Sunday, April 03, 2016

Thoughts: Death and my Mom's 54th Birthday.

I recently read in the papers about a child who was confronting the fear of death, and how his mother had to find ways to comfort him about the great beyond.
The one unavoidable truth and necessity of life is that there must be death.
Reading the article made me recall my own confrontation with the truth of death: when my mom announced that she was having a recurrence of breast cancer. Even though she had already confronted the anomaly once before, it was equally terrifying. At that point in time in my 12 year old mind, that meant a return to the instability that had begun the moment we had moved to Singapore.
Later that night, we had a family council where we discussed the new events. My mom had gone from perfectly healthy to at risk in one day. Inevitably, the topic of her passing came up. We dodged around it mostly, but it was still a lingering, pungent smell, and something I could not shake my mind of.
Anyone who knows about my religion (Mormon, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), will know that we believe in Eternal Life and the Plan of Salvation, or Happiness. However, my 12 year old mind had not truly comprehended that doctrine.
I used to sleep in my mom’s bed, and that night I filled my pillow with tears. She came into the room wondering what was wrong, and I told her that I was afraid of death.
I think that, although my understanding of the Gospel Truth was incomplete, I still knew and believed in the afterlife, and that I would not cease existing the moment I passed. I think what differed me from the 10 year-old child in the article was that I already had a profound knowledge of what was beyond.
What I didn’t want was the pain of death, and the pain of my mother passing.
I specifically brought up the topic of Armageddon, the second coming of Christ, which is said to be a time of violence and destruction. I feared existing in those times, because of all the painful ways I could die.
My mother comforted me with the scriptures, telling me of how to righteous saints, death and transformation to the immortal body will be “in the blink of an eye”, and that I had nothing to fear as long as I kept the commandments. It alleviated my fears somewhat, but not entirely.
My mother passed away nearly 3 years later, and I was left confronting the monster of her death, and the beast of my life without her.

Coming to terms
I’m not sure about how my family dealt with my mother’s death. I think we all had regrets and suffered. Han had to go on his mission, and I never would have imagined that the last time he ever saw her would be at the airport, waving goodbye. Shuan had always had a good relationship with her, being the obedient son and primary help with chores. Ern was always the most troublesome with his rebelliousness, but I saw him cry the most when she was at the verge.
Finally, there was me.
I can speak for no one but myself, but I think I actually dealt with her death the worse.
I had always had this stupid blind faith and hope that she would get better, right at the last second. It’s partly attributable to the teachings of the Church, but it was mostly because of my childishness: the inane belief that the world revolved around me, that I was the protagonist of this story.
When I arrived at her hospital bed to find her lifeless body, I cried the least. I was crushed inside, but I thought I should smile because everyone would be weeping. I tried to be that one desperate ray of sunshine in the midst of mourning showers.
In retrospect, it was an egregious mistake, perhaps one of the biggest I regret.
People always speak of celebrating life instead of mourning death, and I think I tried just that. I tried to move past it as quickly as possible, while maintaining that she had a good life and that she was in a better place. All I ended up doing was penning up feelings of frustration, sadness, and losing the ability to mourn.
This was one of the greatest turning points from turning me into one of the least talkative people I know. I became brooding, and I cried constantly at night away from people that could see. I didn’t want to let my tears show, because I feared that people would wrongly sympathise, and that I was using my mother’s passing to gain some form of sick brownie points.
Even now, I can’t fully describe the feelings that I had back then. I was never angry at God, because I had by then a secure knowledge of the Plan of Salvation.
Maybe I just missed my mother the most, because I hadn’t allowed myself to let go properly.
There isn’t any real point to this post. Recently my best friend’s father passed away, and he’s in very much the same position as I am.
If there was any advice I could give him, it’s that he should talk to people about his feelings and about his dad. I missed my mom so much it hurt, but I didn’t want to mourn, and that made it hurt more. The best way I can describe it is like holding back tears, but holding them back so much that they accumulate until you can no longer be rid of them. They burst the banks frequently, and in a greater volume than if you had let them all out at once. 
Don’t try to move past someone’s death. Getting on with life is okay, but only if you get on with a proper memory of them. I had disconcerting dreams of my mother never having died in the first place, but coming back, revealing that she had abandoned us in order to pursue her education. I don’t wish that upon anyone else, or the feeling of perennial sadness that engulfed me following her passing.
To me, you can only celebrate someone’s life after you’ve mourned their death. Then they become a part of you, and you can properly carry them with you as you move on.


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