Today is five months since Mama left this world. To give you an update, I’m making it better than I thought I would, but I can’t tell you why really. I also can’t tell you with any certainty which stage Kübler-Ross’s grief model I’m in right now because it varies among anger, depression, and acceptance on a daily basis. Notice I left out two — bargaining and denial; I did so on purpose because I checked those off the night I watched Mama die. I was in the room holding her right hand when she stopped the hideous “guppy breathing” and went on to what I fervently hope (and on my best days, believe) was the Beulah Land she longed for and a reunion with Papa she had dreamed about.
Denial. I’m not going to sit around and say, “Oh, she’s not dead.” No lie is as pernicious and detrimental as the one we tell ourselves. That’s one reason I refused to have a traditional “Southern funeral” viewing. Mama didn’t want it and I’ll be damned if I was going to stand next to her corpse and listen to people who hadn’t darkened her door in all the years she’d been sick blather on about “how good she looks” and “she seems to be sleeping.” No she doesn’t you lunatic, she SEEMS to be dead. Nope, wasn’t having it. When I walked out of that hospital room at midnight between March 25 and 26, I wasn’t in denial. Mama was dead. To make CERTAIN I don’t slip into denial, I tell myself every morning first thing when I wake up, “Mama is dead; she’s buried at Cannon’s; you did her funeral.” Then I get out of bed. Denial is a river in Egypt as far as I’m concerned.
As for bargaining, I’m not the best Christian in the world and some days one could make the case I’m not a Christian at all, but whatever I am, I know enough to God doesn’t bargain and God’s the only one who could change this particular situation. I don’t have anything to bargain with since it’s all His anyway and I’ve already given up the vices most people use as bargaining chips due to age, infirmity, or fear of Budge’s wrath. If God wanted her alive, she’d still be alive — it really is just that simple. If I heard Mama say it once, I heard her say it a thousand times, quoting Hebrews 9:27, “for it is appointed unto men once to die and after this, the Judgement.” God has the advantage of house rules and the Golden Rule; He owns the house so he makes the rules AND He has all the gold, so He makes those rules as well. I’m glad He does, personally, because if I were in charge, I’d mess this place up something awful.
So that leaves anger, depression, and acceptance. All I can say is it depends on the day. Some days are ruled by anger and those are the days I’m the biggest pain in everyone’s collective ass. I’m angry at Mama for leaving me in this foreign country by myself (inside joke between her and me), I’m angry at God for not healing her or keeping her from dying, and if I get through that package of rage by lunchtime, I’ll spend the rest of the day completely pissed off at myself for being such a big, blubbering baby about the whole thing and acting like I’m the only person in the world who’s ever lost a close loved one. On those days, I basically have what a friend of mine used to call “a bad case of red-ass at the world.” Of course, it doesn’t do a lick of good, but I can’t help it sometimes.
I prefer anger to depression though. Depression sucks rocks. I know lots of people, including my former denomination, don’t really thing depression is a “real thing.” It’s something we should just be able to get over or get through and if you can’t, then you aren’t praying hard enough or you secretly enjoy the depression and attention. Yep, that’s me. I just love feeling like I’m going to die for no physical reason; I simply long to sit on the floor and rock in the dark when it is a gloriously beautiful day outside. I have some pretty bad days and I’d hate to think how bad those days would get if I didn’t have my meds. Here’s an idea for anyone who doesn’t think depression and emotional disorders are real — I’ll go off my meds for about two weeks and have Budge drop me off at your house and stay for a month. Then we’ll see who needs meds.
On the best days though, I dwell in acceptance of the fact Mama is gone and not coming back. It’s not the best kind of acceptance where I can say I’ve truly found peace with Mama’s death. It’s more of the realization I’ve been thrust into a new stage of life whether or not I felt ready. It’s not in the Bible, but I’ve heard it repeated all my life that God will never put more on you than you can bear. All I can say to that is sometimes I think He has a much higher opinion of my carrying capacity than I have of myself. For me, the acceptance is more like a quote from the excellent and underrated Western, Barbarosa which has Willie Nelson as the title character speak what I’ve taken as my philosophy of coping with losing Mama:
what cannot be remedied must be endured
Love y’all, say a prayer for me, and keep those feet clean.