Where Are You Now?

When it comes to thinking about my mom, the things that make me cry are random and usually unexpected.

Tonight, it was the movie Brave.

I was watching it with my daughter when it got to the part where Merida has a flashback of her mother when Merida was little. There’s a thunderstorm, and Merida gets scared so she hurries to her mother. Her mother looks down at her lovingly and tells her: “I’m right here. I’ll always be right here”. The two snuggle and begin to sing softly together.

I was sitting on the couch, cuddling my own curly-headed lass during this scene and out of nowhere tears began streaming down my face and I had to choke back a sob. If you’ve lost your own mother, you may be nodding in agreement, perhaps with a lump of your own in your throat as you remember the countless times your mother comforted you.

My sadness doesn’t really come from a place of missing my mother. I think about my mom all the time and the feelings that come with it are almost never ones of longing for her. I don’t miss her. Were there times when she comforted me as a child? Times she took care of me, told me she loved me, and was a mother to me?

Yes. That’s the bitch of it. I had that once. She was that to me, once. And then the woman who gave birth to me, the woman who mended my scraped knees and calmed my fears was gone. She didn’t leave, she didn’t get in her car and drive away and never look back. But she was gone just the same. There, but forever changed. Her inner demons won the battle for her and she was no longer my mother.

I was about eleven when all of that happened and ever since, I’ve been a motherless child. I had her once upon a time; so long ago, in fact, that it feels like a dream. The memories of my childhood feel as if they happened to someone else. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted a mother’s guidance and advice but even before she died, she wasn’t available to me – not really.It wasn’t for lack of want on her part but by the time she had even remotely gotten her shit together, it was me who was no longer there.

I wonder where she is now. I am not a Christan and I do not believe in the concept of heaven and hell. I either believe in nothing, or in reincarnation… If that makes any sense at all. I don’t feel my mother – ever. I have no sense that she lingers here, that she watches over me and my family. I felt her at first. For about a month after she died, she was here, in my apartment.  I have no doubt. I’ve never really told anyone aside from my husband and best friend about this, but after mom died, I felt her here. I can’t explain how I knew she was here… She just was.   I was never comforted by the thought or the weight of her presence. I wasn’t threatened by it, exactly. It just made me feel sad and burdened.

In life, everyone  felt sad and burdened by her. It may sound harsh, but that was my mother. Anyone who knew her felt that way more often than not. I guess that’s why she didn’t hang around.
Her life was wrought with heartache and misery… I wouldn’t want to stick around a moment longer than I had to in a life like that. I still wonder where she is now. Is she whole? Did she get to leave the sick parts of her behind and begin a new life without all of that darkness on her soul?

For her sake, I hope so.

“Where are you now, where are you now? Do you ever think of me, in the quiet, in the crowd?
-Mumford & Sons

In Her Time of Dying – Little Boxes

While my brother was in town (we had a great visit!), one of the things on our agenda was finally going through our mom’s things. We weren’t sure what we would find. Our parents divorced when I was twelve and we moved out of my childhood home. My mom moved around a lot after that. She was messy and disorganized.

To be honest, I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect emotionally. It ended up not being as hard as I’d imagined. It actually was kind of fun. I did cry on the drive home – there is something very sad and strange about driving away with tangible evidence of your life before your family fell apart.

The things we found surprised me. There were several figurines that belonged to my grandma Nellie.

I found several pieces of artwork that I made as a child.

I can smell your fear. COME PLAY WITH ME

Stumbling across my childhood art and handed-down figurines was great, but my favorite part was the pictures we found that I thought were long gone.

This dress. Oh yeah.

I didn’t have a lot of photos of me as a child – and now I do. Not so many as others may have, but enough to tuck into a photo album to show my children one day. The whole experience of going through my dead mother’s things and picking through what I wanted to keep was very strange. It made me sad to think that these things we collect throughout our lives, these precious pieces of jewelry, knickknacks, trinkets, and treasures will one day be sorted into neat little boxes and driven from our homes by our descendents – if we are lucky enough to have descendents who will want them.

I think what made me the saddest of all was that my mother kept all of this stuff. Through all the shit, through all the moving, through all the depression and darkness, she clung to these items from her past. She kept these treasures tucked away in closets while her life spiraled out of control. It would have been easier, I think, to write her off as a hateful person if I hadn’t found these things. I could come to terms saying she never really cared.

These photos, these baubles from the past tell me otherwise. She did care. And that breaks my heart.

My brother and I divvied up her few possessions, and now I have my own little boxes nestled safely in my closet. One day they will belong to my children, but for now, I will keep them safe. Because I guess that’s just what you do.

In Her Time of Dying – One Year

DISCLAIMER:

This entry is very long. It also contains details about the night my mother died one year ago today. It may not be suitable reading for everyone, and it may contain triggers for others. Please continue reading with that in mind.

It  has been one year since my mother died. One year to the day. I have kept myself busy all day at work, my best friend and her little girl came over for a girl’s night not too long ago, Josh is out and Nellie is in bed and for the first time all the day, I am alone with my thoughts.

I was okay until the music started.

I made a Spotify playlist of songs that reminded me of my mother. I planned on listening to the songs and writing my feelings out this evening and my feelings have not disappointed. The first song is playing now – “Song for Judith” by Judy Collins. Tears are streaming down my face as I type.

I feel overwhelmingly sad. I don’t miss my mother. This is something I’ve maintained through the entire year. I do not feel a longing for her, I do not miss having conversations with her – she contributed very little to our relationship the last thirteen years of her life. But I feel sad. Heavy. Full of sorrow, longing for a mother I never had and never will. I feel a void inside of me for all the things that could have been but never were.

I am remembering the night she died clearly. Josh dropped me off at the hospital that afternoon. Ellen, my brother Drew, and I whiled away the remaining daylight hours in her room without saying much of anything. I played around on my laptop and wrote. At one point, we pulled up that website, Akinator (if you don’t know what it is, go have some fun with it) and enjoyed some light moments. Drew and I were getting hungry, so we decided to get some pizza at Mellow Mushroom. I was gathering my things, getting ready to go when all of a sudden, Drew began to speak. He began to speak of memories past, of things from our childhood. He sat back down and I did, too. He sat beside her and I sat in a chair at the end of her bed.

It was like there was a silent force in the room with us commanding us to stay. Without ever communicating why to each other, my brother and I began talking. And talking. And remembering. There were a lot of “do you remember” and “so did I ever tell you?”s.

She had changed. Somewhere between my arrival that afternoon and the decision to go out to eat, she had changed. Until then, her arms still occasionally twitched. Her eyes were closed, yet moved beneath the lids like she was dreaming. Now her body was rigid and growing colder to the touch. Her eyes were half-open and fixed. They give you literature in hospice with telltale signs that a person is approaching death. But it doesn’t prepare you for what it looks like when someone is there and also not there. My mother was a breathing corpse.

I sat in my chair, anxious and scared. We all knew the end was very, very near. At one point she inhaled and stopped breathing for a moment only to exhale in a ragged, rasping rattle. I lifted my head and looked at her. Her face had contorted; her eyes were bulging from her head and her lower jaw jutted forward at an unnatural and horrifying angle.  She looked like something out of a  horror movie. I choked back something between a sob and a scream and jerked my head back down. Fat tears spilled from my eyes as I tried to force the image of her out of my head. I thought she was dead.

She began breathing again. I drew my breaths in slow and deep, trying to calm myself down. After a little while my brother and I looked at each other and reached an unspoken decision. It was time for us to leave. We told her goodbye, and went out to grab a bite to eat.

The drive to the restaurant took about fifteen minutes. We climbed out of the car and as we got close to the doors I heard music coming from the outdoor speakers. Jack Johnson’s voice, normally mellow, hit me like a freight train:
Please don’t go away. Please don’t go away.

I stopped dead in my tracks for a moment and exchanged a glance with Drew to see if he had heard the lyrics of the song at the same time I did. I am not sure if he did. I walked through the doors, feeling shaken.

We ordered our pizza and a salad to share. The waiter brought the salad and we each took a few bites when Drew’s phone rang. Our eyes darted up and locked. We knew. Drew looked at his phone and nodded, almost imperceptibly, to me. He picked it up.

She was gone.

It felt like a dream. The noise of the restaurant, the smell of pizza sauce seemed like it could not possibly exist in that moment in time. I texted my husband. My best friend. My fingers were numb. My body was numb. My mind was numb. The waiter came by, all smiles, until he saw our faces. He asked if everything was okay. My brother quietly told him that no, it wasn’t. Without batting an eyelash, the waiter left to have the kitchen box up our pizza and print out our check. I’m fairly certain fate put him in our path that night for a reason. He asked no questions, gave no pity looks or half-assed well-wishes. When he gave us our food and picked up our check, he looked each of us in the eyes and said that he hoped everything turned out okay, and walked away.

In an act of amazing love and friendship, my friend Nicole headed to my best friend Rachel’s house to sit with her little girl, while Rachel came to my house to sit with mine so my husband could hurry to the hospital to be with me. I will be forever grateful for those two women for doing this without hesitation and without being asked.

When we got to the hospital, the door to my mother’s room was open but a curtain drawn so you could not see in. I felt panicky. I felt like I was being held together by a tiny, vibrating threads and that those threads were about to snap apart at any moment. My brother went in to see her and I waited outside the door. When I finally saw my husband appear at the end of the hallway, I felt like screaming and sobbing and falling to the ground into a thousand pieces. I fell into his arms and buried my face in his chest.

He and I went into her room together, the curtain still obstructing my view of my dead mother. I turned to him and felt like I was hyperventilating. I began fanning my face with my hand, tears coming down fast and hot. I asked him through my panic what she was going to look like. If it was going to be scary. He pulled the curtain back just enough so he could look. I studied his face carefully and he turned toward me, his face set like stone.
“Is it horrible?” I asked, on the verge of a complete panic attack.
He put both hands on my shoulders and looked into my eyes, steady as a rock.
“You do not have to go in there. I don’t think that  you want your last memory of her to be this way.”
Panicky. Hyperventilating.
“Is it really bad?” I asked desperately.
“She was very sick, honey. And no, she doesn’t look good. You do not have to go in there.”

And so I didn’t. I did not look at my mother after she died. On the drive home I felt like a coward. I felt guilty. I felt like the least I could have done was look at my dead mother.

But I didn’t.

The days after her death are well-documented on this blog. When I think back and remember that night I can remember almost every detail. Do I regret not going in and looking at her one last time, of not saying a final goodbye? No. I still have the image of her contorted face in my mind and that rattling breath that I was sure was her last in my ears. I am glad I don’t have another nightmarish image burned into my memory.

I don’t have anything else to say. I will leave those of you who are still reading with the lyrics to my mother’s favorite song; the song that she identified with the most. If you knew her, you know.

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.
And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

 

How Am I Feeling?

How am I feeling?

I don’t know. I have had a few people ask, knowing that the first anniversary of my mom’s death is coming up on the 28th, and that this time last year I was unknowingly on the precipice of my world being thrown into chaos. I’m very conscious of the days ticking away and coming closer to the 21st, when I got the call that my mom was in the hospital and had coded. If I am being honest, I check the calendar every day and think about this time last year. How could I not? I was so full of anticipation last year for Christmas. I had grand plans. I was going to bake cookies with my daughter on Christmas Eve. We were going to have omelets Christmas morning and revel in our daughter opening gifts.

The world went to hell on the 21st and I lived in a haze of DNR paperwork, hospice conversations and horrible hospital coffee for the next week.  My holiday sucked. At the time I was pretty numb and was trying to find some good (“well, Nellie was adorable opening presents” was about all I could find) but looking back on it, it fucking sucked. It was the second Christmas in my life that was utterly terrible, the first being when we lost our first baby to miscarriage three days before Christmas.

It seems that three is the magic number for awful things happening in our family around Christmas; miscarriage three days before one year, the death of my mother three days after another.

I feel strange writing this considering everything that happened in Connecticut last week. I feel almost like I do not have the right to reflect and feel my conflicted feelings about my personal anniversary coming up. After all, I have my daughter. I did not have to rush to her school in a panic while wondering whether she survived a mass shooting. I tucked her in at night the evening of the 14th as I do each night.

As much as I feel conflicted about sharing my thoughts and feelings about this first anniversary, I also feel like I haven’t really processed or felt much about it and writing is my outlet. It’s how I cope, and how I deal with my feelings and thoughts sometimes.

So, how am I feeling?

I don’t know. I don’t think that I feel sad. I guess maybe I feel reflective? When I talk to people about this time last year I find myself feeling kind of fragile, like talking about it will make me relive the trauma and I will break into a thousand little pieces. I suspect that maybe my anxiety and feelings about it are manifesting in other ways; bad dreams, short temper at times, overeating.

I am feeling very enthusiastic about this Christmas despite everything. There is a pile of presents under the tree, I’ve already gotten my gift from my husband (a brand new laptop that is 100% MINE and mine alone – I know, right?) and absolutely cannot wait for my girl stumble out of bed with her wild, unruly hair and Christmas footie pajamas and tear into those presents with the wild abandon only a child at Christmas can have.

Right now I am feeling okay. Come the 21st I may sing a different tune, but tonight – right now, I am okay.

Christmas Anxiety

 

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now the Christmas season is officially in full swing. I have mixed feelings about this time of year. I am looking forward to seeing my daughter experience the holidays, and I can’t wait until Christmas morning to see her open her presents. She sort of understood Christmas last year, but this year she is excited. She loves our Christmas tree and even picked out her very own ornament to hang on a branch. It’s a Barbie in a hideous pink dress, and she will kneel down in front of it and gaze at it lovingly, whispering sweet nothings into its plastic ears.

I am excited for Christmas, and I am also dreading the sad milestones that Christmas brings. Today marked what I guess is the first milestone; today would have been my mother’s 61st birthday. It also marks 1 year since I saw my mom for the last time before she went into the hospital. The visit was strange. In hindsight I understand a little better. At the time I thought she was just on heavy pain pills (which she may have been) but I realize now just how sick she was. On her birthday last year, she had little less than a month to live.

I think that I’ve been dealing with the anxiety I’m feeling over the anniversary of her death in subtle, almost subconscious ways. I’ve been feeling very self-conscious and sensitive and also easily annoyed. I have been feeling easily left out and just kind of glum on and off. It’s been a while since I’ve felt much of anything regarding my mom’s death, so it was hard to recognize the source of these feelings at first.

I guess I just need to take the good with the bad and accept my emotions and feelings as they come.

In Her Time of Dying: What Is and What Will Never Be

Six Feet Under is one of my favorite T.V. Shows in the history of everything forever. It is, to date, one of the most brilliantly written and acted shows I’ve ever seen – and the series finale? I honestly do not think any series will ever come up with anything as perfect as the Six Feet Under finale.

Josh and I watch the entire series from start to finish about once a year. We do the same with OZ, and we watch Firefly even more often than that. After my mom died, I found myself wondering when I’d be ready to tackle another viewing of Six Feet Under. The subject was something that was somewhat sensitive to me where it hadn’t been before. We tried to watch an episode shortly after mom died and I had to turn it off. I just couldn’t deal with death in any form – even if it was the death of a fictional character on a television show.

Josh suggested it a few weeks ago when we found ourselves with nothing to watch. I agreed, and was happy to find that I was able to watch without any huge problems. We’ve been making our way through the series and as I was finishing up an episode after Josh had gone to bed, I was stricken with a very sudden and very fresh sense of grief. The scene that got me was one between two main characters on the show – Claire and her mother, Ruth. They were sharing an emotionally vulnerable moment – one that was unexpected, tender, loving, and sweet. I watched Claire, who has always been very hostile verbally and closed-off emotionally, reach out to her mother in a gesture of acceptance and understanding. The two characters connected in a way that I imagine only a mother and daughter can, and the tears started to roll down my cheeks. Words began to roll through my brain, over and over, until they became a sort of sorrowful, aching chant.
I want a mother.
I want a mother.
I want a mother.
I want my mother.

The painful realization that I never truly had what those characters on-screen had and never, ever would hit me in the face like it has a hundred times since my mother’s death and all I could do was pause the show and cry. The sense of grief and mourning was so fresh it took me by surprise. It has been 6 months (to the day) since my mother died, and still the grief takes me by surprise.

I cried more that evening as my sad little mantra repeated itself in my head again and again. In a way, I suppose that I’m going through two grieving processes: I am grieving the loss of the mother that I did have, and I am also grieving the loss of the mother that I didn’t – and never will – have.

I’m grieving a relationship that cannot be mine, no matter how badly I want it or how hard I cry. It doesn’t matter how many mother figures I surround myself with – none of them will ever be able to give me what my mom could have, if only things had been different. If she had been different. Cultivating a relationship with my daughter is wonderful and will help lessen my pain, I am sure, but the mother-daughter relationship is something I will never be able to experience on the daughter’s end. These harsh revelations come at me from time to time; unexpectedly, viciously, and knock me off my feet with the severity of the pain they make me feel. I am learning to just accept them as they come, allow myself to feel them and to cry and to be angry. I am teaching myself to own my pain and accept it as something I will live with forever; to validate it and not stuff it back down inside of me to fester and rot.

It’s a slow process, one that I’m still trying to figure out. Maybe one day I will be able to accept with peace the loss of what is and what will never be, but for now it hurts, and it sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It just sucks.

In Her Time of Dying: Mother’s Day

I’ve vaguely thought about the annual holiday that’s coming up in May, the first one that I will have in my life without the person whom the holiday is in honor of:

Mom.

Despite my complicated relationship with my mom, she was still my mom and I do have a few good memories of things I did for her on Mother’s Day: surprised her by showing up at an Olive Garden in Bloomington, Illinois (when I lived in Chattanooga, Tennessee), picked her lilacs from our neighbor’s yard when I was young, announced that I was pregnant with Nellie. I haven’t been sure how I feel about this first Mother’s Day without her, as I was not very actively involved in her life for the last three years.

I got an e-mail from a group I work with sometimes on my blog for a Mother’s Day photo caption contest and my heart stopped in my chest. I began reading contest’s description; send a special picture of you and your mother with a sentimental caption, and enter for a chance to win a gift basket. I stared at a beautiful black-and-white photo of a young bride on her wedding day, smiling happily at her beaming mother.

An overwhelming sense of loss, of sadness, of mourning a relationship we never had and all the feelings of disappointment over my life with her came rushing at me at once. I contemplated, for a second, submitting a photo into the contest and was at a loss of what photo to include. Even if I were to send in a picture, what could I possibly say?
“This is me kissing my mom on the cheek on my wedding day – the photographer made me do it.”
“Here we are at my baby shower. I invited her because I felt like I had to, she embarrassed me during it, and she looks zonked out of her mind on pain pills.”
“This one’s my mom at my bedside after the birth of my daughter – I was extraordinarily uncomfortable in this picture.”

As I tried to imagine what the hell I would submit and say, the knot of sadness in my stomach wound itself tighter. As Mother’s Day approaches – my first one without the woman who gave birth to me around – I am feeling those conflicted emotions all over again. Do I miss her? Am I glad she’s gone? What – and who, exactly – am I mourning?
I think it’s the relationship that we never had, and will never have. The glowing daughter, the beaming mother. The desperate phone calls begging her for advice on what to do while my newborn is screaming and I’m standing, helpless and unsure of what to do. The hugs, the tears, the laughter, the secrets whispered.  It’s something I’ve always wanted – envied others for having – and the holiday that celebrates the women who gave birth to us is just another reminder that I don’t have a mom and never will. I suppose all I can do is go forward and take these feelings as motivation to make sure my daughter never has to struggle and wonder what photo and caption to submit should the chance arise for her to enter such a contest, and be to her what I never had myself.

In Her Time of Dying: Music

Over ten years ago when I realized that she was never going to get better, I distanced myself from my mother for my own emotional and mental health and well-being. When she lived in Illinois and I in Tennessee, our relationship was easier because that physical proximity wasn’t an issue. I didn’t have to worry about seeing her face-to-face. Her grasp and power over me was weaker. When we lived far apart, I’d answer her calls. I’d actually pick up the phone to call her and talk about what was going on in my life. I was always hesitant and kept a margin of emotional distance for fear of making myself vulnerable to her, but our relationship was much better.

When she moved to Tennessee and began living fifteen minutes away and the physical distance between us was significantly shortened, I had to make my emotional unavailability even more pronounced and defined. I let her in even less, being very careful to not let our relationship boundaries get blurred. She wasn’t ever really capable of keeping well-defined boundaries and I had to be mindful of that.

One thing that I didn’t hide, didn’t bury, didn’t keep from her was music. I rarely shared personal things with her but when it came to music I was always eager and willing. When she would come over, I would play my chorus learning tracks for her and watch her reaction, watch for signs that she was impressed with the difficulty of music I was performing. I wanted her approval in that area. I cared about her opinion in that aspect, where in other parts of my life I could not have cared less what she thought. But I always wanted to share music with her, and was always open and receptive if she made new musical discoveries.

The other day I listened to the title track Barton Hollow from The Civil Wars’ album. This album has been out for a year, but I am just now hearing about them. I’ve heard their name more and more since their performance at the Grammy’s and on a whim, I listened to Barton Hollow on iTunes.
After hearing about five seconds of it, I downloaded it and moved on to the next track’s preview. After about five seconds of the second song, I just went ahead and downloaded the entire album.

I listened to the whole thing on my way home from work that day, marveling at how each track was more beautiful than the last. The blend of the two singers’ voices, the haunting harmonies, and the lyrics almost brought me to tears. I haven’t felt this immediately enamoured with a musical group in a very long time. As I was driving and listening to the duo sing, I felt very sad because it was precisely the type of music I would’ve loved to share with my mother. I would’ve played a track for her, watching to see her reaction and hoping she loved it just as much as I did.

I’m not sure what it was about music that felt safe to me. I suppose I perceived it as somewhat of superficial thing that she and I could connect with; something that didn’t have to go deeper than surface-level. Music can, of course, touch one’s very heart and soul but it doesn’t have to in general conversation. You can have a pleasant and enthusiastic conversation with just about anyone about your favorite bands and music that you like. Maybe that’s why it felt okay to me – because I didn’t have to delve deep into the reasons behind my liking a certain sound or artist.

My grief for my mother has been twisty and confusing. I haven’t really ever felt sad that she was gone, because as my mother she had been gone for over a decade. I’ve been grieving more over what I will truly never have in regards to a relationship with her, reliving the traumatic events of the week that she was sick, and getting over the shock of the fundamental fact that the only mother I’ve ever known is now dead.

Despite all of the confusing emotions, I miss sharing music with her. I am sad that she isn’t around to hear these beautiful melodies. I’m sad that her time to discover and enjoy new artists is gone, that the harmonies that she held so dear don’t reach her ears anymore.

The song below is performed by The Civil Wars, but it was written by Leonard Cohen… Who just happened to be one of my mother’s favorite artists.

In Her Time of Dying: One Month.

Today marks one month that my mother has been dead. Writing those words feels so strange and surreal. On one hand, the events of December 21st-28th feel fresh; like they just happened and on the other hand, it feels like it happened an eternity ago. The experience changed me so completely, it feels strange that it has only been one month since I transitioned from a person with a mother (albeit not a great one) who had never seen death, to a person who just watched the woman who gave birth to her die. How is it possible that it’s only been a month? It’s hard to fathom.

I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m functioning better at work, though I have my moments where I don’t really want to talk or do much of anything. I’ve accepted those moments as they come and allowing myself to feel them, forgiving my lapse in work ethic knowing that it will come back sooner than later. I’ve been reading a brilliant book called The Undertaking: Life Stories From the Dismal Trade. My brother bought it for me just after mom died. It is a wonderfully written collection of stories and experiences from the author, Thomas Lynch, who is a poet that moonlights as an undertaker. It is precisely the book that I needed to read at precisely the right moment in my life.

I’m still seeing my grief counselor, T, once a week which has been helpful. This week I talked to her about the day and hours just before my mother died. This is something I’ve had a hard time talking about, because it was traumatic for me and I haven’t really been ready to vocalize it. I haven’t written about the night she died yet, but I feel like I will be writing about it soon. It was nice to talk about the things I saw with someone who is around that kind of thing constantly. She shared her first death experience with me. I mentioned to T that I’m not sure what my goals for counseling are, like I don’t have a set plan for what I’d like to see happen. One thing I’ve come to realize in talking with her is that I like things laid out before me. I like to see the what, when, why of things that are happening. I am going to counseling because _____. I have attachment issues because ______. She suggested that due to my unstable and traumatic past, I thrive on structure and knowing exactly what it is I’m dealing with on a daily basis. I had never even thought of that until she brought it up, but she is absolutely right.

Just talking helps. I feel better, lighter after a counseling session. Even if I do nothing but babble about things unrelated to mom’s death, I feel better.

One month down, an eternity to go. I wonder when I will stop marking weeks and days. Maybe after 6 months? Maybe after a year? Maybe never? I don’t know.

One month. A minute amount of time in the grand scheme of things. An eternity. All at the same time. Weird.

In Her Time of Dying: Ashes to Ashes

Hello to any new readers I’ve obtained lately. I apologize if you’ve come in hopes of finding a new mom blog to read and are all “WTF IS THIS”. It’s not always doom and gloom and talks about cremation and shit like that. I do say shit a lot though, so that’s not gonna change. I hope to return somewhat to normal soon, but I make no promises. In the meantime, settle in and know that what you’re reading is real life. And real life isn’t always pretty.

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I e-mailed the funeral home/crematorium to make sure everything went OK with the cremation. I hadn’t heard back from them yet, and mom died two weeks ago. I have phone anxiety so I e-mailed them, because I’m a dork. I also got confirmation that my urns were delivered by FedEx and left at our door, because a signature hadn’t been requested. Hope no one tries to steal it thinking it’s an awesome late Christmas present because guess what, buddy… You’re gonna be reaaaaaal disappointed.

So anyway I went about my day when an incoming e-mail popped into my inbox. It was from the funeral home. I read the words:

“We have the cremains and will be pleased to do what you asked (split the ashes three ways into our urns). Warm regards, W.C.”

A simple, polite, to-the-point e-mail that made me react in a very surprising way. I suddenly felt terrified, anxious, like I was about to have a panic attack. My food tasted like cardboard and I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I have no idea why the e-mail elicited such a response from me. What did I expect him to say? “Sorry, I decided to keep the ashes for myself”? “Oops, we lost them?” “I’m sorry, who are you again?” I guess a part of me hoped that I could just go on avoiding the fact that my mother, who was once a living and breathing human being is now reduced to ash and ground-up bone particles and now I have to go pick her up and have them split her three fucking ways. I guess the reality of that was something I wasn’t really prepared for. I had tucked the thought neatly away in the back of my brain to deal with later. I seem to be an expert at Dealing With Things Later.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. I guess it’s one of those moments that just jumps up and bites you right in the ass when you think you’re doing really well dealing with all of this. Chomp, here’s your dead mother’s “cremains”. Ugh. What a horrible word. Cremains. So how does this make me feel? Sad, scared, anxious, like I want to run away, I want to pretend it’s not real, puts my stomach in knots, like I don’t want to do it. That’s how thinking about picking up my mother’s cremains makes me feel. Ugh.