My dad called tonight.
I was doing what every respectable woman dreams of doing on a Friday night after a full work week — cleaning up the kitchen. I was actually standing at the sink staring at the fresh dish cloth I’d just pulled out of the drawer. My mom made it. She would sometimes hand me little piles of them on my way out her door.
“Here, take these home with you. I don’t know why I make so many. I’ll never use them all,” she’d say, as she turned to pack the rest away, creating a small whoosh that smelled like fabric softener and mom love.
And I would take them home and use them sparingly, always knowing that, one day, the dish cloth train would grind to a halt.
His call snapped me out of my dish cloth stupor.
We talked about our day. His was full of visits and coffees and waiting for me to fill him in on our latest battle with his health benefits provider. No, the neighbours didn’t host happy hour today, he said. Yes, he was sleeping better.
And then out of the blue: “I sure miss your mom. I think of her so many times a day, every single day, and I think I always will.”
“I do too. It’s hard. I was just standing here looking at one of her dish cloths, I said. “I was picturing her sitting there with the yarn in her lap, watching Jeopardy.”
And then we agreed that grief and love are like conjoined twins. You don’t get one without the other. And we agreed that it’s a cruel reality that the world slows down for no one and nothing. Not for loss, or love, or triumphs or failures. We’re all wonderfully and perilously adrift in the rushing current of a life that “must go on.”
Only after I hung up from him did I realize that she’s been gone six months today. Half a year without her already. That hit hard.
I will remember the second she died for as long as I live. In fact I’ve wondered many times if it’s possible to — in the midst of your own awe and honour at being present in that moment — to have also been traumatized by it. It’s the sound of dying mostly. I can’t unhear the sound of her birthing into death.
I heard it again, unexpectedly, a few weeks ago on a sunny morning sitting next to the shore of Colpoys Bay. The way the water lapped and gurgled around the ancient, lichen-covered boulders on the shoreline dragged me right back to that moment.
I wonder often how it must have been for her. Did she hear the tiny crackling noises deep inside of her that I imagine she did? Sort of like the sound you hear when you pull a bandaid off slowly; the tearing of a million tiny threads as her soul shook loose from the body that had housed it for 78 years. Did she look back at us, the cheerleading squad huddled around her, as she left – pulled along toward the heavens by that mysterious silver cord? Did she see her whole life flash before her eyes — just like they say in the movies — but so fast that she could hardly follow?
Did she view, in reverse, the few days full of love and friends and family before she died, moving back then through our lives as children, her marriage to my dad, her work, her parents and siblings, high school, elementary school, her childhood, her own infancy. Did she slip backwards through each moment, each thought, emotion, every spoken word? Did she see it all – a blur of rushing images?
On the evening of the day she made the decision to surrender — the Tuesday before she died — all her visitors had gone and she was tucked into bed for the night. I had a few minutes alone with her and we talked about her belief in God and how she just knew that, despite everything, there is so much beauty in the world that God had to have made it.
I’ve thought of that conversation often — she wasn’t a church-goer and not particularly religious, but her conviction and faith were strong enough that even I felt some comfort.
“I feel really wonderful right now,” she said. “I have a different breath in me today than I have ever had. It’s so relaxing. I’m letting go. I can feel it.”
And that’s exactly what she did. She simply let go into it — the way a sailboat leans into a gust of wind and is briskly carried across the water’s surface. She moved toward The Next with faith and, I think, feeling that she’d done the best she could with what she’d been given. And, as I come to a new understanding of the depths of her, I think that’s true.
These days, I’m still full of grief. And hope. And, I have this feeling that all of it was intended to teach me important things that I’ll need to know one day for the end of my own life’s journey. And maybe a few that I can apply now. I know this is just one of those shitty things life gives you that you have to keep facing in order to move onward and outward. That’s just how the magical science of the heart works.
And, she says it’s the price of admission to a meaningful life.