My mother died a week ago today. I wrote this on the plane coming back home after being with her for her last 10 days in this life.
I don’t know why this time the patterns at 36,000 feet below me are so comforting. It’s like I’ve never even noticed them before. The trees that partition off crops like rivers, the strange dirt tributaries that branch in definitive squares.
I feel the sadness well up into a lump in my heart-throat; understanding just how much I didn’t know about my mother. Wanting to be able to tell her story and yet knowing that I will do so inadequately, that there’s no way to tell a person’s life as well as knowing them directly. The words flow out of me like the sea into the Titanic, the seams bursting, the bolts flying. There was at first nothingness, and now it’s all at once. Like the cosmos.
If I could bury her, it would be in the very center of my heart. We knew each other, maybe too much. I learned how to trust her. I wanted to fix her; her broken childhood, her jagged marriage to my father, her splintered grieving when he died. I wanted to put all the pieces back together for her, in a way she could never do for me – and in the end, realizing there is no fixing, no glue that exists, no stitch that any of us know how to sew. We show up as we are, in any given moment. I am wordless for how I feel, being able to be present for her, my sister, and most of all, myself, in her time of dying.
The mask hides my grimace-crying, my grief that I don’t know will hit me on a plane with 120 other people. I have no idea what the days ahead will feel like. Will there always be this boulder in my chest? Will my jaw constantly tighten as the initial tears force their way up and out? I wear my father’s anniversary ring, not knowing why, not knowing anything. The numb sets in after a paragraph; learning that the numbness is interchangeable with the tears is the weird twist.
It’s beautiful, Mom. Your life and your death. I don’t know how else to say it. It has rearranged me like the patterns that I fly over right now. I am forever transfigured by this capsule of our lives together, this liminal space we’ve shared, and the meaning it will hold.
I live on her street. I will keep saying her name.