Memphis’ first snow of the season reminded me of my daddy, and got me to thinking about how differently we can mourn the loss of each parent.
Dad grew up in Connecticut and had a lot more experience with fierce winters than me. He once won a snowball fight so completely that I opened my coat and a wall of white spilled out.
My mother shared our laughter but not our playtime. She was a great mom, but I don’t remember a single time she played with me in the snow.
Dad died first. Mom, three years later. I mourned my father hard and my mother long.
Dad was my buddy. While my reclusive mother stayed moored to the house, he and I shared grocery shopping, lunches at restaurants and trips to find a college I’d like. On the morning of his death, I drove him to church, our custom. He didn’t feel like shopping. I took him home.
While I goofed around with my dad, as a child I respectfully feared my mother. She was playful, but not identically or as consistently. She and I did become friends, but she was always boss.
I was my mother’s caregiver for three years. Headstrong, she directed most of the details. I prodded her to eat better, but she liked pureed tomatoes and crackers. Suffering from COPD, she started to waste. She was 81. She told me she was old enough to eat what she wanted.
Her independence both helped and hindered caregiving. Our differences of opinion, and simultaneous dependence on me caused friction that created lingering issues I never knew with my father. He died suddenly of a heart attack. I was never his caregiver, and the week after his death, I absolved him in absentia of the one issue I had with him.
How we mourn a person can take us by surprise. Grief takes us by surprise. It isn’t cookie cutter. We cannot fully prepare for our emotional reactions. I thought I’d mourn my parents alike. After all, they were both my parents. But I now understand, even though there were similarities in my approach to grief, why I mourned them differently, too.
We mourn each person differently. Our relationship with them is different. Our dependence on them is different. Our issues are different. We even become different people between deaths. That really fouls up our ability to predict and prepare how we will grieve.
And yet there is also beauty in it. We shared a relationship that isn’t like any other. It was unique. Masterpieces are unique. One-of-a-kind.
And so I’ll plod through the unknown places my grief will take me. I know it means I share (notice the present tense) a love like none I ever knew or will ever know.
That is an unbreakable bond. I feel it now as the snow lies outside my window.
What similarities did you expect after your loved one died? What differences did you see?
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