That night the moon hung full in the nights sky, as we stood along the front porch, lost in our thoughts, of her, my mother. The undertaker had been called, and as they placed her body in that black bag they always use, we went outside, to be one with the grief we all shared. As they brought her body out, we not a one of us, watched them as they took her away, for us she had left an hour before, just before the two young tricker-treaters had arrived at the door, as I had stood in the doorway to block their view from what lay behind me, shield them from the shell that had once held the soul of the woman who gave birth to me.
For years afterwards she appeared in my dreams. At first, I would tell her to go, that she shouldn’t be here, but she wouldn’t go, wouldn’t leave. Eventually I accepted her presence, welcomed it even, to have her there like nothing had changed, like she wasn’t gone, not buried in the cemetery in town.
After her death I moved back to Dodge, found an apartment in town, to be close to dad and my sister, and my new niece who’d been born that year mom died on mom’s last birthday.
A gift of life, a mother gone, a child who would always carry a piece of her that the rest of us did not have, that unique connection, of something so intimate as one’s birth, as we had shared the intimacy of her death.
Death stalks us all, with no mercy, we must all one day leave, go, but why her so young? We were not ready, she had grandmothering to do, more listening to our woes and wins and all those little things in between.
My birthday now comes and goes, and good or boring, drunk or sober, lonely or contented, since that October day in 2001, I know I will not hear that one voice I long to hear, the one who gave birth to me, wished me into her world, brought me forth, kissed me, hugged me, talked to me of things only she and I knew.
She will never grow old, her silence will dim the loss, and she will know no more pain, nor feel the rain, the wind, the sounds of the night, or feel the breath of morning light.
And, of course, life goes on, another girl is born to my sister, than 10 years go by, and another 8, and here we are, still missing her.
We talk of her, we keep her memory alive for the girls, their grandma Janet. We tell her stories, her love, her compassion and her weakness’, her mistakes, her joys and all of her, we talk of her and cry the tears, feel the loss of her, often.
Her death sent me off in a different direction than the one I had intended. After the separation from my husband a couple years before, and working through that grief, this new loss somehow instead of weighing me down my grief gave me wings. I left my dinky village, left the city I’d always known, and moved east to one of the outer rims of Toronto, in a place in the sky situated right on the Great Lakes, and I grieved with the view of new things, new experiences laid out before me, with new friends and new places to explore.
I wonder still where I’d be today if she had not died, if her being gone had not inspired me to live, to join in, to become something she would be proud of. I didn’t want to be a child lost in the loss of her, like she had spent the years after her own mother died, grieving with too much beer and wine.
Oh, I did that, but it wasn’t for her I drank too much, but more of what felt to be my lot in life of being lonely, being alone, being without someone to love me and for me to love, to tell my words to, my thoughts, share, someone to be there.
Well, of course Tim came along, and after those 4 square years, and his eventual death from cancer as well, and after time had passed, and another garden, a new place right at the heart of where I’d always wanted to be, I found my longing had been misguided.
Some time, maybe a couple years ago, I woke up and saw that I was complete, I was whole, I was enough, I didn’t need another to, I don’t know, do whatever that one man was suppose to do.
So as my next birthday approaches, a couple weeks away, and for some reason today I thought of her, and her being gone so long, yet still that grief never has left, is not less, just it has been wrapped up inside who I am, who I’ve become, who I am becoming.
The me that she saw, the tea towel in the wind, her fey one, the strange child, serious one that I was always to be, the thinker, the shy one.
I recall one story she told of me, that once I began talking, I’d rise in the morning and pick a word and say the word all day long. Rise the next morning, pick a new word, and so forth and so on, until she said not long after my 1st birthday I walked and talked in full sentences, as I guess I just had a lot to say, you know, lets get this show on the road.
When I was a teenager I’d come home from school, the Supremes, or the Four Tops, or Jackie Robinson would be blaring up from the basement, and there she would be dancing away on her own, and I would be so embarrassed. Roll my eyes, oh mom. She’d come upstairs, and we’d talk, and I would share my words, my day.
In those last days of her life, you know we listened to Motown night and day, and watched her little foot tap away to the beat.
Her last stroke took her voice, her brain full of cancer, and we never talked about any of it with her, the cancer, her death, she couldn’t say anything, tell us anything.
In those last days, I lay next to her, tears rolling down my face, telling her everything I could think of to say, not leaving one single word unsaid. Not one, all the words, they streamed out of me, like tears. One after the other, I told her everything. No one else would ever again listen to them as she had, patiently watching me learn, watching me grow, watching me explore and come back to her and tell her everything I had seen.
So, I suppose maybe I’ve always kind of been writing to her, getting the words out, if not to her anymore, sharing pieces of my self, my thoughts, opinions, as I go on learning, growing, exploring, and even though I can no longer share them with mom, the words are for her.