These two words can make us feel some things, like uneasy, uncertain or even fearful (unless it’s a dental appointment, in which case, you’re there for the change but looking forward to the ending!).
This past season has been a little weird, and I’m not sure I know why. It wasn’t just me, feeling restless and out of sorts; many people expressed the same sort of energy or circumstance in their lives. For me, though, I had a big ending a couple of months ago: my mom passed away. This means that both of my parents are now gone. The end of a generation. The close of a chapter. The end of an era, as they say.
All the Feelings
I wasn’t expecting to have so many complex feelings about the end with my mom. We’d received her dementia diagnosis ten years ago, and for the last two years or so, she had been non-verbal, didn’t know her children (or anyone) and on the downhill slide. I had worked through grieving at every point of decline, processing and letting go. I thought that, by the time it was clear that her quality of life was markedly absent, and we should truly let her go, that I had done my grieving and was ready to release her and close the door.
It didn’t work that way.
When we got the call that her breathing had changed and she was likely on the way out and we should all come, I was overcome by waves of emotion.
Frustration. Self-pity. Unresolved anger. Regret. We’d never managed to have the conversations I felt we needed to have to get “closure”.
But also, there was love. Admiration. Gratitude. I had a very complicated relationship with my mom, and a lot of conflict. Sometimes, my perspective kept me in a narrow view of her, one that suited my narrative, justified my feelings and actions, and held her hostage as a two-dimensional character. Over the years, as I had worked through my emotions, I was surprised to have “other” memories of her – instances, actions, words that I either ignored, overlooked or forgot. As soon as I was willing to choose forgiveness and gratitude, I was struck by a change in perspective. A new way of seeing her.
It just turned out that I was alone with Mom when she slipped away. Her passing was classy, elegant, beautiful. After a few moments in the stillness, I stood up and looked down at her. She looked so much like a little girl. I saw her as this child who just wanted to do right, to be approved, to make someone proud. To be good and do good. Out of nowhere, I said, “You did so well, Mom. I’m so proud of you.”
And I kissed her.
Here it was, me. Me, who felt like a victim of her sharp words and angry actions. Me, out of all the kids, who felt like I was never right and never good enough. Me, saying to her what I had always thought I needed her to say to me.
And, in that moment, I felt like we were saying it to each other.
It could have gone differently. I could have chosen to walk away from relationship with her years ago. Or I could have chosen to play small, to bathe myself in my hurt, to nurse my grudges, to live in self pity and victimhood. I’m so glad I didn’t. Two months later, when we joined her ashes with my dad’s and laid them to rest in my grandparents’ plot, I felt the closure. I felt the release. I ended well. She ended well. I can let go and move on, in love and gratitude. A happy ending.
When Relationships End
I recently did an episode in my podcast called Happy Endings. Whether it’s a business, a job, a business relationship or a personal one, there are, I believe, nuggets of wisdom here for everyone. Have a listen and tell me what you think.
And, as always, Stay on Point!