When I arrived I needed to tend to the living. I did not go straight to see the coffin; I greeted my family and friends. I asked for coffee and in a moment indicative of how insulated I was from the pain, I forgot about the coffin and placed the mug on top of it. A nervous hush overcome those in the house but they understood how far I was down the emotional rabbit hole.
The two weeks after arriving went with out much drama. Birth, weddings and death were opportunities for family reunions, a time of settling old scores, grievances and disagreements. Luckily, at the wake, there was less of it than at other times. My relations were all generally well behaved.
We had to endure silly traditions, which I again suspect were meant to make us uncomfortable to distract us from our grief, and which they did. We can’t brush our hair inside the house; we had to go out onto the streets for that. We can’t shower and a rota had to be organised for going to relatives houses to wash. We can’t sweep, so we had to pick up all the rubbish which was a lot because of the non-stop eating to keep people awake at nights.
Frankly, I can’t remember much of the two weeks. But three things will forever be etched in my memory.
First, a conversation with my father, speculating if my mother had a lucid moment, and decided to end it all to spare us the years of care, a fortune in medication for an illness that can’t be cured which she would not recover from. I will always partly wonder if she, like she always did, made a motherly sacrifice.
Second, the hearse ride to the cemetery. I sat beside my father in the hearse and the kilometre trip felt like an eternity. I was acutely aware of the silence and the feeling of drowning, a heavy chest, as if my body was very heavy. It took much effort to stand and keep my composure.
Third, confronting the elephant in the village, dementia. There were whispers about my mother’s condition. She was called the crazy lady. I did not hold a grudge against people in my village. We come from a small provincial city and people nose into each others lives. It is their way of showing that they care about you enough to gossip about you to others. I told them she was not crazy, she was ill and that it could happen to anyone. We should show compassion to others who could be in the same condition. It is not easy for them and their families.
Read the final article in this series on ehospice tomorrow. The first article was published on ehospice previously.