Friday, April 20, 2012

What I Have to Do

I know what I have to do.
  • Clean and organize my house
  • Plan for homeschooling the rest of this year and for next year
  • Restore some of our old routines and activities and bring some new good things into our lives.
  • Accomplish some job and business-related things 
I have been wondering why it is so hard to concentrate and why the thought of all this makes me feel like crawling back into bed.   I am usually a bit sluggish about tackling projects, but not this much so. 

But I guess I really do know why.
“Grief ... gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness." -- CS Lewis
It's hard to believe now that it was only last spring that my Mom came here to visit.  We drove together with my three younger boys to Thomas Aquinas College to see my daughter participate in Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe.  It turned out that Iolanthe was my Mom's favorite Gilbert and Sullivan musical.   We had a really good time.... a golden time, in retrospect.

Then it was only this summer that my mom was diagnosed with end-stage cancer.  She had surgery to remove the detectable lesions.  But for several more months, though we knew the clock was ticking, she stayed in fair health.  She was regularly walking the dog until October, though I worried about her from my long distance.

It was around Christmas that she started having more difficulty.  I am so grateful that my life worked out so that I could spend two weeks with her in Alaska in January.   One of my brothers overlapped with my visit and my other brother came up afterwards.   Shortly after he left in February, I was up there again.  I was there with her for nearly the last month of her life, all her children were there in her last day, and afterwards, I stayed up there for almost another month trying to get as much possible done while still on location.

So I know, really, why it's hard to get the energy and momentum to tackle the house and homeschool planning.  One of the grieving books I found on my mom's bookshelf, left from when we lost Dad three years ago, mentioned the "fog of grief" that lowers down after a loss.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. -- CS Lewis

While I was still in Alaska, I didn't do much open grieving.  There was a lot to get done and Mom's church friends really rallied around me like extended family.  My brothers were there and we talked a lot about family memories.  I was sorting through things in the house and for all these reasons I felt sort of like Mom was still there.   God seemed very close.  I noticed when Dad died, too, that heaven't door seemed to stay a bit open for a few days, and so a sort of Easter-like glow hung around those early days even in our grief.  I think I got almost hyper, the way you do when you're over-tired or in the middle of a battle,the way Kevin and I sometimes got hyper and almost giddy after some endlessly stressful medical ordeal with Aidan.

Coming back here, I was surrounded by my children, grown ones coming back for Easter, young ones who needed some attention from me.  The momentum was still in full force, but I started losing ground in keeping up.  I could tell I wasn't quite succeeding in being the normal mom.   I loved being around them, to the point of mushiness, but couldn't always respond in tune with the energy level around me.   I felt slow and old.

After Easter was over I got sick and spent several days in bed.  Recently, though my cold is mostly gone,  I have been sleeping erratically, eating erratically, and reading a lot whenever I'm n0t directly on task doing something that needs to be done or hanging around with them.   Mysteries and some fantasy, if you want to know about the reading part.

I am trying to at least maintain the essentials but am getting frustrated by how much is still not right, how much is slipping by.  That was why I wrote the Non-Schooling post.   As some pointed out, Non-Schooling can be joyous and invigorating in its due season, but right now it's the NOT part that is getting to me. ... it feels like a deficit, like I'm sliding downhill and unable to reverse the course.

I keep sitting down to make lists of everything I should be getting to, but my normal difficulties in getting focused are more severe than usual.     Everything in the house looks cluttered and dirty and disorganized, the routine is shot to pieces, but I can't quite figure out how to go about dealing with it.

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. -- CS Lewis
When I was still in Alaska, I was very aware of my parents' legacy and what they had given to the world and to us, their children, and what they meant to those around them.    It gave me hope and courage and inspiration.   I felt like I had new energy to face midlife and beyond.   But I suppose it was inevitable that the losee would eventually sink in, the consciousness that my life is going to be very different now without either of them around.    I suppose that strength was probably something that came when I needed it but as with adrenalin there would end up being a backlash reaction.

My son Brendan who was just here on a brief visit from college discussed with me that these past few weeks have been hard for him.  He is not getting his usual spring momentum which gets him through the last part of the term.   He is struggling with motivation, doing the work grimly but not with his usual spirit.

I told him that losing your grandmother is a major life event and that it wasn't surprising he was reacting that way.  Though he did not often see his grandmother, he was very aware of her presence in his life.

"She was a support to me,"  he said slowly and thoughtfully.

That is true of me too.  My mom always supported me.  When I talked to her she was always encouraging and interested in what was going on in our lives.   Actually, I am not usually much of a talker.  She was one of the only people in my life who I would tell about everything going on.   She was a good listener.

Mom and Clare in 2008

More than that, she was my mom, the first known presence in my life.   I suppose it is not surprising that I  am having trouble with day to day things, that I feel like my internal compass can't settle on a direction and my internal engine can't easily engage.   I suppose some of this urge to take charge of things and work on the house and the homeschool plans is just a way of trying to deal with the big empty space, of trying to normalize.   I also think that I feel responsible to grieve with dignity, to not fall apart, to do what needs to be done.

I guess that one of the things I have to do, though, is go through the grief.   It seems like that isn't something that can be skimped or circled around.
I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, hoever, turns out to be not a state but a process. --CS Lewis


  1. Willa- Thanks for sharing this. You are paving the way for those of us who still have our 80+ year old parents. I treasure your thoughts. Thanks!
    Today, in honor of your mother (and as a prayer for you), I will pick three daffodils from the yard, put them in the center of the dining room table, and ENJOY the simple pleasures of life.
    Anne in GR

    1. Thanks so much for your prayers, Anne! That was my intention in writing, to share my experience with this. I will pray for you and your parents. It really helped me to start praying for a good last season with my parents even before they were very ill, so that when things did start getting worse I had a strong sense that the process was in God's hands.

      I only WISH we were in daffodil season here; we still have snow blocking our front porch : ). Enjoy them!

    2. Also, my Mom loved flowers, especially perennials, so thanks again for that lovely thought.

  2. Willa,

    I wrote a comment and then dropped my mouse and everything disappeared and now I don't know what I said... Maybe it wasn't important. I just want to tell you I am praying for you. Grief is very difficult. The more we love, the more we grieve. It sounds like you love and miss your mother so very much. Perhaps we need to take time and be gentle on ourselves when we are grieving. Homeschooling, housework etc will always be there. They will wait until you are ready.

    May God bless you.

    1. Hi Sue,

      I am sorry about your comment disappearing. I hate it when there is no save function and I lose what I wrote! Not like we moms have a lot of time. Grieving for a parent is different from grieving for a child or spouse, of course... I didn't have the feeling of hunger for my Mom to survive the way I did with Aidan. Still, it does leave a huge emptiness -- CS Lewis talked about loss in terms of amputation and that is somewhat how I feel. Will pray for you as well!

  3. Willa-

    I recently fell into all things Circe and Poetic Knowledge. It made me think of you and I went looking for you at your other blog. Then I clicked over here and read all that you are dealing with. I am so sorry for your loss and for your grief. I am praying for you.

    I can only imagine the lonliness and grief that accompanies the loss of a mother. I know she is looking over you and doing all that she can to bring you peace- just as she did while sharing this life with you.

    Tracey (Connections)

    God's peace and comfort.

    1. Hi Tracey, Circe and Poetic Knowledge are so interesting! I have gotten away from classical education in the past few years. Thanks for your prayers and the thought about my Mom still being involved in my life. I just found the last birthday card she sent me and it did feel like it was no coincidence to be reminded of how much she loved and supported me.


We love hearing from our readers. Please share your thoughts or just say hello!