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, March 25, 2004

Carry the words of love with you

The more I look at her picture, the more distant her death seems. It seems so long ago when I look at a picture that’s four years old. Everything has changed.

I grieved a lot with Mom when she was still alive. For three and a half years, I would have tearful phone calls and weepy evenings with her. Brooke has always teased me for crying at movies and books, and I cried with my mom for her impending death, even three years before it happened. Lying on the bed in the apartment, I was recovering from another bad news phone call with Mom, and Brooke walked in and just didn't understand. She tried, in some sense, to talk me out of it. She's still okay. She's not dead yet. Why cry when she's still all right? It felt as though it was pressure not to cry, not to grieve or mourn until she was dead. But I shared that with my mom. We leaned on one another, held each other in our fear and sadness, and really, I’m not nonfunctional. It wasn’t a shock. We worked up to it and went through it together, but I’m still here.

Mom held us. Any one of us could sit down with her and hold her and be held and cry. I may have done it more than my fair share, but I’m glad that I did. I didn’t try to protect myself from her death. I tried to protect her, but that’s another topic.

The people who didn’t grieve with her seem to be stricken to the greatest degree, but that’s not to say that the rest of us are happy and recovered. I think that most of what I’m experiencing is the letdown from her last days going so quickly. I had expected a month or more of gradual decline, but her quick descent and the fast and intense mourning “process” have left me feeling like someone turned the carousel into the Gravitron after I hopped on. My mother had zip, and then her zip was gone. And then she was.

Last summer, Brooke and I threw a party to celebrate Lawrence v. Texas, and we called it our Sodomy Party. (Leigh Anne had a very special sale for the occasion, but that’s another story altogether.) I emailed Mom to tell her about the Supreme Court decision, and her reply mentioned details about our upcoming weekend together and included the post script, ”I’m glad you’re no longer engaging in illegal fornication. Love, Mom.” Me too, Mom. We’re planning another Sodomy Party for late June, and this time, you can really be there in spirit.


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