I started writing about grief in March 2006, two months after my mother died. Looking back twelve years later, I'm not sure how I did it, but I am glad that I began writing so soon after her death. I could not have captured the raw pain of new grief if I had waited.
I blocked out some things that happened during my mother's final illness because they were too painful to remember. As time passed, certain events came back to me as I was able to accept them. It was my task in grief to put them in some kind of perspective, so that I could let go of the images of suffering for the sake of my healing.

One such event was the night after my mother’s surgery when she called out for her own mother. It was December 22—the 48th anniversary of her mother’s death. The Cardiac Care nurse reported this to me the next morning and I asked her how she responded to my mother. “Well, of course your mother was confused. I told her that she was 85 years old and her mother had been dead for decades.” Then she added, “When she stopped asking for her mother I knew she was less confused.”

I told Mom’s concrete-thinking nurse that there were at least two other explanations: 1) She was in pain and she was symbolically calling out for comfort. Of course she would want her own mother; and 2) Maybe, just maybe, she was asking her dead mother to come, be near and wait for her. The nurse rolled her eyes and looked at me without comprehension.

From On Grief and Grieving by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, page 107:

Why is the concept of visitation so hard to believe? Imagine that you’re a parent who had loved and cared for your child. You kept her fed, healthy and safe while she was growing up...You shared her excitement and fears of high school, college, marriage and becoming a parent herself.

Now go forward [fifty or so] years into the future. You’ve been dead for decades, and your daughter, the same one you helped through all her scary moments in life, is now dying herself. Wouldn’t you meet her if you could? As the veil between life and death is lifting, wouldn’t you want to reassure her she’s going to be okay and you’re still there for her? When you think of it this way, maybe the idea (of visitation) isn’t quite so far-fetched.

Many people believe that when they die, everyone they have ever loved and known will be there to greet them in death. That is why they believe no one actually dies alone.
These words comfort me. I hope they comfort you, too.
I will never know if my grandmother visited her daughter that night, but I like believing in the possiblility.
Go to next page: Merlin's Gift

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How complicated and individual mending is,
the time required for healing
cannot be measured against any fixed calendar
Mary Jane Moffat
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