Those of you who have lost a loved one will know what I mean when I say how surreal the experience is. The world goes on around you: another terrorist attack that takes innocent lives, another mass shooting, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday -- it all carries on while your personal world shatters.
My mother is dying, breath by slow breath, in a hospital two minutes from her grandson's house, while at the same time his wife enters the last few days of her pregnancy with their first child together. We have this great grief and this great joy, co-existing.
My mom has struggled to breathe for over two years. Getting up and walking caused her heart rate to increase and her breathing to become ragged. No doctor could diagnose definitely what was wrong with her; no medication or inhaler helped more than temporarily. Over the last month I watched her weaken as she struggled with one bout of bronchitis and then another.
Two weeks ago, while at her doctor's office, she first told me, "Barbara, I don't think I can make this trip." And I told her that of course she could. She told me again last Friday, and then again as we were leaving for the airport on Sunday.
It was a rough flight for her. Only in retrospect, seeing these pictures I took of her en route, can I see how tired and unwell she looked. But I thought with her family around her, pampering her and preparing healthful food for her, she'd regain her strength.
Maybe she sensed as we pulled away from the door of her building that she'd never see her home again. In any case, we made the trip as planned and late on Sunday, my sister and her husband arrived from New York. So when it became apparent that this trip was not going to be the one that we'd planned, she was surrounded by family. My brother was able to join us on Thanksgiving.
Anne Elkins Didrichsen passed on at 10:05 this morning, five minutes after we left her to finish the final leg of her journey in solitude. I will carry her voice in my head always, as I do my dad's, and reach for it often in the years ahead.