Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My mother just died. I am 45 and this is new territory for me. I live 2500 miles
from where I grew up. My mother raised me alone but she has always been
vibrantly happy and self-sufficient. I am btw a bachelor (previously married, no
children). My job is a very demanding, lots of people depend on me and this
huge and sudden interruption is causing chaos, as I am the only responsible
party to go take care of funeral and house. There was no warning. No indication
she was going to do anything except live another 30 years. One massive heart
attack and wham, gone. I am reeling and not sure how to get my bearings.
My condolences. I’ve been through this twice. It doesn’t get any easier or better
with repetition. What I learned: It is a very non-linear process. You’ll have good
days and bad ones. It’s okay to cry any time you need to. It’s okay to say My
mother just died. That’s true with any colleague or stranger, or to snag the exit
row on an airline. Make sure you are equipped with caffeine and chocolate. Don’t
kill any of your relatives (even if they seem to deserve it in a given moment).
Sleep when you can. Do only what you need to. Avoid people who trigger bad
responses in you. Go for as many walks as you can. (Note: some of this is good
advice even without losing a parent). Don’t worry about your office –they’ve
coped with worse and will do so again. Focus on taking good care of yourself and
whatever your family needs.
My favorite poem about death is by a guy named Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, called “The Dead”:
The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
May the memory of each of your loved ones be a blessing.