I read a quote online.
“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it’s overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
They forgot to mention that it also feels like you’re drowning. It is a suffocating pain. It steals your breath, burns your throat, and constricts like steel bands around your chest until there’s no air to be had. Grief will steal all sensible thought from your mind, until you are simultaneously an emotional geyser, yet numb at the same time. It shreds you. It shreds you from the inside out until you’re nothing but a raw mess.
A friend once told me “Life gets in the way of living” and I’ve repeated that many times since. It’s true. But never more so than it is today. Today, which began as an unremarkable morning, will be a date that is forever burnt on all of our hearts. December 17th, the day that life got in the way of living.
Pat was a natural nurturer. As far as I know, she always has been. She did choose a life-long career as a Nurse after all. She also spent much of her free time playing in the kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm for everyone. Heck, I’ve known her over 35yrs, and she’s never been anything BUT nurturing. She nurtured everyone. While doing a great job of raising her own four kids, she even took on strays. Everyone was welcome in her home, any time, to stay as long as they needed. Some needed only a few moments of her time. Some needed hours. Some needed a few months or more. She was always there, always available.
Don’t kid yourself. She didn’t molly-coddle. She balanced nurturing with discipline, and honesty. Straight up, I have been on the receiving end and have been personally chastised with “don’t be stupid!” and “you dummy!”. The very same woman has also said to me “I’m so very proud of you!”.
When I was a kid, she was just my friend’s Mom. She was there to put band-aids on scraped knees, serve lemonade on sunny days, and yell at us if we got too rowdy (which, I honestly don’t recall much yelling. I think she rather liked the noise of kids playing LOL).
I could list all the moments where she’s been a part of my life. It’s a long list. However, the moments themselves aren’t important. That she was THERE for those moments, and a part of my life is what is important.
That’s it. She was there. Always there. Always available. No matter what was asked of her, or when. Without quibble or fuss, or complaint, or any fanfare. She was there. She wanted to be there. For the tears and the smiles. All of it. A part of it. Giving all she had, silently and without asking anything for herself in return. There was no scorecard. Often, she was there without being asked. Where and when she was needed, you could count on her. If didn’t matter if you drifted apart for awhile, because she would just pick up where things left off without missing a beat. Then at the end of it, she’d envelop you in a great squishing hug of comfort or joy depending on the occasion. She would wipe our tears, and laugh with great guffaws at our silliness.
Somehow, as time passed, she stopped being my friend’s Mom. She became my 2nd Mom, and an additional Grandparent to my children who call her Auntie Pat. And somewhere in the middle of that, she became MY friend. I can’t put my finger on when that happened. It just was. I’m thankful for it. I do remember a moment when I realized it. She was talking about her birthday party, and telling someone who she wanted to invite. She said “Victoria”. They asked her “Victoria? Really?” Pat replied “Yes, she’s my friend”. I remember how I felt when she told me that story. That feeling is right here with me now.
When we moved to Ontario 2yrs ago, 1.5hrs away from our home, that didn’t change things. We still saw her lovely face every 2wks. Every 2wks she would show up on our doorstep, with grocery bags of left-overs from her kitchen. Because, as she said, what was she to do with all those leftovers? She didn’t know how to cook ‘small’. Often she’d have extra little things for the kids, and she’d include home-made jams, pickles and sauces of all kinds. Or she’d been on a shopping trip out of town and she’d grab one of my favorites, particularly British types of food that remind me of my own Nana who hailed from England just like Pat. Even if she had heard me say it before, she’d listen to me reminisce all over again about my Nana. Just smiling and nodding, while she unpacked the goodies. We’d do her nails while chattering away about our families, life, politics, what did the girls do in school, what mischief were the dogs up to, was hubby enjoying the last batch of tabloid magazines? We’d have dinner together sometimes. She frequently insisted on treating us and wouldn’t budge when we wanted to treat her. You don’t argue with Pat. As much as she’s my friend, she still scares the crap outta me. I know when I’ve met my match. Then she’d trundle off in her car with a bag of empty Tupperware, likely already planning the next bag she’d pack for us. That was her way of taking care of us, of nurturing us. She did it all, with a great big smile, a squishee hug and an emphatic kiss. She never asked for anything for herself. Not once. Not ever.
Pat was finally getting her dream kitchen. Her kitchen was being refinished and she was so very excited about it. She was anxious and impatient. She talked about it for months. Oh, the great things that she was planning. The wonders she intended to create in that new kitchen. She was concerned it wouldn’t be ready in time for her to do Christmas dinner and she was annoyed that she wouldn’t get her Christmas baking done on time. When she was here last week, she was expressing her concerns and telling me that she’d finish up her baking after Christmas and bring us our basket then. (Which usually means we get lots more than most because we get all the left-overs). She was looking forward to her new kitchen. I was so happy for her. This was FOR HER. Something for her alone.
Then,… life got in the way of living…. I think that’s what happened. She’s always so busy fussing and taking care of everyone else and busy with “life”, that she doesn’t stop to take care of herself. So, “life” got in the way of living.
I had to break the news to my girls this afternoon. One of the harder things I’ve had to do as a parent I had a few hours to think on it. As I suspected, my eldest took it the hardest. So I did the only thing I knew of. That Pat had done for me when I was grieving over a miscarriage. I cuddled with her. We went and lay down under a blanket and cuddled. We cried and cuddled and then I told her what I know to be true. “Auntie Pat would want you to be happy. She doesn’t want to see you sad. She loves you and is so very proud of you. She would want you to go on living your life to the fullest”.
I expect that right about now, wherever she’s at, she’s raising hell. I’m sure she’s giving someone grief for daring to interrupt her when she has things to do, and people to take care of, and Christmas dinner to cook, and cookies to bake. I guarantee that someone is trying to hide while she rants in anger that her new kitchen is waiting for her. Last but not least of all this, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that she is beside herself because all of her loved ones are crying and she’s not here to wipe their tears away and give them great big squishing hugs.
I don’t feel sorry for whomever she’s yelling at. They’ve got it coming and Pat’s always fair.
I literally have visions in my mind of this. Short little Pat utterly irate, and some poor fellow’s trying to dodge her words that are like bullets. I won’t lie. I sat laughing at these visions in my head. We all know it. While Pat is a beautifully indomitable woman and we don’t want to be on the receiving end, it’s sure as heck funny to watch someone else get it.
Forever gone from our arms and home, always with us in heart and soul.