If I squint, it might not be true…
If I hold my breath, I can wish it away…
Maybe I will wake up and it will all be a dream, a very bad dream…
The pain stabs suddenly. My stomach, chest and throat clench. Waves of nausea come and go. I go into the pain some moments, and others I wonder if I have the strength. I know I am in a club that we will all join if it goes how its ‘supposed to’ and we outlive our parents. On Sunday, I mourned my friend Denise’s passing, who sadly at age 50, did not outlive her parents. Then two days later, I began the mourning journey of my momma.
There’s nothing like momma love for those of us that are lucky enough to have received that type of loving. Everyone has a mother but not everyone has a momma. I was among the fortunate ones. I was cherished and adored. On a regular basis, my mom would re-tell the story of needing to go on bed rest to keep me. After two miscarriages, she never gave up and happily did everything the doctor ordered. She stayed in bed and drew pictures planning for my arrival. I was born in 1966 and two years later, she did the same routine with the same sense of enthusiasm and my brother joined this world.
Unconditional love is what I got from her. I’m not saying that childhood was perfect, but at no time was there ever a doubt of her love. Sometimes I wanted to wave away her stories of adoration – yet at the same time, I was well aware that one day she would no longer be around to tell them.
My mom: movie star beautiful with a contagious thousand-watt smile that she always wore. Eyes the color of the brightest blue sky. The high school Football Queen, a straight A student, a champion swimmer and horseback rider. An exquisitely talented artist, she started flying at age 40 and retired as a captain on a 727. She was beloved by so many, touching lives everywhere she went, always leaving people feeling known, seen and appreciated.
My mother gave me my life in 1966. She saved it again in 1989, when two years after she got sober, she found me the right treatment center and I began my life in recovery.
I feel as if I have been stripped of a layer of skin; the layer that is supposed to protect me from the world. I have had other losses – the fire, pregnancies, beloved mentors – and now my dearest friend Denise. But momma…
Grief comes in waves and I have to learn to ride them. The pain in my heart and stomach begins to rise and that’s the worst part of the ride. The fear grips me at that moment; fear that it might overwhelm me and completely suck me under, forever. Then sobs come and in then I am just sobbing, simply going with the physical sensation. After, a little relief comes, then I’m tired out and calm for a few moments, minutes or maybe even hours. If I am lucky, and around the right people, hysterical laughter can arise in those times too.
The worst is at night, as I lay there trying to sleep, afraid of the thoughts that stampede my mind and overwhelm me.
Yes, I am only two days in to this new momma-less world. I thank those that have gone before me and felt as deeply. They warn me of the perils yet their warnings feel like comfort as it normalizes the depth of my own grieving.
I appreciate the outpouring of love through Facebook and texts. Social media is perfect during these times as I can see the love, feel the love and express love back. It gives my mind something to do. Mostly, speaking feels too risky.
As we hurtle through the air to Orlando on our way to make this even more real, I want to turn back time. I want to stop the plane, I don’t want to land, I don’t want to walk into her house that will still smell like her without her there. I don’t want to make the plans that we have to make, I don’t want to think of a world without her. Thank God I went to see her not too long ago. Thank God I was really with her, loving her, appreciating her. Thank God, most of the time, I know I was a good daughter.
After the fire, I hoped for life to return to ‘normal’ but I am beginning to see that this is life as normal. Life is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, brief joys and deep sadness, loss and great love – and often we don’t get to catch our breath. We simply need to keep breathing, in and out, over and over.
Looking out the window at 38,000 feet, I see the view that my mother loved so much during her career as a pilot. Her time in the sky was heaven to her and she mourned it deeply when she had to retire. If the smile was ever missing from her face, all you needed to do is point to the sky and say “airplane” and she would light up. My mother had great joys and great sorrows too. Her beloved sister was killed on a motorcycle on Halloween of 1977, not long after, her father died in his sleep and then her mother died of cancer. Add in two divorces, the miscarriages, her struggles with alcoholism, then the chronic pain that robbed her of her quality of life, she fought the good fight for a long time.
I paste my forehead against the window and the beauty – then the grief hits again with a waves of nausea
I pray, I wish, I hope you are up here momma. I hope it’s devastatingly beautiful wherever you are.
If she could be flying around seeing these clouds then I know she’s all right. It’s us that are left behind that is the problem. Some have strong faith, I don’t know what I have. I don’t know what I actually believe in but I talk to something much of the time.
Tomorrow we will see her body and I know she won’t be there but I need to say my goodbyes. From what I know of life, I need to walk through this, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. My mother wasn’t perfect, but she was a perfect momma. A light went out when she left us. In a world where there is no forever, she will be forever missed.