Every now and then some spirit of orderliness descends upon me and I tear up some corner or cranny of our house to take an inventory and reorganize it. Today the boxes of old notes and new stationary lured me in so I pulled them out from under my bed to sort.
Before long I found myself scanning through the cards and letters for her familiar marks. My mom used a heart to end exclamation points and she mixed in cursive with her rounded print. She didn’t write a ton so what I have is essentially unicorn hair.
The truth is some part of me is always searching for her and when I find her – in a greeting card or a stray butterfly – I am struck with joy, desperation, and a heavy weighted gratitude.
Because I got notes like the ones I keep in my box.
Because she made it a priority to come see me and my kids every few months (at most) and be at every birth to help me recover.
Because she laughed at my jokes and cried at my writing and did her signature “ugh” at me for messing up her mascara.
Because when I struggled with fear she listened to me spiral with the vital balance of non-judgement and non-indulgence, her ear bent kindly toward me and her only words gently firm reminders that I was more okay than I believed.
Because we wore the same shoe size and had the same taste in purses.
Because even when outside forces tried to threaten it, she stayed on my side and protected our relationship; I saw her fight on my behalf my whole life.
Because when I see her in my kids it makes me deeply happy; even happier when I see her in myself.
Because before my mom died I knew I was lucky and I told her often how grateful I was, while I could, before I knew that our time together as adults would be so short. I got it in. I got to tell her. Not everybody does.
“Not everybody” a lot of things…
It still aches. She left in the middle of a conversation. There is a spot on the couch she is supposed to fill and coffee mugs that don’t look the same without her lipstick mark. We’re supposed to meet her at the airport soon, right? And smell her coconut body spray while she snuggles grandkids?
I hold tight onto hope that she can still see the fruit of her love-filled life, but she should be here. Should. It’s wrong that she isn’t. There is an infinite amount of what would have been and only a finite amount of what was. That is death: a thief of tomorrow, a plunderer of potential. There are a million texts of cute babies and inside jokes I’ll never send. It’s not okay. I will never get over the fact that she’s gone from here.
But I can’t ignore that even in death, the best of what she gave me is still warm and nourishing. She left me with more than mere kindling for a fire I couldn’t put out if I wanted to. I’ve tested it and it’s stubborn. Like her. I’ve inherited a confidence in the goodness of things.
Simply, I was right spoiled with good love. My momma wasn’t perfect – we weren’t perfect – of course there are things I wish I’d said/done/thought about differently. Of course there is a running list under “wish I would have” and a still longer list of things I want to ask her or show her now, two years since we’ve spoken. Of course. Take that for granted when you meet someone in grief.
What I cannot take for granted is that my momma and I were good and that makes my grief good. Heavy, painful, even scary, but good. Sometimes I feel angry or bitter, sometimes mourning is melancholic, but it hurts this bad and in this way because I was loved this well. And because of that, I got to love her back – imperfectly, but wholly. She taught me how to show up by showing up herself. There is nothing more important to give your kid and I got it.
A gift like that is sacred. It’s the very bones of Good.
So I’ll keep hoping that somehow she can see the drawing our girl made and hear the kind words our fiesty one uses with his baby brother. I’ll keep hurting and laughing and hoping my love can still reach her. I will cry and get mad at the absurdity of her death. I’ll shake and stagger when the re-realizations that she isn’t here smack against my awareness. But even in the reeling I will not forget that this, too, is part of the heritage: the suffering part of the gift. My heart aches because it knows depths of love and won’t be content with less. It will hold me accountable to it as I keep grieving good.