Dispatches from the living: A Mother's Day post mortem

click to enlarge CALEB WALSH ILLUSTRATION
Caleb Walsh illustration

Momma,

Another Mother's Day and your birthday, which fall a bit too cruelly close, have come and gone. I'm pretty sure this is the ninth round I've endured without you, though I can't be certain. Irrationally, I refuse to do the math — there will be no acknowledgement here, no counting backward to that day. Consider it my one small act of autonomy amidst the uncontrollable.

My preference has been to keep the timeframe a touch hazy, walling me off from the full-on force of that trauma. The middle-of-the-night darkness. The careful walk from living room couch to the hospice bed. The bated breath. The knowing. The first brush of cold skin against warm. Then, inertia's sudden grab, sitting close to you and trying to burrow into the still warm, soft folds of your body. Revisiting that instant is enough to instantly seize, throat clenching, eyes clamping shut in a futile attempt to hold back the flow of hot, stinging, salty tears. Surprisingly, they still well up and spill out after all this time.

I continue to miss you every day, but the way I miss you constantly changes. Loss arranges itself in a near-endless array of iterations. Irritability. Gratitude. Despondency. Lately, I'm furious. That the world will never know your kind of love again is enraging.

Who else on this planet has displayed such indelible devotion? Calling friends over, instructing (bossing) them from your very literal deathbed, inventorying and ordering everything because you knew I couldn't? Forcing me into a pinky swear over counseling, a promise to deal with impending grief? Recording amusing, touching and tender messages so I'll never be without reassurances? Reflecting on your past, especially the mistake you see me repeating and expressly owning it in the hopes of creating, in me, a desired transcendence, for us? Who focuses their dying attention on another's living?

Do other parents and partners love like this? Are they as doting? As fierce? As loyal? As kind? So often I see people taking love for granted. This momentarily makes me mad, a slight frenzy gurgles up inside, igniting an urgency, a need to shake sense into some people and declare (in an admittedly melodramatic fashion) "what fools these mortals be!" Why do we appreciate love so much more in its absence?

Since your death, I'm full of questions like these, endless queries drip from me like water from a broken spigot. I want to ask you all manner of things — earthly things — details about your pregnancy, the grandfather I never met and your opinions on my finances, those I've dated or my next car. Otherworldly things too — questions about the cosmos/heaven, other dimensions, the dead's perspectives on the living. Are y'all super pissed at us for wasting time on things, for gaming and going to Target, for compulsively numbing our innate emotions? Or do you pity us instead? Grieving in desperation when we break our own hearts from fear and fail to foster these fragile human connections? Do you celebrate when we are wise, act brave and stay strong for one another? Can you tell me the secrets to loving after loss?

In truth, I'm terrified of trying. I doubt in my capacity to love as I have been loved. I suppose you're delighting (probably laughing) as I work through this, realizing how little choice I really have in the matter. After all, I do come by it honestly. Your love has shaped the trajectory of my life so thoroughly that we remain inseparable. I learned how to be from your being. And in that way, your love will always continue to be, huh Ma?

Your Kikibee

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.

Michael Gurian: The Stone Boys @ Auntie's Bookstore

Thu., Nov. 21, 7-8:30 p.m.
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About The Author

Inga Laurent

Inga N. Laurent is a local legal educator and a Fulbright scholar. She is deeply curious about the world and its constructs and delights in uncovering common points of connection that unite our shared but unique human experiences.