Monday, September 15, 2014

Respecting Mom's Wishes

Mom and me, 2005, Chicago
Since mom died, I can sit quietly for a moment or two and I can hear her in my heart. She helps me make decisions. She tells me what to do about some issues regarding her personal belongings and she also helps me find certain things. We have, despite our contentious love over the years, that deep connection.

So, when she said she never wanted a memorial service, I knew she felt strongly about this wish. I knew it in my gut. She had her reasons, and most of them concerned so many dead friends and relatives and so many people who would be under the expense and time burden of travel. Understandable.

Frankly, I don't know how I could have followed through on a memorial service immediately after her death anyway. I hadn't slept for three days or nights before she died. Dad also was wiped out. All we wanted was to be left alone. Just for three days. The only person who disrespected our wish was their former pastor. I wasn't surprised.

Beyond this wishing and hoping, sometimes things happen that are beyond a person's control. Hospice informed us shortly after mom's death that they hold a quarterly memorial service for all the patients who died during the previous quarter. So, we knew that mom would be included in a memorial service in September. Initially, this announcement caused some stress for me, because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to return for this event. Dad was totally dead set against attending, because he wanted to respect mom's wishes for no service whatsoever.

But, as the weeks rolled by, dad and I talked about how much hospice meant to mom. We felt that it might be a good idea if we attended out of respect for several people, especially, who meant so much to mom. Then, we began to ask neighbors and friends if they'd like to attend. A few weeks ago, hospice asked for three photographs of mom for the service, and dad picked the photos out himself (despite the fact that my brother was visiting and he wanted to help). Dad did a great job. The photo shown here is one he chose. My daughter took this photo of mom and me during my master's graduation day in Chicago in 2005. That was a great weekend. We had a lot of fun.

This afternoon we attended that service, which hospice screwed up a bit. They included individuals who had died in August, and they couldn't break those names out of the pack before this afternoon. So, the service was longer than usual, but it was beautiful. Mom loved it. Mom especially loved when her music therapist sang. One of the last songs he sang was the last song he sang for mom the day before she died. It was the Irish Blessing.

Mom's far from Irish, but she loved that man's voice and his soothing nature. I was happy to connect with him again and to thank him from the bottom of my heart.

During the service, I had to walk up to the front of the hosting church's sanctuary and symbolically plant a bulb in a pot for mom (daffodil -- a funny story I'll save for later). When I turned around, I saw everyone who was there for mom standing and holding me in their eyes -- two long church pew rows filled with people who loved mom beyond all sense and reason. Those people were our backbone, our spine. They were the very people who were there with us every step of the way during mom's illness, providing food, running errands, holding hands, talking, laughing, crying, hugging, praying.

And, that was what this afternoon was all about. Mom wanted it that way. I heard her in my heart and I'm glad we respected her wishes.