“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. We all know that our time in this world is limited, and that eventually all of us will end up underneath some sheet, never to wake up. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.”
― Lemony Snicket, “Horseradish“
My 93 year-old mother-in-law, who has been in declining health, passed away yesterday afternoon during her nap. Ultimately, she died as she had hoped she would – peacefully in her sleep, with her husband of 73 years nearby. She was more than ready for this moment. We, who have known it was only a matter of time for several weeks, were perhaps less ready than we should have been. Because we are never really ready. And the loss of a parent is never quite as expected as it should be – no matter how old we are, or how old our own children are, a piece of us can deny adulthood as long as we have surviving parents. And oddly, you are never to old to feel vaguely orphaned.
And then there is the practical side – there is quite literally nothing for us to do (yet), and that feels wrong. Like we should be doing something. But plans made long ago were for a memorial to be held at a later date, and for now, we are a thousand miles away, feeling a bit lost. But we already had a trip to Georgia planned for mid-March, and that’s when we’ll go. I’m glad that my husband was able to spend time with his mother last month, but feel a bit guilty that I was unable to go then.
My mother-in-law led a long, full life, and she has long been prepared for death to come as another phase. She was deeply religious, in her own quiet way, and believed firmly that she would move on to a better place. She was kind, compassionate, and liked and respected by everyone that knew her. And she will be missed.
“…And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.”
― Maya Angelou, “When Great Trees Fall”
Merion Schepper, July 27, 1922 – February 27, 2016
Photo of my in-laws taken on Feb 5, 2015 on Don’s 94th birthday