We were expecting her. We had spent two days cleaning the house and had moved our bed into the guest room so that my mother and stepfather would not have to sleep on an air mattress. The boys had scattered “things to do with Nana” throughout the home. There were presents under the tree with her name on it, and others waiting to be wrapped. The gifts are not the presence we are aching for.
It is Christmas Eve, and my mom is dead.
That is how I woke up this morning, shaking and soaked beneath the flow of my own tears. I had hoped to find it all a dream. I had wanted to throw open the window and call out to the world that none of it had been real, and a Merry Christmas to all.
Instead there was a child in my arms, sound asleep and faraway. I held him like a parent should, and I thought about my mother and the arms that I will never again feel wrapped warm around me.
I only got to know my mother for 42 years, and that was not long enough.
I am lost in time machine fantasy.
I didn’t realize how much of my mother was in me until she was gone. I am hollow and I can feel it. My eyes are duller from the inside. My reflection is lost between blurs and too many memories.
Anyone that knew my mom liked her. She was easy to enjoy, kind, and full of laughter. She welcomed the company of others and carried a smile for everyone. She was gentle and worrisome, and quick with emotion.
She was my biggest fan and supporter. Every word I dropped on paper became something to share and praise. Every small thing I did made her proud, and she shouted it from the rooftops. She did the same for my sister.
I honestly don’t know where I will get the strength to persevere.
There is so much I want to say about her that I can’t even start. And yet, if you have ever read a single word by me then you know her already, for my mother inspired much of who I am, and in turn the phrases I have left behind. It was my mother that urged me to create this space, and she was often the only one that let me know it mattered. I am tempted to bury it with her.
Writing about my mother in the past tense does not seem possible. I never planned for this. I assumed that she would fade quietly into the night some 30 years in the future with loved ones by her side saying the kind of things you do when a death comes that you have braced for. I did not expect to get a phone call from my crying father to tell me that my stepdad and mother had been in an accident. I did not expect him to say that she was dead.
It is surreal. It is not happening. I have willed it away. I refuse to accept it.
I want to shake the world like a snow globe and let the storm cover the tire tracks. I want to hold time in my hand. I want to make it stop.
“You need to call your sister,” my father said. And I did. My sister, her husband, and their brand new baby are on their way here now. We have a need to be together. Perhaps if we are all together it will feel like my mother is with us, too.
And her absence will be deeper felt.
I have already changed. The act of pulling a part of one’s soul out with a cruel, unexpected yank, leaves you damaged beyond repair. It happens immediately. It leaves you alone in a room full of people.
I am angry and dark. I want something to blame. I want to punch the heavens and make the pain go away, but pain is only part of the problem. There is a new level of sorrow, and I am the saddest that I have ever been.
It is not fair. And there are lessons there. If you have something to say, say it. If you have something to do, do it. And if you love someone, don’t ever let them think that that could change. Let them know that you love them always. I had that with my mother.
I want to hide, and I want to sell everything we have, hold the kids as tight as possible, and seize every precious moment that this world has to offer. I want to run away forever.
There is more, but I do not know what it means. I can hardly accept that it has happened. But it has. Part of me is gone, and I want it back more than I could ever, ever say.
I want my mommy.
The boys were sitting on the couch waiting for Nana. They were expecting her, although she wasn’t due to arrive for hours. They expected her to walk through the door with too many presents and long happy hugs for everyone. Then she would join them upon the sofa and they would curl up against her until the day she left.
But I walked in instead, and I told them that Nana would not be coming for Christmas. I told them that Nana would not be coming ever again.
I grieve for them. They are sad, still fresh off the passing of Tricia’s father just two months ago, and yet they do not understand their loss. They do not yet realize what it is that they are missing.
My mom was recently retired, and the rest of her life centered on traveling to spend time with family and friends. All she had planned involved her grandsons. They were her everything. They always will be.
The boys cannot fathom the depths of their loss, but I know.
And I don’t know a goddamn thing.