Ellen Dolgen is a longtime contributor and friend of Midlife Boulevard. We send her our condolences on the loss of her mother. Read more from Ellen on her website.
On July 6th, I received that dreaded phone call. My beloved Mom passed away in Tucson, Arizona.
Mom started having trouble breathing earlier in the day, and then at approximately 2 in the afternoon, just stopped breathing as she sat in her TV chair. She had what one would call a blessed passing. She did not suffer, it was peaceful.
Although she was 95 years young, I was not ready.
As it was with menopause and that stage of life’s journey, no one really prepared me for death and dying. Frankly those words were not spoken in our household. My parents had lost their first born, my brother Gary, at the tender age of 4. He choked to death on a piece of bread. Tragically, no one knew the Heimlich maneuver in those days. As a parent, frankly, I do not know how they survived that horrific day. My sister was 2. I was born approx. 9 months later. Then 8 years later my brother was born.
There was a beautifully framed picture of a little boy on my Mom’s dresser. It never moved and no words were ever spoken of it. I knew it was something very fragile – never to be touched. It took me years before I got the courage to ask my maternal Grandma who was that boy in the picture. It was Gary.
In my teens, I first experienced loss when my maternal Grandpa died. I was scared at the funeral, and had no idea what to expect. I accidentally looked at the open coffin. That’s something I will never do again. It took me years to erase the picture of dead Grandpa from my memories.
I adored my father, but sadly he battled terrible heart disease and he passed away at the young age of 58. My Mom’s love for him was unmatched, beautiful and beyond most couples’ wildest expectations. David and I had just had our daughter, Sarah. She was 3 months old, and was born on my parent’s last anniversary together. I was 27, devastated, and not prepared to lose my father.
My husband was loving, patient and a rock for me during those dark days. However, I think having my new little baby girl to take care of is what got me out of bed in the morning. Holding her, that baby smell, her giggles, and need for love and mothering surrounded me with the joys of life. Some days I would nurse her with tears running down my face, but her little face, tiny fingers, and helplessness would bring me back to life again.
When our son was born two years later, I named him Jack after my beloved father. A few months later, my Grandma passed away. My Grandma was my confident and definitely my biggest fan. Having my new beautiful son in my arms and a two year old toddler running around the house got me through the grief of losing my sweet Grandma.
My beloved Mother lived a sharing, caring and charitable life with effortless grace and tremendous modesty. Although she was petite, refined, and delicate – she was strong and wise. She adored her parents and her brother, Jack, who is 90 and lives in Flint, Michigan. Mom’s entire being was devoted to her family. Every breath she took was dedicated to all of us.
Sarah is the mother of our first grandchild, Aviva. In March of this year, on Mom’s 95th birthday, she was able to meet Sarah and Sol’s new bundle, Aviva. Aviva just sat on the arm of Mom’s chair with her little hand on Mom’s shoulder – they were both completely smitten with each other.
At her burial, as I watched my Mother’s grave be covered in dirt, I started having trouble breathing. My son-in-law, Sol, gave me Aviva to hold and immediately I calmed down. It was as if he gave me a tranquilizer. As Aviva squirmed in my arms all giggles and smiles, I was once again comforted by the circle of life…a baby – a new life – love, hope, and joy. I feel blessed to have Sol as a member of our family.
Lucky for me, in June I read the fabulous free eBook, Love on the Other Side by Arielle Ford. This is a must read! Thanks to this beautiful book, I know that my Mom and Dad are in each other’s arms again. This brings me great comfort.
Towards the end of my Mom’s life our daily phone calls were brief – her short term memory was gone, but she was still aware and alert…. I always ended with, “I love you, Mommy.” She replied, “I love you too, Ellen Gail.”
I had no idea July 5th would be the last time I would hear her voice. I am going to miss our daily phone calls so much. I know that in time, I will stop reaching for the phone to call her. I will forever look at the world partly through her eyes and hear her words of wisdom and guidance.
My husband is circling me with love and encouragement to grieve …to just be. I am so fortunate I can speak openly and honestly with my children, Sarah (35 years old) and Jack (33 years old), about life and death as I cherish their love, support, and wise words of wisdom.
This is hard for me….I am not used to feeling so sad, so numb, so detached.
My favorite scholar, Pooh Bear once said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Yes, Pooh’s right. This is very hard.
However, once again I am reminded about the circle of life. Sarah, Sol and Aviva moved back to San Diego mid July. Lucky me! On August 8th Aviva was 1.
It seems so fitting that when the grief comes and the tears flow, it is my sweet little granddaughter, Aviva who helps me feel joy, giggles, and happiness again. She reaches out her hands for me to hold her, but in truth it is she who is holding me as life circles on………….