I have received so many beautiful cards, letters and emails from such far-flung well wishers. I am nowhere near caught up in even reading them all, let alone responding. But so many of them share stories I haven't heard, memories that other people are cherishing.
Nearly all of the people I grew up with had interactions with Mom where she listened to them, entertained them, did arts and crafts, offered advice, offered open ears and a shoulder to cry on or some combination of the above. I had no idea that most of these scenes had occurred. And I feel so lucky to find out about them now. It's like she's sending me messages still. How to love children, how to connect with people, how to make someone feel special. That 10, 15 or 20 years later, these adults remember with such clarity how good she made them feel as a child or a teenager. How honest and safe they could be around her.
Many people have shared their experiences with losing their mothers too young. Again, it's like I'm getting reassurance that I can survive this. That somehow I will manage to build my own family, raise my own daughter and be okay. It doesn't seem possible sometimes. How does one become a mother without a mother? But so many people do it all the time. Many mothers that I admire and respect have done it, are doing it. And I will do it. Imperfectly and clumsily and missing my mother the whole way. But there isn't a choice here.
When I was reading The Council of Dads (Bruce Feiler, amazing, highly recommended) it occurred to me that Mom had set up a Council of Moms for Ross and me, maybe without realizing it, or maybe intentionally. For example, when planning our wedding, Mom recommended specific people to help me with my wedding dress, who were different people than who threw the bridal shower who were different still than who helped arrange specific details like music and programs. Now, all of these women have become the Pea's "aunties" and I know that I will lean on them all the way I would have constantly leaned on Mom to get me through the new days of parenting. Already they have created a book of parenting advice, gathered from themselves and Gary and my friends with kids; the book is a cute keepsake, the real value is knowing that I (or Gary) can call any one of those contributors at our wits end and they will happily talk us down. And babysit. Ross, too, has all of these surrogate moms to help him through school, navigate his future and love him unconditionally. The best part of this council is that they all have known and loved Mom for many years; they can be a version of her voice now that her voice is silent.
And then there are the people who write who don't know Mom, or her knew her in college, or who knew her from when their kids were in preschool, or who met her a couple of times when she visited me, but have grown to know her through the blog. And this outreach is astounding, too. The reach and depth of her spirit and tenacity and the hope and love she inspired has been humbling. So many people have felt it. I wonder if that's another reason that I have not fallen apart and the rest of my family has not fallen apart: there are so many sharing in our grief that it's being held for us. We don't have to hold it all. People want to hold it.
As I was writing this post, Dad called to read me two letters that he received today. One was from a former coworker and old friend that was beautiful and meant so much to him. The other was a long letter from Dr. H, Mom's doctor at the Kline, which brought me to tears. She spoke of how Mom changed her as a doctor, how our family inspired her, how Mom is so missed. She spoke of growing professionally from having cared for Mom and what an honor it was. This was so humbling to me. That this brilliant, busy physician not only felt these things but took the time to write them and send sympathy...we feel so fortunate that Mom had such loving care throughout her illness.
As I work out my grief process in my head (and out loud to anyone who is near enough to listen), I talk about this blog and how it needs to have an end. When discussing the idea of reworking all of this into a memoir, Gary gets very protective and doesn't want anyone to edit anything I've written, fearing it would equate my emotions being edited. Dad ruefully said that he loves the idea, but that no one will believe it. No one could believe Mom's attitude in the face of everything. I think that may be true. I promise that I haven't taken creative license with it, and that's part of what made her so damn special, but it's almost an anomaly of human nature. To have all of the things you love about life taken away from you and still love life.