My friends' parents are dying. Annie's mom died last spring. Her husband Robert's father died in December and a few weeks later Robert's grandfather died. Cynthia's mother died just before Christmas. This past weekend Lynn's father died. Each time one of my friend's parents passes, I think about when my parents died.
My mother died in 1981 at the age of 60 and my father died in 1995 at the age of 75. Losing one's parents changes who you are. I once heard someone describe it as being orphaned. I laughed when I initially heard this because it was hard to consider my adult self as an orphan, but when I stopped laughing I started thinking. My parents welcomed me into this world. They held me during the first few hours and days of my life and marveled at my existence. When they died, the memory of my earliest moments on this planet went with them.
I think that even if we are adults of 40 or 50 or 60, when our parents die we are orphaned because the child in us no longer has parents. The world is changed. Even if relations with the parent were strained or distant or bewildering, that relationship is gone, and we walk and think differently in the world. It's an adjustment. It's a little scary. We become the elder. The generational roof lifts away and there is no one left between us and passing on.
I'm thinking of all the adult orphans I know and offering my love in their time of loss and respect regarding their changed status.