Today I caught myself trying to remember if it was January 4th or 5th that Mom went to heaven. It scares me that something like that is happening already... and at the same time I think maybe it's a good thing. People love to say that eventually you'll forget all the hurt and just remember the good memories, and maybe that will be the case for me about 50 years from now. But right now, a long lifetime of three months later, I find myself caught in a weird limbo of remembering the strangest things. I don't remember specific conversations with my Mom very well. I can't remember her advice verbatum, although I know she had lots to tell. I keep expecting to see something and just know "Mom would have loved that," but rather, I feel indifferent, as though I can never know again exactly what she would have loved because I can't ask her. This is especially true about shopping, which I can't do with her anymore, and especially hard because I work at Target, where literally everywhere I turn there is something that makes me think of her.
I'm ashamed to admit the number of times I've had to hide out in the bathroom at work to cry. I see pajamas and think back to when I thought of buying her some to wear around the hospital, back when I foolishly assumed she'd get well enough to do that. Someone's cellphone rings with her ring and I look up, expecting to see her. The pink and brown flip flops in the shoe department that literally made me audibly say hi, Mom. The evil book entitled Why a Daughter Needs a Mother that I can't even look at, much less read, so I purposefully avoid the aisle and shelf it's on. The toy department where I spent seemingly endless shifts before Christmas with my cellphone hidden in my bra so that Matt or Dad could call me the second anything changed with her condition. The rack of Mother's Day cards. The list could go on.
It's hard to go this many weeks without talking to her; it's impossible to think of the many things left in my life she will miss out on. The things I can't talk to her about, tell her, confide in her, or ask her. We used to joke that we needed "momma and linds time" when we were feeling down and out... most girls believe there's nothing a mochaccino and some retail therapy can't fix, and trust me, we had our share... but for me, it wasn't the location or the drink that made the difference. It was Mom. She is the irreplacable element of everything else I will do from here on out.
They say time heals wounds, and that eventually all that will remain are the good memories. But they don't warn you about the bad ones that sneak up and ambush you. We reached a point where we limited the visitors to Mom's room, mostly because visitors outside of immediate family are frowned upon in the cancer intensive care unit, but also because of the physical suffering she went through. Those are the colors and thoughts and images that come back to me at the most random times, thanks to a scene in a movie or a bad dream when I fall asleep thinking about her. Her suffering was private; we couldn't relieve it or share it with her no matter how we wanted to, and I feel like now, suffering the grief of missing her has become private too. You feel the desperate urge to talk about her, to tell a story, to make a feeble attempt at telling someone else "what she was like" only to give up because of the inadequacy to even put her into words, much less relay them to someone whose life continues as normal.
Everyone has heard at least one "near-death" story, where someone "should have died" but didn't, because it "just wasn't their time." With Mom, it seemed like the complete opposite. From the day she first noticed any serious symptom to the day she passed away was little more than a month and a half. Just two mornings after the doctors told us there was nothing more they could do, her heart had begun an irregular rhythm that would eventually cause it to stop. It was as though, suddenly, the time was up. There was an appointed end, and it was her time... incomprehensible that life can simply turn off like a light switch.
I listen to Casting Crowns a lot when I'm down, and two songs very specifically made me think of her. I'm going to post them here so that I have a hopeful note to end on:
I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean, vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am, I am Yours
-Who Am I
If all I had was one last breath
I'd spend it just to sing your praise
Just to say your name
If all I had was one last prayer
I'd pray it 'cause I know you're always listening
If I could live a thousand lives, bind the hands of time
I would spend every moment by your side, 'cause I
I know you're there, I know you see me
You're the air I breathe
You are the ground beneath me
I know you're there, I know you see me
I can find you anywhere
-I Know You're There