Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

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

Friday, May 14, 2004

Prelude to another funeral

I'm sure this isn't the worst birthday in the history of humankind, but it's the worst one I've ever had. It came less than a week after my first motherless Mother's Day, the first time I've pretended the holiday didn't exist. Brooke spent last Saturday with her mom, and I spent last Saturday avoiding them. They went to the Farmers' Market and out to lunch at everyone's favorite deli. I hid in the bathroom when my mother-in-law came by to pick up Brooke, and I left for the day before they could return.

I pretended that Mother's Day is and always has been one of those Hallmark holidays that serves no purpose in my life. I pretended that Mother's Day has never had meaning to me, has never been a day to celebrate my mother and my relationship with her. I pretended that I never shared my birthday with Mother's Day and that I wasn't due the day before and born the day after.

Truth be told, it went pretty well. My Saturday errands were productive, and I went from store to store to locate a cabinet that would suit my medium needs. I took frog's advice and went to the second hand furniture store, but the best choice remains this from IKEA with its matching CD shelves. The mall and most of the other stores I visited were lousy with mother-daughter pairs, and the jewelry and cosmetic section of one department store was particularly heavy with Mother's Day guilt trips. Keeping in mind the irrelevance of Mother's Day in my life and ignoring its past significance, I managed to have a really good day on Saturday. Sunday was just working in the yard and around the house, and I passed the day without really caring.

My birthday isn't the same. I'm so painfully aware that it's my birthday, that Mom's not here, and the day needn't even be my birthday to begin to be difficult. It was supposed to be nice today. I was supposed to spend it going from small town shop to small town shop and then eat lunch on the beach. But it's raining, and Brooke and I are arguing. I'd rather cry than eat, but I don't cry when I'm worried and I'm worried about the burial service tomorrow, the service I spent most of this week preparing for—that is, when I wasn't freaking out about my bathroom tile. I didn't finish the forms for the research validity approval which is due to expire, so I should be working on those today rather than playing or crying or passing time being neurotic. The house needs to be cleaned, especially the guest bed where my mom's close friend and my "aunt" will be sleeping, which is in my room, meaning that I'll have no privacy tonight that would allow Brooke and I to conclude this argument so that tomorrow doesn't suck quite as much as it otherwise would.

So, I'll go shower and have a bowl of cereal. Maybe I'll escape so that I don't have to explain just yet why I'm running off to be by myself. Maybe I'll have to sit down and cry and spend an hour negotiating to plans for the day. Part of me wants to lie in bed and pretend that lying in bed will make everything go just right.

Oh yeah, and we're burying my mom tomorrow. Her body is in a box in a cooler. Tomorrow, it will be in a box in a concrete vault under six feet of dirt. I'll be twenty-five years and one day old.


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