Monday, January 28, 2013

Nothing about this is easy

I am unlovely in my grief.

Underslept, rarely showered, breaking out. My face a blotchy patchwork of red and too pale. A total mess, ten days on now.

Wait, it's eleven. Soon it will be two weeks. Soon it will be the memorial service come upon us.

And I have a eulogy to write. Photos to dig up.

Mom's ashes to collect. (I got the call today, but I couldn't; I just... couldn't. Not yet. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe if Dan comes with me.)

I have so much to do; so much todotodotodotodoooooo.

And I want to do absolutely nothing.

To stand still, frozen, like a winter tree, just being for a moment; no leaves, no flowers, no pesky photons to synthesize from. Just standing; my roots dug in, holding me up. Life still flowing at my core, but you wouldn't know it from looking at me.

I flip, like a flopping, water starved fish on deck, back and forth back and forth: I want to be left alone / I have to be with people.  From minute to minute I never know what I'll need.

I go see friends then run away and hide in the bathroom. I banish everyone from the house, then frantically call my cousins to talk.

When my father died, I had to take care of my mother, to be there for her. I had her to mourn with; I had Bruce and Lois, my father's other children from his first marriage, by my side, making all these terrible arrangements together.

But I am my mother's only child, and she is the second parent gone. So there is no one else. Just me. I am the sole surviving member of the nuclear family of my birth.

(And yes, there is the family I chose, the family I made, and I thank the heavens every day for their existence. But it's still not the same.)

I feel greedy and selfish taking time away from my family to mourn, from my children who need me as much today as they did two weeks ago. And yet even here I am hardly here, translucent, worn thin as the cotton of my mother's ancient favorite nightgown.

(More sad tasks on my list: drive out to Long Island to retrieve her boxed-up final belongings from the nursing home. And then what do I do with her teeth? Her hearing aid? I can neither throw them into the trash nor keep them.)

I took her glasses from her face in the hospital ER, promised to give them back when she was up to the task of reading again. I carry them around still in my pocketbook, come upon them when fishing for change and keys.

I put them on though they blur my vision, not cure it.

I want to see through her eyes; I want to see her clearly.

I want the sadness of the last, broken, lonely months of her life to wash away in all my tears. I want to remember the woman who loved birds and cats and babies and champagne and modern art and handmade things and the Chrysler Building in all its art deco glory. The woman who reveled in the crystalline beauty of the natural world.

The woman who loved ME so deeply, so fiercely, so freely; who loved me as only a mother can love a child.

I whisper in my children's ears (now, mostly while they are asleep): "I will always be your mother, and I will always love you."

She taught me to love like that, my one and only mother.

Me, her one and only child.

Just Write


  1. How do the days go by so fast, when they seem to last so long?

    We're going on almost 4 wks since we lost my nephew Jan 6. Seems like it's not true yet, but at the same time feels like he's been gone forever.


    How does the world not stop when something HUGE has just happened???? My nephew is GONE. Can't everyone feel it?


    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    LISTEN, children
    Your father is dead.
    From his old coats
    I'll make you little jackets;
    I'll make you little trousers
    From his old pants.
    There'll be in his pockets
    Things he used to put there,
    Keys and pennies
    Covered with tobacco;
    Dan shall have the pennies
    To save in his bank;
    Anne shall have the keys
    To make a pretty noise with.
    Life must go on,
    And the dead be forgotten;
    Life must go on,
    Though good men die;
    Anne, eat your breakfast;
    Dan, take your medicine;
    Life must go on;
    I forget just why.

    1. Thi spoem made me cry - it's beautiful and poignant.

  2. You will remember all of those beautiful things about her so much more clearly as time goes on, you will. This is all what it is, this acute grief, a reflection of a deep love and the aftermath of your efforts to do what you needed to do to attend to her needs at the end of her time on earth. It is a wonder any of us survive it, really. It is so primal, and so crushing.

    I have not lost a mother, so I feel inadequate comparing, but I have been deeply involved in the waning years and loss of both of my grandmothers, to whom I was unusually close in different ways -- quite different experiences, but I want you to know that this is the core of it, for me, this is what I think stays with us the most:

    "I want to see through her eyes; I want to see her clearly."

    That's why this is so hard, because you want to do this, but you have to integrate it with your own heart and mind, and the demands of now. Be patient and very gentle with yourself. It will move through in its own time. You did everything the best you could. Her eyes were happy in that December photo. She knew that she was loved, I can tell. All the best to you.

  3. This is so moving, and so important.

  4. Oh, Varda, my heart breaks. You are living one of the worst fears of my life - to be motherless. Those small things you do to hold on to your mom's essence, to her "here-ness", those are beautiful, LOVING things. Be easy on yourself -- there is no protocol for grief. You live through it the only way you know how, and no one gives us a proper guidebook for these things. Holding you close in my thoughts...

  5. Beannacht

    On the day when
    the weight deadens
    on your shoulders
    and you stumble,
    may the clay dance
    to balance you.

    And when your eyes
    freeze behind
    the grey window
    and the ghost of loss
    gets in to you,
    may a flock of colours,
    indigo, red, green,
    and azure blue
    come to awaken in you
    a meadow of delight.

    When the canvas frays
    in the currach of thought
    and a stain of ocean
    blackens beneath you,
    may there come across the waters
    a path of yellow moonlight
    to bring you safely home.

    May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
    may the clarity of light be yours,
    may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
    may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
    And so may a slow
    wind work these words
    of love around you,
    an invisible cloak
    to mind your life.

    ~ John O'Donohue ~

    (Echoes of Memory)

  6. This is so heartwrenchingly beautifully captured. The glasses, the realness of this all, the unreal pain. Thinking of you and wishing you comfort and peace.

  7. Varda this post just makes me ache for you and the pain you are going through. So heartbreakingly written. Wishing you moments of peace.

  8. Varda this is both incredibly heartbreaking and absolutely beautiful. Sending all thoughts of love and peace to you.

  9. Time. What you need is time.
    Things will never be the same again and you will have days that you wish she was still alive so you could shout at her for dying.
    But with your children's love and the love of your friends, you'll find that your mum is still with you in so many ways.
    I found that out with my dad - he's still here, i still talk about him. Itold one of my cousins last week at their dad's funeral that i thought our Dads were somewhere together with a cup of tea or coffee looking down on us and saying that actually - we're quite a good bunch of people.

    Take care of you

  10. Varda, I have no magic words to salve your battered heart or to heal the gaping wound left behind. All I have to offer is my thoughts of love, of healing and of the knowledge that this will eventually transform itself and you will feel more like yourself. That time is not now and that's ok. There is a season to all things; this is your time to grieve. We are here with you and for you however you need us.

  11. I told you this already, but my heart is hurting with yours and my prayers everyday, are for your comfort, your peace. I am here if you need me and sending you all the love I can.

    this was beautiful, and heartwrenching... your words are so powerful, your love of your mom is the same.

  12. Found you on the Extraordinary Ordinary. I am praying for you.

  13. My heart is broken for you long distance friend. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  14. Oh, sweet friend, I feel for you in your grief and pain. Sending you love across the miles. What a beautiful post you have written.

  15. Please take time to mourn. And don't feel guilty. You need it. I love you.

  16. Oh Varda, I can hear you speaking, now that I've had the honor of being with you in person. So your voice is with me in this room way over here in Minnesota, as I read.

    i guess I say that because I want you to know how clearly I hear you.

    Thank you for allowing us into this expression of your pain. We are witnesses and I hope you feel us all.

    Much love and peace sent your way. Please stand still like that tree. You need that time. I know you can't stay like that all day every day because of all the things to do, but in moments, here and there, just be.


  17. Oh, I am sending you good thoughts. Thank you for sharing your sad, moving and beautifully written post.

  18. "the woman who loved birds and cats and babies and champagne and modern art and handmade things and the Chrysler Building in all its art deco glory. The woman who reveled in the crystalline beauty of the natural world."

    I think I would have really enjoyed your mother, Varda. And I love that this is your mother. Not the one in the nursing home. My mother is the last and only survivor from her family. I know through her eyes how lonely it is. How final it feels.

    Keep taking care of yourself as best you know how so that soon you might be whole enough to return to the family that needs you.

  19. How do I respond? So real. We are similar in our experiences--from two boys, to spectrum, to death of parent. And we write. I wish you peace. If it's therapeutic to see e you're not alone, I'm at

  20. I've never lost a parent. I have lost my daughter, however, so I feel like I can relate to this blog alot. Just hold on to the thought that the pain will ease. It will be awhile and you'll never stop missing her, but it will get easier.

  21. I'm very sorry you lost your mother. You never have a friend like you do with a parent.

  22. i'm so sorry for your loss. i'm sure that words can't even really express how you feel right now but thank you so much for sharing. hugs.

  23. My heart hurts for you. (HUGS)

    Your writing in this piece is beautiful. Heart wrenching and tear inducing, but beautiful.

    You capture grief perfectly.

    I mostly lurk here, but I wanted you to know, you will be in my thoughts and prayers.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!