In a telephone conversation with my mother today, she remarked, in passing, that she didn't know how long she's going to be around for (that is, alive on earth). My mother turned 84 this past June (2010). I asked her if she had checked in with God. My mom responded by saying she didn't have His number. I replied, "Are you sure you don't have Him on speed dial? Would you like me to check information for His listing?" We both laughed.
My mother sounded matter-of-fact about her mortality. I didn't detect much in the way of fear or anxiety. That might be because she hasn't been all that happy with her life, since my father died eight years ago. Indeed, she has felt rather directionless since the love of her life passed away. She told me not long ago that with each passing day, she misses my father more, not less. I think my mom expects to be reunited with my dad when she dies, although she hasn't said this in so many words. All she knows is that life has lost much of its meaning for her.
I empathize deeply with my mother. Losing a lifelong partner can be devastating. Certainly, if your lives have revolved around one another, the death of one's spouse or partner is shattering; existentially, one's world collapses. It can be extremely difficult to pick up the pieces and cobble together a new life that feels even remotely worth living. And, yet I know that this is what my father would want for my mother. He would have gone on if she had died.
Our lives are intertwined. I am inspired in some way by my mother's apparent lack of death anxiety. If she can face death squarely, I can too. Each death is unique; I can't expect to face death the same way my mother will face hers; but that is not the point. The point is to meet one's death however it manifests. That's all.
that maple leaf
taking directions from
a strong November wind