I read somewhere that Eskimos have tons of words for snow. The reason is obvious — it’s part of their daily existence, and therefore regularly comes up in their conversations, I would imagine. Only when you become intimately acquainted with something do you realize the need to define nuances… the tiny differentiations that only daily exposure can reveal. I’ve found that the English language has an inadequate vocabulary for grief. We strive to make do with “grief,” “loss,” “bereavement,” “pain,” “suffering,” but those words, through their overuse, have lost much of their meanings.
As I sit here this morning, my heart hurts. There’s a dull ache, much like I would imagine an amputee would feel in his/her missing limb. There’s an absence, a longing, a missing, a constant pain that reminds me — as if I could have forgotten — that my mother is gone. People say “time heals.” I’m here to tell you this phrase is very misleading. The word “heals” indicates a recovery, a resolution, a moving beyond. Time NUMBS. Time teaches how to live around your missing limb. Time shows that it’s possible to still function, albeit modified, in a daily routine. But time doesn’t take away the need for the person who’s gone. 18 months later, my first instinct when something extraordinarily good or bad happens is to call my mother. Bobby, Jennifer, & Sue are backup options… always second choice. Mama’s always first. She’s been physically gone for 18 months now, and she’s still the first person I think of calling. This hasn’t changed. Sometimes I miss her like a kick in the gut, when it feels as if I need to literally sit down so that I won’t fall with the sheer weight of missing her. This overwhelming feeling was common at first. Now, it’s a less violent missing, but still painful all the same. Maybe more painful in a way because it’s tempered by the acceptance that this is real. This is forever, and Mama’s never coming back.
Changing the sheets on our bed yesterday afternoon, I noticed that the pillow protectors need to be bleached. My immediate thought: “I wonder how often Mama bleaches her pillow protectors.” I find a richly colored paisley fabric that matches the bathroom paint colors perfectly. My immediate thought: “I’ll get Mama to show me how to line these curtains so they won’t fade.” A sewing machine sits in the corner of my room… I’ve only opened it once, almost as if I’m waiting for Mama to teach me how to use it.
I’m never going to know the things that she knows. I’m never going to be able to ask her opinion or advice about the things that matter, or the things that don’t. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one who still feels this. So much of who I am — more than I ever realized — is a reflection of, a reaction, a response to her. I’m becoming a different person than I would have been if she were still here…. I’m different because she’s gone. My growth has adjusted to the loss of a vital nutrient, and although I’m still here, still physically healthy, I’m becoming someone else because she’s not here to teach me how to line curtains or offer pillowcase advice.
I’m trying to understand this as a neutral thing — not positive or negative. Because she’s gone, I’ve been forced to be more independent. I’ve embarked on a journey of religious self-discovery, which is a Pandora’s Box that I almost certainly wouldn’t have opened without the catalyst of Mama’s death. I’m working with Dr Jerry to be more self-aware. I’ve had to depend emotionally on my husband. I am learning how to interact with family — Daddy, grandparents, etc — as myself rather than as Denise’s daughter.
Like any disability, the loss of my mother has forced change and adjustment. It’s not what I ever would have chosen, and if someone came to me and said “I’ll give your healthy mother back if you cut off your right arm,” I would, without hesitation, reach for the nearest sharp object. But since bargaining my right arm for Mama isn’t really an option, here we are. And finding the silver lining in this damn raincloud is pretty much the only choice at this point.