Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Thank You For Everything" (DUI Loss Entry No. 15)

“Thank you for everything.”  That is the last thing my mom ever said to me.  Like a lot of mothers and daughters, we had some difficult times.  There were a few years when she hardly spoke to me, as she was unhappy my boyfriend and I were living together (a little more unusual in the late 1980s than it would be now).  But by the time my mom reached her 80s and I my 40s, we’d found a way to leave the hot button issues alone.  She stopped asking if I was going to mass, I stopped trying to get her to understand what I believed and didn’t believe and why.  I felt she was pleased I became a lawyer and kept writing and was doing well in the world.  But I often felt she’d be happier if instead I’d married a lawyer and had kids.  Perhaps partly because it would have given us more in common. 

In the last few years of my mom’s life I really tried to find things we could do together.  The last day I saw her, I read through and explained her and my dad’s insurance and social security issues, helped her balance my aunt’s checkbook (my mom’s sister lived well into her 90s, and Mom was handling her affairs), and shoveled snow.  And so, after all the ups and downs and difficulties, when I left that day, my mom said, “Thank you for everything.”

The next night she and my dad were crossing the street and were hit by an intoxicated driver.  My mom died at the scene.  My dad lived about 6 weeks before he died. 

Neither of my parents were much for expressing emotion.  I knew my parents loved me because my mom always stocked a refrigerator full of food when I came over and clipped coupons for me, and because my dad insisted on giving me a ride to the train every time I visited, even though the walk was only a few blocks, and saved newspaper and magazine articles for me.  When my dad was in the hospital, I came in during one of his speech and cognitive therapy sessions.  This was after a couple surgeries.  Before them, he’d been clear headed and understood what was happening, after he sometimes was confused and didn’t know exactly where he was and who was who.  So the therapist asked him who I was.  He said, “Lisa.”  And she said, “And who is Lisa?”  And he said, “My daughter and close friend.”  It never occurred to me my dad thought of me as his friend, and that made me happy.

Of course I never expected my parents would die in a traumatic way, or so close in time to one another.  But because they were in their eighties, despite their good health and history of longevity in their families, I knew they might not be with us much longer.  So I thought a lot about wanting the time I had with them to be good, about not wanting to let past differences keep us apart, and about how I could best have a good relationship with them.

Not everyone gets the chance to hear kind words from, or say kinds words to, the people they love before they are suddenly gone.  On an on-going basis I talk with people who lost children or spouses because one day someone else chose to drink alcohol and get behind the wheel. 

We all have conflicts with people we care about, and we can’t always say something kind.  Sometimes we’ll say something angry, and even if that is the last thing we say, it doesn’t cancel out or define a whole relationship.  At the same time, it’s so easy to take for granted the great things about people, and life, and focus on the negative, on what we don’t like or would like to change.  Every morning now, I ask myself, what am I grateful for?  Often the answer is that I am grateful for someone being part of my life.  I try to remember to tell that to whoever it is, whether by phone or email or in conversation.  At first I felt a little awkward (I grew up in a family where people don’t talk much about feelings remember).  And then I discovered it means a lot to others to know how much they mean to me.   And whether it is the last thing I say to a person or one of many things, it makes life richer for both of us.  For me, that has been the best way to live with loss and focus on what’s good and wonderful in this world. 

Lisa M. Lilly
The Awakening  ($2.99) by Lisa M. Lilly

Tara Spencer’s mysterious pregnancy alters her life forever.  Will it also change the fate of the world?

1 comment:

  1. walking here with a smile. take care.. have a nice day ~ =D

    http://www.lonelyreload.com (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..