Yesterday was brutal. It was our first day home after a two-week stint in the Deep South, where we were engulfed in parties and outings and family dinners and birthdays and present after present after present, then one more. We flew home Tuesday exhausted, satiated, and thankful, dropped all of our luggage onto the living room floor, then retreated to our corners to not talk for a while.
Yesterday was the day after. Unpacking all the bags, staring into the fridge and realizing there was not a single meal to left to eek out, making lists for the grocery store and Target. I was crawling through sludge with every step. All I wanted to do was sit on the couch and stare at a screen, but Christmas toys don’t organize themselves. So I pushed through. Mid-afternoon, I left the house alone to run our errands.
And while I roamed through Target and Home Goods, wondering if I needed six stackable cubes or eight, fourteen hundred miles away, my mother died.
Just like that. She was here, then she wasn’t. They say you sense these things, but I felt nothing. When I hugged her good-bye on Monday, nothing in my soul whispered to linger in the foyer a little longer. When she texted me a few hours before her death, there was no inner nudge to pick up the phone and call. In fact, I didn’t answer her text at all. I felt no exhale from the universe as I stood in the rubbermaid aisle while she took her last breath. No virtue left me the moment my mom’s soul slid from one reality to the next. I just kept slogging through my day, unaware that my life had just made a hairpin turn. Meanwhile, back in my hometown, I was losing my mom. Maybe there are some people in the world who sense these things, but I am not one of them.
Until last night, when my dad called, panicked. Had I heard from my mother? No, not since this morning. He hadn’t either, and he was worried sick. The rest of the night was marked by back-and-forth calls, leaving contact information with ER nurses, just in case, crashing into a dreamless sleep for three hours, then waking with a start to see if my dad had called with news.
It was mid-morning when they found her, when we knew for sure, but by then I’d already booked my ticket home. When she didn’t come home last night, I knew. Only, I couldn’t think about it yet. Because today is my daughter’s birthday.
And this is my life, this is the story I tell over and again. Birth and death, mothers and children, pain and love and grief and joy and the souls that imprint themselves on our own so deeply – It all gets mingled together. We found my mother’s body on the day my daughter turned five. I couldn’t begin to grieve or tell my children their grandmother was gone, until we first ate at my daughter’s favorite restaurant and waited for her to open her new Cabbage Patch doll. Joy and grief, peace and pain, all tangled into one.
And now it is night, and it is over. We’ve had the birthday, we’ve shared the news. My dad has made the calls, I’ve sent texts all day. This day is the door we just opened to all the others. It’s the threshold between the life we shared with my mom, and the life we’ll live without her. It’s incomprehensible to me, yet here we are. So I will leave room for all of it, for the birthday candles and the unanswered texts, the little girl who I love so much, and the grandmother she won’t remember. All of it is part of our story now. All of it is part of us. All of it is true.
Yesterday was brutal.