Four years ago my mom died suddenly. The phone rang much too early. Steve's voice sounded stretched. His first words were, "Hon, you will need to come home." From there came those awful vowels and consonants meant to tell me my mother had had a rupture of blood into her brain. I can not breath. I can not answer. I know I will lose her this day.
It takes me five flights and the rest of the day to get to her hospital bed. Steve is racing one flight ahead of me booking me across the country and by 5:30 I walk into her disappearing presence. The family kindly lets me be with her alone and in my solitude a river of sorrow overflows the banks of my soul. I begin to weep. My lament is untamed and true. I hold her hand which feels heavy and warm. I cling to it like a little girl and stare at those fingers I have watched so many times, nestled there in mine. A nurse comes in to see if I am okay and I say, "Yes, I'm okay. But do you see that I have the same hands she does?" The nurse said, "I don't see that but you have her nose."
I start to tell mom all the things I have never told her. I say what I have ever only thought of saying. I tell her my secrets. I ask for forgiveness, and offer it. But then I begin to feel tired, so tired, and that all these words don't matter, this flood of wishes and whispers, because we both know, mom and I, what we have not said. We have read it in our looks, our small gifts, our care. In silence and tears I begin to massage her body. I rub her legs and feet, those gnarled wooden sticks that bore her through life. I massage her belly like I remember her doing when she stood wearily at the sink. I lift her arms and stroke her face. A tear pours out of one eye and down her cheek. For me it is a sign. It might have just been biology.
Then, for a month, I ride the rogue waves of grief, whenever it choses to knock me down. I cry sometimes when I am in the middle of paying for groceries or during TV ads or passing by a garden. Many times I will think, "Oh, mom would like this," only to be stopped short by my loss. It is like banging my shin on the same wound over and over.
But after some time, grief dwindles and wanders off and becomes more just a snapshot in my memory album.
Yesterday as I stood in WalMart I had a sudden and unexpected wave of deep loss and grief. It may be the mother's day cards or the bin of watermelon from the south - I don't know. But suddenly, after a long absence, grief shattered my calm. And I deeply and sadly missed my mom. I guess I always will.