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Monday, May 15, 2006

A Mother's Shadow

Yesterday Luke did cartwheels on my mother’s grave. The weirdest thing about it was that the grass hadn’t fully grown back yet, so we could see the rectangle traced like a shadow. We let Luke do cartwheels, but scolded him when he started climbing on the headstones, so he ran off to climb a nearby tree while Megan, Tom, and I said a prayer for my mom.

Afterwards, at the Chinese restaurant where they took me for Mother’s Day, I asked the children if they thought of my mom much. Megan said, “Sometimes. It’s weird to wonder where she is. Is she just hanging out with God and all the other dead people? Or maybe she’s right behind me, or right in front of my face?” She got a quizzical look.

Luke added, “Maybe she’s under your butt!” And of course they laughed.

Tom noted that grandma had always liked to get out and see new things, so maybe she was visiting other planets. Then he said to Luke, “Or maybe she’s in your heart.” He made his wild Jim Carey eyes, as if this were a much weirder idea that being on another planet or under someone’s butt.

I don’t feel my mother’s presence the way some bereaved do. She was never sentimental, and I can almost imagine her telling the angels, “Oh, they don’t need to hear from me anymore. Just leave them in peace!” But of course we’re reminded of her often. This morning when I saw the rain, I put on her old purple rain coat and found some of her tissues in the pocket. A weird thing, the folded tissues of a dead person. I don’t think they were ever used, just carried around as a precaution. She hadn’t gone out much in the last year, so the tissues could easily be a year and a half old. Maybe two.

I hadn’t thought of Mother’s Day as a special time to grieve, but people kept asking me if it was a hard day for me, so that got me feeling a little bad that it wasn’t. I know I’m still coming to terms with my mother, and I’m sure that process will continue for a long time. For the time being, I just see glimpses of her impact on my life, like shadows traced in the grass.

A good friend from college sent me this link to an article about her own mother, who died around ten years ago, I think. I’m not ready to write something like this myself, but I enjoyed it and pass it on.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Saturday I had an incident similar to yours with the tissues in the pocket of your mom's coat. I was a using a hand-cranked drill that had been my father's, and it suddenly occurred to me to look in the handle for drill bits, as I didn't have one with me. There was one there, alright, but there were also several nails of different sizes, with their heads cut off. I was suddenly flooded with a memory of my father's fondness for this trick for drilling pilot holes, using a nail of the same size but with its head cut off so it would fit in the drill chuck.

It felt like I'd opened a little time capsule that he had left (he died in 2000) for me to find and enjoy. I know tissues aren't maybe quite the same thing, but I sieze on these reminders, whether they are concrete (as both yours and mine were) or more ephemeral, as when I hear or see something that I know would have made one or the other of my parents laugh. I don't believe our parents are actually directing these things from an afterlife, but I do choose to enjoy them.

Phil J.

1:12 PM  

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