My mom is dying. Let me reiterate that in a way that emotes more closely how I feel: I’m losing my mommy. But don’t be sad… Okay, that isn’t easy. Not by a long shot. I’m not even there myself yet. But… Yet. See, there’s the thing: she isn’t dead. Not YET. She will be, sooner than I’d like, but the fact is, it’s ALWAYS sooner than we’d like. Always.
There isn’t a way to escape death, and I hate that. I don’t know what perils immortality might bring with it, but there’s part of me that wonders if I could get through the loss of everyone I know… Not a chance. Not alone. And there’s another thing: I’m not alone. And neither is my mom. My sister lives close, and she has an amazing husband who’s love for her may rival even that of her own children. And my grandmother is with her right now too as she starts her chemo. My friends and family have been fantastic so far, reaching out and letting me know that they are there. It’s pretty amazing, and within this maddening shell of sadness, as much as I want to feel isolated in my fear and pain and loss, I cannot. I just can’t. You bastards won’t let me, and I love you all for it from the bottom of my heart.
I’m losing my mommy… But not today, and probably not tomorrow, and in a way, we, she and I and all who know her, are the luckiest types of people in the world. We KNOW it’s coming because we have guys in lab coats telling us so. Most people end up getting to deal with the surprise of death, and that’s another kick in the face that we just don’t want or need when dealing with that loss. Most of all though, it’s a LIVING reminder, here and now, to make the most of whatever sweet, precious time we have. We might like to imagine that we’re never going to face that, but the fact of the matter is, we all do. Everyone you know, have known, or will know, is already dying. They’re already gone in a sense, and we can’t do a thing to stop it. But we CAN love. We can remember. We can make the time we DO have count for something.
I’m an atheist, and my daughter, my precious four-year-old ginger, only understands that I’m sad. Now, she’s a bright kid, and I don’t want to burden her with philosophical or theological debates at bed time, but I felt I needed to explain to her why I’ve been so edgy and sad lately. In the course of our talk, I asked her if she knew what happened to us when we died. She did not. So I asked her if she knew what we were all made of, thinking of Neil Degrasse Tyson. She replied, “Chemicals”. Leave it to her to cite Hank Green, right? Anyway, I explained to her that when a star gets very, very old and dies, it explodes, and becomes a great gaseous nebula. She knows what nebulae are. She’s obsessed with space and wants to be a Martian astronaut some day. I explained that then parts of those dead stars floated through the universe and eventually became part of what makes US. There is part of a dead, ancient star in each and every one of us, and when we die, those parts of us go on to become other great, vast, beautiful things. Forests full of trees are made up of the dead stars that once made people who were loved, and cherished, and remembered. That seemed to comfort her just as much as it did me. She hugged me, and then she went to sleep. I love that kid. And my mommy loves me.
I’m not losing my mommy; the universe just let me borrow her for a bit, and for that I am grateful. I am the luckiest man in the world to have had a mother like her, through the ups and downs, crazy times, happy days, and all the rest. I am a better person for having her give birth to me and raise me. I am an idealist, feminist, and a humanist all because of her. I went back to school and got my degrees and wrote and got published because I believed in myself, but it was my mom that taught me to do that. I’ll miss her when she’s gone. I miss her all the time anyway because she’s a thousand miles away and never picks up the damn phone. But I’ll miss her a little more when the chance of her answering becomes nil… Instead, I’ll talk to my own kids, my wife, and my step-dad. You see, even when we do die and pass back to the stars from whence we came, we also live on… For as long as people remember us. We are eternal in that way, in the things we leave behind. It’s the marks that we leave behind that define us. Maybe it’s a book, or a piece of advice, or a tradition we pass to our children, but what we do NOW… It matters.
Mom, if you happen to read this, thank you. I will always love you. And no matter why you don’t answer when I call, you will always be in my heart and the hearts of those who you have touched throughout life. I will be positive. I will stay as happy as I can and never forget that you taught me the skills I need to be a happy person. I love you…
Thank you for writing this and subsequently posting to Facebook which lead me to read it. Holidays can be hard in some ways especially if you have lost someone close or know you are losing someone. I personally needed this now and appreciate that you posted. Tho I’m not the one usually called I am simply a text message away. Thank you for being you.
Time is infinitely long and short all at the same time :)
What a wonderful tribute to your mom.Have not seen any of you and your family for so many years.but we are still family.i am putting you all in my prayers.
Awesome, Thank you! Thanks for making me cry, thank you for everything. Love you guys.