Friday, December 23, 2011


And now we're on the other side of the Solstice.  The days have already begun inching longer; last night was a bit shorter than the night before.  One year ago today, Gary and I flew out to Seattle, not knowing what we'd find there. We packed funeral clothes. I had spent the previous night sleepless, praying as hard as I could that I would at least get to have one more conscious conversation with Mom. That was my only focus. 

Being December 23rd and last minute, we couldn't find a non-stop flight.  Our first leg was delayed 6 hours, but we didn't find out until we arrived at the airport.  The ticket agent couldn't figure out how to re-book our connection, so she cancelled our entire travel plan and tried to rebook us making three connections, but somehow couldn't do that, either.  Already panicking, my clearest memory of that morning is willing my knees not to buckle as I held tightly to the counter, attempting to plead with her to put us on some plane that would arrive to Seattle at some point, but unable to form coherent sentences.  Gary took over, negotiating everything: getting us back on the original late flight, getting us on a later connection, making me eat something for breakfast.  And a couple of hours later, sitting at JFK, I got my prayers answered. Mom was alert enough to talk on the phone; I hadn't spoken to her in a couple of days and was getting all of the information relayed, so just to hear her voice was so reassuring.  She was sluggish and medicated, but totally there and clearly happy to talk to me.

We finally arrived in Seattle close to 10pm PST.  Dad picked us up at the airport.  We went straight to the hospital and again and again, my prayers were answered. The next day, the waiting room was filled with our family and friends and didn't empty out until well after the New Year. This blog was launched because I couldn't field all of the phone calls, texts and emails that I was receiving, so I figured I'd let all of you come to us on your own time and when you were interested.  And I'd only have to do it once.

This year, as we enter the light half, my life is so profoundly different.  Any doubts or misgivings I had about getting married (and there were many, one year ago) have disappeared; I saw the strength of my parent's marriage every day and can't imagine one day since last December 23rd without Gary's support and love.  My general anxiety has faded significantly; I've learned that my imagination is far crueler than life and that things I thought would destroy me have not.  I saw the value in a support system and learned what it means to show up for people and am committed to maintaining and strengthening my own.  I am trying to thank more, to love more, to allow more, to laugh more.  I am happier this Solstice than I was at the last one.  Strange that that should be true; I have suffered more, I have watched those I love most suffer more, I have lost more.  And yet, I am undeniably a more settled, grounded, content person.  I learned so much from Mom, watching her grace, her determination, her utter refusal to go into despair.  And though she was literally surrounded in darkness for the entirety of her illness, it didn't penetrate her.  And so, the darkness couldn't reach me, either.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


This past Sunday, one of my dearests threw me a women-only baby shower.  Sixteen of us crammed into Gary and my little apartment, most sitting on the floor (including my mother in law, which I still feel badly about).  Everyone at different life stages; some mothers, some never to be mothers, some just at the beginning of their adulthood, others with enough experience to offer sage adviceI always say gifts are optional but no one arrived empty handed.  The amount of baby gifts we have received is unbelievable.  Some of this is the nature of being first on both sides of the family, but a lot of it is concentrated well wishes from followers of the blog, people who don't really even know me but adore Mom and, still feeling helpless and sad about the circumstances, can't help themselves.  But the best gifts were truly all of the blessings I received that day.  Everyone either anointed me with oil or said a little prayer or gave me mounds of reassurance that I will not only make it through this transition to mother in one piece, but I will do a good job of it.  And to seal in those blessings, everyone transferred them directly to my belly, in the form of henna tattoos.

I realize the past few entries have been depressing and raw and hard to read.  But the truth is that while those emotions are real and true, they are not a realistic view of life now.  Those are just the moments when it's easiest to write.  Yes, absolutely, there are moments when the loss is overwhelming.  But there are also many more moments when life simply continues, when we look forward to good things and deal with the mundane.  And there are many moments when I think of Mom and it makes my heart soar with joy for the 31 years I got to be with her and all she taught me. 

My dreams of her are still infrequent and mostly from when she was ill.  A couple of nights ago, I was treated to dreams of her all night; we were hanging out at the Kline, working on walking the halls, and it dawned on me that if she really were still here and working on getting stronger, at some point I'd have to lose her again. And maybe that's the ultimate peace-making realization.  That as hard as this past year was, we never have to do it again. And she made such a beautiful time of it.  She lived her last year as fully as she could, finding joy and celebration; so many never even come close to such grace.  And as difficult as it will be to enter into parenthood without her, and as sad as it makes me that she never experienced being a grandmother, my not having any real responsibilities allowed us more time together.  I was able to fly to Seattle at a moments' notice, I didn't care about spending ridiculous amounts of money on airfare; things were easy in a way that they never will be again. So that's been my most recent discovery and most recent source of comfort.  This mourning is what it is.  I know that it has changed me forever.  But at least I never have to lose her again.