When I was a very little girl, I once had laryngitis. My Mom knew I was feverish and sick, and since my Dad was away on a business trip for a few nights, she carried me into her bed to watch over me. When I woke in the night, I found myself sleeping beside her and I tried to tell her I wasn't feeling well. But the words simply would not come out. Try as I might I could not utter a single word loud enough to rouse her from her sleep. Being so little, I was terrified I would never be able to speak again, and the more I lay there the more the fear of it gripped me. How would I ever be able to go on without being able to speak to her, or tell her what I needed, or thought, or felt, or wanted? Over and over again I mouthed the silent words "I love you ". And though its unlikely it was more then a few minutes, it felt like an eternity to my small soul. Eventually my Mother woke on her own and seeing me lying next to her trying to tell her I loved her so very desperately, she pulled me very close and whispered "I love you too", and then blissful sleep engulfed my still feverish body, and there, the memory ends.
My siblings and I buried our Mother this past weekend. She had been suffering the last few weeks in the hospital and all of us knew the end was near, though we were desperate to push it as far from us as possible. But there was no going back. Once the breath had gone, that awful disorientation gripped our hearts. What will the world now be like without our Mother? How will it be? Can it even be? Everything feels different, and strange, and sore. The instinct to curl up and sleep gets so strong.
And then wakes, and masses, and the blur of arrangements take hold and carries you along like a current on the ocean. Familiar faces reach out to catch your hand and steady you and push you into the next day, and the next, and the last. Black clothes and dusty photos make their way to the front of the room.
And the grief reveals us. Both to ourselves and to others. Relationships are laid bare- a daughter, a son, a cousin, a brother, a friend, a neighbor. Dreams and stories are spoken and shared and the meaning of my Mom's life begins to take shape to me. Not simply in my own life, and that of my siblings, but also in the other lives she touched. In who she was.
I just wrote was. Past tense. She was.
I have been itching to write for days. It is how I cope. This first wave of grief feels the hardest as my fingers and heart struggle to find the words. I know I cannot get it all on the page in one night, but I also have to begin. Don't mind too much if the pain spills out here for a while.
I began my prayers today and after speaking to sweet Jesus for a time, I tried to speak to my Mom. Strangely, I felt once more like a child who was feverish and sick and had laryngitis. I struggled to tell her I wasn't well and wound up saying 'I love you' repeatedly though no words came out, just tears.
I think she heard me.