Monday, July 11
If you’ve lost a loved one, you know why I have to keep writing. You know that when something hurts this much, you don’t want to talk about it, yet you can’t help talking about it. Talking gets you closer to the one who’s gone.
So does going to a place where you can still feel her.
That’s why I’m lying on my mom’s bed, in her memory care home, alone and quiet in this dead space. The room is stripped, but the furniture is still here. I was supposed to meet the movers today, but we cancelled them. I am too overwhelmed by all her things that breathe of her and invoke a hundred memories that make me long for her even more. I can’t watch these things being loaded onto a truck today any more than I could watch the mortuary people carry her away last Friday.
For a while, I just lie across her mattress that is silky to my touch. I pull her old quilt from a big trash bag nearby and snuggle it, curling into a fetal position with it bunched to my chest and spread haphazardly over my legs. I look out her window and let the tears fall freely. Mom died with this quilt folded underneath her pillow. She was too feverish to have it cover her. It smells faintly of her and faintly of an old person’s home. Today I breathe in the smell gratefully.
Lying on her bed like this brings me a little comfort and a lot of memories. So many times, I remember crawling into her bed when I was little, when I was sick or scared by a nightmare (or just pretending to be scared so I could be close to her). Mom would be sitting up reading, with pillows piled behind her. She would look fondly over her glasses at me as I padded in, sleepy-eyed and tear-streaked.
“What’s the matter?” She’d pull back the quilt for me to climb in next to her.
“It’s okay,” she’d say. “It’s not real. Snuggle in here with me.”
And I’d snuggle. In two minutes, I’d be asleep.
All this week, I snuggled Mom in her bed while she slept, and I told her it’d be okay. I talked about another reality that was better than the one here.
But I’m scared of my reality. I am. I’m afraid of the cavernous hole inside of me. I’m frightened by this deep sadness and a world that feels foggy.
I know it will get better, so don’t tell me that. I know she’s in a better place, so please don’t tell me that, either. I need to lie here and snuggle the old quilt and feel the weight of a vital longing now unmet. I need to somehow live in the moment and also live in the past because I cannot think about the future.