Tuesday, March 5, 2019

IWSG: Missing Mom

                                                     

It's time for another edition of the  Insecure Writer's Support Group Be sure to visit Alex J. Cavanaugh  and the rest of the talented bloggers who are always willing to lend a helping hand.

                                                    Missing Mom    

                

(Mom and her boys in 2013)


When people ask how I'm doing, I usually respond that I'm sad but okay. Though I lost my mom in January, waves of sadness often come over me even in the most unlikely places. For example, I recently had a small breakdown at a car dealership.

It happened when we got a great deal on a new car that I know my mom would've approved of. It's a pretty shade of blue with chrome accents, as opposed to our last car that blended into every parking lot. But Mom described our old car best. She said, "It's perfect for a retired school teacher."

Because we have such a small family, we had a private graveside funeral, which was not ideal for the frigid and icy Chicago weather. That evening we held a shiva and memorial service where my brother, my two sons and I honored our mom and "Nana" with heartfelt eulogies.

My brother and the boys did a wonderful job and everyone seemed deeply moved. Our friends and family came together to help with the shiva, but someone whom I considered a close friend since our college days, was noticeably absent.

The day after my mom passed away, I phoned my friend, let's call her "Jess." She knew Mom was in hospice through a series of phone conversations and texts. Though she only lives about 20 minutes away, I haven't seen Jess since her daughter's wedding last March.

Jess expressed her condolences and generously offered to help with the shiva. Since we were just having a small gathering, I wanted to handle everything myself. I explained that I was still getting estimates on fish and meat trays. Then she offered some suggestions and offered to call places for me. I thanked her, but reiterated that I would take care of it myself.  

She kept insisting on helping me, so I suggested doing what I did for her mom's shiva the year before. After offering to send dinner to her family before the funeral and offering to bring something to the shiva after the funeral, her cousin (aka contact person) said that everything was already ordered. So I offered to make a contribution and brought a check.

For some reason, Jess took offense to this. It didn't seem right to her that I hadn't assigned a contact person, and Jess did not want to hand me a check.

In many instances, women have groups of friends handle shivas like assembly lines where one person orders the food, another collects donations from friends and family, and two or three friends set everything up before the family arrives. 

Soon some of my brother's friends also generously offered to contribute, so I asked my oldest and dearest friend Lana (name also protected) to be my contact person.

I texted Jess the next day with Lana's digits. Little did I know that trouble was about to ensue.

The day before my mom's funeral, I could sense that Lana was upset, but she wouldn't tell me why. After much prodding, she said that Jess accidentally sent her the worst text that she's ever seen. I don't know who the text was originally intended for, but Lana was referred to as a harsh expletive. Jess  added that Lana treated her like a "second class citizen" by declining her offer to help set up my mom's shiva. 

Lana was merely following my request, as it was held in the entertainment room in our apartment building which has a very small kitchen. My hubby helped me set up as much as we could the night before and Lana helped me set up and clean up on the day of.  My brother's friends were the coffee co-chairs, so there wasn't enough room for anyone else. If only Jess had reasonably expressed her concerns to me, instead of going on the warpath with an innocent messenger.

After receiving the disturbing text, Lana tried contacting Jess. Finally, Jess told her that she sent her the text by mistake and would send the check to me in the mail.

I couldn't sit by and let her treat Lana this way, but I needed to cool off first. Though my brother convinced me to send a kinder, gentler text, my first instinct was to consult my mom. Mom had the ability to handle any given situation and was always the voice of reason.

Later, I texted Jess at dialysis explaining that I heard the news while I was crying and writing Mom's eulogy. I told her that a few days earlier, my mom was unresponsive until Lana came to visit her. My brother was deeply moved when he returned to my mom's room to find her and Lana holding hands and singing songs. Before Lana left, Mom even told Lana she loved her.

I asked Jess not to contribute to the shiva and not to bother showing up, unless she sent Lana a "sincere" apology. I did not want to have any extra aggravation on the worst day of my life. I added that Lana is my oldest and dearest friend, who has been there for me and my family for more than 50 years.

Shortly thereafter, I received a text from Jess saying that she was glad that we saw her original text, because it expressed her "true feelings." She would not apologize for being treated like a "second class citizen," and she knows what it's like to have the "worst day of her life," so she would not be attending the shiva. Jess made it sound like a competition and I clearly chose Lana over her. She wished me and my family well and I never heard from her again. But she still had to send the last word to Lana.

The morning of the funeral. she told Lana she knew she'd show me the text. Jess also wanted to stir things up by adding that Lana's been on my "naughty list" a few times.

How stupid of me not to have realized that my mom's funeral was all about Jess.

Lana continued to apologize profusely for telling me about her confrontation with Jess and I told her that I would've never wanted her there knowing how badly she treated my best friend, and if she was bad mouthing Lana, I could only imagine what she was saying about me.

Lana went above and beyond to help me before, during and after my mom's funeral, and though she and my mom often joked about it, my mom really did think of her as a second daughter. We were also touched that many of Lana's family members also came to pay their respects, in addition to making a generous contribution to the Shiva. 

I really don't feel comfortable asking for anything, though my husband would be inclined to disagree. But I was pleasantly surprised when friends and family members generously offered to bring specific things like desserts, candy or fruit. I was also pleased to see cousins that we hadn't seen in years. Just making a condolence call is a gift in itself.

I also received an unexpected gift when I broke the news of Mom's passing to one of my oldest friends, who inspired me to write the ending of my eulogy. She said it was no coincidence that my mom died the same week as Carol Channing and like the Broadway legend, my mom had her own unique style and was "so cool."



28 comments:

  1. Grief can hit you at unexpected times. It does for me too. That's a shame that Jess had to add all the unnecessary drama and hurt feelings at your time of loss when you needed support. That's great that you have other friends that supported you.

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  2. My deepest condolences on your Mom's passing. How unfortunate to have so much unnecessary drama surrounding her shiva at the worst possible time for you in your grief. Wishing you heart's ease in time.

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  3. Dear Julie - I am sorry to read here about your beloved mother leaving you - gosh she was a breath of fresh air for us via your blog ... always making us laugh. This sounds just so difficult for you and I hope that it will ease and you'll be able to adjust the hurt ... and then grieve in peace with loads of giggles generated by thoughts of your Ma ... you have a loving family and other good friends - all the very best - with a hug or two - Hilary

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  4. Julie, I am so sorry for the loss of your beloved Mom and all the heartache you have been through. I feel that I knew your Mom as she was the topic of many of your most wonderful posts. What a terrific character she was and your love for her always shined through. She raised two fine people, was adored by her grandchildren and lived a life her way. She will always be with you because you are the loving person you are because of her.

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  5. My heart goes out to you and your family, Julie! Losing a beloved mother is a difficult and painful path to walk. My mother died in 2002, and I still have "small breakdowns" occasionally, but the wonderful memories I have of her far outnumber the waves of sadness. From what you have written and the comments above I can see that your mother was a special person. I hope that as time goes by you'll be overwhelmed with waves of joy and love and laughter and your mother's presence always in your heart. I'm glad that you had a loving family and special friend Lana to support you during this stressful and grief-soaked time. Sending you a big hug!

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  6. So sorry about your mother and about the childish angst that one friend caused. People don't stop and think. They do think only of themselves. You stuck up for your friend, she came through for you, and now you don't need to ever think about Jess again.

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  7. I'm sorry about your loss. Often people don't realize how their actions and words impact others (or even care sometimes). I hope the joyful moments soon overtake your memories because your mother sounds like she was a wonderful person.

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  8. I am so deeply sorry for your loss. Grief can come at the strangest times, at the drop of a dime. I am sending you prayers and healing thoughts.

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  9. Natalie - I know what a strong person you are, and can’t even imagine what it’s like to lose your husband at such a young age. I admire all you do for your daughter and your mom. Yes, I did have a lot of uneccesary drama, but it’s behind me now. Thank you, Natalie.

    Debra - In the past, I always gave Jess the benefit of a doubt because she always had a fun side and a good heart. It’s always sad when a friendship comes to an end, but she gave me no other choice. She disrespected my best friend, my mom and me. Thank you, Debra.

    Hilary - YOU are a breath of fresh air! I remember how hard it was for you when you lost your mum, but you soldiered on sharing wonderful stories with us. You were a wonderful daughter and I know how special your relationship was. Thank you for your kind words, Hilary.

    Arleen - My first impulse is to call my mom to read your thoughtful words to her. Like my mom, you always know what to say in any given situation. Thank you so much, Arleen.

    Julie

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    1. Thanks Julie - so much for this ... my Ma was inspirational ... and we laughed and cried as one does ... and you will too - the early days are always the more difficult - take care and enjoy her legacy through your children and other relatives ... with hugs - Hilary

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  10. Fundy Blue - i’m sorry that you lost your mom and I really appreciate your advice. I will continue to think about the “joy, love and laughter” I shared with my mom. I agree that is the best way to honor her memory. Thank you so much, Fundy Blue.

    Alex - ”Childish angst” is the perfect way to describe her behavior. Yes, my friend Lana really came through for me and I was fortunate to have other supportive friends. Thank you so much, Alex. I really appreciate your support over the years.

    Tonja - Yes, my mom was a wonderful person, and her fabulous sense of humor made her the star of many of my blog posts. True that Jess probably still does not realize the impact of her behavior. Thank you, Tonja.

    Chrys - You’re right that grief can hit us when we least expect it. Thank you for your kind words, Chrys.

    Julie

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  11. Julie, I am so sorry for your loss. Your mother was always such a special person, and such a huge part of your life. And as for your friend, perhaps some people just don't know how to handle loss. Wish I was there to give you a big hug.

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  12. I am sorry for your loss. Grief never stops, it emerges at the strangest times, for no reason.

    Jess will have to deal with her behavior by herself, cutting off an opportunity to reach out to friends and family.

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  13. I am so sorry for your loss and for all the turmoil surrounding your mother's shiva. Funerals/shivas bring out the worst in some people. I'm so sorry you had to go through all that. Grief takes a long time get through. Through, not over. You don't get over the loss of a loved one. But everyday, the grief lessens, returns, lessens some more. Hang in there and hang around those who bolster you up, not tear you down.

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  14. Rhonda - So true that my mom was such an important part of my life. I never seemed to run out of stories about her for my blog and I really appreciate how supportive you’ve been. I agree that many people don’t know how to handle loss and hope they’re able to get the help they deserve. Thank you Rhonda, and I’m sending a virtual hug back to you.

    Susan - I honestly don’t think Jess feels like she’s done anything wrong. In her mind she is the victim. Thank you so much for your kind words, Susan.

    Diane - You are a very wise woman. Yes, I will try to surround myself with people who “bolster me up.” and while we’re on the subject this might be a good time to shop for some new lingerie. Thank you very much, Diane.

    Julie

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  15. Oh, GEM JULIE, what a shame! And that makes me sad, too, to learn of your Mom's passing! And then to have a "friend" turn it all into a big tit-for-tat fight! Who needs that at such a time? -- As if things weren't painful enough already. I am so sorry you had to endure that. It wasn't fair to you at all!

    I know there isn't really much anyone can do or say at a time like this. But I remember when my own Ma passed away in 2005, someone at hospice, where she spent her last few days, gave me a brief little pamphlet, and somehow that little story really did make me feel a bit better about everything. It just seemed to have the right words at the right time.

    Naturally, I saved that pamphlet, and I just now tried to find it but, unfortunately, due to this massive move I just made, most of my stuff is still in boxes scattered in every room of the house.

    But, eventually, as I'm un-boxing things and putting them where they belong, I will come across that pamphlet again and share it with you. I'll bet I could find it online somewhere, but I can't even recall the title. I Googled some phrases that I thought might have been the title but I didn't come up with anything.

    However, I'll get back to you, Julie, when I've found what I'm looking for. I hope to get a large amount of stuff put away tomorrow, so perhaps I'll come across it then.

    Again, my sincerest condolences to you on the loss of your Mom. I think we ALL loved her because, through your writings about her, it's almost like we knew her, at least to some (fun) degree. No question that she will be terribly missed by you and many other folks as well (myself included).

    ~ D-FensDogG
    STMcC Presents BATTLE OF THE BANDS

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  16. Stephen - I remember it was your love for your dear Ma that brought us together years ago when you won the “Old Broads Waxing Poetic” blogfest. Susan and I knew that any son who could describe his mom in such a heartfelt and humorous way not only deserved to win our little contest, but would remain a lifelong friend. Thank you for continuing to be
    so supportive, and just hearing from you has been a huge help. Congratulations on your
    new move and when things finally slow down, I’m sure that pamphlet will pop up. We moved over a year and a half ago .
    and still have several mystery boxes in storage. Thanks for being so thoughtful, my friend.

    Julie

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    1. GEM JULIE ~

      I thank you for such a nice reply to my comment.

      I just recently unpacked all my books and that copy I won of 'Old Broads Waxing Poetic' now lives in a new bookcase in my new (used) home!

      And I remember when I won that book (which I really like, by the way), I was completely surprised because... I didn't even realize it was a contest!! Ha!-Ha! I must have missed the fine print or something, because I just thought it was a regular blog bit and I submitted a comment about my Ma. In other words, I wasn't even *trying* to win something, because I didn't know that anything was even being offered to the person who wrote the comment you and Susan liked best.

      Believe it or not, Julie, it wasn't until the day before yesterday that I finally found that pamphlet I had mentioned. It was given to me by someone at Hospice Of The Valley, in Phoenix, where my Ma passed away.

      The booklet is titled 'Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience' by Barbara Karnes. But the first part of the title was inspired by something written by Henry Van Dyke, and it was *THAT* which really touched me at the time. It was just the right idea and words for the moment. In fact, re-reading it just now, I found that it *still* brings a tear to my eye.

      So, here you go, Julie. If you haven't encountered this before, I hope it will touch you in the same way it does me:

      [Link> 'GONE FROM MY SIGHT'

      ~ D-FensDogG (aka STMcC)

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    2. Thanks so much, Stephen! Sorry I didn’t see this sooner.

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  17. Oh, Julie, I'm so sorry. Your stories about your mother have touched our hearts and made us laugh for a long time, so we feel like we knew her, too. One thing that always shone through in your stories is your abiding love for her. We grieve with you. Again, I'm sorry. Sorry for the a-holey way that woman acted, too. Just what you needed, huh? Hang in there, kiddo.

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  18. Susan - You have been one of my mom’s most devoted cheerleaders and I’ll always be grateful to you. I would always share your humorous comments with Mom that kept us both in stitches. I just realized that if it weren’t for you, I would not have had a book to dedicate to my mom. That was definitely her favorite part! Thank you so much for everything, Susan and I think you hit the nail on the head in describing the way my former friend behaved.

    Julie

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  19. I'm so sorry for your loss, Julie. Your mom brought your readers a lot of joy through you and your writing. I am also so sorry to hear that Jess chose to create drama and turmoil instead of offering the support that was needed. Lana, on the other hand, is a true and treasured friend. I'll be thinking of you in the coming days. Sending you a virtual hug.

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  20. I'm very sorry for your loss and hope the days come quickly when the joy of the memories you made with your mom begin to overshadow the sorrow you're feeling now. As for Jess...some people will never understand it's not all about them. Don't waste another thought on her.

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    1. LD - Thank you for your very wise words. You’re right that it’s not worth it. I will focus on my wonderful memories with my mom instead. Thanks again, LD!

      Julie

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  21. Connie - It really means a lot saying that my mom’s stories brought readers “a lot of joy.” It will be difficult to create future stories without my muse. Yes, Lana has been an exceptional friend. Though there were definite signs, it’s a shame I didn’t see Jess’ true colors earlier. Thank you so much, Connie.

    Julie

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  23. Julie, I want to offer my condolences to you and your family. I hope you will find comfort from kind and caring people during what I'm sure is a very difficult time for you. Please take care.

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