my mother died. And though I don't really think the day someone dies should be the day that they are remembered, I couldn't help but note the milestone. I suppose I could have written something on her birthday. But somehow birthdays cease to be a milestone once the person has died. You have to preface everything with, "She would have been ___ years old today if she was still alive."
Sometimes I forget that my mother is dead. Sundays roll around and I am sitting at the table drinking my coffee and reach for the phone to make my weekly call. Then I remember that she is gone.
My children out of the blue will tell us that they miss grandma. My son drew a picture of her on one leg of his favorite pants so that she would always be with him. We have several photos of her with the kids around the house to help them remember. But they are photos of her taken in the last few years. And it isn't really the image of my mother I want to hold on to.
I was with my mother when she died. And I know it is a good thing that she wasn't alone. But I can't help but selfishly wish that I had been spared that moment. Because it overshadows so many of the memories I would rather hold on to of my mother.
I wasn't there when my father died. I had been there a few weeks earlier when his cancer had been at its ugly worst. But I wasn't there when he drew his last breath. My mother was. And she seemed to take it in stride. She was always very practical that way.
I fantasize that, when my mother faced death, she would have looked at me, smiled, patted my hand and told me it would be alright and that she was at peace (whatever that is). But it wasn't like that. She seemed more surprised than anything else.
I am not sure why death surprises us. It happens to everyone and everything. But still there is some primal spark inside that thinks it is just an illusion, a trick of shadow and light.
Maybe it is. Maybe the Buddhists are onto something. Maybe death is an illusion. Maybe we just have to look in the right mirror to see the truth or peel back all of the layers on the onion of existence to realize what it is. Or we need to hear the sound of one hand clapping.
Maybe I'm just asking the wrong questions. Rather than pondering what death is, perhaps I need to spend my time focusing on what life is. I actually think that is what my mother did. And I think she would have wanted me to focus on it as well.