As the years roll by, wisdom comes by living through the challenges that present themselves. I used to wonder how “old” people became so wise. I now know, now that I am considered “old” by some, that it is impossible to experience all that comes upon us and not learn, grow, gain insight and become wiser as a result. Some of us gain more insight than others over time, but each event affecting us produces a new template through which we filter all future experiences.
LOSS OF BOTH PARENTS
The loss of both parents is a passage that was extraordinarily painful, complicated and lonely for me. For no matter how many loving people were in my life; my children, a grandchild, friends and other family members, there were no people like my parents! The unconditional love I received from them is only available through my treasured memories of who they were, how they showed me love and their expressions of support, wisdom and dedication to their core values.
In July of 2005, I lost my beloved mother, Charlotte. It was a devastating loss for me and for my family. She was involved in our lives on a daily basis; active, supportive, loving and bright. Not fair, at 78, it should not have been her time to go. My pain was immeasurable and I was inconsolable for a period of time. How do I go on without my mother? It was mind boggling. I could not wrap my head around it.
And, then, my worry about what will my father do? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I completely skipped over the process of mourning for my mother in exchange for making my dad my purpose in life. He was so very brave, but so very sad losing my mother after 58 years of marriage. It broke my heart those first few months to see him so devastated. I wondered how he would survive and how could I take away his pain and sadness. This became my mission; trying to get rid of my father’s sadness. My ultimate purpose in life became helping my dad recover.
What I witnessed next was remarkable. After several months of mourning, clearing out my mother’s stuff and re-organizing his home, my dad made a decision; to live fully again, really take care of his health and his home and continue living as G-d intended for him to do. He lost weight, became very health conscious about food, began exercising and once again became passionate about his hobby of collecting stamps, coins and other paper valuables. As my family watched this transition from mourning to living, we were astounded at his determination and drive. Wisdom for me sets in; the human spirit can conquer and overcome the losses that must be endured, no matter how insurmountable they seem.
Tragically, barely 4 months later, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. A stronger more optimistic spirit, I have never seen. My dad and I became a team fighting against his cancer. It was a daily struggle and a daily partnership in this war. Every day, he found something good about the day. He never lost his mental sharpness or wit. He was my dad and I was getting to know him better and better. Out of this horrific adversity came a new, deeper and stronger bond with my dad.
Sadly, with many ups and downs, over a period of 10 months, in September 2006, my dad died. I had never felt so bereft in my life. Without my mother and now without my father, life became a blur. Grateful for my daughter and son being close by and having their loving kindness, support, and help to move on was incredible. I don’t know how I would have survived without them.
To think of being the “matriarch” of the family was beyond my comprehension. I felt I just wasn’t ready. The fact was – there wasn’t a choice – I became the leader. It caused me great fear and anxiety. There was no TRAINING period. The feeling of being “alone” was terrifying and overwhelming. But, march on, I must – despite the feeling of inadequacy – I needed to follow the path that my parents taught me; even in times of struggle, we continue to move ahead, doing the best we can with the focus on the “good” in every day.
I was blessed to have a close and loving relationship with my parents. I have a strong sense of their presence within me. Surprisingly, with each year that passes, my connection with them becomes more defined. Now, at age 64, the things I learned from my parents, take on new meaning. I can relate to more of what they were trying to teach or share. I find myself thinking and referring back to my parents in the course of my everyday life very often. Now, I “get it.” I have more compassion for the challenges and struggles they were going through at various stages of life, as I experience similar things to what they were going through; finding the right doctors, getting on medicare, teaching grandchildren about the holidays, being the GO TO person to the younger generation.
In my “senior” years, I feel that their lessons are still bearing fruit in a new evolved way, now that I have married children and grandchildren. My fiancé Jay will hear me say “Boy, I wish my parents were here right now.”
It is the circle of life in the truest sense. And, it is bittersweet. Although I am sad that they are no longer here, I am happy that they were my parents and provided me with the legacy of love, warmth, kindness, good values and knowledge that I can carry with me and share with the people in this world that I love dearly – and they know who they are!