I hate limbo. I have hated limbo ever since they told me it existed, back when I was in catholic grade school. I hated that souls had to hang out there until they made it into heaven or hell. I hate the fact that none of the facts about limbo may be true; that it may be just another catholic version of the truth. Now I know the truth about limbo and I still hate it. My whole family lived in limbo while each of the three successive youngest siblings began their movement toward their untimely deaths. Born weak, these three babies never made it to their fourth birthdays as the sands of time ran out for them much sooner. An unidentified syndrome compromised their health and they grew visibly weaker as their short years went by. While death is permanent and final, helplessly watching a decline is like dying daily; grief is the cloud you navigate within. This type of limbo requires patience and acceptance, both of which may develop, but only as layers on top of the impatience and frustration.
Limbo returned to our family the day my dad fell down the back staircase for no apparent reason. Only one doctor (friend of the family) had the courage to tell us the truth; “pay attention to any other health changes in the coming years, as it will be related to why he fell down the stairs.” That was the day the invincible one became the vulnerable one. A few short years later, the signs of stroke-induced dementia became more evident and easier to confirm. Initially our limbo had no definition; somehow it was comforting to have a container to put our fears into. The decline of one’s father, the disappearance of who you knew, creates a lengthy grieving process for all who care to acknowledge it. All the stages of grief can be recycled through numerous times; at least until you complete them and no longer need them. This type of limbo tugs on you, weighs you down and drags you through the sludge of memories of one who is gone, but not yet gone. The unfortunate thing is that you know the train is headed to a dead end and there is no detour and there is no time schedule. We ride along with the ghost of our loved one, making the best of these lost lands. By the time the actual finality of death arrives, we are relieved to end our time in limbo.
Neighbor George is now in limbo and I am consumed by this fact. I have known it for less than 24 hrs and I am reeling with grief. Struck down by a stroke while on vacation in Maine, he lies in limbo in a hospital in Maine. Loss of speech, paralyzed completely on the right side of his body; his life is in limbo and his wife’s life is in limbo and his family and friend’s lives are in limbo. We all share this limbo state; beyond our choosing. Grief steps in immediately as we recognize the irrevocable change that has occurred. Grieving the loss of what was and what most likely will never be again; this is the taste in our hearts. We wait together while we wait alone.
Grief is personal, no one can grieve for you; if you choose not to (give it its due), grief will wait until you do. Grief will wait for as long as it takes; weeks, months and even years. Dormant grief lies within us all; unresolved losses and hurts crowd our inner terrain. Each new grief is added to the pile while opening the possibility for resolving it all. So now I am, biding my time in this limbo state, riding the waves of grief as they move through and waiting for the comfort of peace. Sending you Light, George and Eileen.