Saturday, April 18, 2009

on learning what you've lost

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.


Anonymous said...


wow....powerful words.


Krissi said...

This is so, so sad. Your life has such profound depth.

rachel said...

i'm sorry mom.

i love you.

Barb said...

You expressed clearly what I experience at random times. My daddy died 14 years ago and sometimes it is just a song that sets me off. The other day it was "King of the Road". I could just see him singing it. I miss my dad.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother has been gone for 34 years. A couple of years ago my mom, now 88, said she thinks sometimes she still just needs to pick up the phone and talk to her mom.Sorry your anguish of missing her is hurting still...but when does missing someone you love not hurt? You were blessed to be by her side and she was blessed to be loved on by her little girl.
HMMM....I think I need to make a phone call right now.

Lee Ann said...

I am grieving for my grandmother and she is still her. Well, here but not here. At 93 she still has moments of clarity, but mostly just a rambling mix of past and present. I curl up on the couch next to her, hold her hand and listen. It is the same as when I was a little girl only she was the on listening. But every now and then she looks me in the eye and says "you always know me" or "I will love you forever" and then she is gone again. I am filled then stricken in an instant. I think I will go for a visit today!

Mrs. David Mannino said...

You wrote this on my own Mothers birthday. When she died I was just 21, and too young to "appreciate" or even collect myself to love her up the way you ushered your mother into eternity. What a gift. My mothers youngest sister committed suicide Monday. She was 59. My cousin was here today to grieve and remember, to try to understand. Grief is very good! Thanks for the post, and I bless God for you.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful to see your heart. I lost my mom this past January and I never knew just how much losing someone after loving so hard could hurt. I tried to wish the grief away quickly but realized that I needed to extend the kindness & wisdom she left me. I can't rush that. What a precious legacy she left me. Now I ask God for grace as I ride the waves of grief that roll in hard sometime. It all is worth the heartache to have experienced a mother's love such as hers.

Joy said...

Thank you, Marilyn. Your words always let me feel what I would close off otherwise.