Grief And Loss

Birds of a Feather …

Got a random text the other day from someone I usually don’t see or speak to often. We cool and all. I tease her when I see her at events and we get along famously until the next occasion we bump into each other. Truth be told, I only text her when there’s the 80% off clearance shoes at Macy’s! We love to shop and don’t mind waiting a whole year to take advantage of a bad sale. We now have one more thing in common–the loss of a mother.

Before May 30th, I could only sympathize with people who were walking down that lonely stretch of church aisle behind a casket. Post May 30th, I now get it. It was good to mention some odd thought or behavior and know that someone else really understands.

She spoke of Sunday dinners that are no more. She misses the errands and trips to the store. Another spoke of his childhood loss, remembering how he was extremely hungry one night, walked in the kitchen and it him yet again–his mother was not there. When big events in his life happen, the loss is fresh again.

One’s guard can be down when there is empathy in the room; when the foreign language you are speaking is understood by others. There is a level of transparency that exists if even for a moment. You aren’t afraid that the other person on the line may be squirming and nervous at this talk of loss and death. They get it. This new club you have joined welcomes one and all in humanity.

Me: Thanks for checking in on me. It’s always good to talk to someone who understands. Such is life.
Her: Life.

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Grief And Loss

The Practical Side Of Death

No one told me that aside from the tears and low moments, that I would have to deal with the drudgery of handling my mom’s personal affairs. I had to come out my shell a week after the funeral to field the calls and make many of my own.

Calling her cell phone carrier took the cake. Placing a call to some developing nation’s call center yielded one woman’s epic statement, “My condolences, so is your mom dead?” Whaa…?! Then the bank lady telling me that not having a beneficiary on one’s account meant going to court would be the only recourse. Good thing I knew her PIN number and had her account info. Frustrating.

Having my dad go to social security not once, not twice, but three times with a marriage certificate we had to send for from Haiti (apparently the copies and notarized ones weren’t good enough) was painful for me to have him endure. I can only imagine having a 70 year old be reduced to producing what’s now the physical remnants of forty years of marriage. Sad.

Calling the mortgage company. Next on my list. Getting widowers exemption. Somewhere on my list. Adding my name to the deed. On my list too. Finalizing her tomb marker, emailing photos of the funeral to family in Haiti, paying for my dad’s burial arrangements, contemplating refinancing my parents home–all now on my to do list. Let’s not forget the father in law who expects me to do the same for him. That’s for another blog, another day.

Learning lessons along the way that they don’t teach you when you suddenly become the bonafide “adult” in a Haitian household. My dad did warn me one day years ago in a vulnerable season in his life, “I’m now your son, you are now my mother.”

Grief And Loss

Shoes, Skirts, and Potato Salad

There is nary a thing these days that doesn’t remind me of my mom. Yep I used the word “nary” so sue me, lol! Things I once took for granted are all linked to her. Using a particular powder brings back summer memories of heat rashes and her soothing hands. Seeing people drain out the marrow in a chicken bone (a totally island thing) reminds me of her. I would only chew down my mommas chicken bones. Nobody cooks better than ya mama. Didn’t trust other people’s food like that.

I would show up after work to see her. Fix my self (cause you never come looking any kinda way to see your Haitian mama.) She would look me up and down and pause. Wait for it! “Mwe remmen jupe ou.” Translation: I like your skirt. She gave compliments out like giving out gold at Fort Knox! My mom sewed my clothes for years and I hated it! So if that lady said she liked a skirt or dress, she was saying she liked the cut, the pattern, the fit. I never leave the house without making sure I was well put together. Mamman wouldn’t allow that. And I’d be damned if I would have her spinning in her grave now that she’s gone. I have been addicted to patterned skirts lately. These hippy thighs aren’t afraid to work them. Wish I could have her make me another 9th grade gingham dress now! Seeing her old photos has given me confidence to let patterns rule my closet.

She never met a shoe she didn’t like. And neither have I nor my brother. He collects sneakers, I collect any pretty gem that my skinny feet (so much like hers) could slide into. A friend would always bemoan her size 10’s and always said I could be a foot model. Never paying her any mind, now realizing that my mom and I shared these same feet, these same hands. She couldn’t wear my stilettos and pumps but she didn’t mind admiring them on me–her only girl.

Comfort food will always be potato salad. A Sunday dish my brother and I would dive into with relish. She was heavy on the onions, light on the mayo, and liberal with the sweet peas and sliced carrots. Yeah we were getting our veggies in (in her motherly calculations) but oh what a way to meet one’s nutritional quota. I have not tasted her potato salad in some years (the disease had taken her energy for cooking years before) and none have come close. But I’m still on a quest. Even if it’s just for a flash in the pan memory of something I will never taste again.

My husband indulges me in the telling of my “mama stories.” I say them out loud for fear of one day forgetting. I pen them and gratefully. The randomness of an act or gesture becomes all that you have of your loved one.

Grief And Loss

Quiet

Growing up, I used to tell my mom everything. She was the best listener around. I couldn’t wait to come home and practice my French with her or just talk about mundane things. Getting married and moving away limited our talks. I was busy being married and trying to graduate from college all at the same time.

Then there was a brief season when I became her confidante. It was the moment I would forever then look at my mom not as my mom but as a woman. She was transparent, honest, and real. That season didn’t last as yet again life’s distractions took over and I think it was around the time she discovered she had cancer. She felt it best to shield us from that side of her. What I originally thought was deliberate distance is what I now know to be a sacrificial mother’s love.

I started a new job barely a month before she passed. She told her friends I was a “directrice” at a school and they mentioned her pride in me. I was walking back to my building one day recently fast paced in my heels as usual. Thinking what would I be able to share with my mom about this new job that she would be proud to hear. And then my pace nearly came to a stop. Fighting back the tears, I walked slowly back to my office.

It keeps hitting me repeatedly that she isn’t here to talk to. She isn’t here to argue with. She isn’t here to sit silently with and just be. My husband had recently been by my parent’s home. He mentioned going into her room. I asked him what did it feel like? “It’s really quiet,” he said. Yeah, really quiet.

Random Thoughts

Forgetting Facebook

I’ve been debating on doing this blog for a minute. Only because I felt I would be a hypocrite in publicly bashing what was for me a primary mode of communication for many years. My husband asked me the other day why I’ve been off Facebook. This is the guy who still doesn’t understand why some offensive things will continue to show up on his newsfeed. Ummm… ask your Facebook “friends”.

I initially got on to plan for our high school’s 20th reunion. That was a bust and it should have been a clue. I remained cause it was the only way (or so I thought) to keep up with my friends, colleagues, community partners, etc. It then became my primary news source. It was my CNN, TMZ all wrapped in one. It was my go to for everything social media. And then I fasted.

Fourty plus days later I wasn’t a crack fiend trying to get back on to my account. This surprised me. Fourty days became two months became three months and now it’s nearly six months later and the taste for the Facebook life is waning. I took a break to fast, study for an important professional exam, and to prep for a new job I was looking into. I walked away with a boost to my faith, licensure, and a new job. God honored my season of fasting.

Do I miss it? Not sure. Will I return to it? Who knows. What I know is that I have decluttered corners of my brain that were getting saturated with non-sense. I have some more brain cells to use for other ventures and experiences. I have made space for new information and new ideals. Facebook was a good thing; deactivating my account was an even “gooder” thing.

I have Pinterest to go to for my ideas, Instagram for my shot in the arm posts, LinkedIn to keep me on the cutting edge of personal/professional growth, and Pulse to give me the news
I want to read. Not sure how Facebook is going compete with all of that.

It’s not a final farewell to Facebook but it certainly is a “see ya when I see ya” kinda thing.

Grief And Loss

Held Together

Walked into my mom’s room today. Didn’t expect the furniture to be gone already. I had packed most of her belongings, gave away some and kept the rest. But to walk into an empty room which once held her treasured things–now lay bare. Those things now sit in my garage waiting for the time where I can bravely sift through it all at my own pace.

Caught off guard, the tears began to flow. The silence, oh the deafening silence. I know some who take years to go through the personal belongings of their loved ones. For me it was something I had to do. Something I needed to do. And now that it’s done I’m wondering did I rush through it too fast? Should I have waited?

I don’t know if a year, a month, a decade would make any difference. I just knew I had to do it. I had to take that step towards maintaining my sanity. Coming to that house will no longer mean making a beeline to her room. Where taking naps before grad school class across her bed was a weekly comfort. Where the blue comfy chair was where I sat near her bedside. Where her wooden armoire and dresser held old awards, report cards, and doilies from Haiti.

It’s tough, yeah it is. When all the stuff is parceled away, you’ve got nothing but the memories to hold you together.

Grief And Loss

This New Life

My mother’s absence in my life has suddenly opened doors to a paradigm shift. It’s the most life altering aspect of grief and loss. To know that coming out on the other side of this will mean I’m no longer the person I was before, wow…

I’m the same old me. Same personality, same ideals and beliefs. I haven’t fallen off my rocker nor have I forsaken my faith. I still love shoes and I still love accessories. I still have a wicked sense of humor and still think way too much for my own good. But I’m not the same.

I’m okay with that. I’m okay with shedding some old skin. I’m okay with disconnecting from old habits and relationships. I’m okay with lowering my tolerance level for certain things and increasing it for others. I’m okay with turning my back on what I once thought as perfect opportunities and rather embracing new ones.

She’s gone. There’s nothing I can do about that. There is a deafening silence and a hole the size of my heart that will never be filled. I miss her to my core. I have her to thank for giving me life and now giving me new life.