Rarely does a day go by where I do not think about my mother. I think I will always have a desire to have her with me in the physical form. I MISS her so much, yet feel her around me all the time. Still, that’s not a substitute for a coffee date, a Sunday brunch or a shared laugh during one of our favorite TV programs. It will be 10 years July 10 since she left me-us. Some days it feels like a million years ago- but usually, it feels like it just happened 5 minutes ago. I don’t know why that’s so. I guess it’s because I am a mom now and I’m who she was to me, for me- to/for someone else.
I used to keep journals. Like actual real life, lined paper kind. They are strewn all over nooks and corners of our condo. From time to time I pick one up and open it to a random page. It’s like a peek into the person I used to be. Reading them is like visiting an old friend.
Recently this ritual led to me finding something I had forgotten about. I read it and immediately regretted it because It left me gutted. It brought me back to the night my mom died and all the feelings came rushing back. It was like taking a million steps back in my “recovery” process. I don’t know what is compelling me to share it. Maybe someone else has felt the same…or maybe IS feeling the same right now. Anyway, here it is. I wrote it about 5 months after her death.
January 9, 2005
The room was so still. It was as if all the air had been sucked from the room and my body. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I was there, enveloped in the stillness of that room and the reality that a part of me had just died- my mother is gone.
I had experienced death before. I’d lost a friend or two, an aunt, an uncle, a cousin before. I worked at a nursing home in high school and I’d been working when a patient or two passed away. I’d seen death- but not like this. This time is was so very different. I wasn’t removed this time. IT happened to ME. It happened to MY mother.
I was afraid to look at her. I was afraid to touch her hand, to kiss her cheek. I was so mad at myself. How could I be afraid of the woman I’d spend my entire life with? The woman with whom I had shared a special bond. I didn’t know how to deal with all of the emotions. I was paralyzed. The world had stopped. My world had stopped. At that very moment, the world as I knew it, died and fear took over me and I didn’t want the next moment, and the moment after that, or the one next to come. I wanted to stay still. To just pause and exist in that single moment- forever. From that moment I knew I’d be different. I knew I would never, ever be who I was before. I was raw and exposed as so it was.
I walked over to my mom and looked at her face. It was as if I was trying to imprint it on my brain so I wouldn’t forget a single detail of it. Her skin looked so smooth and it felt like silk. Her lips were pink and her cheeks flushed. I was surprised by that because I had imagined when a person passed that they would look pale. She didn’t. She looked peacefully asleep and that provided me with an ounce of comfort in this storm.
I leaned over and silently thanked her for loving me. For being my best friend, for believing in me when I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe in myself. Most importantly I told her I was okay. That I would be okay. I mostly said that part for me. I wanted to convince myself of it. I knew she wouldn’t have left me if she didn’t believe I would be okay on my own. We were like that with each other.
I caressed her hair and willed myself to walk away. I knew that this would probably be our last goodbye. Her wish was to be cremated and I wasn’t sure I’d have the strength to see her and do this all over again.
I left her room and began to walk towards the family waiting room. My feet felt so heavy, as if I had 100 lbs weights strapped to the bottom of my soles. As I walked the hallway seemed like with each step it would grow another yard. It felt like I’d never make it back. I feel like I’m never going to make it back.