Downton Abbey

My mom’s 1 year death anniversary was January 4th. I was hoping it would go quickly, but sure enough, my old familiar friend, the moth-hole ridden, smelly dark overcoat of grief somehow found its’ way onto my shoulders. Through the help of great friends, family, yoga, and a spiritual community fellowship, I got through.

Period Piece

My mom was a big fan of PBS, and especially of Masterpiece Theater. As the holidays approached, and the emotions of missing her started their suffocating creep, I was thinking of ways to comfort myself on the Amazon Instant Video page. I remembered Mom’s penchant for the British period dramas, and found a series called Downton Abbey.

It was delightful! The era was closer to our modern day, but still far enough away to seem odd in comparison. There’s plenty of British understated snarking between the manor staff, as well as the aristocracy who live “upstairs”. It was the perfect escape for the mind.

When those episodes ran out, I tried “Lark Rise to Candleford”, a program from a few years back. It was more about country life, and at first seemed too “quaint” in comparison to the slick estate house of Downton. By the end of the first episode, I was hooked. Every character was interesting in their own way, and had a depth of humanity that was often surprising.

Missing Mom

It hit me the other day, when I had a dream about my mom with her permed orangey-redish hair from the late 70’s, early 80’s, that I had grieved my mom for many years before the cancer. As the new season of Downton Abbey began a few weeks ago, I realized my misty eyes were not of her from the last few years, but of her from those years ago when we were close, when we were pals, when we got along.

I’m not sure what happened to me when I hit teenagerhood. A rebellion surfaced that just wouldn’t quit. Looking back now, I can’t imagine my mom’s pain, watching me move away from her and refuse to listen to any guidance. Surely she could see the mistakes I was about to make, and yet she was powerless to do anything about them.

The Self

Recently someone told me grief was a kind of selfishness. It was focusing on your personal desire to have that person back in your life. At first I thought this was a harsh way to view the grieving process. But, after some thought, I realized his sentiment was fairly accurate.

The one year mark reminded me that there was no possible way to ever regain the closeness of our relationship from those pre-1990’s years. I mourned the loss of being able to cuddle up in bed while she flipped through the Sunday coupons watching Masterpiece Theatre.

In a way, I was beating myself up, wondering if I had done things differently would our parting of ways been easier? Would she have had more comfort before she passed? Would the loss be less painful & more fulfilling?

Tally Ho

Interestingly enough, right before her anniversary date I was faced with a decision to make, a decision regarding a wonderful but challenging opportunity. I decided to take it. (More on this in the next post).

Since that decision, many doors have opened up. Many new avenues have surfaced. I’m more excited than ever about what the future will bring. It feels like I’m sincerely “moving forward”.

In that excitement, I’m also experiencing tremendous fears, as well as a little guilt that I’m really this happy. Is it ok? Would my mom want this for me? Will she be jealous?

What is the happy medium of living your own life, but keeping the memory of those you love alive? It looks different for every person. The intense joy & satisfaction I feel as I collapse at home every night, stems from doing everything I want to do to fulfill _myself_, and no one else. It’s an incredible feeling, and one I’ve never felt before.

When I look at the struggles of the Downton Abbey family to bridge the old ways with the new, I understand. That’s how it feels for me. Instead of BC and AD in terms of Jesus, it feels like Before Cancer and After (Mom’s) Demise.

So I look to the family at Downton, who accept the increasingly modern era with grace, dignity, and aplomb. Their willingness to “roll with the punches”, yet maintain some semblance of tradition is reassuring somehow. If stuffy British aristocracy can maneuver the modern age, surely I can maneuver a brand new life.


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