I wanted to call Linda. She was my Father’s nurse who continues to be my personal ‘Guardian Angel’. Her number was gone. All my contacts were gone, as were my pics and my calendar.
Earlier that day my seven year old downloaded a DinoDestroy SomethingOrOther game. The game involved avoiding death by veloceraptors and various firearms. It’s, in his words, ‘glitchy’. Apparently, the dinosaurs ate my inbox. After IT support from my author friend in Montana whilst she sat in a Greek restaurant gnoshing baklava, my phone was somewhat restored.
Everything came back…from September of last year. Pictures were hyper bright of the chemotherapy lab, Dad wearing my sunglasses because his eyes hurt.
The texts were with frantic family members as the gravity of his illness settled like a wet blanket over our lives. The calendar was full of appointments for specialists and tests, none of which were to cure only to prolong what we knew would be the inevitable.
I’ve done my best not to grieve. I’ve packaged the past and placed it on my emotional ‘do not fly’ list. Quite simply, my soul is too thin and would shred. Seems as though my iPhone, and maybe God, had other plans.
Thanks to the Dino disaster of my phone, I am now experiencing what I had no time (or the steel ovaries) to feel. I can’t live in the space of the 15 second sound bites I give to persons, “Doing well. Thanks for asking.”
It’s messy and requires many tissues, napkins and paper towels for these ugly cries. My chest implodes and breath leaves my body. Every annoyance attaches itself like sand on sweaty legs at the beach. I want booze, chocolate, sleep, church and mindless movies-often at the same time.
As suddenly as it comes, it goes. I wipe my eyes, steady my heart and keep on going. I can keep walking. I can keep hugging my kids breathing in the promise of goodness, laughter and sugar cookies. I can laugh at and with my husband about crunchy hair and moronic political pundits. I can blog.
Death ate the future I wanted with my Dad and too many others. “Glitch” the dinosaur ate my inbox.
I can eat this bitter fruit of grief and loss until I find the seed at the center. Then I can plant it, water it with tears, sit beside it and seek out the sun.
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?”
“Mom,” my funny-faced five-year old began, his voice low, so I knew it was serious, “why did you not work at Hallmark anymore?”
“I do not work at Hallmark anymore,” I replied, “because I got a better job at Goodwill.”
“You could work there four days,” he says, voice still low and looking me directly in the eye.
“No, dear one, I cannot,” I answer, curious where this is going, “I work enough during the day.”
“You should not have lefted, because then Pappy wouldn’t be sick.”
I recognize in his mind, he is sorting out the reasons why. He is fully concrete in his thinking. If I hit brother, then I will get in trouble. If I smile at Mommy she might give me some candy. It’s healthy, I tell myself, for him to sort out this new normal of terminal illness in his best pal, Pappy. Why then is it I who feel sick?
The fault could lie in any of a hundred places. With his family for giving him bum genes and a predisposition for lung disease. With him for smoking for 30 years. With his doctor for never giving him a chest x-ray as part of a physical. With my Mom for smoking with him. With me for not keeping an immaculate house where no dust would settle in lung tissues.
The truth is-there is no fault line. It is what it is.
How many times have we assigned fault to a situation and therefore exonerate ourselves from responsibility? The kid running around the restaurant, the dropout, the obnoxious child of your friend–all the fault of the parents. We don’t need to then smile at the child and encourage them to sit, to stay in school or give them a shoulder to cry on.
It is what it is, and I can choose to engage or detach. I can choose to smile at my sons, encourage my dad to eat and give my friends a shoulder to cry on. It is what it is, and I can choose to step over the fault line.