The loss of Julie’s mom has caused a restirring of emotions these last few days. It’s been a reminder that although we’re adults, there are still several stages in life remaining for us to experience.
The stages that make-up the Class of ‘86 are rather diverse. Some of us are traveling the world, some becoming empty-nesters; others are experiencing the joys of teenage drama, others are just getting started with their child-rearing, while others, believe it or not, are experiencing the joy of grandchildren.
And then there are those who have a dual role as a parent…not only to their children, but their parents as well. Yes - WE'VE become our parent’s parents. Our daily vocabulary includes words such as hospital, nursing home, doctor appointments and hospice.
There’s no doubt that Julie and I are not the only ones in our class to experience the loss of a parent(s) within the last 23 years. When you sit down and think about things realistically; several of us will experience this fact of life within the next 10 years. Some of us, on the other hand, have been down this road earlier than expected, and must sit back helplessly as we watch our classmates take this painful, emotional journey with their parents.
I was blessed to play a role in mom’s final stage. I was advised by a very wise man to treat her illness as a “long goodbye”; and that I did. I thanked her for working two, sometimes three jobs; I thanked her for making us work during our teenage years; but I also asked forgiveness for things I said/did that undoubtedly caused her heartache over the years. As she slept, I studied her hands and face….the fine lines, the wrinkles, the calluses. When I hugged her, I inhaled her scent and prayed I'd never forget it. As a daughter I still have a few regrets, but I feel in my heart, mom and I were at peace when she drew her last breath.
It would take some time to realize that I wasn't the same person I was the day before mom died. I comfort my mind with the thought that although mom left a bit of herself with me here on earth; she also took a part of my heart with her on her new journey.
I had another friend tell me that once both parents are gone, you actually go through a phase where you feel orphaned. It would take months after mom’s death to understand what she meant. It would take a personal crisis to realize my “life-line” was no longer available….no parent to call, no arms to hold me, no advice, no sounding board. I had in a sense, become “mom”. And that’s when I realized that a new stage for me was beginning.
As a parent, you pray that your children out-live you. You pray that as a parent, God will bless you enough days on earth to watch your children grow and experience all life has to offer. And sometimes, for reasons we never understand, God has His own plans, and takes loved ones home before they’ve had the chance to spread their wings….without the opportunity for us to say goodbye.
We tell our kids we love them everyday. My hope is that you do the same with your parents. I hope it doesn’t take a terminal illness to bring this to fruition. I hope you treasure everyday God has blessed you in still having them in your lives. I hope you take the time to memorize every fine line and wrinkle on their face and hands....listen to them tell their childhood stories...inhale their scent when you hug them. I promise there will be a day when you want to close your eyes and retrace those lines, their stories, and their scent in your memory….and in your heart.