The Visitation

These are words that I figuratively never thought I’d have to write and realistically thought I’d have another 15 plus years before I had to say them out loud… my mother is dead.

I do not say she passed away. I do not say she has passed on. I say that she is dead.

It’s not for anyone but me, because I need the finality of those words, not to gloss over this fact, because when I do I remain in the doe-eyed shock that this is not real, that she is coming back, and this is all just some sort of cosmic joke that will eventually end with God laughing and saying, “gotcha!”

Truth be told, God is weeping with me.

My mother had a bad fall a couple of weeks ago, where she broke her foot and hit her head. Therefore, we will not know until the autopsy comes back whether it was a slow bleed from hitting her head or an embolism from her elevated leg that ultimately killed her, but neither thought is comforting. The thought that she slipped out of consciousness and died quickly without pain certainly is.

I will always remember that she died on a Sunday, because when Lindsay called to tell me that an ambulance had rushed her to the hospital, I was writing a blog entry on how I’d actually made it to choir, thinking that I could not take one more Sunday in those uncomfortable pews because the choir has nice chairs…. and how much my mother would have loved the music and how I wanted to send her every piece to order for her own choir, and how when she came to DC I wanted her to accompany me if I was singing a solo that week.

Lindsay called back before I was even finished with the entry to tell me that she was dead, and the file sits on my home computer in Silver Spring as I write this from my iPad on a blow-up mattress in my sister’s living room, praying my frayed, “end of the rope” prayer…. SHIT, GOD!

When I got off the phone with Lindsay (the only sister I share biologically with my mother, five and a half years younger, for those who are just joining us), time sped up in a frenetic, manic burst of energy. I threw my dop kit and my medication into a backpack, ran to my landlady, and said “I need you to take me to the airport. My mother has died.” She said, “which one?” I said, “it doesn’t matter.” She said, “I’ll take you to BWI. Give me five minutes.”

Just then, my dad called and said that he was so sorry, and I told him my plan. He said to let him check on flights, when my plan was just to show up at the counter and buy the first ticket available. I ended up letting him help me, and he called back and said that the next flight out was at 8:45 from BWI and he’d see me at Hobby at 11:00.

It was a wonderful thing that he did, but now there was time to kill, or in my mind, waste. I couldn’t DO anything. Even packing seemed like wasted breath, so I didn’t. I called Dana. When she picked up, I said, “thank you so much for picking up.” She said, “I would never just not pick up… I figured if you were calling me, it had to be for something important.”

It was.

When Dana started to cry, the shock wore off a little bit and I started to feel some real emotion about the subject, whereas previously it had felt like those few minutes after you break a bone and the impact is so jarring that you don’t feel anything due to shock. My dad called back, and I told her I had to take it, but I would indeed call her again. By the time I got off the phone with my dad, my clinical separation was intact, and Dana and I spent my remaining time in Silver Spring laughing and joking and catching up on each other’s lives. It helped me to forget what I was about to do, and comforted me in our ability to put negative emotions away and just enjoy each other so that I didn’t have to think about the enormity of what I was about to do.

Because I didn’t even know what it would entail, but I knew it was enormous.

When it was time to leave, I grabbed my backpack and ran.

When I went to passenger pickup at Hobby, it was my sister that picked me up and not my dad, wherein we proceeded directly to Spanish Flowers for some comfort food. The food tasted different, just one of the many things that was different now.

Yesterday we spent time with the minister, the funeral home, and driving to a local cemetary to see if we liked it. In this garbage dump of a situation, it was as much fun as it could be, and I mean that literally. Lindsay and I, along with my mother’s husband, Forbes, and Lindsay’s husband, Matt, had a good time picking out what we thought she would have wanted.

As good a time as can be had when the world has shifted violently and without warning, anyway.

The entire day can be summed up in “this is lovely, but now I have to go scream.”

Lindsay has been open in her grief, and I haven’t cried once. I am having bouts of internal thunderstorms coupled with mind-numbing shock, because it still doesn’t feel real.

The visitation is in the quiet momemts, where I remember all the things I loved and didn’t about our long and sometimes strange relationship. My father, in his UMC pastor days, said something to me that I am trying not to let ring true to myself, that “death is 50% anasthesia for the living.” Meaning that they try to assure themselves that the person who has just died is some sort of saint, and the truth is that in a lot of ways, my mother absolutely was. But I don’t want that to be her entire narrative. I want to remember her AS SHE WAS.

Over time, those stories will come out, but right now, they are locked deep inside as I actively try not to cry, try not to feel so that I can function. I will break down later, when the business of death is over.

For now, I can only concentrate on the Beautiful Memory Picture™ Jessica Mitford told me I’d get.


10 thoughts on “The Visitation

  1. Leslie, grief is a strange thing. There is no right or wrong in how to deal with it. I remember when you were born and how proud your Mom & Dad were !!!! I lost my Father nineteen years ago and just lost my Mother in May. Dealing with the loss of your parents is the hardest thing that you will ever do. You have to deal with this in your own way and in your own time. Uncle Matt & I send you our love and hugs. Your Mother will be missed by many, but most of all, by her two precious daughters and her sister and brothers too. This is such an unexpected shock to us all. Just know that there are lots of people who love you and you will deal with the loss of your Mom in your own way and in your own time. And know that you all are in our thoughts and prayers……..


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