There's a joke.
Guy's away in Europe, and he leaves his beloved cat with his brother, who's sort of a cut and dried, no nonsense type. When the Guy calls home and asks how his cat is, the brother says, "It's dead." Understandably the Guy is stunned.
"You can't just tell a person something like that! Jeez, you have no tact at all, do you? Couldn't you have broken it to me in stages? What happened, how'd she die?.." The brother apologises rather absently, and tells the Guy the cat had been up on the roof, fell off and that was the end of the cat. Still shaken, the Guy reproaches his brother with, "See, you could have told me she was on the roof, and had a bad fall, and then, that there was nothing that could be done, and she was gone. Have a little sensitivity, why dontcha." Taking a deep breath and letting out a sigh, the Guy asks, "How's Mom?"
The brother says quietly, "She's up on the roof..."
It's hard to break the news of a family member's passing. There's no GOOD way to do it, and it's a bitch of a thing to get stuck being the bearer of possibly emotionally volatile news to another family member 2,000 miles away. Not only do you have to suffer the news again, you have to be braced for that person's emotional storm... or the lack of a reaction.
My Mother passed away Saturday morning in St Vincent's Hospital (Bridgeport CT). She'd been very ill; was suffering from a system wide massive infection, and had (over the months leading up to the end) lost practically all physical capacity to exist as a human being... except for lucidity. That was the one element that came and went -- she had a relatively clear visit with my younger sister Thursday night, there were family members with her on Friday... and then this morning she passed: peacefully, quietly.
Mother and I had a complicated relationship. My Mother was a complex personality. I am not a ho-hum person either.
I stopped caring about her opinion and general view of things when I was in High school. I moved out shortly afterward; then a few years later moved back in to take care of her after her first hip replacement surgery.
You know the Miranda Rights? "Anything you say can and will be used against you.." If she'd had any personal ambition other than managing her children's lives, she'd have made a ruthless prosecuting attorney.
People would have begged for the mercy of a bullet in the brain rather than endure the cold merciless prosecution of Lucille. Not that she was Evil. Noooo; she was cold, sarcastic, contrary, and delighted in the miseries of others, but she didn't take an active role in making lives miserable... Except by talking to you about things in a way engineered to make you feel as small, stupid, and insignificant as possible.
The only way to deal with someone like that is to tell them nothing, and mask your emotions. I would be pleasantly unattached to the flow of conversation when I had to be In The Presence: Fully suited up in emotional Kevlar armor when dealing with her.
She drove other family members with her controlling minutae: I dismissed it all as inconsequential. This she considered a challenge; and in a twisted way she respected me for not caving from her incessant emotional tortures.
She was different with each of us, fine tuned to the others weaknesses and fears; and she pushed the buttons she could find just to get reactions and watch how people jumped when she did so.
And yes, I still maintain she was not evil for doing so. She was a product of the horrible woman who raised her; and compaired to Grandma, Mom was Snow White.
Mom counted coup at family gatherings on Holidays (which were really obligatory examinations of the over view of everyone's lives; exact measurements were made based on who came, how long they stayed, how much they did...) all the while looking for chinks in the armor.
It must sound as if I hated her. I'm afraid it's worse than that -- I felt nothing for her, and even now -- I feel nothing. I'm happy to be in Austin, and I have no intention of going back to Connecticut if I can help it. And I plan to work hard at avoiding Connecticut and the Northeast just on principle.
She was my Mother: Fairly larger than life, unhappy with everything she surveyed, fearful of what other people thought of her... because she herself had nothing nice to say about anyone. She was my Mother -- and I strive every day of my life not to be like her in dealing with others.
I hope she's finally happy.