It has been a year since my mother passed; four years since my father’s passing. The death of a mother or father can strike a person unexpectedly hard. Parent death brings a unique kind of grieving, regardless of ones relationship with their parent. The break in a parental relationship bond can reverberate for the rest of a person’s life.
The passing of a parent is difficult, of course. Our parents are our wisdom keepers. We spend a lifetime looking to our parents for answers. They're the repositories of knowledge about our history, our upbringing, family traditions, names of all those faces in old photos. With their passing so, too, goes the information and insight that hasn't already been transmitted or recorded.
Then, there may be unresolved issues that sometimes follow the parent-child relationship into adulthood. The balance of the parent-child relationship shifts several times, first as we gain maturity and create our own families, and then as parents grow older and often need our support. These realities bring plenty of opportunities for misunderstanding or discord. And not all these bumps are smoothed out by the end.
A parent’s death always feels sudden - even when it's not. People often expect that the death of someone older or someone who's been ill for some time will feel easier to endure because it's predictable. Yet the disappearance from your life of a figure you've known since birth is, when it finally happens, always a sudden change.
Finally, there’s the loss of the buffer generation. Here, we are forced to reexamine our own mortality. When a grandparent dies, there's still a whole generation between you and death. With a parent's death, your own eventual demise may feel uncomfortably nearer. And in fact it is nearer for time is forever.
On the anniversary of my mother’s passing I first celebrated with a beer and cigar. I watched the sky and viewed the many cloud formations; I stopped and looked over the wondrous colors of the many flowers in my yard. I renewed my parent’s images in my mind by looking at a picture of them together.
I did not weep; instead a smile came to my face. For you see, my parents did exactly what they set out to do – to prepare my siblings and I for the difficult journey we call life. And they did it so well.
It was a moment of pure joy, because I knew my parents were smiling, too.