I see my mother in myself when I least expect to see her. I see her in my hands, my wrists and elbows, and I see her in the tops of my feet. I see her in myself when I reach for certain things, like a glass or a cup, and silverware. I handle bowls the same way she did, and I catch myself at odd times with the same look on my face.
My mother passed away just two weeks ago tomorrow, on February 5th, at 3:10 p.m. I was holding one of her hands and my close friend, Laurie, was holding her other hand as she took her last breath. I could not do that alone. She died a peaceful death, with Hospice in attendance, and there was no struggle.
I thought since she died so peacefully it would be easy for me to let go. After all, she was 95. I had to ask myself just how long I expected her to live so I could get used to not having her here anymore. And the answer, I see now, is forever. No matter when she would have died, I would not have been ready. I am slowly learning how to live without my mother. I had no idea how hard this would be. It feels like a kick in the stomach.
So now I find myself looking for her. The way I turn a magazine page, or chop up an onion, or brown meat in a skillet. I see her in my hands and arms as I hold the steering wheel of the car. Today at the grocery store I pulled into a parking space and there was an open space ahead of me, and I could hear her tell me, “You can pull ahead and park there, and you wouldn’t have to back up when you leave.” And of course I pulled ahead. I smiled and told her, “Thank you,” before going into the store.
With every grocery list I write, or every thank you note, every card I read, I know she’s right there with me, and possibly this is the way it’s supposed to be. I really don’t know, having not been this close to death in many years. I’ve soldiered through the condolence cards, & had her obituary written and to the proper places right away, in time for Sunday papers in two different cities. I’ve made plans to carry my mother’s ashes home to Pensacola, Florida in June with family attending a burial there at the beautiful Bayview Memorial Park on the Scenic Highway, and am trying to decide what to send along with her. They tell me we can put anything we want into the grave with her urn. I am thinking of tying up several cards and one letter that she saved for the last year ~ cards & a letter from family members she loved. And I want to include the Valentine I gave her last year when I wrote on the card, “I will love you beyond forever.” And I know now that those words were truer than even I knew at the time. I think I will use a soft pink ribbon to tie up these cards and notes.
My daughter tells me she and her little boy, my mother’s great grandson, will collect some rocks to send along with Mama Parks. She’d like that, I know. She’ll love that we are there with her. And for a family living miles apart, this is the last best thing we can do for her. I do wonder, though, if I will see myself later, standing at this grave. I can’t imagine this being something I will soon forget.