There is some. Finally. My heart has been constricted for so long that it feels rather foreign to have air around my thoughts. Grief is a lot of work and takes up a great deal of space. But some has been cleared.
This last month was an emotional sprint towards the one-year anniversary of mom’s death. There were still firsts to get through – Mother’s Day, her birthday, and several memorials. Heading towards this finish — which really isn’t a finish of course, but is more like the beginning of a life without, was quite challenging. May was tough – Mother’s Day in particular was almost physically draining, and I only got through it with wine and yoga and cuddling my family. I was so grateful for the friends who have also lost their mothers, who shared how much they missed them, and how difficult Mother’s Day was for them, too. I felt acutely part of a club, this sad but supportive little club of motherless daughters.
I sat through a memorial that a national women’s organization put together in her honor. Her hometown chapter named a children’s playroom at Family Court for her, because she spent much of the time she was president of this organization advocating for children and families. It was a real honor, but not easy to watch a slideshow set to that inspirational/sad Desiree song – the “you gotta be” one. Mom smiling wide at a podium, marching in protests, and meeting government officials on behalf of this organization – seeing these images of was a reminder of her accomplishments, but also how much she had left to do when she died.
Her birthday on May 24th was another rough one, because I was literally reliving that time last year when she was alive, deteriorating, and yet still able to call me after receiving the peonies and bright orange scarf I sent. It made me sad, thinking about those tokens I now have back in my possession, the scarves, the gifts, the clothes and jewelry divided up. So I took some breaths and wore the orange scarf all that week in her honor.
Then I was back in Pittsburgh for the unveiling, which is done within a year after a Jewish death. It’s a simple ceremony at the gravesite, where a Rabbi says some psalms, the immediate mourners say the Kaddish, or mourning prayer, and the face of the gravestone is revealed. And then there it was. Her name on a piece of granite. Her dates. Mother, Wife, Grandmother and Friend. I placed a purple rock on the top of the gravestone for Miles and Zoe, as Jewish custom dictates. It was a perfect June day, just as her funeral had been almost a year before. The sun and the breeze filtered through the trees as we put arms around each other and cried again for mom. And then we had brunch.
That weekend of the unveiling was intense, but when it was over and we returned home to Brooklyn I felt hugely relieved and … spacious. I felt like I possessed this certain kind of acceptance and understanding that had been out of reach until that moment. It’s vague and new age-y but I felt I had arrived at a destination, in my heart. And that I was going to be okay, no matter what swirled around me from that point on. I hadn’t believed it until then.
I feel so much gratitude towards friends and teachers and people who have been with me throughout this difficult year, bestowing kindness and reading my pieces and making chit chat and asking my how I’m doing. It has all been a part of this particular journey I’m now on, and each interaction and intersection of humanity has been a step on the ladder towards it. I was so happy to be able to honor my mom with friends in my home last week, for the final and most personal of all the memorials, to accept people’s kindness and offerings and music and warmth. We had an unforgettable small service and mini concert for Judi from my friends Jamie and Erin, where I was able to accept love and say thank you to my community. And to let mom go a little bit more, but with the reverence she deserved.
It must be the benefit of all of the therapy, the writing, the going inward and the good support I have. Because I feel so much less angry about losing her than I used to. A huge relief! I feel grateful to the people who get how to be and less pissed at the people who don’t. And I truly feel lucky to be the emotional person I am, and not burdened by it because right now it feels like something of a gift.
I will continue to wrestle with missing her. I will still be sad and have to shake my head at some of the continued fall-out from her loss. But I will be ok. I’m not just repeating it, hoping it will stick. I believe it.