Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Unfolding the Days of Mourning

When someone dies, we take a breath and realize that a new chapter has begun. Where before we cleaned the commode and wiped a sweaty brow, now we sift through memories and personal effects. Where before we concerned ourselves with medications and symptoms, now we examine legal necessities and paperwork. While our loved one was living while dying, we were also living through their dying process, slowly letting go of the old earthly relationship as we opened to a less corporeal connection which loomed large in our future. As our loved one's eyes began to focus beyond us in their softening gaze, we looked more and more closely for the subtle changes that might portend the end being near.

Once the body has been removed from the home and the hospital bed and other equipment as well, one must take stock of the space where the loved one lived and died, and accept that their physical presence in that space is now a thing of the past.

Next come the personal effects. A watch. A money clip. A ring. A necklace. The trousers hang in the closet, pockets still filled with the normal flotsam and jetsam of a life: wallet, keys, change, mints, candies usually carried for bank tellers and cashiers in stores, a handkerchief.

And then there are the clothes that hang in the closet, bereft of the body which once filled them. The shirts pine for a beating heart. The pants wish for legs to crease and bend them. The socks sit alone alongside the underwear and undershirts. The ties and belts dangle sadly like plants in a hanging garden. But a new life awaits them.

Food begins to arrive from caring friends and family. The phone is rarely at rest. Arrangements are made, and plans created. Activity is a welcome relief from the heaviness of mourning, yet too much activity can also preclude one's feelings being actively felt.

On the physical side, one must ask simple questions. Are you eating? Are you hydrating? Can you sleep? Would exercise be a benefit to you now? A fine balance must be struck, whether it be emotionally, physically or spiritually. You walk a tightrope of emotional balance, and living friends and family offer guiding hands along the way.

Laughter, smiles, moments alone, moments in motion, the awareness of loss---they are all part and parcel of the unfolding of the days of mourning.
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