We're back home now, and the landing was rough, I'm not gonna lie. I'm as emotionally depleted as I was a week ago (though the many expressions of sympathy we've received have been a balm) but am without the loving cocoon of folks going through what I am going through. Also, the issues we were dealing with before my Mom's death are still here waiting to be dealt with, and there is more dirty laundry and mail to go through, and less fresh food, and more rotten food in the fridge from our sudden departure. I didn't have much of an appetite, but I did pack my own food for the 11 hour drive each way. Highway food is not vegan, or macrobiotic, or good. I missed my juicer. So, today I treated myself to this cucumber, broccoli stem, orange, ginger and romaine juice. I had a bonus dose for the afternoon too.
Being surrounded by my loving family of origin and by marriage, including my dad, brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, Grandma [my mom's mom, age 95], Uncles, Aunt, cousins [first and second], my parents-in-law, my husband's brother and his family, and so many dear friends in the face of the loss of my Mom was such a necessary way to knock the first, sharp hours of grief off the process. My best friends from college even came to pay tribute to my sweet Mom. They had travelled to Florida with me for Spring Break, oh so many moons ago, when my parents used to live there.
From left, they are: Andrea Brazil, Melinda Miller, Cindy Clark, Lynn Dommel, moi and the lovely Cheryl Lage. Nobody had changed a bit, each personality just as I'd last experienced it. What a blessing to have these wonderful friends with me! I snagged this photo from Facebook, courtesy of Melinda.
My family pulled together a loving, respectful tribute to my Mom, replete with both sorrow and humor. I did the whole thing with a painful pit in my gut, but I needed to do whatever I could to honor the amazing lady. From my perspective, on that day, I was three years old again, and I missed my Mommy. So I shared a beautiful vignette from that time. My Dad did an excellent job enumerating all the honorable work my mother has accomplished helping people find out what had happened to their loved ones during WWII, but he also shared the quaint story of all the workers at Giant (a grocery store), all of whom my Mom knew by first name, and their tearful reactions upon learning of her death. My brother told about how my Mom used to be able to walk eight steps in the backyard . . . on her hands! My big handsome uncle, a marine and my Mom's younger brother, stood at the podium as tears rolled down his cheeks, telling about how my Mom and Aunt Gayle used to decorate him in pretty scarves before they would take him outside. He lightened the mood when he said he had recently given up wearing the scarves. My tearful husband, after a very fitting tribute along a more serious vein, finished by lamenting no more "Grandma Tattoos" (the red lip prints she regularly administered to our cheeks which were impossible to remove). I think my Mom would have been so touched and humbled by the outpouring of love for her. My former faith (which I'm hoping is only on hiatus) would have put her there with us in spirit, laughing right along.
The good news is, my writers' block is gone (I've been not-writing the same book for ten years now). I am journalling the grief process which is therapeutic. So many happy stories about my Mom have been flying through my mind though, especially since she's been gone. I'm compelled to share -- maybe in an effort to keep her memory alive. Here's one:
When my parents' families both lived in Norfolk, Virginia, their backyards were adjacent. My Mom used to watch my Dad walk back and forth along his fence, his pet rooster strutting along behind him on the top rail. She was smitten with the curly-headed boy, and decided to see what "this kissing business" was all about. She hatched a plan. The kids in the neighborhood walked to and from school, so my five-year-old Mom hid behind a tree along the route, waiting for my Dad. Her idea was to lure him behind the tree under the premise of showing him something interesting she had found. When she saw him approaching, she called him over, pointing to a random spot behind the tree. Brow furrowed, swinging his Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox, he tentatively approached. When he got close enough, my Mom wrapped her arms around him, pulled him behind the tree and kissed him right on his six-year-old mouth. My Dad dropped his lunchbox and ran home, crying. Later, sitting sheepishly at the dinner table, my Mom decided she couldn't eat because there were germs on her mouth.
That's a true story.