CW: This is really fucking long. Deals with parental death, grief, identity, kink, sex, sexuality.
There are some losses that blindside you, even when you know they’re coming. This year has been an extended exercise in that. Three of the biggest losses I’ve had this year were all things I could see coming from a mile away but it still didn’t make it any easier when the endings came.
I feel like I haven’t been able to find many words to talk about my mom’s passing in coherent ways, but this is my first attempt to write out some things that I’ve been thinking, feeling, going through. In my mind, this is part one of three major endings that have happened in my life this year.
My step father and I signed my mom into Comfort Care in January of this year. She was given roughly six months to live, because she had early rapid onset dementia and was bedridden. In January, I knew to prepare that some time in late May or early June, maybe July, my mother would pass. I started talking with my therapist, my inner circle of Amazons, my spouse, trying to make sense of it. To “prepare.” But how do you prepare for that?
I now know what people mean by pain that you can’t understand until you feel it. This is a depth of grief and loss I’ve never known before and it’s scaring the hell out of me and fucking with my entire body. To top it all off, it comes during a pandemic, because when food lost all taste, I needed to panic about possibly have the plague on top of everything else. But no, turns out it was “just grief”. I didn’t know it could do that. Dull the edges of everything, including food, but also feel like walking through a narrow hall lined with invisible knives. You just never knew when a cut would happen. When the tears would come. Or stop. But really, it just felt like an ongoing stab into my heart. My skin and heart feel raw. There really was no way to prepare for this.
Curating Support…and Sex
One of the ways I thought I could help myself with the impending loss was to rally some of my Amazons, similar to how last year played out. There were nine people of varying degrees of closeness to me who passed away. From my partner Katalyste, to former and current coworkers, to my nephew who lost his battle with mental illness. I also moved twice and was assaulted at an event that I adore. It was a fuckton to process and I felt a constant undercurrent of ever-blooming grief in myself. But it was also thankfully balanced by a lot of support, intimacy, events, hugs, snuggles, sex, kink, and discovering things about myself and going on adventures, many of them sex and kink related, as I changed how I interacted with the event world and what was important to me. It became very clear to me that that meant queer, kinky, out in nature, sexually liberated, magical, creative spaces. Those are where I feel most myself. I started learning about feeling horny when my body was also riddled with grief. I started learning the rhythm of difficult conversations with people who were open to them and being vulnerable and to allow space for other people’s vulnerability, even when I was hurting a lot. I started learning how to jump into adventures because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
And once upon another time, way back in January, I was starting to look ahead. I was knee deep in a fuckton of shadow work, processing all the trauma of the previous year. Given all this, I was also yearning hardcore for Spring. I had plans, y’see.
Beltane was supposed to be off the HOOK this year and I so needed it to be. My puppy trainer, Keeper, was going to be there and I hadn’t seen them in years. It was looking like some of my favorite people would also be there: A golden Amazon, my (now former) sometimes Daddy, and a long time love friend who’d never been, other dear friends I don’t get to see often. But one of the biggest things I was looking forward to was something I’d been drumming up the courage to ask for…a threesome.
Now….those of you who know me know I lived in a triad for ten years. This wasn’t really all that risqué in terms of what I’ve done, the past few years especially. But this time…I was going to ask two people I wasn’t In A Relationship with. I was going to ask for sex as a present. I got this idea from a dear friend who made it seem normal to ask for things like orgies (one of which I helped orchestrate! That was another amazing weekend). Healthy. Possible. Kink as a present I could totally ask for. Asking directly for a sex scene was something else entirey.
However, I was certain that the winter and the shadow work season would end, and the Spring would come and May would be stunning and happy and celebratory, like it has been in the past few years. It’s my birthday season. It’s usually wonderful. Last May was seriously one of the best I’ve ever had. I thought preparing for an immense amount of grief by trying to build up a store of connection and love and joy just made sense.
Life, and death, had other plans.
The Beginning of the Endings
A week before the pandemic truly hit and the state went into lockdown, my sometimes Daddy and I stopped that dynamic between us. It was another ending I could feel coming, and another writing in this series, but that blindsided me when it actually came. And then having the pandemic set in a week later was the worst one-two punch March has ever dealt me.
I remember going to see my mom at the facility she was in a few days before all that happened. I remember the weight of visits with her, not knowing if she’d remember me, bracing for whatever incomprehensible things came out of her mouth as dementia slowly shut her brain and body down. Dealing with trying to hold on to my reality as hers was unraveling. Trying very hard to do what a dear friend has said….just show up. I feel tremendously guilty about this, but I didn’t want to show up that last day I saw her. Again, I had plans. I was going out with a golden Amazon. We were going to take the city by storm. I was going to pick her up after work and whisk her away to NYC where we would dine at a gorgeous Mediterranean place and then see a Broadway musical. There was talk of hitting a bar said Amazon knew, maybe after, that served boozy punch in teacups, which sounded divine. I wanted to get to that. I could visit my mom on Friday, just three days away. That would be fine, right?
But no. I knew I didn’t have much time with her. Likely a few more months, at that point, on March 10th. So I went. She recognized me, which was awesome. I was afraid to touch her or hug her, though, because the news had begun to talk about how Covid was worse than the flu and I had just gotten back from being on an airplane about a week prior, so who knows what I might’ve picked up on that flying petri dish of recycled air? My immune system was reasonably fine, I thought. Her brain, however, was slowly shutting itself down and I didn’t want to risk it.
It was the last time I saw her alive in person. The facility cancelled visitors two days later. The state went into lock down six days after that. My step father managed to do regular video chats for me with her about once a week for two months, since he worked at the facility and could see her every day he worked. So that was a small consolation that I’m immensely grateful for still. But three days after her birthday, and three days before mine, in the beginning of May, she passed away.
“When it’s time to live and let die.”
When you can’t get another try.
Something inside this heart has died
You’re in ruins
One twenty one guns
Lay down your arms
Give up the fight.
“21 Guns” by Green Day (from American Idiot, the musical)
I still can’t wrap my head around it sometimes. She was such a fierce fighter….of so many things. She taught me so much about standing up for myself. How to say “fuck you” to authority figures, government officials, even your own family, if they were toxic. When I was a teenager, I had undiagnosed medical issues that were mistaken for depression. She kept trying to tell the child psychology team, the school officials, and the doctor that they sent me to who tried putting me on anti-depressants that I wasn’t of subpar intelligence (they determined this from one interview, as opposed to all the standardized testing I had when I was child that put me in academically talented classes) and depressed. The doctor ignored her and said that I was being put on antidepressants and she had no parental authority to stop it. She literally looked him in the eyes, took my hand, told him to go fuck himself, and marched me out of there. Then she did her own research and found a specialist who tested me and found out I had undiagnosed hypothyroidism that was so far out of whack, I didn’t get my period until I was 17 after finally starting medication.
She took me to my first protests and my first Wiccan circle and taught me to be a high priestess. She formed organizations for underrepresented people like a Tenant’s Association and a Brain Injury Support Group, the latter after she not only survived the aneurysm that she wasn’t supposed to make it out of the ambulance from, let alone through surgery, let alone make a 95% recovery to go on to start a support group. She navigated and fought through the welfare system and being homeless and got out of an abusive marriage. It’s been hard to believe there was something she couldn’t recover from, fight her way through.
I just recently got confirmation that it was Covid. Knowing that now, I’m even more glad that the end was relatively swift and, I’m told, painless. My step father was in there to help her get the brain swab test at 3pm and by 5pm that same day, she was gone. Given all of the horror stories I’ve read on the news, FB, and from my friends who are nurses and EMTs, this was an immense blessing that it didn’t ravage her and her end was swift. She went to sleep. She went to sleep and never will wake up again.
A day later, when I went to see her at the funeral home before her cremation, she looked peaceful. Like she’d just gone to sleep. And I felt so weird for thinking what I’ve read and heard other people say in books and movies when they see dead people…that I kept expecting her to wake up. Or cough. Or move. It was surreal and that doesn’t even feel like it covers it. It’s cliched as hell, but she looked so peaceful and I held my breath at one point, waiting for her to wake up.
“It seems like yesterday you were alive.” -AFP
It’s been a little over a month now. It doesn’t feel any less surreal, but it feels a little more…seated in my bones. I used to wake up for the first few weeks and have to remind myself that she was gone and…basically every morning was reliving it over and over again. The phone call from my step father, the breaking in his voice, the fact that I would never get to talk to her, hug her again. I was a shitshow in the mornings. I’m not a morning person to begin with and this made mornings infinitely worse. My birthday was also one of the worst. I felt…sometimes I feel nothing. Like all my emotions were just taken from me wholesale. Sometimes I feel a chasm of emptiness that I still can’t really find adequate words for. I lost the ability to taste my food on my birthday, while eating my birthday cake, and that freaked me out because I thought I was going to die now because I had the plague.
The only saving graces from my birthday were writing a song that I had started writing sixteen years ago, and that my sister came to stay with me for the weekend because not only was it my birthday, but two days later, it was Mother’s Day. Oh, and they almost cremated her on my birthday. Thankfully we asked to change that and they did. I could barely eat. I had no appetite, which scared me. Binging, I understand. Literally having no appetite and not wanting any food at all is still foreign to me. Most of the time I ate only to appease those who told me I had to. I’m grateful for the people who sent me food, who checked in on me, who still do. I’m slowly getting my appetite back, trying to navigate this and all the other changes in my life, and trying to do it without the ways I’m used to.
Like kink. Kink is one of my go-to’s to process emotion, to connect with people, to feel intimacy. And last year, I started learning about feeling the urge to have sex or kink when steeped in grief. A reminder that we’re still alive. That the other person lived, was in flesh, and sometimes, helped me feel energy on a whole different level. To connect with my body. Help me celebrate. If anyone would want that for me now, it would be my mom, which, I know is a weird thing to say. But she was always one of those parents that told me as a teenager that sex is normal and healthy and when I was ready for it, she preferred I’d do it at home, in the comfort of my own bed (y’know, when she wasn’t home), as safely as possible. And that’s exactly how I was fortunate enough to have sex for the first time. With someone I loved, in my own bed, and it was an overall positive experience that I’m super grateful for.
However, she was a very complicated woman. She alienated many people over the course of her life. Many, like parts of her family, because they were toxic. Others…for various reasons. I remember so many things now. Like coming out to her for the first time as a lesbian. She was the first person I came out to. She hugged me and said she had a feeling. But then ended it with, “but let me know when you figure out you’re bi.” sigh
The person I first wound up having sex with later became my Dominant a little while after, and she wasn’t thoroughly pleased about that, being a feminist. It would’ve been fine if I was in Domme to him (because yes, goddamnit, it wound up being a “him”), but she was very not okay with the fact that I was, at the time, collared and submissive to a man. I tried telling her that it was my choice and that’s just about as feminist as you can get, but she still wasn’t good with it. She also didn’t like how much he touched me, which I wrote about a while back. But it was good for me. Right now….I have barely been touched in three months. I haven’t been hugged in three months. I haven’t had sex in nearly seven months. The closest I’ve come to physical touch was holding my sister’s hand after our mother passed. I hate it so much…this severe lack of touch, connection, intimacy. A while back, I read a post on Fetlife called “How we care for each other” part one and part two and it really drove home to me how kink is part of my spirituality. The touch, the intimacy, the energy, the growth, the release.
I knew she was going to pass sometime this year. We knew that when we signed her into Comfort Care in January. And when Covid hit, it was likely going to be even quicker. We had one scare and it turned out her roommate didn’t have it. So my step father, sister, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Like maybe she could make it past this pandemic. Maybe I would see her again. Even just once, in person. I had started reading The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller. It helped a lot and it helped me to even more realize how kink is spiritual for me. But it also talked a lot about how grief is shared. It’s communal. It’s normal and healthy to come together, to weep in loved one’s arms. Whether they knew the deceased person or not, they knew you and want to comfort and be there for you. It’s natural to be in community, to let people cook for you, and check in on you, care for you and help you care for yourself when you sometimes literally forget how or simply can’t. Many religions have rituals for death like this. I’ve been a solo Pagan for so long and until last year, hadn’t really thought a lot about death and grieving rituals. Now I think about them a lot. Especially since I can’t do many of the ones I want to.
We haven’t had a funeral or memorial service yet because of the plague and my step father works in a facility that has Covid patients and calls himself a “walking petri dish”. I can’t call a play partner and ask to be beaten for catharsis and release. I can’t ask a play partner for grief sex or just to spoon me while I cry. I can’t even hug. Bearing this kind of pain is excruciating and overwhelming. Especially since we also had a complicated relationship, my mom and I. And I’m finding that the last two weeks, the grief has hit full force. We just passed the one month mark of her passing and I also got my period and the combination made for a spectacularly weepy couple of days on the grief coaster where I burrowed in bed and barely came out.
What is Remembered, Lives
Fleeting memories keep coming up, like when I got really upset in Quick Check while we were getting hot dogs, because she wanted me to get ketchup and mustard packets and I kept trying to tell her I didn’t want them but she kept insisting and I didn’t know until later it was because she was trying to get them for home because she couldn’t afford to buy condiments. I was probably 11. We laughed about it later. How I used to give her my allowance money when I still lived with my dad so she could eat. Or after I had come out and we were in Borders and I lamented to her that it wasn’t fair that the lesbian lit section only a third of the gay men’s lit section. She marched me right up to the customer service counter and told them that it wasn’t fair and they should order more lesbian books.
It’s just…hard. She was the first person who ever really saw me…for me. Gave me a safe space to be myself. To break down. To heal. She got me into therapy. She may not’ve liked all the parts, and we had some massive fights and didn’t speak for a few periods of time over the years. But I always knew she was….there. And I was usually able to have very open conversations with her about homosexuality, bisexuality, feminism, pagan stuff, kink, and later polyamory. She encouraged me musically and creatively. I remember reading recently that one of the hard things about someone close to you dying is knowing that you’ve lost someone who shares the memories that only you two were there for. I’m the one that carries the things we shared now. The joys and the trials we went through. How she let me drop out of high school, something I rarely talk about because of the stigma attached to it, because of the way the school was treating me. She struggled with it, but agreed to, only if I promised to get my GED and my Associate’s degree. I got both and a Bachelor’s and also spent two years in AmeriCorps.
I remember going to take the GED, on a morning that was so cold and the heat was broken in our car, so we had blankets over us like we were in a horse-drawn carriage. The car died at the top of a hill on the way into the college where I was going to take the test. I managed to push it down the hill and she steered it into a parking spot. I had no idea how we were going to get home, but I went in and took my test. She took care of it the best way she could. I remember spending weekends with her in a woman’s shelter and how I called her the night my father and I had a four hour horrific fight and I wound up disassociating under my desk on the phone with her. I didn’t know that word then, as I was only fifteen. She picked me up that night and I lived with her until I went away to college.
I was talking to my therapist today about being seen. How it’s always harder for me to end and let go of kink relationships or dynamics than romantic relationships, because those are where I feel the most seen. But it started with her. My mom was the first person to see me and love ME. Even though we had a complicated history, her strength and fierce love are what I keep remembering and talking about. That and how she told me, every time I went to visit her, to take care of myself. She was insistent that I take care of myself. She said it over and over. I hope she knows I’m doing my best but that I miss her so much.