This space has been empty for a long time. What does one write after one's mother has died? There's everything to say, and nothing to say. I told Mark last night that I feel like somewhere in my soul there's a deep, dark pit with my mom's name somewhere in the bottom, and I keep walking to the edge and peering in, then skittering away. Someday, I may fall in. But by then, it's possible that the hole will have filled a bit with dirt and time, and the fall won't be as great. Maybe it will fill completely, and I'll never fall. But the scar of the hole will always be there.
I've felt it already in the last couple of weeks since she left. Taking a picture of Sam, and suddenly realizing that I'll never show it to her, or Caroline cruising along the couch, and thinking about how she'll never see her walk. It's so easy to get caught up in the unfairness of it all. But is this what I'm supposed to do? Is this how grief is? All the books make you think that it's one long linear process, but now that I'm in it, I don't know at any given moment where I am in it, and what's next. I've already had so many surprises, good and bad, to believe any more in what to expect. I thought, for instance, that I would be sad, but mostly relieved when she finally died - mostly happy that she's finally free from pain. And there are those thoughts. But the overwhelming sadness that I've felt...I was totally unprepared for it. I was also unprepared for how grateful I was during the time leading up to the funeral to be busy and rock-solid, providing strength for others, even enjoying all of the old friends who came to her service. But now that life has returned somewhat to normal, I'm a little adrift. I think I just need to accept this feeling for now.
Funny how my kids have provided the most guidance on this strange path. Leading up to mom's death, both seemed edgy, unsettled. I prepared myself for the onslaught of emotion after it finally happened, and I told Sam about it, holding him in bed in the morning of October 20th. The amazing thing, though, is that it's almost as if a weight has been lifted from Sam. It's easy to forget sometimes that he's three, and three-year-olds like tangible, understandable, definite things, even if those things are negative and undesirable. Grammy has died. He went to the funeral and sat quietly and peacefully all the way through it, perhaps grateful that, finally, this was something permanent that he can understand, not the iffy, mommy-might-go-to-Portland-this-weekend, something-might-happen-to-Grammy-soon land he's been living in for the past year. He's talked about her a lot, easily slipping into the past tense that I have so much trouble with. And, blessedly, he's been liberal with the I-love-yous, the hugs, and the snuggles. My little man knows how much I need them right now, I think. Caroline, too, has become more settled, happy to be back in her routine, settling back into easy, milky smiles and grateful to be in my arms. And I think this is how my mom would want this to be happening with them.
I know it gets easier. The hole beckons, and I let myself look a little bit at a time, knowing that I have to manage this so I can still mother my kids and be a decent wife. The sucker punches to my gut when I think about how she no longer exists in this world will lessen, the ache when I look at pictures of her eventually will soften, too. This will all pass. But God, I miss her.
A new thing
7 months ago