Somewhere between South Buffalo and North Tonawanda, my phone gave up the ghost. I don’t know what happened. It was fine at home; it was not fine at Carey’s house. For two days I tried, but nothing, until dad reminded me that we had insurance on the family plan. So, I headed over to T-Mobile, where they told me they couldn’t do much, but they would look up my plan and see what was possible. Then, this exchange:
“Oh, I see Maureen is the account holder. She would have to come in with you, with photo ID.” “Oh, ok, but what if she’s dead?”
I am SORRY, T-Mobile employee whose jaw I dropped. They were simply aghast. I remembered then that there is a certain decorum folks expect surrounding the dead. I forgot to put up that mask. I seemed cavalier, and I’m not. I mean, of course my mother’s death was a huge thing for me. Alas, I am notoriously not good with death in general. I don’t have excellent coping skills in this area. I have been told by a therapist that they are “okay, but not great.” Some of these include sending the dead “on vacation,” in which I act as though they are simply out of town. For reference, my aunt Ka has been in the Philippines for 16 years doing missionary work, and I sure hope my mother has been enjoying her first few months in Ireland. I also use humor in uncomfortable situations, so when death is around, I sure can get inappropriate. You do not want to take me to funeral. So coping skills as they are, I was wondering if my blunt attitude was a symptom of something. Or, perhaps…perhaps people just hate the word “dead.”
Whenever I say my mom is dead, people get all cringy. They would generally much prefer that I say “passed,” or “moved on,” or even “died.” But “dead” freaks people the hell out. I think I know why, too…it’s because of the fear.
See, I have a theory on fear. FDR said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Nope, sorry, I don’t buy it. I fear only one true thing, and it is the root of all fears the very heartbeat: myself. The only thing we have to fear is ourselves. If you are scared of something, look within and figure out what it is about yourself that is making you scared, and you will always find the answer…even if you don’t want to think about it. In this case, we all fear being “dead.” Not necessarily “dying;” we all have a hope of how that will happen. I myself would love to go peacefully in the night, in a hospital on a cloud of medication. I want no pain and I want a professional to find my body. Some people hope to die at home in their beds. Some even hope to die tragically or famously. “Dying” has hope in it…however small a shred.
And death holds hope. We all hope of an afterlife, from the atheist who expects to turn to compost to the Christian enroute to heaven. Me, I think there’s options out there, and I’m open to many possibilities. I’m just here for the ride, baby. Death does not scare me, because I hope for something coming after this. I hope this isn’t the end…and therefore…another small shred.
But “dead?” Nobody likes dead. Dead is final. Dead makes people uncomfortable. There is no hope in “dead.” So, I understand the poor T-Mobile girl’s fallen face when I said what I said, and I am sorry; it’s just the process.
I don’t know if I mentioned before but I have been receiving mailers about grief from a church whose youth group I attended once upon a time. This month’s newsletter came with an illustration that said “Missing my mom comes in waves. Todays, I’m drowning.” Missing my mom does come in waves, but the hardest part of every day is early morning when the tide rolls in for me. Which is why today I am enjoying my coffee while typing this blog at 7am while wearing her bathrobe.
I know I have been writing about mom a lot, but it really is helping me process to write out my feelings and share my journey with you. I appreciate that you are along for my ride, as well. Even when I get all emo and wax poetic about the concept of death and dying. On these days, your support means all the more to me.