Posted March 05, 2012 by
I received a long email from a close friend of my mother’s today. She’s just finished reading my book and had a lot to say. The passage that really struck me, and that also made me incredibly sad was this one:
The last time I saw your mom was in St. Joseph’s Hospital, right before she left for DC. She didn’t want to talk about her condition or ever discuss the possibility that she might not make it, so we did not, and I was not fully informed as to the details of her condition at that time. When I saw her in St. Joseph’s, I did tell her that I planned on maintaining a relationship with you, regardless of what happened to her. She did not want to hear this, I don’t think, as it sounded more negative than she wanted to hear, but I did want her to know that. You moved away so far, that our contacts have been infrequent, but, at least, we are still in touch! I think she would like that, as do I. I look back on that now and wish I had done more for her. I wasn’t always sure of what to do, whether she wanted friends around who might discuss her situation with her, or not. She did not want to discuss it with me, and it was awkward to see her getting worse and pretend not to notice. I still don’t know what one should do in that situation.
I’ve been talking about the five stages of grief on almost a daily basis lately. Between interviews and Q&As at book signings, the five stages are always up for discussion. I’m comfortable talking about them, and thinking about them, especially when it comes to my own experience. However, one thing I’ve always kind of wondered is how in denial my mother really was. The other night I read aloud an excerpt from Chapter One, in which I attempted to talk with her about the fact that she was dying.
We’ve never talked about it. What it would be like if she died. She’s been sick for four years and we’ve never talked about it.
Every time I read this passage, I always secretly wonder, is this really true? Did we really never talk about it? I know I wrote this in my book, but it just seems so impossible sometimes. I look at my own daughter and I know that if I were dying I would talk to her about it. I think about my mom too, about how magical and wonderful and easy to talk to she was, and it astounds me that she just couldn’t talk to me about this.
Reading her friend’s email this morning answered my question though. It affirmed what I really did know to be true — my mother just couldn’t bring herself to talk to me about the fact that she was dying.
This breaks my heart. I think part of the reason I’ve wondered if my memory of this was really accurate is because I didn’t want to believe that she couldn’t really talk about. It must have been my fault, I think to myself. I must not have tried hard enough to engage her about, I sometimes think.
But that’s not true.
My mother was in denial. And we never talked about what it would be like if she died.
I wish we had.