The First Thirty Days – life after death.

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The First Thirty Days.

The exceptional article linked above focuses on the aftermath of losing someone for whom care was provided, and walking amongst the presence of that someone by virtue of their lingering essence; an essence that can not be bagged up and placed at the curb.  Even the photos this blogger provides elicit clear images from when my parents died – thirteen years apart.

Reading glasses
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My father took comfort in my mom’s presence for many days after September 24, 1994, the day his wife died in her sleep: her handbag draped over the handle of the kitchen door; her reading glasses placed all through the house where she might have ended up needing them; the unfinished grocery list for items she anticipated purchasing later that week; the laundry basket containing clothes she removed from her body in the days preceding her death, not knowing that a few days hence, she would not be the one to launder them.  I admit to hugging the bedsheets that had been removed from my mother’s bed the morning after her death.  I buried my face in them, inhaling that which remained of my mother, as these were bedsheets on which her last breaths were taken.

English: It's a simple picture of a magnifying...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my father died thirteen years later, I collected some of his personal items that spoke to me:  the crucifix that hung above his bed; the magnifying glass that he needed to read newspaper articles prior to losing his reading ability due to the insidious disease of Alzheimer’s; his favorite shirt – or was it mine? – that helped me to readily pick him out amongst the other residents in the crowded dementia unit dining room; and his worn out wallet containing items that even in the depths of his dementia, gave him a sense of importance and identity.

We all know that tactile items themselves don’t bring our loved ones closer to us.  But these items act as surrogates for those who have passed, more or less serving as the catalyst that uncovers what matters to us most: the essence of the cherished being, and the memories that are not easily discarded.

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7 thoughts on “The First Thirty Days – life after death.

    Carolyn said:
    September 12, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Thank you for relaying a part of your journey. It is conforting to know that like me, others have found comfort in those remembrances left behind. My mother passed away this past June in Florida and I took home little items that made me feel close to her – her compact, a comb, her watch. I understand even more now how after staying with me in Ohio for two months, my father wanted to go back home because he felt like “she was still there.” Although he would be alone, he needed to be close to the environment they had shared for so long. I hope that as time goes by, their 65 year together bring more comfort to him than loneliness, and that the day arrives when he can transition to a peaceful place about her passing.

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      boomer98053 said:
      September 12, 2012 at 9:13 am

      When I think of the items I cherished after my mother’s and father’s death, I start to think, “What will my daughter reach for of my belongings that will comfort her at my passing?” I hope that doesn’t sound morbid, the thought just now occurred to me.
      I know your father must see your mother in so many areas of their home and I can understand his feelings of separation while staying with you for a couple months. I think he would agree, however, that he needed that close proximity to you immediately following your mom’s death. Perhaps the visual reminders would have hurt too much immediately following her passing. But he returned home in a timely fashion that made the reminders cherished, rather than painful.

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    Don said:
    September 7, 2012 at 8:26 am

    My wife passed away on July 4th of this year, from early onset dementia. I have been experiencing the first 30 days – and then some. Her presence in the home permeates my environment – the many photos that represent her and us; cards we have given and received to/from each other over the years; her clothing still hanging in her closet; her personal belongings and jewelry still in the hutch; her perfumes still sitting on our bathroom counter; and, the vase containing roses placed in it during the celebration of her life – which was nearly a month ago – still occupying a prominent spot on our dining room table. I suppose it’s time to toss these very dead roses – but I can’t quite bring myself to do it, quite yet.

    Each major change in our lives brings about transition. For me, it’s important to be present to my grief and memories – the ebb and flow of it all – and not be caught up in “moving on”, or “gaining closure”. Only in this way can I move cleanly through this journey.

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      boomer98053 said:
      September 7, 2012 at 9:06 am

      If ever there is a situation when an individual’s personal timing is key, it’s during this situation about which you speak. NO ONE can dictate the appropriate time – if ever – to hide away that which soothes us most: the tactile tokens previously used by our loved ones. I’m glad that you are so very aware of this necessary transition time after having lost your spouse. I would even say that if you’re o.k. with the wilted and dried red roses that grace your dining room table, that’s all that matters. It’s YOUR grief, no one else’s.

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    Terre Mirsch said:
    September 6, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Thank you, Irene, for sharing Beth’s wisdom and insights about the loss of her mother and thank you for sharing your experiences with the loss of your mother and your father. As you described, everyone’s grief journey is unique. And, there are also universal experiences and commonalities between all of us who have experienced loss in our personal and our professional lives. Hearing the experiences of others often helps to ‘normalize’ our own experiences- and helps us to know that we are not alone. Thank you, as always, for your willingness to tell your story.

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    blessedbebeth - Middlescapes.com said:
    September 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    thank you so much for honoring me and the memory of my mom with this post. I am touched. awesome post.

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      boomer98053 said:
      September 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      It is I who should thank YOU! What a delightful and warm post you provided. It’s so interesting how all of us are SO individual – that’s certainly what makes our world interesting! I say this because when our mother died, my sister could not bear to see my mother’s belongings – it hurt her to do so. I don’t fault her for feeling the way she did at that time as it was a very shocking and fully unexpected death occurrence for the family in that my mother had not been in failing health and was a young 77 years old. SO, with that said, I support all the ways in which we honor our passed loved ones whether with visual cues and/or heart cues. Thank you.

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