I haven't written about this until today because my thoughts were not connecting in any clear way to words which would articulate the feelings I have, the relationship I had with my mother or the impact her passing has on my life.
My mother had a significant mental illness most of her life. This illness prevented her from being a whole person, a healthy partner in marriage and a capable parent. Through two marriages, two sets of children, many jobs, moves, physical illnesses and stages of her life, she was always suffering, unable to find relief from her torment, unable to accept love and to find peace.
After many years of estrangement, I came back into my mother's life last summer. Ironically, now burdened with dementia and early Alzheimer's, she had finally found some relief from her mental torment.
Through therapy, education and distance I had long since forgiven her for things which she had no control over but which greatly impacted my childhood, my own mental health and later my adult life. Our relationship, one which had roots in maternal love but gradually withered under the onslaught of mental illness, and my subsequent need to break free for my own survival, has always been a part of me. It has crept into the crevices of every relationship I've ever had, fueled many of my life's choices and defined some of the sharpest corners of my self.
Although I knew it would happen one day, this watershed event in every person's life- the death of one's mother- I never knew exactly how I would feel. Driving back home today after taking care of some of the arrangements it finally hit me. All the appropriate feelings are there picking at my heart and making my soul ache but I finally realized today that they are old feelings. I had grieved the loss of my mother many many years ago. What's now left is immense sadness for her life and the waste of a relationship that was never viable.
Strangely though, much like the feeling of a very sore muscle, behind the sadness there is relief. I feel relief that her physical and emotional suffering is now over. I feel relief she is no longer confined to a bed in the only care home her state funds could afford. I feel relief she is no longer afraid, no longer so very sad and no longer feels so alone.
I believe that those who had always loved her but have since passed were there to greet her and to gently take her hand, kiss her cheek and welcome her, finally to a peace which she never knew her whole life.
That thought bring peace to my heart. As my mother I think she would find peace in that too.