I calmly crawled into the bed next to my mother’s cool and lifeless body, only seconds after she took her final breath. Hospice had provided us with a standard hospital bed for in-home use as it delivered the support her body needed when in such an immobile state. It was my mama’s wishes to die in her home, surrounded by her loved ones so comfort was priority.
Literally speaking, that’s how close I have come to death. I’ve lied next to it and I didn’t lie there for long as the sensation that my mother was no longer there overwhelmed me. Not that I needed confirmation but that was the moment I knew in my heart that the soul was an actual, real thing – not just an idea. I caressed her arm with my fingertips and whispered a few words next to her ear but instantly felt silly. Why am I lying here speaking to a dead body, I thought to myself. I then felt the intense anger supervene and I abruptly got out of the bed and purposely walked out of the dimly lit bedroom around 4 in the morning.
After my mama passed, merely four months after my dad, I became obsessed with death and dying. I lived with an almost constant fear that someone else, closest to me, would be next – namely, David. The thought was paralyzing. I wanted it to be me. At least then, I wouldn’t have to experience the agony anymore, the mourning and those thoughts were followed up with self-hatred for being so goddamned selfish. I wouldn’t have to experience it but my loved ones would. My world was confusing to say the least. I allowed myself to be overcome with fear and anxiety on a regular basis – at times, to the point where it would disrupt my daily routine. Some might call this the grieving process – I have a few other choice words for it.
My nonna, as we called my dad’s Italian mother, passed away the following year on my mother’s birthday, April 8, 2012, just two days shy of the anniversary of my dad’s death. My cousin called me early in the morning with the despairing news – the kind of news that made me throw my hands in the air and say, “Enough! I get it” followed by tears to whomever might be listening. And so persisted my preoccupation with death and the incessantly morbid thoughts that someone near and dear to my heart was going to be next.
Fortunately, I have since overcome my fixation and fear of demise, however, it recently occurred to me that the grieving is far from over. Just as I am still grieving my parents’ death and may forever be doing so, I am also mourning the loss of David. The David I met and fell in love with a little over three years ago died a long time ago.
Perhaps my initial anxieties over losing my husband weren’t so far off the rocker – perhaps, once again, it was my instinct trying to prepare me for the inevitable, though I don’t believe one can ever prepare him/herself for this magnitude of loss. I often say and I believe that sometimes, it’s even more challenging to lose someone to life rather than to death because they’re still out there, alive, somewhere – they’re just not a part of our lives any longer. At least in death, we know where they went – well, we think we do. David has been gone just as much as my mother’s soul was gone from her body on the morning of August 30, 2011. I failed to recognize this devastating truth when it was happening or perhaps it just wasn’t as obvious as when one stops breathing or perhaps, I just didn’t want to believe it…and the grieving has only just begun.