Had a nice visit with my Aunt and Uncle (my mother’s brother) two Saturdays ago. Well not an actual visit. It was more of a phone visit. I just had the urge to call Saturday morning and well, did it. We talked for a good hour. My Aunt is battling ovarian cancer. Her spirits are high though, and we caught up on things, and talked about family…both living and gone.
It was a bittersweet conversation in some ways because July 5th was the anniversary of my mother’s death 26 years ago to the same disease. Since I was on speakerphone I was able to hear my Uncle’s comments too about my mother.
I never really talked much about my mother, and it was a few years ago that I realized that it was partially because I never allowed myself to fully grieve for her. Grieving for her used to involve guilt. Thinking about her death reminded me of pain. Not just the pain of losing her, but the pain from the period of my life. It was when she was fighting cancer and dieing that the the JW’s were fighting against me and in the process of disfellowshipping me.
The JW’s disfellowshipped me while Mom was still alive, and my Grandmom told me that she told my Mom she thought the whole thing was ridiculous, and that Mom shouldn’t go to the Kingdom Hall (what the JW’s call their church) when they publicly announced it; but Mom went anyway. My mother was stubborn, she wouldn’t let anyone know if you hurt her, she would hold her head up. Mom and I didn’t talk much about the whole disfellowshipping process. Dad was the one who usually had something to say to me about it, usually the one who voiced his disappointment. I distanced myself from home, because I always felt like I was disappointing them when I came home, not good enough. (Why can’t Dad’s sometimes realize saying “I’m disappointed in you” can mean the same as “you’re not good enough”?) There were some “fine-upstanding JW’s” that told me that perhaps my mother was sick because of my behavior. So guilt was with me. I visited Mom. But looking back, I used my work as more of an excuse than I needed to. I could have spent more time with her. I protected myself from the pain.
I was there though, at the initial surgery delivering the first cancer blow, at the last surgery, when they just closed her up saying they couldn’t do anything, and in the room when she drew her last breath. At my mother’s funeral, many visitors came to pay their final respects. For a while I stayed at the casket with my father and my sister and brother. All but two of the JW’s that I known growing up passed by me in silence. One or two would look at me with disapproving frowns. I wasn’t particularly greeted standing with my father, sister and brother at the casket; and when I overheard my father introduce my siblings to people and completely ignore me, I left and sat with my Grandmother off to the side. I didn’t know if anyone else noticed the whole thing, I just remember having my head down, trying to hide the tears until I could control them and put my head up again. I found out later that it was obvious to others, and my mother’s brothers were furious. So to protect myself emotionally from that pain I didn’t think about that time. Unfortunately, I didn’t think then about my mother.
I didn’t realize it back then, but God was continuing to direct people around me, encouraging me not to give up on Him. (My initial reaction to the disfellowshipping was anger against God. It wasn’t until later that I realized it was a denomination, not God that I was mad at.) Two such individuals were my Aunt and Uncle. Actually, most of my mother’s side of the family, one of my father’s sisters and one niece came to support my wedding day October of 1984; three months after Mom’s death. My father, brother and sister would not attend. My Uncle walked me down the aisle, and my Grandmother filled the shoes of my Mom. My mother’s family has always continued to love and support me.
The other part. I’ve worked through that. Parents that are supposed to love you unconditionally that don’t, well – you have to forgive them for it or it will eat at you. I didn’t tell Dad I forgave him. He really doesn’t talk to me. Forgiving people who hurt you eases your pain. Part of the process was to realize the mistakes that I did make. Accept the grace. Then the hard part…forgive myself. That took the longest time. Understanding the grace, realizing my sins, confessed, have been forgiven andforgotten. Grace – undeserved, given freely as a gift.
Sins forgotten. Pain eased. I’m not going to lie and say that sometimes it doesn’t cause a certain degree of sadness to think of memories associated with those times. However, I can say that there is no pain, no anguish. I feel a sadness for the individuals who really don’t know any better than what twisted “truths” they have been taught.
Now I can sit and talk about Mom and we can remember pleasant memories. However, I can also sit and talk about her battle with cancer and her last days. I can talk with my Aunt and Uncle about the conversations they had with her. These conversations though while sad, can still bring joy because the pain is gone.