My father asked me tonight who in my family had the hardest time after my mother’s death. Like it’s a competition. He asked because someone at work wanted to know. Someone who is curious.
I said I don’t know. It really isn’t a competition. Everyone will mourn in their own way in their own time. There’s no one way to do grief. No time limit on grieving.
But it has been particularly hard for me. Mostly because I was one of her caretakers towards the end of her life. I really miss that. I really miss pushing her down the hall to appointments. I really miss entering future appointments into my calendar. Keeping track of her schedule. Feeling needed. Feeling important.
After she died, during Shiva I looked at my calendar and there was a follow up appointment for an MRI scheduled for two months in the future. I deleted the entry. No need for that.
I had to call the equipment rental company to have them pick up her oxygen equipment. When they asked the reason why, I simply said, she died.
This year has been hard on me in many ways but a lot of it has to do with my mind coming to terms with this lack in my life. It feels like an imbalance. Like something in the house is completely off. There’s this silence that nothing seems to be able to fill.
I listen to her voicemails and it’s not the same. I try to make sense of life before she got sick, and after. A lot of it doesn’t make sense and maybe never will.
It’s disorienting. I have no idea what it’s like to lose a limb, thank G-d. And I never imagined I would know what it’s like to lose a parent. But now that I do, maybe I have some sense of what it’s like to lose a part of your body. I imagine it’s an ache for awhile, like a small child losing their favorite blanket. But in that case, maybe the ache goes away. Eventually the child forgets. The longing grows less.
In this case, it has dulled over time, this feeling of missing and of lacking. But it’s still there. There’s still a part of me that will always feel incomplete.
It’s hard because I didn’t actually know she was going to die. It wasn’t neat and tidy like you see in the movies, where the doctor says the patient has very little time left and the family gathers at their bedside to say goodbye. In this case, the doctor said “hang in there”. I don’t know if he really didn’t know she was going to die, or he really didn’t want to tell us. Either way, it happened very suddenly. One moment she was there, albeit not entirely functioning, and then she was just gone. No more.
It’s hard because I think of all the years left she could have lived, all the experiences she could have had.
I have a flashback from driving with her on a road trip, late at night. I’m half asleep in the passenger seat. She’s driving. We enter a highway. She accelerates really fast on the entrance ramp. I get annoyed. Be gentle with my car. She says that’s the only way she’ll get on.
Another time in the car, I flip through the stations and start enjoying a pop song, which turns out to be Christian rock. I turn it off, laughing. We both get a kick out of that.
This year has been hard because my mind is befuddled. It’s hard to comprehend that it has almost been a year since she died. I can’t stop the passing of time. I can’t stop anything at all. The farther along we go, the last of the “firsts” we pass. Last year Yom Kippur I opted to stay home instead of going to shul, and spent time talking to her.
I listen to her voicemails now and I have to shut it off. I simply can’t listen anymore.
It’s hard because I can’t comprehend not having this person in my life who was there since my birth. I just don’t know how to get past this missing. The loss that will never really go away.
That day was a flood of emotions; it was also a complete shut down. My body refused to do what it was supposed to. I left the house only because other people left first, and I figured why should I stay here alone. I went to Kohl’s to do returns. I was returning skirts she would never get to wear. Irrational, but it had to be done. I cried on line. The cashier never bothered to ask if I was okay.
I went to Rockland kosher to get sushi, the only easy thing I thought I could put in my body. I cried.
I went to CVS to pick up my medicine. I cried.
There’s not enough tissues in the world that can contain the tears of losing my mother.
The funny thing is, I want to talk to my mother about all of this. When I was sad or having a hard time, I would call home and my mother would reassure me. Sometimes there was nothing she could really say. But she tried.
I honestly don’t know where to go from here. Should I go over the details again and again? Should I put it out of my mind? What’s the right way to move forward?
How can I make sense of my mother’s life and her death? How can I help keep her memory alive?