Thirty eight days ago my sweet mama left this life for one that is far better. Life has been a whirlwind for me since then, putting over 3000 miles on my car as I have travel the Eastern US making the best of summer happen for my kids. Between meals on the run and living out of suitcase for about a month, I am ready for school to start and to stay in one place for a while. I think along the way I have mourned. I have cried a great deal. Not loud uncontrollable sobs. No regrets. Just a constant stream of sadness that is undercurrent all day long. Nothing seems all that different and yet nothing truly satisfies right now either.
After years of fighting disease and a body that refused to work any longer, there is a sense of relief and accomplishment. She finished the race. She endured. She battled and fought to the very end and has now won the reward of being with God forever more. What was broken and gnarled is no longer. What was a struggle is no longer. I'm awed anew at the example she has left for me about how to live and persevere through anything. I saw her 48 hours before she died and she told me she wasn't ready to give up yet. I suspect she was in many ways, but for me she did not want to leave. I have not longed for her to still be here with me. She weighed 70 pounds and every bite she ate was a struggle to get down and keep down. She could no longer see. She could not maintain her balance so as to sit up in a chair. And yet she persevered on. So no. I do not long for her to still be with me.
It was not surprised when the call came. I had been awaiting it most of the summer. Weeks prior I had bought a black dress and a tie for Huck so that we would be ready. In fact watching her live since early spring had been painful. I hurt for my dad who watched his bride shrink to just skin and bones and wondered how he had the strength to continue on. But he did. Many people encouraged him to place her in a home where she could receive "the care she needed". My dad knew that what they both needed and desired was to live out what remained together in the house they had shared for most of their marriage. I'm very thankful that she could stay in her home and die there. She loved their home.
I have been grieving the loss of my mom for years if you want to know the truth. In many ways I have been losing her slowly for two decades. With each passing year the illness would take more and I would lose more of her. So many basic things lost that otherwise might have been taken for granted. Sharing a long phone call or lunch at a favorite diner. And yet I am shocked at the depth of the grief I now feel. I didn't expect the final goodbye to be so sad. I think it is the finality that makes it so. The recognition that I will not touch her face to mine or hear her voice for many more decades.
And it is also the recognition of how deep a part of me she is and always will be. I suspect that is the way it is with all good mothers. I understand better how someone could tattoo "mother" on their arm. It is a way of trying to express the depth she has touched and shaped her child. I am my mother's daughter. I have her temper and vengeful streak but also her fight and endurance. She has taught me to sew and to cook and to clean; sometimes I even do these things with the excellence she taught me to. I long to remember more of our time together and with a crispness that will not fade, to keep her alive to me. And yet even if and when my memory fades, she has left a deep enough imprint on me; I can rest knowing it will not fade.
I find myself wondering when I will stop crying. I am tired of crying. It hits me at unexpected times for the most bizarre or insignificant reason. I suspect Sound of Music to make me tear up; but peanut butter? Really? It seems like every time I slow down enough to let God see into my heart that my eyes well up. Sadness is the only emotion. I don't have regrets. I'm not angry. I think I walked a lot of that journey earlier. I'm just sad. Sad for the mother I have been missing for a lifetime, and sad that I can't just touch her anymore, can't tell her one more story about the kids. Sad that it will probably be a long time before we are reunited. Just profoundly sad in ways I can't articulate. And don't want to because it is too personal. I am keenly aware that many have lost a parent and walked this road before me with wisdom to share, but right now I'm not ready to ask just yet. I feel as if I know nothing about how to grieve and that I am just stumbling down this path in the dark. But I fear if I knew more of what to expect, that I would run too fast...trying to get to the next stop. Somehow stumbling in the dark, I think I am more likely to follow my heart as it heals.
I believe that eventually joy will return. The things I love will once again satisfy, and until then I will keep on keeping on. That is what she taught me to do.