Tomorrow I am going to a funeral visitation, a wake. It is a hard one. Not because I was personally close to the deceased, although her sister is a very close friend of mine, her cousin my best friend of 30 years. This is a hard one because the deceased is MY age. Something is just not right about that, not right at all.
Now that I am in my…ahem…40’s officially, it seems to be more frequent that I am attending funerals of friends’ parents and even my husband’s father, 2 years ago. This is still sad and hard, as all funerals make you consider or remember sadness of things you’d rather not think on. Like how the funerals of my friends’ parents make me think of MY parents’ mortality. But – this seems to be de rigueur for our age group. My parents are fairly young still (just turned 65) but most of my friends have parents in their 70’s or even 80’s. Not an automatic death sentence with today’s medical technology and healthy lifestyle choices, but certainly a time when death becomes more of a fact of life than in previous years. Dare I say we almost expect death could arrive anytime once we hit a certain age?
However, at the age of 42, our own death is NOT an expectation. It is not even a consideration, not yet. Yes, we accept and realize that we are no longer the spring chickens who could party four nights of the weekend and get back on the horse for more the following weekend, but we 40-somethings do still think we are young-ish and still plenty vivacious. We are only just coming to consider and accept the mortality of our parents and are in no way prepared to peek at our own limited lifespan. We live in denial, despite the fact that we are the true age of “middle-aged”. How many of us will really live to be centenarians anyway, to make 50+ our “middle age”? That’s just wishful thinking. We want to kid ourselves, but attending a funeral of a peer forces us to stare our own demise in its dark haunting eyes. For me, the fact that this passing was at the hands of illness rather than an accident is even more offensive. Sickness is for the old. Not for 42 years young women who are mothers of a 14 year old son.
So aside from the tragic aspect of when she passed and how she passed, it is the thought of who she leaves behind that truly tears at my soul. As much as any parent would say that no parent should have to bury a child (and nor should they), so it is that no child (child, not adult child) should have to bury a parent. I don’t care what you tell me about teenage boys – they still need a mom. We all do, but sometimes we don’t realize how much we needed our moms during our teens. I weep for that boy-turning-into-a-man. I weep for all his mother’s family. More than that, this callous casualty of life makes me consider something that I’d actually get up off the couch and run (yes, I said run) to avoid. The thought of my own end.
That’s not a narcissistic turn of focus. It’s inevitable, these thoughts that death leads you towards. I am well aware that life only has one ending, and while I have always had deep fears of my own demise, or more specifically – fear of what happens after that demise, I have accepted that it is inevitable one day. I hope it’s many, many days, but it is only one of two sure things in life, after all.
However, three years ago, I became a mom. And death took on a whole new sinister evil for me. Not because I don’t want to die and lose one more precious second with my baby than I missed during her first 18 months of life, but because it now has the additional power to devastate my Baby. I know every mother loathes the thought of leaving their children at any age, but you have to understand that MY Baby has already endured more loss in her sweet young life than most adults. Loss is the anthem for children who have been adopted. Or are waiting to be. We bring emotionally scarred children into our lives, our homes, our families and we force them to fall in love with us (oh yes we do – NOT loving us is never an option, ask any honest adoptive parent). They don’t want to trust, they don’t want to love – they want to exist in a world where attachment to people is casual and need-specific. Because that is how they have learned to avoid loss. Yet, we impose our family concept and emotions on them and eventually they cave, learning to love, learning to trust, sometimes even needing professional assistance to do so. And as their parents, we are a FIERCE bunch of warriors when it comes to shielding them from ANY further heart pain than what they endured prior to adoption. Don’t get me wrong – I know bio parents are equally tough soldiers in their desire to defend their bio babes from hurt, but you must understand – bio babes and bio parents don’t have that whole experience of LOSS that children and parents through adoption have.
So, tomorrow I will go to pay my respects to the woman, mother, daughter, aunt, sister and wife who left life WAY too soon. I will give my condolences to her partner, her son, her family. I will hug her sister, my friend, and I will cry with her. She needs my support right now and I will do my best to give her what I can, all the while shaking inside. I will try to banish the images of my daughter standing in that room and I will hope and pray that the cruelties of life don’t choose my daughter as an example. At a minimum, I hope she is a full-grown adult when her time comes to be accepting condolences for her mother.
Please keep my friend, her nephew and her family in your thoughts and prayers.