On Grieving: Part 2

It cracks me up when I'm reading a self-help book that follows all the self-help guidelines, including Coining A Term, and they spend the first several pages explaining why they're not another self-help book. You can't just say things.

I’m reading “Mastering Your Mean Girl” by Melissa Ambrosini, and yes, it’s a self-help book. I saw an interview with her recently and she was so bright and cheerful and I’ve been struggling with negative self-talk lately so I thought it would be a good read, and the thing about books like this is you can just toss them at people who seem down, and then you forget where they went, and they might be out there in the world helping people, which is always a nice thought.

I’m sitting on the couch in the dim light of night, that dim light of the Jahnke house, half-listening to Adam and our learned friend, Nick, talk about the ins and outs and complexities of A.I. It’s fascinating, truly, but for some reason I don’t feel like committing to the conversation so I’m a third reading, a third typing, and a third listening. Even though I said half-listening before, I was exaggerating.

Today we were organizing the garage and Adam was talking to me about where to put these shelves and I was engaged with him and discussing it, and then I just suddenly started crying all over the place, realizing my mom is gone. So random. Grieving is strange, and the weight of it hits me all at once sometimes, completely out of nowhere. How do you say goodbye to people? People are so important, so real and integrated into my very being. Sometimes I get so connected to people to whom I know for sure I’m just another acquaintance, and quite logically, I am, but for some reason they mean so much to me and I think of them all the time. Indeed, I might be a bit crazy. But I think of how attached I get to people, then I wonder at how connected I must have been to my mother, the first person I ever met, and it seems like a goodbye is impossible. People have that little special something, that zest of eternal in them. I can taste it, feel it. It’s like a fine dust that comes off every soul and settles around places, in the corners of the stairs, nestled into the fibers of the carpet, tucked up on shelves with the dried flowers in blue vases, and you know you’ll never be able to gather it all back again. They’ll never really be gone.

In the final weeks with my mom, I would sit and just watch her; so much familiarity, her hands, so tanned and long-fingered; her bright, brown eyes, so alive. Mom was always very alive, it was her gift. I would sit and marvel at the mystery of how this person who I have always known will soon be done, be returning to dust, Mom was so alive… and then she wasn’t. I tried to say goodbye so many times, and I never felt like I had, every time I saw her I had to say it all again, even when she wasn’t conscious anymore. I know it’s a privilege to be able to see the death of your loved one’s coming, to get to say all the good things, not everyone gets to say goodbye, but I really don’t think you can ever say enough. Humans continually reach out to each other, it never stops, even after death. How do relationships end? I still feel my mom. Maybe even more now than I did before. I don’t understand it, I cannot comprehend death.

When someone goes into liver failure they start to lose their mind because they’re being poisoned in their brain, it was something I was really afraid to watch happen. It was very painful to watch, but more painful to think back on than it was when I was experiencing it, I always felt so much love for her, the weight of the moments keeping me grounded. The last time I saw my mom before she started losing her mind I woke her up from a nap to say goodbye to her, and she laid there for a little while and I sat there, looking at her, crying. I told her I had really wanted to share motherhood with her. She said “I know…” And we sat in silence, tears streaming down my face, and then she told me “I hope you don’t feel like your life is worthless because you haven’t been able to be a mother. Motherhood was so important to me and I worry that you’ll feel like life is pointless without it, but it’s not, there are so many things you can do.” It meant so much to me that she said this to me, we hadn’t been able to talk about this so freely before, there was a lot of pain in this subject for both of us. She told me she knew that God would fill the gap that her death would leave in my life and He would send someone else to be that for me. She was very confident of this. Much more than I am. That conversation was a gift to me, a healing salve to my heart. I don’t know when I’ll be healed, but it seems like the beginnings.

Don't take your eyes off of me,
don't take your eyes off of me.
Remember songs that we'd sing,
remember everything you see.

Because time can be a blessing or a thief.
I've realized that all but memory flies away. Time, time, time, time just,
time just flies away

Just close your eyes and sing,
just sing the proudest melody.
Run hard until you're weak.
That's how living life is meant to be.

Because time can be a blessing or a thief.
I've realized that all but memory flies away.
Time, time, time, time just,
time just flies away

-Emily Hearn