Someone recently asked about the blog I’d been keeping during the end of mom’s life.
She was looking for more posts. I started a few after mom passed but never finished. So I’ll start with today and work backwards now. And my posts may be out of order. But sometimes that’s just the way life is. It doesn’t happen neatly and orderly. Rarely does it happen neatly and orderly. We impose order. It provides a false sense of security, temporary sanity. It works for awhile.
But then life happens.
Today I was home alone. Arthur has been in the hospital twice this month – once before Christmas and once after. I visited him this afternoon and left feeling sad. I’ve had enough of being alone and was wondering how to fill my time in the condo. I was really feeling lonely.
A friend invited me to see Zoolights tonight at the zoo in Washington DC. I wanted to go. I REALLY wanted to go. Sometimes I feel like I am missing out on all the fun in life. But my intuition told me to stay home. I usually listen to my intuition because I’ve experienced what happens when I don’t.
So I reluctantly declined her invitation. And felt a strong sense that I should paint. Now I love to paint, especially with oils, but I haven’t had the time or energy for a long time. As anyone who paints knows, it’s a lot of work to set it up – the canvas, the paints, the brushes, the Gamsol and a lot of work to clean it up – especially washing the brushes which is particularly unfun.
Our condo doesn’t have a designated paint area so each time I paint I have to pull the easel out, lay the mat on the floor and prepare my space. I did this with some anticipation, looking forward to putting brush to canvas. I had no idea what I would paint, just that it was something I needed to do.
And so I began. I took a painted canvas that I wasn’t particularly happy with and using a wide brush, covered it with a whitewash. Then I squeezed out robin’s egg blue paint on my palette and I put the brush to canvas, starting with a circle of blue. Blue was my mom’s favorite color. It was in almost every room of the house I grew up in – the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room. So much blue! When I got married and decorated my own home, I vowed there would be NO blue in it. My condo is now styled in a beach theme. And you can’t have a beach without water. And water is blue. So we’ve come full circle.
As I begin to paint this blue circle, something inside of me opens up. I’ve cried since mom died. I’ve been sad. But this, this was an ocean of grief that welled up in me so unexpectedly and poured out great sobbing racks of tears.
I miss my mom. I MISS YOU MOM! I miss my mom! Suddenly, unbearably so. As it hits me, really hits me for the first time. I’m not going to see my mom again.
I’m crying. I don’t know what I’m doing, Mom. I don’t know what I’m doing.
I could be talking about the painting. Or I could be talking about my life. My life with a paraplegic that doesn’t often make sense. I don’t know what I’m DOING.
I’m sobbing and painting and the blue is fading into the whitewash. And that seems symbolic to me. Don’t fade away from me, mom. DON’T FADE WAY from ME. Don’t fade away mom. I want the memories of her to remain sharp, vivid. I don’t want time to erase them.
I won’t drink tea with my mom again. Or hear her laugh. Her shrill laugh that sometimes made me cover my ears as she sat next to me at the dinner table. No more Christmas cards from her.
This was my first Christmas without my mom. We hear about the year of firsts. Frankly, I was dreading this holiday. Thoughts of her were very present. I raised a glass of wine to her. I used her carafe at my Christmas party. I hung Christmas cards on the mirror the way she used to. It’s not that she spent many Christmases with me in Maryland. She didn’t. But she was here, still with us. And I would visit her during the Christmas Season, sometimes going to mass with her and singing in the choir.
Grief doesn’t begin and end with one death, one funeral. Grief reaches back and touches the pain of every person we’ve lost, every sadness we have ever felt, every memory we have of the past.
This Christmas I grieved for the Christmases I had growing up, surrounded by my big Italian family, my Dad’s 5 brothers and sisters and my cousins. I grieved the Christmas Eve’s that used to be. I grieved for the loss of the ones I had as a child and I grieved for the loss of the ones I didn’t attend when I moved to Maryland.
I grieved for Aunt Lucy and Uncle Jack who hosted Christmas Eve, with their enormous live tree, homemade cookies and buffet filled with food. I grieved for Aunt Helen and Uncle Vince who hosted the Feast of the 7 Fishes with bacala, smelts, anchovies and that silver tinsel tree with the rotating light.
I grieved for my babies who are grown now and sharing Christmas morning with their spouses and their own children.
I grieved for my mother-in-law and her house at Christmas – the tackiest, warmest, coziest home at Christmas. The toilet seat was covered with a Santa face, the tissue box adorned. Every picture was gift-wrapped and every mirror encircled with lights and garland. Mr & Mrs. Claus nodded their heads and moved their arms. And I grieved for the caroling we sang in her living room with family and friends who visited.
So today I cried. I cried for loss. I cried for Mom. I cried because no matter what I do, the rest of my life will be lived without my mom.
And I miss my mom.