So. I’m not good at grief. No one is, right? I know that. And no one wants to be good at it, because no one wants to experience it.
The thing is…I sort of feel like I had practice, and I’m still such a jumbled mess of thoughts and feelings, I can’t process anything. I lost my mom three weeks ago today. But I lost my mom almost six years ago in December, too. She was healthy one day, and the next she woke up with some mysterious infection that ravaged her body for the next two months. She recovered, but in the aftermath of that horrible illness, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
So, we lost a little bit of her every day over the last six years. I don’t want to talk about those six years, because they were so painful for all of us. For Mom. And especially for Dad. In May of 2019, we found a safe place for Mom to live, a memory care facility. I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, but I was dumb enough or gullible enough, maybe, to think that once we got her settled there, that we would have time. Time to be with her. Really be with her. Well, we did, but by that time, my mom—that wonderful, bigger than life woman some of you knew—was already gone. Alzheimer’s Disease is NOT just about memory loss. It changes people, and it is an ugly, horrible disease.
And then came Covid, and the world shut down. And I didn’t see her other than 2 Facetime visits from March 8th through September. In September, we got to do a couple of window visits. And then one in-person visit outside. And 2 weeks later, she was on hospice.
I sort of got used to being away from her. Like, when I travel with JB, years ago, I would call home and talk to Mom. I would tell her what we were doing or where we had dinner the night before. Or if I was feeling lonely or sad, I would call her just to hear her voice. If I didn’t feel good, I would call her because talking to her made me feel better. I haven’t been able to call and talk to my mom from anywhere for the past few years. When JB and I were in Oakland in 2019 and someone broke into our rental car and took all of our electronics (including 17 chapters of work I hadn’t backed up) I couldn’t call my mom and cry to her. Sure, I called my dad the next morning, and he was worried, and he talked me down, and I’m thankful to have such a wonderful dad. But I wanted my mom.
I sort of got used to Mom not being here to do the big days. The holidays. My book release parties. The picnics and parties and reunions she put together. I mean, I’m blessed, and I love my family—my dad, my husband, my kids. My aunts and uncles. Cousins. Inlaws. No shortage of family and friends in my life, and they’ve all been supportive, and we’ve all stayed busy, and Mom was at my daughter’s college graduation and my son’s high school graduation and the 25th wedding anniversary party our kids surprised us with.
All summer during the Covid lockdown, Dad has been with us. It’s actually been a blessing—don’t tell 2020 I said so—having Dad here and the kids home. We’ve shared the dinner table all summer. Played some games. Tasted some wine and whiskey. And reminisced. The empty chair at the table was hard to take, but over time, we got used to talking about Mom, remembering Mom, and not seeing Mom.
Except not really.
If I’m going to be honest, I have to admit I was scared to see Mom. It’s hard to look at a person who still looks so very much like the person you loved so fiercely all through your life and know her heart is still in there, maybe even all of her memories are locked inside where she can’t access them, but she can’t talk to you like she used to. That last night with her? I was terrified. As an only child, it was me and my dad there with her. He slept a bit. I didn’t. I was scared to go to sleep, afraid she would stop breathing.
And eventually, she did.
But now that I’m on this side of that night, I would give anything, absolutely anything to go back and do it again. To sit by her side. To watch her sleep. To talk to her. Hold her hand. Tell her again that I love her. I would go through the day of losing her again. I would go through the funeral preparations and the service itself. Everything. If it meant I could hold her hand again and make sure she knew how loved she will always be.
I don’t know how to grieve. I’ve lost grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. Even my dog. And it all hurt. It all made me sad. But this is different. I spent a lot of time grieving for Mom last year, once she was safe in memory care. In fact, not long before Mom died, I posted on my Facebook page that 2019 had been a much harder year for me personally than 2020. Lots of days I just broke down and sobbed my heart out for what I thought at the time was no apparent reason. JB and I traveled all over the country last year, until I was completely exhausted and broken. Nothing crying and sleeping a few days straight didn’t fix. For a while.
I do feel comforted by the knowledge that she’s at peace. I really do. I was born and raised Catholic, and I have never questioned my faith or my religion, but I have never leaned into that faith the way I do now. I believe with all my heart that she’s okay now. She’s happy and whole. I’ve dreamt about her some since she passed, and there are mornings I wake feeling like she’s with me, like she’s been watching over me.
You guys know me; I’ve been mulling this over the past three weeks. Trying to make sense of what I feel. To accept it. Missing her. Missing the life she gave me, the safety and comfort I always found with her.
I write. It’s what I do. I’m processing the last few weeks and wondering how I can channel all of these feelings into something worth reading. Because doing that will help me grieve. I’ve got so many things I want to write, so many ideas and so many thoughts of what I want to do next. I plotted a whole book a few nights ago. But when I sit down and stare at the blank page, I am so overwhelmed I can’t.
Hang in there with me. If you’re local, come back to the parties next year. If you’re not, if you’ve just stumbled on these crazy ramblings, try one of my books. Start with a little slice of fiction here on my site. Visit my Facebook page.