I don’t like “celebrating” or “commemorating” a person’s death. I’d rather celebrate their life. Having said that, a year ago today, my mother’s body was found after she’d been missing for over a month. Needless to say, my thoughts are veering today in the direction of family that I have loved and lost.
My grandmother died when I was 15 years old. The funeral was held on my birthday. My mother took it HARD. “Hard” meaning that she would spend the next 34 years not allowing anyone else to love her.
I know this because the day that my sister Traci died, Mom declared to a room full of people–with my sister’s body still warm upstairs and me standing next to her–that her mother “is the only one in this world who really loved me!”. No one else in the room reacted, probably chalking the statement up to grief and the heat of the moment. I, on the other hand, immediately marched out of the house to keep myself from responding in the heat of the moment. Tragedy was like wine to my mother; it gave her the excuse to say hurtful, inappropriate things and get away with it.
I eventually did go back into the house, where I took over the entire funeral process, from the collection of the body to the placing of the headstone, all with my mother leading the Criticism Brigade.
You’re welcome, Mom.
It was Mom who’d frequently said to me, “When you lose your mother, when you lower that woman into the ground, you’ve lost somebody.” It was the only thing that I believed straight out of her mouth, because she said it with the vocal authority of a preacher. When Steve Harvey talks about the death of his mother, he has the exact same facial expression and vocal authority that Mom used to have. I knew that her pain was real.
If I were to be honest, Traci’s death actually hit me harder, because it was unexpected. I’d talked to her on the phone the night before (Christmas Night), and we were good. I was planning to suprise her with a visit the next day. Getting the call that morning that she was “gone”….that still takes the air out of my lungs. She was the youngest of the three of us. She was NOT supposed to be dead.
Whew…..let’s keep it moving….
Mom’s words have been stuck in my head since 2012, when it was clear to me that Alzheimer’s would be the cause of her death. In her case, I tried to prepare myself for the inevitable. I researched symptoms and the stages of progression. Every time I listened to her mind slip further and further away, I prayed that God would turn my spine to steel. I even tried to picture her in the final stages of the disease, where she would have been bedridden, unable to speak, and uncharacteristically helpless.
I wasn’t ready, because nobody told me that Life–and Death–was going to kick me this hard in the teeth.
Nobody told me that I would bury my entire family in the span of 7 years.
Nobody told me that my baby sister–the first child that I ever raised–would die suddenly in her sleep.
Nobody told me that my mother would wander away from her home and never come back alive.
Nobody told me that Mom’s death would not silence her voice in my head or resolve the issues that we had after Traci died.
Nobody told me that I would spend much of my day fussing out loud at Traci, my mother, and God.
I know…it’s all part of the grieving process.
I know…I’m not the only one who has buried her only parent and sibling. I have two cousins who have done the same thing. We don’t talk to each other.
Yes, I know that this, too, will pass.
It’s the day-to-day roller coaster of emotions that sometimes feel too heavy to deal with. At this point, my backbone must be made of vibranium, because in spite of the war going on in my head, I’m still here.
Still here. Still happy–most days. Still taking things one day at a time. And still looking forward to what’s coming next.