From James Bratt
With my mother’s memorial service just one week past, I hope you’ll accept one more post about encountering the end of life. Next time a different topic, I promise.
My biggest surprise in this whole passage has been the degree to which I’ve been surprised. When you’ve watched someone decline over a nine-year period—quite gradually at first, then accelerating, finally leaving very little of the person you once knew—you come to think (well, I came to think) that the last step would be rather small. I seem to have anticipated a process like a sunset over Lake Michigan. The sun drops slowly toward the horizon, then touches it, then is a quarter below the surface, a half, three-quarters, only a tiny slice left, and then entirely gone. Just a wee slipping away with no visible change in the light around us on the shore. So it went with my mom, only that last little dip brought on instant midnight. Or, to use another analogy, I suddenly found myself in a boat out of sight of land, twilight descending, wind rising, not quite sure where I was except alone.
“Of course,” kind friends say when I relate this experience, “it was your Mom! Doesn’t matter whether she’s 53, 73, or 93, she’s still your Mom.” Truth be told, it does matter some, even a ton, those age differences. Saying goodbye to a parent “old and well-stricken in years,” in the chiseled prose of King James, is not nearly as harsh as parting forty or even twenty years earlier. But, if better, it’s still not good. It’s a parting, a tearing away from the past, the loss of a center—even, one older friend said, the loss of a big chunk of yourself.