My mother passed away December 16, 2017. A piece of me passed away with her. She was 84 and very ill. I knew that the day was coming. It comes eventually for us all. Still I didn’t want it to happen. I can’t explain how I feel. I can’t seem to think beyond the tears. I catch my breath and totter at the precipice. Did I love her enough? Did I do enough? All the mistakes I ever made stand blatant, sore, and suddenly obvious to me. Missed opportunities reveal themselves with a new, painful clarity. I drive past a beautiful, neighborhood park. “We could have taken mom here. We could have come early in the morning and strolled the path and watched the children play.” My son and I go to the mall. “We could have brought mom here more often. It could have been a weekly excursion.” But I had been at the time so self absorbed, purely caught up in the busy this and that of life, caring for mom, raising my son, driving to and from school and karate, and working in between. I had felt breathless with it all, struggling to maintain our world so fiercely that I failed to live in it.
She sat long hours in her bed watching John Wayne movies and Walker, Texas Ranger. She often dozed in the middle and forgot what she had seen and would watch things again and again. How much time she spent alone, staring at that black box while I rushed around doing what? I could have sat with her then. I should have sat with her then. My insides ache from that which I did not avail. And now she is beyond me, outside my touch, a series of pictures and videos and moments lost. And so a piece of me has passed away. The womb I grew in, was born from, and laid my head upon isn’t here for me anymore. And it hurts so deeply.
Several times over the five years we lived together, my mother had purged her belongings. Each time she weaned her possessions down, throwing away things she didn’t need, books she didn’t want, furnishings that she thought would be a burden for us when she passed on. So many times she had done this that I was certain there would not remain much for me to sort through at all. It gave the things left behind more value, considering they had ‘made the cut’ so many times. In a file folder, I found a binder. Inside, carefully printed, 3-hole punched, and placed in chronological order were every email I had sent to her as well as her email replies to me between June 2006 and September 2010. At the time I lived in Karachi, Pakistan. Calling was expensive and we relied on email for keeping touch. She saved all those words, a recorded conversation, separated by thousands of miles and occasionally gapped over months or weeks.
I read them now, hungry and searching, hoping to find her -to complete her story…or mine. I find that I did tell her how much I loved her. I told her in every email. And she told me things, too. I found reference to her illness in July of 2009. I had no idea she would eventually die from that. That that scan was the first indication of the very illness that would take her away from me. She mentioned the results of a CT scan that showed she had an enlarged liver and an enlarged aorta with no clogs. She only said that the doctor had started her on a cholesterol medication. That small reference made and glossed over like so many others had no import then. Only now do I see the value of it and the imminent possibilities consequent of it.
Looking through our correspondence is a walk through time, moments frozen, much like photographs, glimpses of who I was then. I remember being that person. I’ve changed. She got to read me then and see me now. I’m so thankful that I’ve been here these last years. I’m grateful to have served her and for all that my being here has given me. I’m sad because I think in a way that I may have failed myself. I comfortably maintained and avoided digging deep. I missed opportunities to be with her because I feared what of myself I would see there. And now she is gone.