Monday, March 29, 2010

Death is a Process

Closing down Mother's life is a lot different than closing down Kelsey's.  Everything about this experience is different actually.  I have only just scratched the surface of the work I will need to do with Mother's affairs.  And, unfortunately, it's hard to find the things you need when dealing with someone who never threw anything away.  There is a lot of paper, but nothing in any particular order.  Her dementia probably didn't help, but she was always a lot like this.  Dad was the organized one.

Greg and I have theorized that a lot of what I am seeing is the psyche of someone who grew up during the Depression - she seems to have multiple insurance policies.  She got a very small annuity from two of them that I will need to stop, but I suppose at least a couple of them were meant to pay out to cover burial expenses, which will be nice since this has not been a small expense.  But, the problem is knowing for sure I have it all inventoried, and the stuff I am seeing is even active.  I've paid her bills for over a year and never once seen an invoice for some of the policies I see evidence of in her papers.  Unfortunately, she was in no condition to help me by the time I had to step in - we should have gone over everything years ago, but we didn't.  I wasn't ready to face it, neither was Mother.  I have definitely decided I will, in short order, list all my vitals on a spreadsheet for Marissa so she won't have to play this guessing game.

Mother will be buried with Dad at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday.  That means transporting her body back east, having a second funeral home handling it and getting to the actual site.  That means paying a fee to that second funeral home, as well as transportation costs.  Then we have to get there too.  Then, I can tell you that buying a coffin is more than buying an urn.  I bought Mother a new outfit too.  I think she would have liked it.  I also think she would have wanted me to buy Marissa something new for her funeral.  So I did.  None of this is cheap.  And why I am doing all of this?  Because this is what Mother would have wanted.  Why do I worry about that?  Because it's the right thing to do.  Whether you believe your loved one is somewhere looking over your shoulder or not, I tend to think it's incumbent upon the survivors to do what the deceased wishes.  That, and the fact that I'm too scared that she is looking over my shoulder and will haunt me forever if I don't!

I have been known to say that funerals are for the living.  But, I am not the only living relative with a stake in Mother's burial.  As a matter of fact, it could be argued that I have no real standing in her final affairs.  I am not bound by blood.  Yet, I take the position that I am her daughter, legally and morally, so this is my obligation.  Nonetheless, I want her only remaining sister to feel comfortable with how Mother is laid to rest.  She needs to have this be a good way to say goodbye to her sibling. And that sibling always spoke about how important having an open casket was to allow mourners a sense of closure.  I disagree personally, but yet we endured the viewing tonight.  And endure is the right word.  Mother and I had a vast generational gap on the process of grieving.  Mine does not involve open caskets.  At all.  Thank God for my good friends who came and saw me through it, because sitting in that room with the vessel that carried my mother, but is no longer my mother is not something I would have chosen to do willingly.  This is step one in the process of the funeral.  I am proud of my father's military service.  I am honored to be associated with someone who sacrificed for the freedoms I enjoy (to vote exactly opposite of how he would!) and do so long enough and well enough to be interred at Arlington, so I would never deny Mother the privilege of being laid to rest with him.  But, man, that makes for a long week of having this process hanging over our heads.  Real reflection and the process of grieving I don't think begins until all of this is behind a family. 

Then there's the storage units.  All three of them.  Stacked to the brim with Stuff.  Lots and lots of Stuff.  I threw away or gave away boxes upon boxes of Stuff when I closed up her apartment, but she still had a plethora of just about everything under the sun that I was, frankly, too intimidated to dispense with, even though I think everyone but Mother realized she would never be able to use again.  There were times I was tempted to dispense with it over the ensuing months, but never could bring myself to do it.  Mother asked about it often.  She was possessive about all that Stuff.  I guess I'm glad I could honestly tell her it was all intact, but now I've got to deal with all of it.  It ranges from valuable family heirlooms to pure and unadultered junk.  And it's all mixed in there together.  I'll have to go through each and every box.  The price of closing down her apartment while trying to care for her during the holidays.  The Present Me understands the conundrum the Former Me was under, but Present Me has an R rated thing or two to say about all of this.

And there's El Diablo.  Mother's possessed van.  I came home Saturday to find the side door open.  I slid it shut.  A few minutes later, it was open again.  I had forgotten to depress the button down to lock the door!  I did that and slid it shut again.  A few minutes later, it was open again!  Time for some serious freaking out.  I pushed down the lock again and slid it shut again, with a little more force. This time it stayed shut.  Later I came out with the remote to move it a bit to rotate the tire position and clean the driveway under it only to discover that the auto lock feature was working again.  That hasn't worked since I took possession of the damnable thing.  Now I think it is both haunted and possessed.  I will celebrate the day I am rid of it. Anyone interested in a van that is in league with evil forces should contact me right away, I am willing to deal.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry you're having to go through this right now, but somehow I think that some stress will be relieved (as far as Mother goes). Let me know if you need help going through Stuff or cleaning anything, I've got two good arms and two good legs!

    You know where my vote lies as far as El Diablo. I should apologize for my text regarding The Debil Van, but honestly, that came to my mind as I was pumping gas that night.

    Many hugs to you and the rest of the family!