One month and one day ago, on June 5, 2017, my mom passed away.
It’s weird, but in hindsight, leading up to her departure, I think I knew it was coming.
The last time I saw her was on Mother’s Day. We had a fun time, but she would get a little snarly when we started poking at her about what she wanted, down the line, for Christmas. When J and I left to head back home at the end of the day, our hug was a little longer and a little tighter than normal. After that, in the couple of weeks that followed, I’d find myself humming “You Are My Sunshine” and realize I was thinking about her. And then, after a mad dash to the hospital in the very early morn of June 5 (a Monday), she was gone.
She knew it was coming too. She’s wise like that. For a few years, she prepared us for it. She’d talk about it, talk about how she wasn’t scared of it. She’d give me, in bits and pieces throughout various visits, the special things from her jewelry box so that she’d know where they’d gone. She always told us to absolutely not be sad when she went, but to throw a party instead. She knew, and even though it was upsetting at the time to talk about those kinds of things, her knowing and talking helped a lot after it finally came to pass.
It’s been a hard month and a day, although the usual passages of time help to soften the rough edges of the pain of missing her. The jolts aren’t so difficult now – the jolts of seeing something she would like, thinking, “I need to tell her about this!” then realizing I can’t, at least not in a normal way – and I cry less frequently. There will always be a hole there though, for the person that I’d known the longest, for my entire life. (1st only before dad, who was parking the car when I impatiently leapt my way into the world.)
It was always like that, wanting to tell her things. When I was very little, stroller age, I would see or experience something and always look up or back at her to make sure she was seeing or experiencing it too. She would sit with me and say, “Susan, let’s talk about things we know.” My whole life. And we always did.
We’d sing songs, too. “You Are My Sunshine,” always, but “Hey Hey, Good Lookin’” was a permanent favorite. We’d split the lines and words up, you see, and sing them back and forth to each other. She forever let me sing the last syllable of “recipe” at the end of that first verse. Why? Because of my childish delight at loudly singing out, “PEEEEEE!!!” and getting away with it. When we set her ashes free, that was my eulogy to her, that song. I sang it out, the way we always used to, including the “PEEEEE.”
There are so many memories and stories I could write here – and which I will write – about good times, a few rough, always loving…about the best mom in the world.
Right now, though, it’s time to keep lifting the ol’ head up. As sad as it has been for us to lose her, there is also a sense of relief that she’s free from everything physical that she was enduring. I know, as surely as I have ever known anything, that she is somewhere perfectly amazing. That she’s running, that she’s with her horses and her favorite animals (even Toby!) and her other loved ones. And that I’ll get to catch up to her again someday.
I am no longer afraid of aging, something that has been creeping up on me since I turned 40 last year. I’m no longer afraid because, the older I get, the more I look like her. We used to always find fascination with looking at each other’s eyes close up. Like, we’d get right up in each other’s faces and peer at each other, eyeball right up to eyeball. Now, I can do that in a mirror, and it’s like looking right into her eye again.
I do that at least once a day.
I’m also no longer afraid of dying. Because I figure, if she can handle it, then someday (a LONG time from now), I’ll be able to handle it too.
Enough moping. Like I said, she very much didn’t want us to wallow in sadness. She wanted levity, and celebration. So I will close this post with some neat things.
The first is the tale of seeing her a couple of weeks ago, in a dream. It happened like this, and this is exactly how I wrote it when I told dad:
I have a better story than that from my dream last night, and I have to share it with you because it was kind of a Big Deal. So I was journeying around in outer space, on this planet made entirely of lava rock. The planet was flat, and you could go right up to the edge of it or peer through holes in the ground, and see nothing but space and stars. I was kind of getting vertigo-y and worried I was going to fall off. THEN I came to this bridge made out of the lava. It was barely wider than me, and I had to get across it. Really started panicking about it – and decided that I would get down on the ground and kind of crawl my way across. When I made it to the other side, there was mom. And she said to me: “Hey kid – when you feel like you’re not going to make it, just look down and take one step at a time.” Clear as day and real as anything. And profound as hell. I’m feeling really good today for the first time since she left – because she is out there somewhere cool and still looking after us and finally proved it to me. 🙂
I woke up the next morning feeling better than I’d felt since she departed. And I’ve been feeling pretty solid ever since.
Next, to close, here are two of my favorite moments from our era together here in Louisiana:
I love you, mom. Always will.