I made eggs today. I woke up before the kids did (only by a few minutes, but still) and when two of the three were up and hungry I said, “Do you want eggs?” which surprised me a little and made me smile.
A month and a half ago I thought I might be dying. I went to the emergency room because the pain in my chest was only getting worse after two and a half weeks of trying to convince myself it was just stress. I felt foggy and dizzy, I didn’t trust myself to drive and for good portions of the day I couldn’t mother in any active sense of the word. I was scared the kids would be left without their mom – and so young. This sounds very dramatic, but yes it is because my mind is both callously rational and tends toward spiraling.
So I went in. And they ran all the tests and they checked the blood and they gave me stickers for the EKG which reminded me of the stickers she got all over her head – the ones she thought were so much fun and let the kids investigate with giggles. And they told me what I knew deep down was true: my heart wasn’t failing, it was just broken. The psych attendant said sweetly that she felt similar phenomena when she lost her grandmother and “I can only imagine,” was her precious bestowing. That and the Ativan.
After the visit I felt like I was waking up a bit more every week. I spent less time in bed and more time present with the kids.There is probably no better way to honor my mother than to live well and love hard and I get that, but if I’m honest, I don’t like it.
I am grateful that I can function. Obviously. I’m glad to be able to take care of my babies and be available to my friends. But part of me doesn’t want life to move forward. It may sound strange, but the pain is a comfort of sorts, a reminder of how ruined I am by Good Love and how much of a hole she left – how missed she is, how the world is less safe and less lovely without her. I can’t really imagine her now: I don’t know what happens when we die so I write her letters in journals and pray in front of her photo because I can’t call her or text her or get on a plane for a visit. The ache, though when constant takes a lot from me and my babies deserve more than what I can scrape up from the bottom of my personality, feels right now like my only tangible connection to her. She is gone and I have no assurance she can hear me, but the pain is proof that she exists somewhere. Even if it’s only in my depressing heart-hole.
When she was going we told her not to worry about us, that we’d be okay. I could only say it honestly because of her. She told me all my life not to worry. “Look at the birds,” she’d say or “ugh” in this specific tone (she had a lot of versions of “ugh”). The first days of my mothering are smothered in her gentle scoffs at my insecurities. She shooed away darkness like it was nothing but a silly distraction from the Glorious Work in front of me. Now, in front of me, is the work of living without her and I can hear the scoffs faintly, not quite loud enough. Because of her love, I still think we’ll be okay, but I wish she was here to say it. It sounds more true in her voice.
Part of the work is reconciling with the God she gave me, like a gift, presented eagerly and with only good intentions. I’ve wrestled with it and doubted everything, and I feel intellectually comfortable with the idea that God is still Good, but my heart is not there yet. On Sunday I went to a church service and I had to stop singing again (always with the songs!) because “When you walk into the room, sickness starts to vanish, every hopeless situation ceases to exist. And when you walk into the room, the dead begin to rise” was everything we begged for, everything she believed for and we didn’t get to see it. I hope we will yet, but it doesn’t comfort much for now.
So I sort of passed this note to God under the table: Okay, I’m almost sure you have some sort of big picture redemption going on here, but please understand I can’t look at you right now. XOXO
I am writing this on the mark of four months without her and it seems an offensively short amount of time, but it also seems so long now. I still wake up and have to remember that she is gone and part of me would like to just skip all the holidays this year, but it probably wouldn’t help. She won’t be there for Christmas, but her presence is just as missed on every other day – when I need to call her and ask what I’m supposed to do with this kid who is way too much like me, when we would have been hanging out in our kitchens or living rooms, caring for littles and talking about weekend plans, when it’s been a couple months and I know we’re due for a visit and my muscle memory is to check on a flight. At the start and end and in between of every day, my mother and friend has died and I am still learning how to live with that. Which seems impossible and dumb. Very dumb.
So if I can pass another note, in bold, pressed down letters, I scribble out clear so she can see: These kids, Mom. Gosh. R is taking after you. E is fire. L is so sweet he’s going to give us all cavities. But you know all that, right? I hope you can see them. And me. Because I made eggs this morning. And I think you’re right: we’re going to be okay, even if I don’t want to be quite yet.