Every year my Mom's birthday comes and goes without a fuss. No cake to be baked, no gifts to wrap, no overpriced Hallmark card to put on the mantle. 5 years. It has been about
5 years since I have seen my Mom. I do not know her anymore. She is not here. I have memories that shift and fade each time they are recalled. I have photos of her with feathered hair that are small and rounded on the edges with a sepia tone, distinctly reminiscent of those musty 80's photo books we all don't have the heart to throw out. If I did throw one out, who would know? Who would it hurt? The dead don't cry. They don't care, or maybe they do but I have an odd habit of not assuming things.
What I do know, and remember in full clarity, are the discussions my Mom and I had about her impending death. Its an odd thing to know you are dying, and not some day when you are old and hopefully asleep, but soon and most likely in pain. Most things you always worried about begin to seem mundane, but what else is there to say? We talked about the past, but after a while there was no more past to discuss. We had lived the same story and were running out of time. So we talked about the future, about pain, and about death. We talked about it while laughing, and sometimes while crying, mostly while laughing. There are only so many tears you can cry before the only thing left to do is laugh. At one point I sat by her side, holding her hand and thinking about how for so many years I never let her touch me. I wondered how it felt not to be held at night, not to get hugs every day, to sit alone in a room for days on end waiting to die. I felt guilty, the situation was not my fault but still there the guilt sat on my chest. I felt afraid, that no matter how my life went in the end I too would be alone. She must have sensed my sadness, as no one else in the world could, and told me the most important thing anyone has ever told me.
My mother told me that when she died she was going to leave, and she would not be here to see me cry. She said she was curious to see what would happen when she went, but that the one thing she knew was that she would be undeniably gone. She did not want a funeral, she did not want people who never bothered to visit or call her to show up with crocodile tears. Too little, too late. She said "Life is for the living" and told me to live.
When she passed, I felt her leave. My soul wrenched skyward as though it longed to fly away too, my heart leaped out and as it fell solidly back into me I felt the deepest sadness I have ever known. My eyes closed and the blackness was all that existed, but my heart still beat, I lived. She was gone, and now I had to live without her. I cried good solid thick tears that splattered down onto my chest, and when I ran out of tears I wiped my face and said a prayer.
Life is for the Living.