01 December 2012

In Memoriam

My mom died two years ago tomorrow by suicide. I was expecting it so there was no great shock for me, just as I was expecting my dad's death which was also no shock to me. I was still left reeling from my mom's death more than my dad's.

The difference between the two was my dad had surgery to replace the artery from the aorta (heart) all the way down to the femoral (groin). This is a massively invasive surgery that leaves at least 10% of recipients dead on the table. My dad entered the surgery with a bad heart from a heart attack 25 years prior and had written his own obituary. I took the time to send him an email in response to one he'd sent me a few days before the surgery. But instead of my usual reply I thanked him for the gifts he'd given me in my life: my strong work ethic, my dash of cynicism that I believe protects me from being misguided too often, and my reverence for nature. It felt like I got to say goodbye to him without actually saying it. I just wanted to let him know that his life had value to me and impacted me in a positive way. I also called him on the morning of his surgery to wish him well and tell him I love him even though I was told not to call by my mom and sister. They said it was his wish not to talk to anyone before leaving the house to go to the hospital. I decided it was more important for me to hear my dad's voice before his surgery (suspecting it may be the last time I would hear him) than to obey family member's wishes. My dad died of a long, slow heart attack less than a week after the surgery without ever really regaining consciousness in a meaningful way that I saw. His death was difficult for me, but I felt like I had some closure, and that helped.

With my mom there was no closure. While I expected her eventual suicide and was quite frankly tired of her attention-grabbing previous attempts, I thought she had been getting a bit better. About six weeks before her death I went glasses shopping with her where I helped her to choose a new pair. She handled herself better than I anticipated in the face of things not going her way during the purchasing process. She laughed a lot and things were generally easy with her where they had been difficult recently. The only nugget of fear or foresight was when she commented that this would be her last pair of glasses. I thought "because you will kill yourself soon?' as she said "because the next pair will be bifocals". I drove her home and thought that maybe we could very slowly begin to repair our bruised relationship. I had no illusions about her being alive for years to come, but I also didn't feel comfortable in expressing any love or compassion for her, to her. Her actions had caused me to build a nice thick layer of insulation to protect myself from future hurts. I was only just learning that she loved the idea of me, but not me myself, and I don't think she actually liked me as a person. This also made it difficult to repair any severed bonds from my end of things.

My only regret is that I didn't get on the EMPowerplus soon enough so I could introduce it to my mom. She was trapped in a deepening spiral of her own mental illness and I know now there is a doorway out, a doorway to normalcy, a doorway to hope, and it is EMPowerplus. My choosing to take it is a direct effect of my mom's death and the desire to not be locked in a mental prison like my mom. I didn't want to end up feeling so hopeless and alone in the world that I would prefer death to end my pain. I don't know if she would have even listened to me extol the virtues of the EMP+ but at least I would have had the opportunity to try.

When I dream of my parents I always dream of them together, as a pair, undivided, happy, content. My hope is that it is true. Despite their illnesses, mental and physical, they loved each other as much as they each were capable of loving another human being.

1 comment:

none of your beeswax said...

it didn't occur to me to call on the day of surgery when i was told not to. i remember that my classroom of students and my coworkers were not impressed that i didn't rush down or make my presence known (in spite of being told not to). we all just end up making the best decision we can, and hope it is one that we can live with. unfortunately there isn't a guidebook available!!!

your post is very poetic and is a nice tribute to them.