Mourning

As anyone who has dealt with it will tell you, mourning is a process.

Likely, a lifelong process that has different impacts over time.

As this TED talk explains, grief is not something you move on from, but something that you move forward with.

It’s been a bit over three months since my mom’s death. Much of that time has been busy, with a lot of things that needed my attention, although I have often felt that my brain was full of holes and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

I kept hoping that I could clear out some mental space and feel that I could organize my thoughts better – and maybe even feel a bit creative, which is important as I have some poetry commitments coming up.

Instead, I’m just feeling overwhelmed and sad. I don’t feel like thinking or deciding things. I can make myself do important things, but it is difficult to feel I am doing them well.

I’ve been talking with some wise friends who have helped me to realize that where I am now is not unusual.

Or permanent.

That mourning is personal and unpredictable and meanders through the terrain of life as it will with no apparent timeframe.

I think I have cried more in the past week than any week since Mom died. I know that is okay, even though it seems sort of backwards.

I am blessed with family and friends to help me while I am in this frame of mind and am trying to muster the energy to ask for help when I need it, although even that can be difficult when organized thought feels like so much work.

But I’m okay. Really. Please don’t worry about me.

It’s just grief.

Remembering Nana in Slovenia

Our Smith College Alumnae Chorus tour of Slovenia was only a few weeks after the death of my mother, known here at Top of JC’s Mind as Nana. One of the things that was comforting to me was saying prayers for my mom at the various churches we visited. Sometimes, I was even able to light a candle in her memory.

In prior tour posts, I have shared some photos from some of the churches we visited, but I wanted to share a few more. The ceiling from the chapel of Ljubljana Castle:
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Most of the churches we saw on our trip had kneelers that were built into the wooden seats. I loved the curves of these pews from the Ljubljana castle chapel:
Ljubljana castle chapel pews

A cross silhouetted against Lake Bled in the entrance to the Mary of the Assumption:
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The beautifully painted Stations of the Cross there:
Stations of the Cross at Lake Bled

In Trieste, the organ and a bit of the rose window, which was a later addition to Saint Just, when technology had progressed enough to have that large an opening in the wall:

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Catholic altars contain relics, but one seldom sees them in such a conspicuous way:img_0233

A crucifix at St. George in Piran that had been restored from one of the older iterations of the church. I was struck by how contemporary designers have recalled this centuries-old style in their own work:
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The main altar:
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And the ceiling above the chancel:
chancel ceiling - St.George, Piran

There were two churches that I visited that were not part of the official tour. Because I was there as a pray-er rather than a tourist, I don’t have photos inside the churches, but they remain close to my heart. One was in Trieste, near the amphitheater ruins. Nana’s ethnic heritage was northern Italian, so it was special to be able to spend some quiet time in the church there. The other was when I went to Mass on our last morning in Ljubljana. It was comforting to be there as part of the congregation, even though they were speaking a language I didn’t know. All the same, I felt that the prayers in my heart were understood.

Besides my private prayer pilgrimage, I also silently dedicated my performances of the Duruflé Requiem to my mother.  This requiem is based on chants from the early church and is sung in Latin, as it would have been before the Second Vatican Council. Much of it is spare and meditative, beautiful but difficult to perform because the individual vocal lines are often exposed.

The most moving of these text for me is the “In Paradisum”, which is the final commendation of the deceased to God at the end of the funeral rite. The text translates:

May the Angels lead you into paradise:
may the martyrs receive you at your coming,
and lead you into the holy city, Jerusalem.

May the choir of Angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor,
may you have everlasting rest.

At my mother’s funeral, this was the point at which I was most emotional, so I worried that I might have difficulty singing through it, especially as Duruflé sets the first stanza for sopranos only. I found, though, that it was comforting for me to bring my mother to mind at that moment, making the traditional prayer even more meaningful. In the powerful silence after we very quietly finished the piece, I could find peace.

SoCS: where?

Where I’ve been was a topic I addressed in a recent post. The short answer is Slovenia. I have done a number of posts about the trip with more to come.

The long answer, aside from my physical location at home, is in the ozone. Well, not literally. Or in a fog. Not literally that, either.

I’ve been juggling a lot of things for a long time, primarily caretaking for various people. After my mom, known as Nana here at TJCM, passed away in May and after the immediate busy-ness of the funeral and the bunch of paperwork and phone calling that needed to happen, I had hoped that I could be more organized and not feeling like my mind is scattered most of the time, but no. At least, not so far.

A friend reassured me that it is still early days, that my sense of clarity will return, but that it takes a long time.

Admittedly, it doesn’t make sense to reorganize my life now anyways. We are in the final weeks of having daughter E and granddaughter ABC in residence. We expect her visa to come through sometime soon and then she will need to move to London within 30 days. I am expecting that, when they leave after 2+ years of living here, there will be another period that is like mourning, too.

So, I guess it may be a long time before I feel like I can think, plan, write, organize, as I used to.

Before I feel like I know where I am going.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “where.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/08/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-10-19/

SoCS badge by Pamela, at https://achronicalofhope.com/

Nana

I have often written posts about my parents, known here as Nana and Paco. I’m sad to tell you that Nana passed away last week. After months of declining health due to congestive heart failure, she had a few days of rapid decline and died peacefully with my older sister with her and the rest of the family able to gather quickly for some final time together with her.

Over these last few days, my sisters have been staying at Paco’s apartment and taking care of him, while my spouse B and I have been tending to preparations for the funeral, which will take place mid-week.

We are very fortunate that this week is a week off for my son-in-law L, who was able to fly here from London to be with daughter E, granddaughter ABC, and all of us.

I admit that my mind has been richoting from one subject to another. Now that the funeral plans are all in place, I’m hoping I can calm my mind a bit, but it remains to be seen.

With so much happening, I’m not online very much, so I may not be able to keep up with responding to comments. Please know that I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers that you send on behalf of Nana and our family.

In peace,
Joanne

SoCS: Christmas

This was our first Christmas season without Grandma (my mother-in-law) who passed away in March.

It was also a quiet Christmas for a number of reasons which I won’t enumerate here.

It was sometimes difficult to navigate the season, trying to balance happy memories of how much Grandma loved Christmas, especially decorating, with how painful it was that she wasn’t able to be here with us.

I think each of us had at least one crying jag in the process.

Some things just felt right, though, such as putting the carol singers that she made for us on the cupboard filled with her teacup collection that now sits in our dining room, instead of on the mantel in the living room.

And making her pecan puff recipe.

I am also thankful that last year, our daughter E and her husband L were here celebrating Christmas with us. It was a precious time.

None us knew that that Christmas would be Grandma’s last.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “first/last.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2016/12/30/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-dec-3116/

 

Continuing a year of firsts

Today, my mother-in-law, known here as Grandma, would have turned 85.

Instead of buying flowers or her favorite truffles from a local sweets shop and making plans for her birthday dinner, we are faced with the six-month anniversary of her death and the beginning of a new season without her.

We have already been through the first Easter and Mother’s Day without her.

On August 15th, we didn’t buy flowers in remembrance of her and Grandpa’s wedding anniversary.

In the months ahead, there will be the first Thanksgiving without her and the first Christmas and the first Valentine’s Day.

We won’t be bringing her flowers on March 17th to celebrate Evacuation Day, an inside family joke that originated with Grandpa’s years as an elementary school principal.

A few days later will be the first anniversary of her death.

And then a year of seconds.

“Fifty-four” in Eunoia Review

I am pleased to share the this link:  https://eunoiareview.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/fifty-four/ to my poem “Fifty-four” in Eunoia Review. It is a reprint of the poem which first appeared in Wilderness House Literary Review. Before that, it was a finalist in a Binghamton Poetry Project contest. It was written about me and my friend Angie.

I usually write squealing posts when a poem is accepted, but this was different. It was a very sober time in our lives, as we were dealing with the continuing process of grieving Grandma’s death. By sad coincidence, in January, Eunoia had published “The Last Night“, a poem I wrote about the death of my father-in-law. It felt surreal that they accepted another poem of mine that involves a death at a time when we were again mourning. This feeling has only multiplied as the losses have continued to mount this spring.

I do hope that you will take a moment to visit Eunoia Review and read my work. I would love to hear from you, either through comments here or at Eunoia.

Peace,
Joanne

March 25th

March 25th, 2016 was Good Friday.

So was March 25th, 2005.

The only reason I remember that fact was that that was the day my friend Angie died.

When she died after fighting cancer for over four years, both of B’s parents were still alive. His dad died in July, 2005, also from cancer; his mom, on Tuesday of Holy Week, just a few days before the 11th anniversary of Angie’s death.

In the early morning hours of March 25th, when I couldn’t sleep, I visited the website of the the charity that Angie’s family established in her memory. I always make a donation on March 25th and on October 25th, which was Angie’s birthday.

This year, the paypal link was broken, so I emailed to ask about it.

Her eldest son sent me a reply and set about getting the link fixed. He also sent me a wonderful photo of his daughter, whose middle name is Angeline, after the grandmother she will never meet on this earth. In the photo, she has a marker in her tiny hand. She may be an artist, like Angie.

Life goes on.

 

Month’s Mind

Yesterday, there was a memorial service at the senior community where my parents and, until recently, B’s mom live. They hold one every quarter for residents who have died in the previous three months; this time, there were eight.

This service marked the first official commemoration of Grandma’s death. She did not want to have a wake or funeral; there will be a graveside service later in the spring back in New England.

By coincidence, the service was almost exactly a month after Grandma’s death. It made me think of a Month’s Mind Mass, which is from my Catholic faith tradition. Grandma was not Catholic and the service was not a mass, but it was comforting to me.

The service was the first time I have been a bit teary. I have been so busy concentrating on doing everything that needs to be done and on supporting others that I haven’t really done much mourning myself.

Reaction to loss follows its own path…

Four weeks

Today marks four weeks since Grandma died.

The time has passed in a blizzard of paperwork, phone calls, sorting, packing, and hauling.  As if to add to the surreal sense of time, we had a springtime siege of cold weather and snow, following a winter that was much milder than usual. Had Grandma been alive, she would have heartily disapproved of the turn in the weather. She liked things to proceed in an orderly fashion and was inclined to take inclement weather as personal affront.

One of the hidden blessings in all the sorting and cleaning out has been that we came upon so many reminders of her life. Photos from the decades of her life, including a newspaper clipping of her modeling a fur coat back in the fifties. Playing board games with our children. Writing the weekly menus in calligraphy so that she could stay in practice. Her favorite authors and movies. Her love of decorating for every possible season and holiday, including three drawers of candles in a range of colors to match the decor.

We reached a milestone yesterday. We turned her cottage back over to Good Shepherd Village so that they can ready it for the next resident. Grandma has been the only person to live there, as she moved in shortly after the community opened in fall of 2009. It was bittersweet for B and me to walk in for the last time, having stripped it back to the bare walls and floors, looking much the same as it did when we first saw it.

The window treatments and the dents her furniture had left in the carpets were the only visible reminders that Grandma had made her home here near us for her last six years.