This morning, I guess. At least that’s when I noticed it. Yesterday was a tough day for me. It was the anniversary of my mom and dad’s death. They didn’t die together in the literal sense, but they did die on the same day within the same hour, within the same quarter hour…only it was 15 years apart.
I wasn’t at my father’s bedside. There were legitimate reasons. But I had always regretted it, although I am quite sure my father knew I was there for him when I could be, whatever it took to get there. Once, the last time I was with him, that meant 48 straight hours on military hops (and to be totally transparent, six of those hours were in a truly sleazy motel outside Scott AFB in Illinois, where I dozed on top of a bed stripped to the top sheet with the lights and TV on because I was so totally creeped out by the place) between Andrews AFB in Maryland and Norton AFB in Riverside CA, not far from my parents home in Hemet.
It was Thanksgiving weekend. My father had taken himself off of dialysis. He’d lost both of his legs. His eyesight was gone. His ability to use language, one of his most treasured gifts, was now a tormenting memory. He was done. The doctors advised him that he would probably live no more than 10-21 days. I went home on emergency leave, leaving my young family in the weeks before Christmas. When my leave had been used up, and Christmas was imminent, I caught a commercial flight back to Washington DC to spend the holidays with my family and get back to work.
Yesterday, in a flood of grief that caught me by surprise, I realized that I had held on to the guilt I felt for not being there when my father finally left his body behind on March 2, 1993. In releasing that guilt, and forgiving myself for the damage I had done to myself, I became aware of some of the other “stuff” I was carrying around that I could let go of, including some of the more recent stuff.
And then, this morning, one more revelation. I was in the middle of acknowledging to myself that, in many ways, this second year post-Bill has been harder than the first when I noticed the ache was gone. The almost physical ache that like a python had been tightly wrapped around my throat and chest from morning til night for so long that I had grown accustomed to its presence. In resolving the conflict I had with guilt and grief, I didn’t notice how loose Grief had become until it had gone, slithering away to join its friends: anger and fear.
And that’s when mourning ends.