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Today marks a year since my mother died.

My wonderful cousin Signy called from Canada to check in, see how I was feeling. I’m feeling fine. I was a bit wary, a bit observant of myself, on the alert. But truly, it was just another day, although memories of the events that occurred one year ago today passed through my mind. I wasn’t upset, wasn’t sad. I felt serene, and balanced.

I wondered, now as before, whether my calm feelings about my mother’s death were normal, or if I was just in massive denial. [I’m talking only about my feelings about her dying, not about the subsequent business around her will that dredged up so many devastating feelings and memories of abandonment and dismissal.] As time passed, I came to realize that my feelings were normal and I wasn’t in denial. The truth is that I had said goodbye to my mother so many years before. I’d said goodbye in increments, and grieved the loss of her as a mother, in increments. In contrast to people who are in daily or near-daily contact with their parents, my contact with her was minimal, limited to a few times a year. So I didn’t really miss her because, frankly, there was very little to miss.

There are other people who are in more distress today than I am, people whose lives were more closely bound up with hers. Including my cousin, who has survived cancer, in contrast to my mother, and who gets a bit freaked out by anniversaries like this. And she called me, to find out how I was. Whereas I probably should have been the one calling her. Never mind – I know she forgives me because she’s lovely like that.

It started blowing from the north again today, freezing cold winds down from the Arctic. Not enjoyable in the least. Dragged myself out of the house around noon when my mind was going numb with cabin fever and I was desperate for a breath of fresh air. Hoping for something a bit more agreeable tomorrow. -3°C at the moment but feels like -11, and that’s 27°F and feels like 12°F. The sun came up at 10 am and went down at 5.23 pm.

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  • Pauline McCarthy December 9, 2009, 5:48 pm

    My Dearest Alda I have just read this post and also the post “business around her will”. We have only met a couple of times and just talked chit chat about “foreigners” in Iceland, so we don’t know each other very well. I want to thank you for your posts. I feel I know you much better now and sympathise with you. You are an amazingly strong and friendly person and I am so much more impressed about you when I read the story of your upbringing. You go girl!!!!!

    I hope you don’t mind, but I would like to share with you my experience of my mothers death.

    My mother died last year on August 26th. As you mentioned no parent is perfect. I was very lucky in that my parents were really quite wonderful except for one exception regarding religion. They came from an Irish catholic background and were very strict and did their very best to raise their 10 children. To cut a long story short, you can imagine all hell broke loose when I decided to go live with a “Protestant”. I was “ex-communicated” from the family. It was a very difficult time for me. When I eventually married (not in the church) they still considered me “living in sin” but socially acceptable and so began a very stilted relationship. I moved to Iceland and when I had children my mother softened but I was told my one of my sisters that she secretly baptised my son when I left her with him one day on a visit to Scotland. 🙂

    So over the years the relationship became much better. Sadly my mother had M.S. and deteriorated very quickly. She spent the last 20 months of her life in a hospice. When she first went there the doctors said she only had 24 hours to live so I jumped on a plane to visit her. She pulled through. During the next 20 months I was called 5 times by my dad to come quickly as Mum was dying, but she always pulled though. Last August 26th was the first time I had been to Scotland not on a trip for mothers pending death but for one of my sisters son’s wedding.

    We went to visit Mum who by this time could only move her eyes and could communicate by blinking once for Yes and twice for No. She had suddenly gotten worse and the doctors said “Yes, we have said many times that this was her last day but now we are 99% positive, as my father had given permission for no intervention to be given apart from pain relief. I will not go into the gory details but she was in much distress and the noise of her breathing was dreadful. The priest came to give the last rights and I was there in the room with my father and sister. While the priest was saying the special prayers I suddenly remembered the time when she had ex-communicated me from the family. I hadn’t thought about it for many years (Its wonderful how our brains file away nasty things) I closed my eyes and internally I said to her “I forgive you! I forgive you! I forgive you!” You cannot imagine the peace this brought me (and her I hope).
    My siblings are far and wide around the world and all were called to come take vigil by her deathbed, there were only about 5 in Scotland so we took turns sitting with her an hour at a time. When it was my turn I decided to sing songs for her, one of my sisters had been singing Catholic hymns, but I thought I would try out some of her favourites. She had been a wonderful singer and I have inherited that gift from her. I sang a few Shirley Bassey and Frank Sinatra and then I remembered that the old Irish song “Danny Boy” was her favourite. When I started the song she suddenly opened her eyes and stared at me and kept her eyes open the whole time. During the last line of the song (which BTW is about a mother singing to her child from the grave) the text is ” And I will sleep in peace until you come to me.” When I sang the word “peace” her breathing suddenly became normal and her whole body relaxed. I honestly thought she was dying at that exact moment. She looked so calm and relaxed and her eyes shone. When I finished the song she closed her eyes and never regained consciousness again. She died a few hours later.

    We had not been close for many, many years but in those last few moments of consciousness I believe we were the closest we had ever been.

    LoVe Pauline

  • alda December 9, 2009, 6:06 pm

    Dear Pauline, what a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it, and for your kind words.