The path of grief is a very individual journey - no two people grieve exactly alike. It has been six months today since my mom passed on. For me it has been a very bumpy path, complicated by continuing to care for my dad and support him in his grief as he battles Alzheimer's disease.
I first spoke with my parents about their plans for "the future" when Dad retired from his career as a university professor in 1995. Mom had suffered a stroke six years earlier but was still mobile, and Dad was in good health. They had completed advance directives and estate planning.
It's strange, the things that go through our minds when we are suffering a life-altering, heartbreaking loss. When my Mom passed just three weeks ago, one of the first things I thought of was the coming issue of the AARP Bulletin with our photo on the cover and an excerpt of my book, AARP's Juggling Work and Caregiving. I knew it was to be a visual depiction of the love I feel for my mom and the care I was giving her. People who had seen it had told me it took their breath away and Mom looked beautiful. I'm so proud of both of my parents, and I had eagerly anticipated the moment I would see the cover and show it to her. Truthfully, in my heart that moment was more important to me than having my book published. Now that moment will never come. After she passed, the first time I saw the cover I was not prepared. I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably for an hour.
It was my first trip to Pennsylvania since Pop Pop passed away, and I was equal parts excited and apprehensive - excited because it was (and is) my favorite place on the planet; nervous because my favorite person wouldn't be there.
As the jukebox blared, we all danced and raucously sang (OK, shouted really) out the words to "Bye Bye Miss American Pie", "Aimee" (my personal favorite of course) and yes, even "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" at the top of our lungs. I looked around the circle of about 35 of my college sorority Chi Omega sisters and it felt like thirty years had simply melted away. Our early 1980's hair and clothing may have changed over time, but our character and the essence of who we are - separately and together - is still there. We have all had our challenges during these years apart, but on that weekend I know I was not the only one who felt a bit levitated in spirit.
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