Where did she go?

After my mother died

In the bed in my parents’ bedroom,

She stayed there for a few hours

Before two respectful men in

Dark suits

(One in a red ski jacket over his suit)

Took her away.

Wrapped her in a red cloth litter and

Carried her

Out the front door into the

Bright winter sunshine.

Later,

My six-year-old son ran into her room and,

Surprised by the flat, smooth bedspread,

Asked,

“Where did Grandma go?”

I sat down on the edge of the bed and

Repeated what we were saying, about

Dying–

Not sleeping.

Gone.

And the body gone now, too.

To get ready to be

Buried in the ground.

“Grandma’s dead,”

He said solemnly to visitors throughout the day,

And though I winced at his blunt delivery,

I was glad of no

Vagueness or

Euphemisms.

The days after she died were about

Her body

Being gone.

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

Lawfully,

Tactfully,

Appropriately.

Mom’s body, that is.

Mom’s mind?

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,

At work,

More than a week after the funeral,

The question popped into my mind:

“Where did she go?”

Her, I mean.

Her essence.

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

Better

Place.

With God.

In heaven.

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

Uncertainty.

I had never truly

Experienced

My agnosticism before.

I had only contemplated it.

Intellectually.

The body,

Even the mind,

Those departures were comprehensible.

The body

Shrunken and withered under the quilts

Over the last months.

The jaundiced waxy skin

Stretched, shining,

Over the narrow bones.

So that the white cardboard box of

Cremains,

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:

Babyhood into

Adulthood and

Back again.

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:

A parabola,

Like an arc of water,

Or a rainbow.

I can sit quietly with those images.

They comfort me.

But it’s that tricky

Soul,

God.

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┬áPandora,

So it was silent.

No music.

Just me watching my pregnant body

Move

In the mirrors.

And it occurred to me:

There was a way that I could have some

More

Peace

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

Slowly,

Perhaps,

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

Soul

Has entered me.

It’s that

Her love for me

Has helped clarify

My own soul.

She gives me myself,

Purer, and

Clearer.”

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.

Combined with

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

Corpse pose:

Savasana.

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