Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Weep for me no more

I'm going home for the first time in two weeks. It's really only been two weeks and one day, but everything has changed. My relationships with my father and brother and sister-in-law and niece have all changed. My body has shrunk. My relationship with my mother has changed form. My spirit has grown in ways I don't understand. I'm wearing cashmere every day.

I don't like my choices. My life feels stuck. I can't get out of where I've been, and I haven't really even tried. I don't plan to go back to my regular life--as I knew it back in November--until March first. That's Brooke's birthday. It's the day I'm going back: a new month, a new week, and a whole new life. She got a job, something we had been hoping and praying for, and I haven't yet rejoiced in that. I don't know if and when I can. She's started her life--a new life for her, too--without me.

Brooke has a game she plays with little Max that he calls "Stuck." He runs around saying, "Play stuck with Max! Play stuck!" She sits in a doorway with her feet and back against the jambs and blocks him from passing through. "Oh no! Oh no, oh no! You're stuck! Oh no!" He loves it. He's stuck but not really stuck. He isn't stuck. He can move freely through after enough giggles, and he doesn't have to play the game.

I do. It's not something I requested.

Brooke has been home since last night. It seems like longer than that, since Dad and I were alone for several loads of laundry, dinner, and Letterman. We spend a lot of time sitting and talking. I couldn't tell you what all we've discussed, but I know some of it made us sore from laughing, and some of it made us cry. We chatted about things I never covered with Mom. Stuff I never realized I had kept from her. That terrifies me. There was so much that we missed. There is so much missing. And I have to start life again, without her, without the opportunity to tell her everything.

I try to remind myself that I can't change what has been, but I can move forward from where I am. It doesn't help a whole lot. What I need is Momma and this grown-up spirit and to start all over again from her diagnosis.

Aside from the panic induced by climbing onto a train for the first time in weeks, I'm really doing okay. Honest. I think I cried more in the week before her death than in the week after. With my family, but especially with my father, the bone-chilling ache of loneliness isn't there. I slept alone last night, and I didn't feel as empty as I had anticipated. Dad and I talk about her not being there, what she would have done, what she would have said in a certain conversation, and there were no tears--only a subtle and unspoken pause of remembrance.

The visitations were strange. My mother's body didn't arouse the kind of emotion I expected. I bawled with my father minutes later over the fact that her body didn't sadden me, but knowing that she wouldn't be there did. Everyone outside the six of us cried more than we did. I saw people I had forgotten about, people who wept in my presence at the death of my mother. A former neighbor, a man in his early seventies, shook with grief as he stood in front of Paul and me. Her community group friends were the most incredible. I saw people who knew her and watched in awe as she knocked over obstacles and got what she wanted and what the community needed. They praised her work ethic. They praised her diplomacy. They praised her ability to talk anyone into anything she wanted. When talking didn't work, she ignored you and did it her own way.

More than one person told me that Mom "made you feel like you were the only person in the room." My mother had a special connection with women that couldn't be spelled out and was only defined by the women who knew her. One of Mom's friends said that people either loved or hated Mom, but those who hated her regretted it.

The service was beautiful. The sun was shining, and the sanctuary was bright. Mom had requested a warm, sunny day with lots of flowers blooming. She got a warmer than normal, sunny day in February and lots of flowers from her admirers.


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