Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Ten Years

I mentioned on twitter recently that my blog was ten years old last month. What I didn't mention is that I started it because my mom had brain cancer and I was sending out mass emailing of status updates on this and my overwhelmed friends urged me to start a blog instead of fill up their inboxes.

This week is another ten year anniversary in that thursday marks ten years since my mom died. She was only sick for about four months. I knew her death was imminent, but was still shocked when it came. Well, not shocked. I'm not sure what I felt aside from overwhelmed.

The anniversary is making me feel kind of fragile this week and I know I've heard other people say the same thing happens to them with anniversaries. But, I mean, I don't get it really. It's been ten years and it's hardly fresh or new and she's not more dead this week than she was last week or will be next week. I guess it's not important why this date matters, since it clearly does.

So I think I should mark it somehow but am not sure what to do. Saint Candles are the obvious choice, but they seem to be an American (read:the continent) thing. I don't know if I could find any in the UK and I don't want to ship them from North America if they will arrive next week or later and have to deal with all of this over again.

A few friends have suggested that I go into a church and light a votive candle there. They're right in that my mom certainly would have appreciated the gesture and my presence in a Catholic church. I think this would just make me angry. Everyone called my mother's mother a saint when she died. She was a larger than life figure in many ways and had admirable principles that she held to. I doubt she saw herself as a saint. My mom was in her mother's shadow for a long time and only outlived her mother by about ten years. I don't know if anyone called my mom a saint. And my mom certainly didn't believe in her own saintedness. She was entirely convinced she was going to hell. During the brief period where she understood she was dying, she was terrified and upset that she would shortly be burning in hell. This is not a way to spend the last few weeks of your life.

The church's actual teaching is that if you're very sorry and repent, you don't have to go to hell. She didn't remember that part. She just remembered the part where she felt horrendously guilty for minor sins and would certainly be punished for eternity. The church did not give my mom peace in her last days. Nor in the days before that.

There was some volunteer who came around for a while to read the bible to her. I don't know who organised this. My mom had trouble speaking because of the cancer but one day managed a 'shut the hell up' and got the volunteer to actually talk to her like a human. That made her feel better.

So I don't want to go into a church, since that will just make me angry. Making people terrified of hell is abusive. That they have an escape cause doesn't help. If it did, it would have helped my mom. All she remembered was the part they went on and on about which was eternal torment.

In any case, I'm not wholly sure that offering eternal bliss is better. Maybe it makes the dying person feel better. I don't know, as it's all so conditional. Why would you offer conditional love to a dying person? What does it cost to assert that they're actually loved?

Priests tell mourners at funerals that it's all temporary and soon we'll all being hanging out together again, so I guess the best they have to offer is denial. I know exactly where my mom is right now and where she's been the last ten years. It's a small plot marked with an ugly headstone.

Which I can't get to because I am thousands of miles away and the UK Border agency still has my passport.

So I'll burn a non-saint candle and wonder why I'm doing mini-grieving this week, feeling sad and angry over again, wondering why round numbers matter. If we used hexadecimal as our standard counting system, it would be another six years. It's all so arbitrary. Every part of it - who gets cancer, who dies, what dates seem important and on what years. And maybe the arbitrariness: from top to bottom, from every angle is what makes it all seem so futile and extra sad. An arbitrary milestone. An arbitrary existence. An arbitrary end.

2 comments:

eigenadam said...

Grief is not rational, and we are never truly over losing someone we love.

I've noticed anniversaries can bring up old emotions. It seems to also be the time of year, the seasons, and not just some date on a calendar.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

In my family, we burn plain white candles for those who are ill or dying or passed on. It's not tied to any particular ceremony or religion. Lighting a candle for us is just a way to focus our healing thoughts or good wishes to someone. We even do this for our pets. It makes us feel better somehow.