There are two linked, but somewhat separate, subjects I wanted to write about today.
Part one. Ever since this entire situation started on Saturday, I’ve been strangely calm. I wasn’t panicking when I called 911 Saturday morning, and while I’ve had many emotional episodes and did, in fact, totally lose it when they pulled my mom’s breathing tube, I’ve been rather okay, emotionally. This has been worrying me almost as much as the situation with my mom; it’s not that I’m so self-centered, it’s just that since basically Sunday morning the outcome was evident; the following days simply made it more obvious and unavoidable.
Since Saturday, though, I haven’t been crying and curling up into a ball on my bed nearly as much as I’d expected. I did feel like I was running on empty from Monday until about Wednesday, but that’s faded with the closure that Thursday morning brought. And with a good night’s sleep and that closure, my paranoia about being a jaded, emotionless thing has grown.
It was this morning, though, that a thought occurred to me. I sat, thinking about what I had been feeling instead of intense sorrow. Disinterest, general malaise, apathy, loss of appetite, and a lack of interest in doing much. Wait a minute! Not only are some of those symptoms of mild grief, they’re all symptoms of clinical depression! Thank God. I am feeling crappy.
My mood has notably improved, though. Not just because of that realization, which absolved much of my paranoia. There’s also the fact that my mom gave one person a set of lungs, another person a kidney, and a third her other kidney and pancreas. Knowing she has helped so many people in this event has helped my Dad and I substantially.
Part two. If you’ve never lost a parent or other member of your immediate family, let me try to document my experience so you can have at least a glimpse.
Outside of the trauma of the moment – any car accident, cancer diagnosis, or the trauma of actually watching someone die (which I hope never happens to any of you) – the actual idea of the death of a loved one, in this case my mother, is simply too big to look at head on. It’s much like the S.E.P. field in the works of Douglas Adams. I’ll wait while you read the section I linked in the last sentence. Anyway, the death’s like that. Saying to myself “My Mom has died,” doesn’t mean much. It’s too big. It can’t be fathomed, at least right now.
However, it still shows. The other day I was having a conversation about drinking water and I said “We have an undersink filter.” Now, the word ‘we’ doesn’t mean the same thing as it used to. The definition of my family has changed.
Likewise, last night I went to bring a sandwich upstairs, and as I climbed the stairs I started mentally preparing for the short argument I’d have with my mom about bringing food upstairs. Then I stopped, because that wouldn’t happen anymore.
I know it’s going to continue, too. I’m going to come home from a friend’s house at 5:45 in the evening and ask, “Have you guys eaten yet?” I’m going to have to learn the hard way to use the past tense when talking about my family.
To come back to the original SEP metaphor: This isn’t something you see when you look straight at it. But if you catch it out of the corner of your eye, be prepared for a shock.