Today, 8 years ago, my mum died. It’s as simple as that. After a fight against cancer which didn’t even took 4 months, it was a grey morning when she passed away. I remember it as it was yesterday: the day before, the hospital called me in the evening to come because it seemed like it will be getting serious. My brother came from Vienna, my grandma from Wels and we all sat there, watching her breathing heavily, fighting through her last hours. She did’t recognize us anymore, except my grandma for a short moment, and for me it was almost unbearable to watch a pretty young body getting killed by some stupid bad cells. After a while, they sent us home for some sleep, but I think it was 3 am when they called me again. When we arrived, she already had taken her last breath some minutes before (at least that was the way grandma told us). She looked like she was sleeping. It felt unreal. And somehow like all the heavy load on my shoulders that was built up during the last months was gone. It was peaceful.
When I left the hospital at around half past seven, I saw kids getting to school straight across the street. I saw people going to work. Everything was so normal for them. But for me my life had changed completely. Somehow this contrast marked the first and one of the few moments of pain during that whole story.
Pragmatic as I am, I went to work, informed them that I wouldn’t be at the office, grabbed my laptop to have something to work at home and started with all the official stuff you have to do, like organising the funeral, informing the state and so on. My brother was with me, but I think more or less only physical. It was always me who was more hands-on and wanted to fix stuff. I deal with things in setting up plans. Since we both didn’t have any contact to our father at that point of time, it was us to get things done. I didn’t have the time to think too much and that was good. On the next day I went back to work, just to have some kind of daily routine.
Actually, the first time I realized that she really was gone was at the funeral. After living in a vacuum for so many months and days with her at the hospital, my daily business didn’t change too much, only that it got a bit easier. There were incredibly many people who wanted to say goodbye. I was a bit helpless with grown up men crying in front of me and shaking so many hands. So many letters, so many calls. After the funeral I finally came to rest. Maybe it was because I always try to keep things going and suddenly there was nothing more to organise. But the whole real grieving process started later and I think pops up from time even until today.
I always was more Daddy’s girl. My brother was more connected with my mum. But she always has been my consultant when it came to life decisions. Even though (at least I thought) we were so much different from each other in points of character, I always asked her when I had a problem with the boys, when I had to take a decision. And with some distance and self-reflecting with the help of wise men and life experience I can identify not only optical similarities. I realized that I made a lot of similar experiences and mistakes. And when one person that knew her from work and me from skydiving told me, “I miss working with her and it’s so unfair that she isn’t here anymore, because she was one of the persons who always wanted to make everyone happy”, it almost kicked me out of my shoes. Because hardly anyone knew what struggles she had to fight inside her. And it showed me all of a sudden that I am more like her as I wanted to admit and on the best way to run into the same trap. I took my time and decided: some things have to change. It started a process inside me that is still going on and good for me. And here are some lessons I learned from it. I wouldn’t say I’m at the end of the road – but already far.
1.) Learn to accept.
There will always be open questions. The most painful is: why? Don’t you think I asked why??? when I saw an old lady almost crawling over the street while my mum was suffering from deadly cancer with only 54 years, too weak to even walk alone? Or how often I asked myself why a relationship had to end, leaving nothing except pain, sadness or open questions? Why I had to let go friends? But when you come to a point where you learn to accept that life usually gives a shit about your questions and hunger for answers, it’s getting easier and less painful.
2.) Allow people to make mistakes.
I attended a seminar about personality development and the therapist was working with us on our family situations. I was always angry about my dad leaving us the way he did and my mum being weak (as I thought). But the the old wise man said one very true thing: nothing should be justified and parents should know better. But they are still humans. And humans make mistakes. I realized that as soon I start looking at people from that point of view, I can deal with them more easily. And I can accept things faster (which leads us back to point 1). Finally I was able define the relationship with my mum (and dad) and this helped me to deal with my own life in a better way.
3.) You are never prepared for loosing someone.
That might sound cruel, but is a fact. An accident takes a person from you in a harsh, surprisingly short second. You are not prepared at all, you can’t believe it, want to turn back time, feel that it’s unreal. But at least it’s like removing a plaster from a wound, fast, painful, but a clean cut. Watching a person suffer from an illness might give you a chance to say goodbye and accept a situation, while at the same time you have to watch a disease sucking life out of a loved one. Believe me, you are not prepared. Not at all.
4.) Grieve the way you want it.
As mentioned, I was a bit overwhelmed by the scenery at my mum’s funeral. And to be honest, I am not really into the graveyard stuff and ceremonies. Find your way in remembering that person, to grieve the way it’s good for you. And don’t let anybody tell you how to do it or it might be wrong. When Andy died this summer in a skydiving accident, hardly anyone of us attended the funeral. But we set up a nice little celebration in the sunset of Saarlouis. We took a minute of silence which was followd by Fabian saying into the silence: and now Andy would like all the girls to get naked. For some people this might have been inappropriate. But in this moment, everyone was laughing because it simply was like Andy was. And that is what really counts. My mum is buried next to my dropzone (rather weird having a hospital and a graveyard so close) – so is watching me all the time. That’s my way of being next to her.
5.) Seize every day.
Ok sounds trashy, but it is like that. When she had been transferred to palliative care, my mom looked at me and said, ” So I imagined it differently. There would be much left to do.” And I mean, she was a person who enjoyed life. I never ever want to say that. That was the point when I decided to whatever I want to do – I’ll do it. Get a tattoo? Sure. Get ten tattoos? Fuck yeah. Nobody cares if they look shit when you’re old. Maybe you won’t get old, right? Jump outta planes? Why not. Buy something expensive? Hey, it’s only money. Travel? Yes. Stay at home? For sure! You never know what the next day offers. And by the way, if you are stubborn and stick too much to plans and rules and what everyone expects from you, you might miss a lot of unexpected good things too.
6.) Clear things, don’t leave things unsaid, say or show people what they mean to you
My mom said something to me when I visited her for the last time, something I will never forget. It made me sad. And we didn’t have the chance to clear it. Whatever it is, never leave things open or unsaid. Tell people that you love them, that you hate them or that you want to clear things that stand between you. If they don’t know what to say or do or maybe refuse to talk to you – at least you tried. That’s the important point. Cause then you can accept a situation (hey, back to point 1). And sometimes, it just needs someone to start a fire. Don’t kill the sparkles in being too proud or stubborn.
7.) The highest luxury is quality time.
No matter if you spend time with others or alone, with your significant other, your kids and family, with your dog or under your canopy. At a beach or at the couch. It’s those moments that are perfect for you, and it’s absolutely unimportant if our society thinks it is right or wrong. And nothing, really nothing should keep you from spending this quality time. No job, no distance and no excuse. Because time is something you will never get back once you missed it.
8.) Love. Live with passion. And get rid of toxic people.
Love truly, madly, deeply. No half things, no “ok, it might be better for all of us” rational relationships. Love never is rational. This won’t make you happy. You deserve being loved and getting the love back you feel for someone. Real lovers are friends at the same time, a working team, they grow with each other, remain an own personality at the same time, and they will still feel that tickling happy feeling when looking at the other half, no matter how many years they are together, how many ups and downs there have been. I refuse to give up this point of view – there are too many examples that proof the pessimists wrong.
Besides the fact that you can be the ripest peach all over the world and there will still be always be someone who hates peaches (true words Ms. Monroe), and no matter how much you bend you will never please everyone, there will always be people who are not good for you. Get rid of them. No one deserves someone treating you like shit. It’s a hard step to remove someone from your life, but it will be better for both of you.
9.) Trust. (the hardest thing)
Trusting is hard. Being disappointed makes it even harder. But at least try to. If you can’t trust in people (which I really can understand to be honest), trust in you and your life. You are good the way you are and don’t need to change and overthink things. Lay back and let things happen. The more you let go, the more pieces will fall into place (well usually, most of it). Most things happen for a reason and after a while, they make sense. I know it’s hard. But if you try not to over-steer your life, you will get rid of a lot of stress ;-)
So maybe I sound rather wise and experienced now. Well, ok, I already experienced quite a lot in my life. But I wouldn’t consider myself as wise. I just try to learn from life and question myself from time to time. Life is too precious and wonderful to live it without passion, right?