A few things I’ve learned in the year since my mother died

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The anniversary of Mom’s death is Wednesday

But I have the day off today,

So I went down to the cemetery.

I always feel the urge to

Bring something

To put on her grave;

It feels wrong somehow

To show up empty-handed.

I usually stop by the

SuperAmerica on the way and buy a

$3.50 single rose in a plastic tube, which I remove.

But the rise her grave is on is

So windy

The petals get stripped off

As soon as I place the flower on the ground.

So I decided to take the Christmas wreath

Off our front door and

Bring that instead.

But as I was taking it down,

And saw how dried out it was,

How the fronds broke off at the slightest touch,

I felt like I was just

Dumping our left-over Christmas decorations on her.

Doesn’t she deserve something new?

Is it okay to bring a dried-out

Six-week-old Christmas wreath as an offering

To a grave?

I don’t know.

I haven’t figured this out,

This grieving business.

I drive into the cemetery and am

Relieved to see the

Hundreds of Christmas wreaths,

From a distance as uniform as the military graves they adorn.

Dried out now,

They are army green with

Flashes of red ribbon.

I lean my wreath against her gravestone

And stand there for a few minutes.

I never feel much at the cemetery,

And never know what to do.

It’s so windy, and this time of year,

Bitterly cold.

I have to pee.

Should I talk to her?

Tell her everything that’s happened in the past year?

Rocky being born,

Victor getting glasses,

Me starting another novel.

It feels unnecessary.

I think if she knows things,

If she’s aware of facts about our lives,

She knows.

I don’t need to come to the

Cemetery to inform her.

How long is the right amount of time to stand here?

Should I pray?

God, it’s cold.

I hope the bathrooms are unlocked.

——————————————-

I remember one day,

After Mom had

Retired.

It was a couple years into her

Illness.

We were still calling it

“Mild cognitive impairment”

To spare her feelings

Although it was

Clearly

More than that.

One thing she loved to do was

Go get mani/pedis.

And on this day,

A hot summer day

With a clarifying blue sky,

I was in the front yard as she

Backed the car out of the driveway,

And as she put the car into drive

And drove away,

She waved out the window:

One flip of her hand,

Delighted to be

Retired,

And going to get a

Mani/pedi on a

Lovely summer day.

She was driving the

Silver Camry which

I would inherit just a

Few months later.

Standing on the

Hot, crispy lawn,

Watching her drive away—

It was the last time I saw her drive—

I thought,

Yes.

That’s what her retirement should’ve been like.

A carefree little jaunt to the

Mani/pedi parlor.

She deserved that kind of retirement.

So lesson No. 1:

People don’t get what they deserve.

Lesson No. 2:

Everyone identifies with a

Parent dying.

‘Cause we all have ‘em.

And people have either

Experienced the death of one or both,

Or know they likely will someday.

Lesson No. 3: It’s possible to

Have a relationship with

Someone who is dead.

Someone told me this, right after she died:

“You might not grasp what this means right now,

But you’ll get to know your

Mother in a new way

Now that she’s gone.”

I have this little brown teddy bear

My mother grasped as she was dying—

I pulled it out of her hands

After she had died—

And I have it sitting

Among my talismans and

Candles on my
Writing alter.

It’s a reminder to me to

Be kind to myself—

To take it easy—

The way my mother would’ve wanted me to.

I see now that she

Loved me with a

Perfect love and

Wants me to love myself as

Unconditionally as she loved me.

Lesson No. 4:

It’s possible to feel sadness and joy at the same time;

They are not mutually exclusive.

At the same time that

I feel grief that she is gone,

I feel gratitude that

I have her for a mom,

And relief that the ordeal of her illness is over.

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