In the bed in my parents’ bedroom,
She stayed there for a few hours
Before two respectful men in
(One in a red ski jacket over his suit)
Took her away.
Wrapped her in a red cloth litter and
Out the front door into the
Bright winter sunshine.
My six-year-old son ran into her room and,
Surprised by the flat, smooth bedspread,
“Where did Grandma go?”
I sat down on the edge of the bed and
Repeated what we were saying, about
And the body gone now, too.
To get ready to be
Buried in the ground.
He said solemnly to visitors throughout the day,
And though I winced at his blunt delivery,
I was glad of no
The days after she died were about
Making the necessary decisions while eating
Pastries and drinking coffee at the dining room table,
Driving with my father to the necessary offices
So he could sign the necessary papers to
Retire the body
Mom’s body, that is.
Leeched away over the years by Alzheimer’s,
So for me,
It was not difficult to spend a week
Being pragmatic about the body.
But then yesterday,
More than a week after the funeral,
The question popped into my mind:
“Where did she go?”
Her, I mean.
Her, I guess, spirit.
The question felt innocent,
Like when my son asked it on the morning she died.
I didn’t feel uneasy,
Like I did at the funeral,
When earnest loved ones told me with feeling
That she is in a
I wasn’t completely sure I believed it,
But I wasn’t averse to the idea, either.
“Yes,” I murmured.
“I hope so.
That would be lovely.”
It surprised me to
Be surprised by my
I had never truly
My agnosticism before.
I had only contemplated it.
Even the mind,
Those departures were comprehensible.
Shrunken and withered under the quilts
Over the last months.
The jaundiced waxy skin
Over the narrow bones.
So that the white cardboard box of
The size and heft of a shoebox filled with sand,
Seemed like just another step in the progressive
Shrinking of the body.
She grew from a tiny baby
To a woman,
Then shrank back down again to a
Box of ashes
A tiny baby could fit into.
Her mind’s development and
Decline also flowed back and forth
Along the continuum:
Until the last reflex to go,
The swallow reflex,
Developed by a fetus in the womb,
Finally failed her.
The continuum of her
Mental and physical
Development and decline
Was so neat and tidy:
Like an arc of water,
Or a rainbow.
I can sit quietly with those images.
They comfort me.
But it’s that tricky
Where did it go?
I can only relate this experience that I had
About five days after she died,
After the services were over and the
Flowers were packed into the back of our truck along with
Leftover cheese and buns and fruit salad from the funeral.
I was doing yoga alone in a
Dimmed, empty exercise studio at the Y.
My iPhone wasn’t getting enough bars to play Pandora,
So it was silent.
Just me watching my pregnant body
In the mirrors.
And it occurred to me:
There was a way that I could have some
In my life.
And that was by
Being as compassionate to myself
As my mother would be to me.
It would take moving a little more
Through my days.
Breathing a little more deeply.
No big changes,
Just some slowing down,
Some small adjustments.
And then I thought,
“It’s not that her
Has entered me.
Her love for me
Has helped clarify
My own soul.
She gives me myself,
I didn’t feel like I
Necessarily needed one,
But an image of
Where her soul went,
Or what it looks like now,
Came to me.
It’s a point of light.
Countless other points of light,
But infinitesimally small.
“Maybe that’s heaven.
I wouldn’t know,
And that’s okay,”
I thought as I lay down
At the end of my yoga practice
In my own