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December 3rd is my Mom’s birthday, and nine months to the day of her death. These have been sometimes very long months, and in other ways they seem to have passed in the blink of an eye. The changes I have been through and the state I have reached are, to me, amazing. I really did not think I could make it.

The most amazing part is my tolerance of my own shortcomings. I had always been my strictest critic. I always demand the impossible of myself and could not tolerate anything less than perfect from me. Now I am more laid back I am more tolerant I give myself some slack. I have discovered that I am human, that I have the right to err and that I should be forgiven my shortcomings.

Grief is always there, but it is no longer the predominating emotion. It just peeks out every now and then, and at the most unexpected moments. A passing word when having lunch with my cousins, a glimpse of a part of the old apartment where we lived before, a snatch of music or just the impulse to turn around and share something with her. At these moments I feel the stabbing pain of loss again, and it is at these moments that I consciously have to hold still and deliberately try to let the moment pass.

Exactly one year ago, on her birthday my brother and his family came and spent a few hours with us. My Mom was vey happy, she loved seeing her grand children, and her great grandchild. It was a lovely day, which she enjoyed very much. I am eternally thankful for that. Though the larger celebration of her birthday was four days later, yet I think her enjoyment of the actual day, just by having the family around, was much more.

Three months later, to the day, she passed away. I think that she always had an incentive to pass the mark of the 100, and then she just gave up. She did not fight any more. She stopped eating and drinking, which caused all the complications that caused her death. I really think she just thought that it was enough, and it was time to go. At the time I was still fighting for her, not realizing that this was really her wish, and when I did finally realize it and let her go, she peacefully passed away the very next day. March 3, 2014.

The first few months were very difficult indeed. But when I review what I did and how I handled them I realize that my Mom would have been very proud of me. Carrying my grief and loss I pushed myself relentlessly outside my comfort zone. I put myself in numerous situations where I would be forced to interact with others. I pushed and pushed; I reverted to my old self of being very hard on myself. In this case that seemed to have been the right thing to do. It worked out very well.

In the process I came into my own. Though some of my decisions were taken subconsciously, they still turned out to be the right decisions. I could not see what shape my life would take, yet automatically I started doing many of the needed repairs to the house, and the final act was the actual adoption of little puppies. My subconscious opted for a renewal of life, a continuation of what I loved.

I still remember my surprise the first time I started noticing the beauty of nature again, the colors of the flowers, the brightness of the sun, the freshness of the air. I was coming alive again.

My two little puppies were a godsend, and then He blessed me with a third. They have changed the quality of my life. They took up my time and my attention; they took a large portion of my love. Even when they drove me crazy by their behavior or through the damages they caused, they still gave me life, they gave me hope, they gave me joy and most importantly, they made me laugh.

Bit by bit my life came back. A different kind of life where I missed my Mom terribly, but one that was a lot more free. Now my responsibility is mainly to my dependents of employees and pets and myself. I am no longer carrying the very heavy responsibility of caring for a very dear, very elderly and very frail Mother. I never realized how much that responsibility had taken out of me. By necessity the quality of my life was different, I had to have a live-in nurse, which made life at home very uncomfortable for me. These women had to be watched constantly that they are doing their job well and taking care of her properly. I found out that I did not sleep well because I was constantly on the alert if she needed anything. I ate too much in an attempt to encourage her to eat, and I had imposed a very strict curfew on my movements so as not to leave her for too long in their care without supervision.

After my Mom’s passing away I felt this sudden void that I needed to fill, at first with frenzied activities, then with a great deal of responsibilities like the adoption of three dogs. But now I am starting to relax more. I go out much more. I am more free to stay out for longer periods of time, and I actually sleep for at least six solid hours. My eating habits are now back to normal and I have already shed a large part of the weight I had gained. In my home I am now more comfortable and more relaxed. My life would have been perfect if I could have had a younger and healthier version of my Mom living with me now. As it is, she is with me in memories, and even sometimes just thinking of how she might have reacted to a situation, what she would have said or done, keeps her with me, alive in my thoughts. I still feel her presence whenever I doze off during the long evenings in the living room. Though I changed the layout, she is still there in her chair.

Life is strange, a combination of happiness and grief, a varied experience that sometimes leaves you stunned by its cruelty or astonished by its beauty.