Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Luke 24:21

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

In a sermon on Luke 24, my pastor stated that “had hoped” is the most sorrowful construction in the English language. At one time, we hoped for something. It was not to be, and we have since abandoned that hope. I caught myself using that phrase the other day, saying that I had hoped to take my family to the zoo when it opens on Sunday. Since I first hoped that, Mom died.

This came up in the context of the April March for Women’s Lives. I never thought to go. I expected to be staying with my parents and caring for my mom. If we were to go anywhere that weekend, it would be the zoo. All seven of us would go. It would be beautiful outside. We would have one last sunny day together.

I’ve been having more and more dreams about Mom. Last night’s was the worst yet. Paul, Hope, Dad, Brooke, and I were going on a road trip. Mom was coming too, but she was basically comatose. Paul was driving, and I suggested that Mom be in the front seat so that she would be more comfortable. Paul and Dad protested that Paul wouldn’t have anyone to talk to, so they slumped Mom into the back of the minivan we had when I was in high school. I sat in the front with Paul, and I heard Mom mumble in the same way she did on her last (somewhat) communicative days. We were thrilled. She was getting better.

And when I woke up, I was convinced that if we had been able to keep her alive longer, she would have gotten better.

I’m all out of hope. I can’t even hope in my sleep. This isn’t helping my want to have a baby, to raise a child. Right after Mom decided to end treatment, there was a possibility I was pregnant. I felt different. Everything felt different. There was a warmth inside me that hadn’t been there in so long. I looked different. I smelled different. Even sex was different. By the funeral, I was convinced that I might actually be pregnant. I wasn’t.

When I was sure that I wasn’t, that warmth went out. My body continued to look and feel different, but instead of the glow I had imposed on myself, I was dull and worn. I was exhausted. Believing in that pregnancy gave me enough hope to make it through those weeks. Losing that hope dropped the floor out from under me. I lost my mother and any possibility of her grandchild, my child growing inside me. I could have made it out of that time with something, but I didn’t.

Last fall, we were desperately low on cash and hadn’t spent any money on ourselves in so long that we bought a case of wine from a nearby market. (I finally paid off the credit card we had put it on.) I had picked out a dark red wine from Hope Estate Vinyards to share with my family over Thanksgiving weekend. I forgot to take it up to the cabin that weekend, and it’s still resting in the fruit cellar’s wine rack.

It’s ridiculous to think that the label on a bottle of wine would fortify me with some kind of hopeful grace, but since nothing else has, I thought I might give it a try. If I can find a way to bring myself to drink it, I probably don't need it. It would just be nice to be able to say that I had hope again, even if it is a reference to wine.


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