The last several weeks have been a series of losses.
On May 17th, my mother, Pat Hegnauer, died. She lost a long a fierce battle with alpha-1 anti-trypsin deficiency, a lung disorder that gave her COPD at the end of her life.
A few days later, I learned that my spiritual director, Fr. Peter D'Alesandre, had died on May 16th in the same hospice facility. I still am not sure how Peter died. In the weeks following his death, I have not been able to reach his family members... and it seemed rude to ask at the funeral. I can only assume it was complications related to a recent surgery. The obituary said he died peacefully. I am haunted by the possibility that I was actually in the hospice center when Peter was there dying. I am not sure of that, though.
For the first couple of weeks after my mother and Peter's deaths, I was in too much of a fog to think straight. I could barely hold a conversation. I would walk away realizing that most of what I meant to say never made it out of my mouth. Thoughts just hung there, unspoken. It was strange.
A week and a half after my mother died, I tried going back to work. It was very hard.... not because the work is all that hard, but because my job is a lot about making decisions, big and small.... and about supporting my staff in their work. I struggled with even the simplest decision and frankly didn't feel like I had enough strength to support myself or my family, never mind staff members.
It was on the Thursday after I returned to work that I got the call from Vietnam about my father in law. Nguyen's dad had peacefully passed away in the hospital. He died of heart failure.
Since then, I have taken a short leave of absence to try and process all these deaths. For the most part, the processing has been unsuccessful. What am I to make of this? I don't know. I have been spending much time sitting, reading, tending to my growing collection of houseplants, going to daily mass. Not thinking much, just being. Hanging with my husband and kids.