Yesterday marked two months since my mom’s death. The vastness that stretches between that day and this one is insurmountable and impossible to articulate. It is a space too large to be filled with my sadness, with the shattered bits of my broken heart and the broken hearts of my sisters. Going for two days without talking to my mom was unheard of for twenty-nine years. Going for two months seems ludicrous. Going for the rest of my life seems senseless and unimaginable. My sisters and I spent the evening together yesterday, perhaps hoping that the warmth of being near each other would somehow lessen the substantiality of our loss. Everything we do in this existence feels flat and meaningless. This world without our mom is such a hollow place. Our feckless attempts at imbuing our existence with at least some sense of normalcy are almost invariably empty. Even our happiest moments in the past two months have been glazed with sadness, experienced through the abstruse sense of being in the deep end of the pool, unable to emerge for a breath of air.
At work, I am normal. No one questions that I am “fine”. With my friends, I am normal. Nobody asks about my mom or my sisters or me. Few people want to give this loss much more thought. It alienates them, makes them feel ineffective and mortal and uncertain of their own place in the universe. What person who is not yet even thirty years old loses their mom? Plenty of people. But who in your immediate circle of colleagues and friends? Few. While we are hardly an exception to a rule, still my sisters and I must navigate territory where people are distressed and uncomfortable at our reality. It is not their reality. Yet they feel entitled to be uncomfortable, and they express that entitlement through not battling that discomfort to meet us where we are in our own reality. Loss is a part of life. Some of experience it more often and earlier than others. But it is there, waiting to ambush all of us. It lurks around the corner and waits until we are least prepared before it decides to pounce. This is not to say that we should live our lives in anticipation of loss. On the contrary, the healthiest thing we can do is live as if loss has never even remotely touched us. Love audaciously and deliberately. Be honest and forgiving and open. Accept change and be kind as if your life was at stake.
Of course I am okay. We are all okay. My mom always promised me that I would be okay. Every time I called her sobbing in the middle of the night, she assured me that my tears were understandable but that my heart would heal. When I wrote her long and convoluted emails expressing all the feelings I couldn’t help but feel to the very depths of my delicate soul, she responded in kind and told me of how the world was a terrifying place but that I could survive it. When I showed up at her house and unwittingly eclipsed whatever she may have been experiencing or feeling with my own discursive experience, she patiently let me ramble as much as I needed to. She let me be myself and accepted me as such. She never instilled in me a false sense of belonging in or contentment with the world, nor did she overwhelm me with her own misgivings about this life. Flawed though she may have been, she towed the line between realism and bitter resignation with remarkable poise and I couldn’t possibly thank her enough for that. But she’s gone. That is the beating drum to which I return always, no matter what great or terrible thing is monopolizing my reality. She is gone. My mom is gone. Our mom is gone. My mom is gone. She is not coming back no matter how hard I worry or how desperately I wish this were not the case or how many tears I shed or how many nights I go without sleep or how many meals I skip or how diligently I avoid alcohol and other “substance” or how honest I am or how much I isolate myself.
Regardless of any action or inaction on my part, my mom will always have been dead as of July 12, 2013. We are often fooled into believing that our lives are on this continuum, like one of those moving walkways in the airport. Everybody is on the walkway with us and we will all get to the end safely together. But nothing could be further from the truth. We are on a perpetually forward-moving track, yes. But moving forward does not preclude losing components of yourself that you always counted as an imperative part of moving forward. It is a strange reality, but it is now our reality. I hope you have not yet lost your mother. And I hope you call or email or write or hug her right now in this moment. Or all of the above if you can swing it.