Zen Mama Wannabee Banner

How do you Say Good-bye?

I got word that one of my aunts is not doing very well.  Okay, let’s be blunt (although I choke on the words): she is dying.  She was a big part of my life growing up and a wonderful lady – then and now.  I was fortunate to get to talk to her briefly on the phone yesterday.  As I dialed the phone, I knew this would be the last time I would hear her voice.  And part of me couldn’t help but wonder…how do you say good-bye – when you know it really will be a final good-bye?

Her voice sounded surprisingly strong and she made reference to her situation.  She said she was tired and something to the effect of just waiting for it to happen, for her to depart.  And I can’t help but feel I was offered an opportunity there and I blew it.  She was being honest, and instead of meeting her with the same bravado she put forth, I played it safe.  I murmured something and the conversation went on – when what I really wanted to ask was, “Are you scared?  Are you okay?  Do you feel anyone else’s presence there with you, waiting for you to cross over?  Do you know how loved you are?” 

I didn’t go there because I decided in a split-second to play it safe.  How often do we do that?  Take the easy path because there might be a bump ahead in the road we can’t see.  I told myself I didn’t want to upset her, that without being there to take her hand and see her face, my words might come across as too insensitive.  Yet she spoke about her situation honestly; how I wish I could have responded the same. 

Mostly though, I was trying to pass on to her how much I loved her and what a very special lady she is.  I was trying to be strong without turning into a blubbering idiot and it just got to be too much for me.  I don’t know if she was aware of my voice cracking at the end.  I don’t think I said anything to really help her with what she is going through right now; I just know selfishly I got to hear her voice and it sounded just the way I remember it – and that is what I am hanging on to.

I really find it hard to talk about (or write about) without crying — and my husband can't help but wonder why.  Why it is affecting me THIS much?  My aunt is in her 90’s; she has lived a full, active life.  She lives in another part of the country; I haven’t seen her in nearly 4 years (although I would have seen her in February if I hadn’t gotten so sick and missed that family get-together).  Not only has this Zen Mama Wannabe lost loved ones very near and dear to me before, but I studied gerontology and end-of-life care intensively when we lived in NYC.  I was even thinking of getting a master’s degree in it.  It is not something foreign to me.  So I don’t blame him for wondering what is going on here with me this time.  And the simple answer is:  I haven’t a clue.

I wonder if loss gets HARDER to take as we get older?  It is not a logical assumption, because one would think you would get used to it more each time you experienced it.  But maybe as you age, you also realize how fragile and special relationships and loved ones really are.  Certainly not anything to take for granted.  Even though most of the time we still do. 

Maybe it is that as my cousins are saying good-bye to their mom, I am feeling the dread of having to do that when the time comes with mine.  A little projection, perhaps.  If my mom died tomorrow, everyone would say she too lived a long, worthwhile life.  But part of me feels like it can never be long enough for me.  After all, your mother is your anchor – I know it will feel very strange to have that heavy piece gone once and for all when it does happen.   

Or maybe I am just becoming entirely too hormonal – I won’t rule that out too.   For good or bad, seeing their mother tear up is not an unknown sight to my kids.  (You just try reading one of Patricia Polacco’s books out loud – like The Keeping Quilt for starters – I dare you to tell me you made it through without SOME sort of reaction). 

I am sure it is bits of ALL those things that are adding to my sadness.  I can’t help but think that usually we don’t get the chance to say good-bye.  It is usually a phone call after the fact, like it was when my dad died, when all you can do then is mourn.  So if you are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to talk to someone as they are getting ready to leave this world, what do you say?  And can you do it for their sake – not yours?  I can't help but wonder, when given the chance, how do you say good-bye?

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “How do you Say Good-bye?”

  1. callieandbatido Says:
    April 10th, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    I have been dealing with the exact issue with my grandmother. She is 95 yrs. old and has lived a full and happy life. Now, life is hard. SHE is ready to go but I am not ready to say goodbye. I am not sure there is a “right” thing to say in these circumstances. Your Aunt, I am sure, appreciated your call and loved hearing that you are thinking about her. But, like my grandmother, she probably wasn’t looking to you to say the right thing. They know how hard it is to say goodbye and while they are ready to go, I can’t help but think they appreciate and understand how hard it us for us to let go.

  2. Jacob Says:
    September 20th, 2015 at 4:16 am

    A reading:”The telpehone, I believe, is the greatest boon to bores ever invented. It has set their ancient art upon a new level of efficiency and enabled them to penetrate the strongholds of privacy. All the devices that have been put into service againt them have failed. I point, for example, to that of having a private telpehone number, not listed in the book. Obviously, there is nothing here to daunt bores of authentic gifts. Obtaining private telpehone numbers is of the elemental essence of their craft. Thus the poor victim of their professional passion is beset quite as much as if he had his telpehone number limned upon the sky in smoke.I remain opposed to the telpehone theoretically, and continue to damn it. It is a great invention and of vast value to the human race, but I believe it has done me, personally, almost as much harm as good. How often a single call has blown up my whole evening’s work, and so exacerbated my spirit and diminished my income! I am old enough to remember when telpehones were very rare, and romantic enough to believe I was happier then.”(H. L. Mencken, “The Boons Of Civilization”, January 1931, The American Mercury)~~~~~~~~A common telpehone greeting at my desk: “Explosives. Who gave you this number?”

Leave a Reply


Archives