Last week, the dreaded day we had hoped would never come, finally did. My mother in law, while surrounded by her husband and children, took her last breath. It doesn't seem to matter how much preparation we had that this loss was coming, the amount of hurt seems larger than we imagined. Its a surreal time. Although we are all relieved she is no longer in pain, things just don't feel quite right without her. My heart breaks for my husband and his sisters. They were all so close with their mom. I know all of them spoke to her every day and now, each time they go to the phone to call, they get stung all over again. My heart breaks for my father-in-law, who can't seem to find peace in a world without his wife in it. So, we all begin this walk, this tread ahead into the unknown.
While heavy hearts pull them down, they are busy making plans. Funeral arrangements, newspaper announcements, hiring help for their ailing father. I watch them being so busy, while they are still so fragile. I helped one of my sister-in-laws go through a dresser of clothes. I always wondered how you could ever go through a loved ones clothes, and then you just do. It feels so invasive to go through someone's things. Even when they aren't here anymore. I couldn't enter her bedroom without crying. Her body isn't there but her spirit was impossible to miss. It seems you can only cry so much, and then you just busy yourself, until you cry again.
Like with any traumatic experience, mornings are so challenging. I watch as my husband is either awakened too early by his racing heart and mind, or sleeps deeply only to remember his sadness when he comes to. He is strong, logical, and understands that everything had to happen this way, but still, this is brutal. The pain of watching a spouse lose a loved one is proving to be incredibly difficult. Knowing when to be there to hold him up and when to let him fall apart, is tricky dance. This was my husband's mother and it is uncharted territory for him to be on this planet without her. She was his rock and without that foundation he is treading water.
When I was pregnant, a friend shared a quote with me about becoming a parent. "To be a parent is to wear your heart on the outside of your body." It made sense to me the moment I had my daughter. It makes sense to me when I think of the type of mother my mother-in-law was to her children. They came first. She always had an ear to give them, advice to lend and was always their biggest advocate. They knew they came first for her and if their spirits were down, she would move mountains to lift them back up. In mourning someone you love, I feel that quote makes sense again. Only this time the heart is a bit broken and every memory is a bit of salt on the wound.
I am not sure what I believe about heaven, paradise or an afterlife. I do believe that when we close our eyes for the last time, we are peace. I believe that our loved ones want us to miss them, but want more that we live happily. Mostly, I believe that our loved ones live on in us. When a child loses a parent, since every cell of us is made from them, we continue to carry them on. I'm afraid that I will sink far down when I lose a parent, but I am hoping a glimpse in the mirror will remind me that they created who I am. I gently remind my husband of that now. I will remain here, available and ready for whatever emotion he feels. She created a great son. I am so grateful to her for that. I love him and I love her. I will do my best to emulate the kind of mother she was to her kids and raise mine in her honor.