

Her insecurities could not be hidden and fear sometimes robbed her of peace, yet her ability to attempt some adventures in her life will fondly be remembered - as recently as last summer when my brother took her for a ride on the lake in his sea-doo. She was up for it. I also remember mom wrestling on the floor with my two brothers when they were 10 or 11 years of age - now that brought a lot of laughs to the family! She skated in the winter, loved to swim in the summer, even drove a school bus part time for my dad. She lived a full life.

My last visit to see her was three weeks ago at the hospital. Her bruised, swollen body barely resembles the mom I fondly remember. Yet, when she looked at me I could still see the spark in her eyes, faintly, but still there. My mom has beautiful eyes. At one point, after I shared a heart concern with her, she grabbed my arm and stroked it and said "I'm so sorry Robbie... I'm so sorry." And tears began to slip from her weary eyes and for a moment we were connected - and this gift of her last "motherly" act towards me will always be treasured within my heart.

My mom affectionately calls me "Robbie" which endears me to her.

This feeling of knowing I am going to lose her is frightening. I'm 54 years old and I still need my mother. I still want her to be around - to be "there". I still want to hear "I love you dear" as the last words of every phone conversation. I still want to get birthday and Christmas cards from her. She took extreme care in selecting just the most perfect cards and I appreciated her gift of love with each one of them. I realized the written word is very important to me for affirmation and I think this has come because of how mom expressed her love to us in this way. This past fall was the first time I did not receive a birthday card from her in over 50 years. I knew she was really ill. Mom would never forget birthdays.

I cannot make light of the process I am going through at the moment. Many people experience incredible grief in losing a parent and we all process differently. I choose to process through writing. This is my story of my mother, a beautiful woman who loved me the best she could given her own brokenness in her own story. I am a part of her and she is a part of me. Her strengths, passions, loves and weaknesses are all woven within me. Her fear and intimidation, her kindness and generosity are alive and well in the very depths of my soul. Her love for Christ and her desire to serve Him well are the cornerstones of my theology.

Her strength and ability to endure suffering has set before me an example that is hard to match or exceed - she "endured the cross well". Her incredible lack of complaining and her unbelievable threshold to live with pain speak of a fortitude and character that is rarely seen. I not only love my mother, I admire her.

As the essence of who she is slowly slips away more each day, I find my anticipatory grief looming bigger and bigger before my eyes. My emotions are ultra sensitive - a thought of her can produce a tear; a prayer can bring a deluge of water to my face. I am distracted by the events about to happen and the planning necessary for the future. I am concerned for the welfare of my sibilings on the front line carrying the load of care day after day and my deepest thoughts are almost always for my dad and his journey through this loss.

As the veil between Heaven and Earth approaches more closely and the final steps my mom takes will be as she dances across to the awaiting embrace of her Heavenly Father, we take hope that we will someday see her again, but for the moment we embrace the reality that her journey is ending and her suffering will soon be over and she will finally enter her time of rest.

There is grace to be found in this grieving process; there is a gift to be unwrapped; there is a healing to take place in the hearts of those that will lose her. Never forgotten, deeply loved, she is. Always carried in the hearts of those who love her the most.

I love you Mom.



Stephanie said...

Dear Robyn,

What a beautiful gift - your words of honour to your mother - for your family and others. You are a great writer and it is a blessing to read about your journey.

We pray that the Lord will continue to be with you all, providing what each one needs. Our hearts go out to you all but we are so thankful to have had your mom and dad as an example of married love.

Stephanie xo

Dan Wilt said...

And so we lift a cup of thanks, to the One who holds us on this side of the veil, and on the other. Cheers to the Day when all the tears are wiped away.

NVW said...

What a beautiful tribute to your dear mother. Praying for you during this transitional time. XO

SoS 1:4 said...

Such moving words. A true gift to us who grieve with you from afar. Praying for you, sweet friend.

Heidi Renee said...

Beautiful tribute Robyn. Feeling the feelings is the best gift you can give yourself and her. You are all in my continued prayers.