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January 2015

Life Stories

I try to manipulate my life the same way I write: If I'm not happy with the way something is going, I want to edit it. Sometimes that's easy. Other times, it's impossible and nothing but a waste of mental energy. Truthfully, there is only so much we have control over in life--unlike the freedom of creating worlds and scenarios on paper. But chapter by chapter, we live our lives, knowing the end will come eventually--and hoping it's a happy, rather than tragic close. We want a good ending where, despite the sadness, we can label a life well-lived. 

My mother-in-law passed last week. We had been visiting her in at-home hospice, down in Florida, thinking she still had weeks left, but after one (very nice) day together, she slipped into unconsciousness overnight and was gone about 24 hours later. My father-in-law, who was heavily devastated, didn't want a wake, service, funeral--nothing. Supposedly, my MIL had wanted it that way, too. 

While my husband and FIL quickly set about getting rid of everything my MIL owned, I kept trying to find ways to celebrate her life. But nobody wanted me to organize a gathering at their retirement community game room. Nobody wanted me to do anything but help go through her clothing, bags, makeup, and the jewelry she had not already given to others. Suddenly, my daughter was faced with a box of everything she had made her grandmother through the years and asked if she wanted any of it back. As she looked at all the bead and Shrinky Dink jewelry, I don't think she really knew. She shrugged a bit, but couldn't clearly answer. I grabbed a couple of things in case, but when all was said and done, bags of stuff were dropped at Goodwill within three days of my MIL passing.

  Lilian

RIP Lilian

Everyone grieves and handles death in their own way. I fully realize there is no one right or wrong way. My FIL and husband needed to do it this way. So the issue is all me: I feel like the book of her life had the last few pages ripped off--no epilogue, no end chapter, no rounded-up conclusion. I hate going to wakes and funerals as much as the next person, but I really get the purpose now. They sort of become the epilogue: Friends, family, and acquaintances exchange stories, view pictures, say good-bye. Someone or many someones give wrap-up speeches whether they are religious or simply anecdotal in nature. Often, you find out something about the person you never knew in all that. Every time someone I knew had died in the past, there was some form of closure. So the absence of it is new for me.

So really, I feel like I just watched that horrible non-ending to the Sopranos all over again. Oh, how I want to fix it! It's the writer in me, I guess, and that need to futz with a story is a good thing and a curse at the same time. The need to edit her ending with a nice epilogue is making me nuts. My daughter, who is known to burst into tears over a crushed ladybug, is too quiet about it all.  I want a way to celebrate my MIL's life for my kids' sake--without stomping on the wishes of anyone else. Any ideas?