Being responsible for your child’s every need is an enormous challenge, one that evokes fears and anxiety, as well as joy and happiness, that leads us on one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Muddling through this ride, it is interesting how we all handle our emotions differently. I know that I make light of situations and try to laugh at things. I get this from my mother.
My mother was a young widow with two teenagers and a toddler. My dad passed away after a short illness that was not easy to watch. My mom was a teacher, and somehow her life always seemed to schedule itself around the school year. My dad died in early July, giving her almost two months before she had to go back to work at a small parish school in the Bronx.
Not long after the school year started, the principal asked my mother if she thought she could handle bringing her seventh grade confirmation class to a funeral mass for a former CCD teacher from the parish. Apparently it was an older woman, with not much family, and the parish wanted to give her a respectable showing as a send off. My mother assured her that she could handle it, and agreed this woman deserved to have as many mourners as possible.
Down the stairs to the church her class filed, with mom leading them head held high. At the entrance to the church, mom floundered a bit, but very determined, charged her way through the doors and up the aisle to seat her children. The other seventh grade teacher kept a close eye on her, and checked in a couple of times, but mom assured her this was going to be just fine.
In spite of her best efforts, it didn’t take long for her brave exterior to slip. Once the music started, “Be not afraid”, mom started to fill up a bit. As the mass progressed, emotions started to come in waves, getting stronger and stronger, finally overcoming her when the priest began his sermon. While the litany of volunteerism and a testimony to the deceased woman’s virtue was extolled from the alter, mom sought refuge in the lobby of the church until the mass was over.
Waiting for her students to emerge, mom started to regain her composure and
felt she should return to her students. She arrived back at the pew just as the mass was ending with the priest giving his final benediction. The coffin started to slowly pass, and my mother was reduced to sobbing out loud this time.
As the rest of the congregation was walking out, all ten of them or so, one of the older women stopped, put her hand on my mom’s shoulder and said sympathetically, “We understand. Agnes was a wonderful woman.”
To which my mom, very perplexed responded “Agnes, who’s Agnes?”
This story is a family favorite. Life can be very unfair sometimes and it is easy to lose faith. By acknowledging the pain we feel, and then looking at what we do with that, lets us manage that pain. Of course my mom still feels the loss of my
dad, but the laughter we derive imagining the other woman’s face is so therapeutic.
Realizing your child isn’t perfect also brings on a sense of bereavement. You grieve for the perfect child you imagined existed, in spite of the fact that no child is perfect. It is a natural reaction. It gets better, though. Once acceptance comes, hopefully you will find some humor in your new reality.