When my mom died, my best friend read the eulogy I’d written on my behalf to the quiet group that had gathered to pay their respects at the funeral. I wanted the services to happen sooner than later, I wanted them to happen before I had to return to work, but after many phone calls it ended up the cremation service was very busy and it would be 3 weeks before they’d have my mom back to me. I couldn’t wait that long. So we went ahead with scheduling the service at St. Ann’s church, on what ended up being a sunny Saturday morning in May. Everything was blooming and the weather was perfect for the gathering at my house afterwards.
As A read the eulogy for me I remember wishing I had written more, and said things differently. I tell myself now that is there is no way of capturing memories, expressing all the feelings, the gratitude, the essence of a mother, in a single write-up, especially from the inside of such bewildering grief.
When I set out to write the eulogy, I knew it must honor my mom by conveying her greatest gift. That her purpose and most profound joy in life was being a mother. And like so many women I know, her road to motherhood was not easy nor traditional. It wasn’t until after adopting my brother Steve, and 6 years later adopting me, that she finally conceived for the first time, after 17 years of marriage, at 36 years old. The same age I am now. She gave birth the month before she turned 37, and our baby is due the month before I turn 37, too.
That first summer after my mom passed, my friend K invited Joel and me on a weekend away to her sister’s summer home in NH. We kayaked and stand-up paddleboarded on the waterway behind the house, we grilled food and lounged around, we laughed and we had a lovely time. During a quiet moment away from the guys, K and I started talking about our parents. She’d lost her father as a teenager.
“Can I ask you something? When your Dad died, where do you think he went?” She thought for a moment. “Well, I think, in some ways, he’s with me, like he became a part of me.”
Mother’s Day 2013 was my mom’s last night with us. I fell asleep against against my will on the couch across from her bed, just after 2am, unable to keep my eyes open. She had been unconscious for days, during which I watched every breath, counting the seconds between exhales and inhales, intently willing her chest to rise one more time.
I wasn’t asleep for long, minutes maybe, before I was sucked back to consciousness by what I can only describe as a loud, prolonged yell. It launched me from the couch and I landed on my feet by her bedside, looking down at her, still and peaceful. And with the sound still in my ears she took her last breath. Immediately, I wondered where she went. It was a question that tapped me on the shoulder over and over again: where did she go, though?
I hear my mom’s voice in my own responses, in the way I speak, and more recently I hear her in the way I laugh, and in the types of things that make me laugh. I feel her in my hand gestures, in the things that annoy me, and in the way I really love to fall asleep on the couch at the end of the day. K was right, when you lose someone a part of them becomes a part of you.
It would have brought my mom great joy and fulfillment to be a part of this experience and our daughter’s life. If there’s an awareness where she is, then my she is wishing she could be here for this. I can actually hear her singing the naa-nee song and see her bouncing our baby in her cradled arms. I can actually feel my own annoyance of her coming over unannounced, again, unable to contain her excitement to see and hold and kiss the baby. I can actually see myself leveraging the baby as a reason for her to quit smoking.
But you know, what bothers me most isn’t that my mom will never know our baby girl, but that our baby girl will never know my mom.
During awkward, the-writing-is-on-the-wall moments during the short time my mom was sick I tried to fill the sad space by watching funny baby videos on YouTube with her and asking questions about motherhood.
“If I ever have a baby, what names do you like?
“Oh, I don’t know. I like Jessica…..Christopher…”
And while those names don’t resonate with me today, we plan to give our girl a middle name that will allow my mom to always be with her. She may never know my mom like I did, but my mom will always be a part of her. Her middle name will be Marianne.