I keep thinking about how, when I was a kid and watching the astronauts splash down in some ocean or other, they'd have to spend a few days in some kind of isolation booth before returning to their real lives. And there's something a little appealing about that to me at the moment.
After spending two weeks doing one basic thing, er, watching someone do a thing so basic we all do it without even thinking about it every single moment of our conscious lives, I stepped out of the car and was swallowed up into l-l-l-l-life. At least I think that's what kids are calling it these days. A daughter getting ready to fly off to Indianapolis for three weeks or the rest of her life, depending on...well, on what God does during that three weeks, of course. A son with an incision on the FRONT of his left shoulder so gnarly it actually makes my insides shrivel up every time I happen to glance at it, reminding me again of why I didn't go into the health care profession (that and the math and science required!). A couple of dogs who don't seem to know or care that I'm at about 10% (at least that's how a friend told Beve to think of me) at the moment.
And then there are the elders. Ah yes, the elders. The gift that keeps on giving. My beloved in-laws who missed me greatly the last two+ weeks I was gone, and were quick to tell me all the reasons when I saw them yesterday: Why hadn't I written down a couple of doctors' appointments, what had I done about Grampie's long-term health insurance, why didn't the urologist call them rather than us to talk about Grampie. Where had I put this paper, that form, etc...and I just had to admit I hadn't the faintest idea about any of it. Any of it. Because my normally well-organized brain, the one I count on to help me keep track of all our stuff and theirs too, seems to still be in orbit somewhere. Or it's still sitting in that room. Or...Though they didn't seem to remember why I'd been gone, or that my mom had died, except that my absence had been incredibly inconvenient.
Well, the truth is, I'm numb with exhaustion and all sorts of other things. Grief? In a way. Not like any grief I've experienced before, but then, as a friend told me yesterday morning, my family and I completely get, in ways that only people 'inside' get what the 'long goodbye' really means. Eight years since a diagnosis of Alzheimers, almost two years since she even lived in her own assisted-living apartment. A year since she was willing to get into a car, and nine months since she would even allow herself to be wheeled outside of the nursing home. And I haven't heard her say a coherent word in over a year. In fact, I cannot remember the time I had a real conversation with my mother, but it was probably about two years ago as well.
So, whatever it is I feel, and it is loss, I know, it is a far different shade of grief than I have ever experienced before. Dull and gray and numb in contrast to other griefs. And in it is a huge sigh of relief, with a large inhale of joy that she's surely in heaven. Honestly, though, mostly I'm tired and wish I could just sleep for a few days, get my sea-legs before having to face life, my real ordinary life with all its complexities and relationships.
But what God calls me to, what He calls all of us to, is life. The reason I came home Sunday was because E is leaving--perhaps for good--and because J had surgery. That is, Life. I'm their mom and I chose life. This is the choice I sensed Sunday, and though I feel some regret now that I left just hours before Mom died, I can live with that regret, because it was a choice made with Him, as it says in Deuteronomy30: 19-- "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may life and that you may love the Lord you God, listen to His voice and hold fast to Him..."
So, today--as I process this strange, un-grief-like grief--I also choose life. No matter what that life brings, or how messy or complicated it is, or how crazy it makes me. I choose life. And Him.