Mornings. And Hands. And Forgetting.

Memorial Program Front

Memorial Program Front

Dear Mama,

They said it would get easier with time.  They lied.  Why would they lie about something like that?  Sixteen weeks and two days you’ve been gone now.  Easier, huh?  Time heals all wounds, huh?  It’s all a lie.  It just gets harder.

I can’t grieve.   I find that odd.  I’ve studied grieving over the years for one reason or another.  I know the steps.  I know you have to go through every one.  Sometimes you have to go through them again and again.  But I never read anything about getting stuck at the beginning.  Just plain stuck.  I’m supposed to have another good hard cry, says a friend…the kind I had the night you left.  But I don’t cry.  I’m very happy actually, with life in general.  The only thing I’m discontented with is the chronic pain.  And I’m settling into it because it will be my constant companion until I die.  But other than that, my life is great.  My family is amazing.  So I don’t feel sad or anything most of the time.

Except in the mornings.  That’s when you come.

It makes sense I guess.  Mornings are when I read scriptures, try to ground myself in God and the Gospel.  Mornings are when I pray the longest.  It makes sense I would feel you close then.  So sometimes when I think about you in the mornings, the grieving starts to creep in.  I hate the grieving.  It’s like a shadow lurking in the drapes.  Always.  Mornings are when I try to remember everything about you.  Because I’m forgetting.  I’m forgetting mama, and I don’t like the forgetting part of you being gone.  We have pictures.  Pictures are still.  There is no sound or movement.  I’m terrified I won’t remember the sound of your voice.  Or how your hands floated above the piano keyboard like it was the most comfortable place in the world for them to be.

Your hands.

The hands that I wish so desperately, now, that I’d gotten a picture of in the funeral home.  When we were shown into the room where we would dress you there, I was terrified.  I’d never dressed anyone for burial before, and here I was doing it for the very first time on my very own mama.  Tammy told me the day before… “tomorrow you and Katie and three other sisters and I will dress mama at the funeral home.”  She said it like it was a natural thing to do, no big deal.  The feelings that flooded me instantly at hearing these words did not betray me because I did not faint.  Fear.  No.  Terror.  Could I handle this?  Could I really dress someone who is… has passed, let alone my own mama?  Would you look the same to me?  Would you look like a stranger to me?  Total paralyzing fear overcame me.   Tammy took Daddy into your bedroom and let him pick out your lipstick.  You had two Temple dresses, and Daddy picked the one he wanted you in. Then all of the sudden, it was the next day, and time to go to the funeral home.  Tammy showed me to a room where the three sisters from church were, and then she left to go do something.  Just left.  Because I’m the oldest.  The strongest?  No.  Just the oldest.  She just left.  I’m really good at hiding my feelings, especially if they have anything to do with crying.  So I talked.  I visited.  I did anything and everything to keep from thinking about what was about to happen.

And then it was time.  Time to see you dead.  There.  I said it.  Dead.  I hate the word.  But there it is.

The funeral director took us to the room where your body was lying on a cold steel table, covered in a white sterile sheet.  I have no idea what anyone else saw, and if my feelings betrayed me or not.  But the woman on that table was not my mama.  I almost left to go tell the man he’d shown us to the wrong room.  But how could he do it?  Surely they wouldn’t make that kind of mistake.  So I stepped a little closer and stared.  I tried to make sense of it.  I tried to find some part of you that was the same.  Proof.   Proof that you were my mama.  It took longer than I expected.  The eyes, no.  The nose, maybe.  The lips, definitely not.  The ears, better.  The hair, sure, the hair.  But the hair wasn’t styled right, so. no.  There… the hands.  The hands.  Those were my mama’s hands.  Yes, this was you.  Finally I’d found you in the hands.  Oh how I wish I’d taken a picture of your hands.  They were beautiful.  The same as when they were full of life.  Dainty, delicate, strong, gentle, calming, serving, loving.  You must have painted your nails clear the day before for church, because your nails were so shiny and beautiful and perfect.  I still wasn’t sure I could handle dressing you, but at least I didn’t have to go yell at the guy for taking me to the wrong mama.  Because these were definitely your hands.

So when the forgetting comes, and the remembering flies away, I always think of your hands.  The hands that held me as a babe.  Punished me as a child.  Taught me at the piano.  The hands that made my meals, cleaned my clothes, typed my school papers at midnight, guided me at the sewing machine.  Hands that wore themselves out serving the family you loved more than life itself.  The hands that reach to me now from a place far away.  And place not so far away.  Hands.  Why didn’t I get a picture of your hands?

I’m scared of forgetting them.

So when I have these mornings, mornings full of mama and memories fading away, and hands. I try to burn the pictures into the places deep and away.  So that they can come back to me when I need them.

It’s your hands that need to gently push the shadows to me, mama.  The shadows of grief I will not let in.  The shadows I keep at bay because the crying is awful.  Did you know that?  Crying is horrid.  It makes the pain worse, and it doesn’t stop for a long time once it starts.  So it has to be scheduled you see.  Scheduled grief.  That sounds about as silly as it is.  But there you have it.  That’s how I do the crying.

Daddy says you didn’t take my writing voice.  But the only way I can write is if I write to you because I’m stuck at the end and the beginning…the end of your sweet life, and the beginning of my grieving it.  So daddy says it’s okay to write letters to you here.  For now.  If that’s the only way to get un stuck.  Here.  On a public blog.  For all the things I don’t like to let out, I spill my grieving here.  But I don’t have a large following, and this is about kids and grand kids, and remembering, and not forgetting.  So maybe the only way to really not hold it all in, and be able to un-stick myself, is to write to you.  Here.  Where all the world can read and judge.  But I always go back to the beginning of this place, this blog.  And when the decision comes whether or not to put something out that is so raw and personal, I ask the same question that drove me to build here… is this something I wish my grandma would have left me to read?  would i want her to let me into her heart like this?  Occasionally the answer is no.  But today it is… yes.

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