As many of you know, my mom died two days ago after a long battle with illness. Her death was a relief. I'm glad she's out of that blistered and hemorrhaging body. But she's still my mother. I still grieve, even as I breathe a long sigh of gratitude that her ordeal is finally over.
Yesterday was her birthday. I was supposed to work; even thought maybe I could pull it off. In the end, though, I just couldn't do it. I called in, got teary-eyed at the manager's kindness and condolences, and decided to go for a walk in the morning. I went to the grocery store and bought that silly cupcake, which I plan on eating tonight. I toasted Ma with a glass of green tea and spent the rest of the day hiding in my room, curled up in fetal position or staring at my computer screen. My choices of DVDs to have playing in the background were strange: Let Me In, the eerie little film about a future serial killer and a depressed female vampire trapped forever at the age of twelve. Odd. Then an old BBC mini series of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. After that, William Powell and Irene Dunne in Life With Father. I tried to figure out the correlation between these films and the only thing I could come up with, was all three main characters were weirdly loyal oddballs. Not unlike myself. I'm very loyal and I'm definitely an oddball.
Today I worked a lunch shift, shaking in my shoes and trying not to think about the fact that my mom is dead. Did pretty well until about six hours in; then I began to fray around the edges and get weepy. Another kind manager let me leave early. I wanted to bolt out of there but was so dizzy and emotionally shook up, I realized I'd better eat something. So I sat in the break room and choked down broiled flounder, my paper napkin saturated with mascara and tears, surreptitiously snuck out to catch them just before they rolled down my cheek. The food was repulsive but necessary. Then I walked home, breathing in air as hot as a sauna, just slowly sauntering until my key hit the front door.
Now, showered and comfy, I've been thinking about what I'd say to Mom if she was in the room right now, a grinning little sprite of a spirit revelling in her new found fleshless freedom. So here it is, a letter to my ma. Who knows? Maybe she's peeking over my shoulder as I type.
First off, I'm so glad you don't have to go through any more nightmare with your poor old body. Between you and Dad and your nigh-impossible to kill tendencies, you've genetically made me immortal. Remember how you used to laugh at that? You sure gave the good fight for a long, long time, Mama. Brave and stubborn, like the little Scottish Highlander stock you are. I'm sorry I wasn't there when you passed. You'd have gone at least three weeks earlier if I had been, because I would have put a pillow over your face just to get you out of that agonizingly painful shell you were trapped in. I really believe I might have been tempted to do that. I really believe I might have actually done it. I called the nursing home almost every day to find out how you were. Kat says you wouldn't talk to her or me for these last three weeks because you were mad at us for not being there. I think you just wanted to die and didn't want anybody to talk you out of it. Remember when you said my voice called you back when you almost died a few years ago? And how talking to your kids always gave you strength? I think you didn't want to come back. I think you didn't want to be rescued or convinced life was still worth living. I understand and I'm grateful all that pain is over now. I kept praying every night for you to die. I imagined what it felt like to have your own skin dying, to have blood clots erupting all over you, inside and out, and to have the Alzheimer's, so advanced by that time, pulling you back to the worst memories of your truly horrific past. The nurses told me you were delusional: one day you'd yell for them to save that boy drowning in the pond. An hour later, you'd be screaming at how cold the brains were that you picked up with your bare hands. That night, you screamed about all the blood on your son's dead face, or you were kicking and fighting to take a knife away from a girl who was trying to kill you with it. You cried over how much it hurt to be raped, and will they please, please save that baby boy? He's fallen, he's fallen on his head because you were wearing high heels. All night, every night, then all day and all night, you screamed these things, but the nurses were wrong. They weren't delusions. They were all memories. They all happened. You were trapped not only in that rotting, shrieking shell, you were trapped in memories no one should have ever had to endure. The happy memories were gone. The only thing left in those awful last weeks was pain.
But you know what? It's over now, my poor beloved little nut of a mama. You did some terrible things. Yes you did. But you paid for them. You can let go of that guilt. It's over. I remember how you told me that your beloved sister, who died so long ago, had made a pact with you. Whoever went first would be waiting when the other one passed over. She died almost forty years ago now. She's an old hand at this. And your son, my beloved brother Ian; you don't have to remember his gory corpse anymore. You don't have to remember "that awful surprise on his dead face." Because he's there too. And Charlie. Charles the Man. You told me, years ago, right after Charlie died, that you kept having this dream about him and how you both loved to dance so much. You said you knew he was just going to sneak up, grab you around the waist, yell "GOTCHA!" and swing you into a two-step. So put your dancing shoes on, little tiny mama. Hell, you probably already have.
And I bet they're red.
I love you, Mama. Always will. Thank you for being my far from perfect, often hilarious, often infuriating, fatally flawed but practically perfect mother. I adore you. Rest in peace.