In about a week, I will be in Mississippi at my mom’s house facing the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I will have to face the fact that she is gone. I am going to fulfill my promise to her that I will sort through her belongings after her death, distributing her estate among the family. I will do it bravely and with as much grace as I can muster, but it will break my heart a thousand times over. There is no denying that truth.
I’m dreading it, but I have to do it. I’m honored that she chose me to do this delicate task for her. In a way, it is my way of being there for her since I could not be there by her side in her last weeks of life. Before I even left the hospital after giving birth, I started to mentally review and sort through her belongings in my mind. I have done this every day since. I guess I think that doing so will somehow make it easier for me to accomplish the task. I simply don’t know what else I can do to prepare myself for it. I just do the best I can. I must.
Death is just so hard for me to comprehend, especially in this case because I never attended her memorial, nor did I attend the burial to say my good-byes. I did not get to hold her hand in the coffin and tell her how much I love her and that I always, always will. I never got to see her laying there, feeling so close yet never further away than at that very moment in her death. I never got to see with my own eyes that she unequivocally, undeniably is no longer among us and had since departed from the body before me.
I never got to say good-bye to the woman who raised me. I never got to thank her for all the times she comforted me in her arms as a child, for all of the encouragement in the later years, to apologize for any differences, and to thank her for bringing me into this world and loving me. Yet there is no number I can call, no place I can go to, no letter I can mail to ever say these words to her now. It is so unsettling to me that someone who was so woven into the fabric of my own life and her community can simply vanish from existence. It is almost like footprints in the sand, footprints which are eventually washed away by the incoming tide. Only those who walked along side them are aware that they were ever even there. It seems to me that the footprints of life, after death, continue to live on in the memories of those blessed enough to witness them.
She never even got to hold my son. This beautiful, precious baby boy born only days after her passing that she so anxiously awaited for. She was my mom, but she was also his granny, and his granny is gone. How I would have loved for him to know her. I will have to do my best to pass on the legacy of her love for him through stories and pictures. I will not let him grow up without feeling completely loved by her, his granny that he never met.
Mourning is never easy, but I never would have guessed just how hard the process can be, especially when you do it alone. Those who loved her got to see her alive for the last time, and they got to have closure at her memorial and funeral. They did so together, as a family, while I did not. I could not, no matter how badly I wanted to. My pregnancy and upcoming birth prevented me from it. I am afraid that while I am down there among my family, I will feel pressured to put aside enough emotions to at least appear to be at the same step in the mourning process as them. It will be a painful reminder of the closure I lack. Very few people are patient with those in extended mourning- however valid their reasons may be- and I do not feel that this will be an exception. Almost all of them are at peace with her passing, I am not. So I am light-years behind them in the mourning process, and in being so, I feel utterly alone with my grief. It makes it that much harder.
I am trying to prepare myself for going into her home, surrounded my the familiar sights and smells of my mother. This home is the place she fought the battle of her life for the past 7 years alongside the man who helped her through it all. The sum of her life’s belongings still rest there, as if any moment she will walk through the door with one of her witty remarks, sheepishly toting in a few shopping bags of gifts she probably bought for others. On her bathroom counter will be all of her perfumes and make-up just as she left it. Her pillow will still have her scent, and I no doubt will find myself hugging it, seeking whatever trace of comfort I find in it while burning the scent into my memory so I can hold onto it forever.
Her closet will probably have a wild, rowdy new outfit or two that she was saving for a special day sometime in the near future. This will bring a smile to my face as I recall her vow to never be one of those “white-haired” grandmothers in a two-piece elastic waistband set bought from the back of some obscure mail-order coupon package. I will make myself count the number of animal prints, red and black leather things, and bejeweled tops and jeans in her closet so I can give her my final verdict on the “trendy granny fashion scale.” My guess is that she’ll score a perfect 10, or very close to it, and it will please her mightily wherever she may be.