Until my own child died, I had very little experience surrounding death. However, I did see the effect of grief on my mother when my grandmother died.
My mother seemed inconsolable at times and cried frequently that first year. She and her mother were very close. I believe my mother felt her mother’s death was the most difficult thing she had ever experienced in her life.
When I opened and read my teenage diary thirty years later, I copied a page about the experience of seeing my mother’s grief at my grandmother’s funeral.
All of my life, I had a lot of fear about how I would cope with losing my mother. Yesterday, I was speaking with my good friend, Susan. Over the course of our conversation, I was very relaxed as I discussed the deterioration of my mother’s health. Susan remarked that I had most certainly changed, because she sensed that I radiated acceptance around losing my mother – rather than fear.
I have not written much about God. For me, death is a mystery and I do not have much to say about god. I consider myself an agnostic, meaning I am simply “not sure.”
About a month ago, I corresponded with my former boyfriend, Sam, who is a doctor. Our discussions clarified many of my thoughts surrounding grief, which I certainly experienced. (Posts #217-224). Sam had written to me about God, but I did not want to discuss it at the time. This was the message he sent me:
“You know that I feel there is a purpose for everything…if not, then we are just creatures biding our time on this planet, subject to completely random events, occasionally trying to find meaning when there is none…what a sad existence. I believe that G-d is intimately involved with each of us in our daily lives. If you look and are aware, you will see it.
Judy, I think you intuitively know this as well. You wrote that you have moments of spirituality, but I think you are spiritual by nature…if your music and your writing are not spiritual, then I am not sure what is! You just haven’t figured out how to apply it quite yet, but that will be part of your ongoing journey.”
This morning when I visited my mother, I had a spiritual experience.
When I arrived, I found my mother in the dining room. According to the nurses, she had finished most of her breakfast and wasn’t too agitated. She had a worried look, which she had frequently due to her dementia. I said, “Mom, guess what? I brought my guitar to play a few songs for you this morning!”
Since my mom was in her wheelchair, I pushed her back toward her room. Then I remembered Sara.
I met Sara last week. My mom’s caregiver, Miriam, introduced us. Sara is ninety-eight-years-old and has two, broken hips that were not operated on. Sara uses a walker and also walks unassisted.
Last week, when I refused for my mom to have surgery to repair her broken hip, all of the doctors told me that my mom would experience unrelenting pain. Her mortality rate was extremely high and she was given hospice services.
I was amazed to learn about Sara, since the surgeon told me that in the last seven years only one patient had refused surgery. The patient had died soon after.
I looked in and Sara was sitting on her bed. I said to her, “Would you like to listen to me play a few songs?”
Sara quivered with joy and enthusiasm. Of course, I knew she’d be excited since she had appreciated listening to my music on an iPod the last few days. I decided I would play in Sara’s room. I pushed my mother’s wheelchair to one side and set up a chair for myself.
I played about five songs. I started with a Hebrew song. It was one that I used to sing with my youngest son. I always felt moved while singing it, because I knew the composer died in a concentration camp.
After that, I played a few songs from the 70’s. As far as my original songs went, I only played my instrumental version of Farewell and Crystal Oceans.
My mother looked tired so it was time for me to stop. Sara beamed and said, “Judy, you must be a very religious person, are you not?”
I answered, “Not really. My mother most certainly is, though.”
Sara turned to look at my mother and said, “You know, I thought your daughter was religious because when she sings I feel she is singing to God.”
Then Sara continued, “I am an agnostic myself.” When I heard that, I really felt connected to this very wise, 98-year-old woman. She was so intelligent and insightful.
After this dialog, I pondered about which song’s lyrics invoked a sense of “the profound.” The only song I had shared that might be considered spiritual was the first one called Eli Eli. I decided to record it later in the day on my computer.
I was back in my mother’s room. It was then when I noticed on her calendar. It happened to be the anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I decided to gently tell my mother.
My mother was sad because normally she went to the cemetery. Those trips were now impossible for her. I told my mother that I would light a candle when I came home to honor my grandmother, Anna. I also reassured my mom – there were other ways to honor her mother without going to the cemetery. We talked about many of her memories of her mother.
I said goodbye to my mom. As I walked down the hallway carrying my guitar, all the nurses grinned and offered compliments about my singing. I was no longer “the annoying daughter” with only complaints about my mother’s care.
I was “Judy the singer/songwriter” now!
I came home and lit a candle.
I still consider myself an agnostic. I’ll need to meet God before I’m truly certain.
Today, I had this feeling that God was trying to meet me.
© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.