I watched you standing there mere inches from your mother’s casket. Waiting my turn, I sat making small talk with the lady next to me. My hands shook in my lap, clasping and unclasping in a vain attempt at calm. I remember standing next to my own mother’s casket, not too long ago.
I watched you greet people connecting to them in their grief. Already you have mastered burying your own tears in service to keep things moving. After the 20th person shared with me the life my mother had without me, I buried my own.
I watched you check on your sister and brother, looking around your husband to care for them. At once you have stepped into this role of first daughter, now the mother figure. Soon, like me, you’ll host holidays using her china, setting the table the way she did. Our china is blue and the jello salad is always green.
Your shoulders slumped when you looked at your dad. He too was doing the best he could, stopping often to touch her arm or to shake his head in disbelief. You know, as I do, he is yours now. Yours to worry about and yours to care for.
Dear Dani, if I had more than a minute to walk through the receiving line swollen by friends from a life well lived, I would have said so much more.
I would have told you not to worry how your young daughter would remember how great she was. She will know because you will tell her. She will know because in you, she will experience the love your mother so freely shared.
I would have told you to brace yourself for the wave. The wave of grief which, at the smell of a fabric softener, the cut of someone’s hair or a song, will wash over you in a tsunami of grief. Some days, the wave is banished with a breath, others it will not be so easy.
I would tell you not to ask why her and why now. The answers won’t resurrect her life, only weigh yours down.
I would tell you to forgive every fault she had and embrace every gift she was.
I would tell you so much.
As for now, dear Dani, know you are not alone. He is near the brokenhearted, He promised. From that terrible day until the day someone else stands by another casket, know you are not alone.
As my friend Beth said to me, through our tears as I shared my own mother’s passing, “Dear Dani, I can’t make things easier but is it enough to know I would if I could?”