My mother died two years ago in April. A bit of me died then as well. It was the part where I couldn’t pick up the phone and say, “Guess what?” Or ask her advice. Or have lunch, recollecting funny childhood stunts and silliness. Or say, “I love you.” There was a hole in my chest without a name that ached . . . constantly.
Someone once said, “Women hold up half the sky.” My mother held the entire heaven with her pinky. She worked full-time and then came home to mounds of dirty laundry, whiny and hungry kids, a mother-in-law who lived next door, and a man who felt watching the television was an earned privilege.
I watched her run on empty. On rare occasions, I saw her staring dreamy-eyed out the window, and I wondered what she saw. Was she dreaming about the characters in the volumes of books she devoured? My mother was the only mother I saw read books, and she could read them on the fly. I’d never seen anyone so efficient at holding a book in one hand, a ladle in the other, nod as if listening to nagging children, and then laugh a gutsy laugh to the wind without seeming to mind all the turbulence around her.
I only saw my mother lose her temper twice. Both times it was directed at me. The last time I understood and did not repeat the offense. I never realized how efficient my mother could be at waling my cheek with a brush in ten seconds flat. She proved her point without the need for a repeat performance.
Mama often cried at old movies. But, beyond that, I only saw her cry one other time. Mother stood with her feet firmly planted, defying every storm that assaulted her−until Daddy died. At the moment his soul released itself from his cancer-ridden body, my mother buried her head into his chest and wailed a heart-wrenching cry. I stood and watched like a voyeur not able to release my eyes from the misery of loss.
Two years ago in April I buried my mother. A part of me lies next to her empty body. The other parts continue on their path of living without her. Joy and love fill my days. Friends and family pull in tighter, not to fill the void, but to hold on not to fall apart. During Bible study, the Word reminds me that death was defeated at the cross and one day all believers will be together again. I understand. I believe. But I still want my Mama, one more time . . . just to say, “Thank you.”