Some days, it becomes too much to bear. How can we carry this vast grief inside us and not be overcome by it? Those are brutal days. Whatever this thing is, this living, writhing, evolving thing takes over every sense and we, her children, break apart. Why did she have to go? Why did this have to happen? Why couldn't we have more time? Inconsequential, useless, ridiculous questions -- I reflect in moments of collectedness -- but in the throes of this emotional downdraft, they become our combined focus: why, why, why, why. It's endless and dark and lonely, this strange motherless realm of our lives.
Being a child of writers, I often try to contain it in my writing. I tell my friends, "I have so much to say about this." But the truth is, I haven't yet figured out how to morph this state of mind and body into words. I am unable to describe the exact feeling of falling I experience on a routine basis when I wake up from a dream in which she was with me. A perpetual free-fall. It's like cutting through a whirlpool of air, limbs heavy and resistant to movement, the body forgetting to breathe, forgetting to think, forgetting to even look for an anchor, remembering only this: no mama, no mama, no mama.
Who was this woman, my friend, my mother, who taught me so many lessons in her life, but strangely, even more lessons in her death? It is the most surreal and unnerving experience to realize that your mother in her death has taught you the fundamentals of love. To someone who is as jaded and pragmatic as me, there is an actual movement of resistance that is planned, developed, and implemented by the brain without the slightest hesitancy. But there it is, plain for anyone who cares to see. My mother in her life and in her death imparted only love. It will take me years and perhaps my whole life to fully understand the extent of her capacity to love, and similarly, her unexpressed need to be loved in return. We used to have long, deep, meaningful conversations. I was a friend to her, and she to me. I asked her probing questions. How did you feel when such and such happened? What was your physiological response? Did you cry? What was the dominant emotion? Why do you care so much for people? What do you look for in a person? She was forthcoming in her responses. Her answers: Deeply shaken and hurt; my heart sank; yes, buckets; a sense of betrayal; because I am made this way and I believe people are fundamentally good rather than bad; honesty. And yet, today I realize that maybe I didn't know her completely after all. Maybe I was asking the wrong questions. Maybe I was just peeling away at the surface, and she like always, was letting me have my way.
Where are you now when I have so many more questions, I whisper into the still, empty air. I drive over the Dumbarton bridge to and from work in a strange communion with all the other lonely travelers around me. Who knows about the sea of grief surging within each person's shallow chest? I feel we are all sharers of each other's private heartbreak as we snake our way across the bridge over the bay that has swelled with recent rains. I cry most freely in the car over this bridge, the water steely blue and tranquil under the grey portentous sky, cyclists in their neon vests and helmets whizzing by the rush hour traffic, and all these people, isolated like me, caught in the current of their thoughts.