Anyone who knows me, knows how much family means to me. In the years since Terry passed, I have poured my energy and heart into the family he left me with. Anything I have remaining, I’ve given to my immediate family, my sibling-cousins, and my close friends…My “people”.
Terry’s family and I didn’t part on good terms after his funeral. In fact, there was a lot of anger on my part, and resentment and guilt on their part. My kids and I really had no contact with them for almost five years. Then, earlier this year, I reached out (once again), and was told that Terry’s mom was in the hospital and not doing well. She had been ill since Terry passed away. I felt a pull at that time. A pull to offer my forgiveness for all that had transpired, and perhaps offer some understanding for the loss we shared. Time had helped me heal, and it bothered me to see that time had only deepened her guilt and grief. A few months prior, when I last spoke to her, she was still incredibly angry. Still grief stricken and unhappy with the life she was left with.
I followed my heart, and flew out to see her. I was unsure about what reception I would find, but in the end, they were Terry’s family. I realized quickly that, for them, it was as if the loss had just happened. None of them sought healing, instead, living in their grief, that had now turned to bitterness and regret.
As I walked into the hospital room, it was very apparent that she had aged tremendously. She looked at me and smiled, and reached for my hand. When she could catch her breath, she removed her oxygen mask and said, “I really messed up. I’m sorry. I should have…” I stopped her then. I realized in that moment that I needed to reassure her. I told her that it was in the past. That I was there now, and all we had control over was our actions from this day forward. I also told her that I forgave her. It was all I could offer her. My forgiveness.
In our last moments before I walked away from her for the last time, I looked in her eyes and saw the toll it had taken on her. Our shared loss. She lost a son, after all. Her only son..and her actions caused the subsequent loss of all that is left of Terry in this world. She turned her back on all that Terry loved most. There is nothing I could have said to help ease her pain, so instead, I shed tears with her. Sometimes in moments of tremendous grief, our vision is shortsighted. We are fixated on our own grief, our own loss. Oblivious to the pain of others around us. I knew I was guilty of this, and as she squeezed my hand one last time, I smiled at her, and knew that for the first time in five years, we both understood just how devastating the loss was to both of us. Her loss as Terry’s mom, and mine, as Terry’s wife.
As I boarded the plane to come home a few days later, I knew that I had done the right thing. I wanted her to put her guilt and anger to rest. Focus on the family she still had here, and fight to get better. Since then she has remained in the hospital. Getting better, then worse, then better, then worse. Until this last week, when she just wasn’t strong enough to fight back anymore. I got a call on Friday that she was not well, and on Friday afternoon that she had passed away. I think she is now in a better place, where there is no guilt and no anger. No bitterness. Maybe now, she can find her peace.
I don’t know how I feel. I’m sad. Sad for the relationship that could have been. Sad that she found her voice too late. Sad that the last few years of her life were so unhappy. She fought so much with Terry’s dad since Terry’s passing. Instead of being grateful for each other, they fought. Felt sorry for themselves. Wallowed in bitterness and regret.
No matter the distance between us the last few years, there were some good moments between us in the past. Those are the moments I will think of now.
I can now close another chapter in my life’s journey. One that started over 20 years ago when Terry first shyly introduced me to his parents. It’s funny how we can skim over so many memories, and when we need them most, they come back to us, vivid and full of color. I can quietly put those memories away again, and say my goodbyes to the woman who brought a piece of my heart into this world, who raised him to be kind and loving, faithful and strong. For all of this, I will always be thankful.
Rest well in Paradise…