Wednesdays are still difficult.
Mom died on a Wednesday morning. On more than one occasion I've found myself swimming in a particularly deep sea of grief, wondering what brought on that particular fit of sadness. Then I realize: "Oh. It's WEDNESDAY."
But now that we're six Wednesdays removed from that dark day, I can tell I'm no longer marking the weeks. In fact, we noted the one-month mark the weekend before last. Besides a fleeting meltdown, the 22nd passed without too much fanfare. (It really helped that we were in Austin for our great niece's seventh birthday party that day. What joy she and her sisters bring us all!)
Just tonight I finally cleaned up my little "grief workstation" in our living room. Our corner table by the couch had become "Thank-You Note Central" over the last month. I had stacks of cards, the memory book from the funeral home, envelopes with return addresses I needed to keep, floral cards, you name it, all piled up. For the longest time, I just couldn't put any of it away, but lately, that stack was getting on my nerves. It felt good to finally bundle it all up and move it to my office, where it now sits atop financial papers and other funeral-related junk I don't want to deal with. Yet.
The waves still wash over me from time to time, in some cases every bit as intense, even if they're not as frequent.
Last Friday was our school's homecoming, and the mom of one of my former students was on campus for the big pep rally. It just so happens that Mary was my mom's nurse at the nursing home, and I had not seen her since Mom died. As soon as the pep rally was over, I walked across the gym floor to try to find her.
She found me first. After a big hug, she just said, "She's in a better place." I tried to convey my gratitude, my profound thanks for her kindness, the grace she showed Mom in those last months of her life. But all I could do was cry. Sweet Mary just hugged me, offering her condolences. Through my tears I had a hard time navigating past all the kids and parents and pom-poms and mums to get back to my classroom.
Another wave hit as we sat in church Sunday. The praise and worship songs often get me, as well as just sitting in our usual spot up front. (Mom sat up there with us for so long; I still half expect to see her scooting up the aisle with that walker of hers.) But this time the grief hit during communion time. When I saw that tray full of grape juice, I remembered the countless times I'd helped Mom disguise her barely touched cup. Mom HATED grape juice, so when the "fruit of the vine" was passed each Sunday morning, she would take the world's tiniest sip before returning her cup to the tray. Since no one would be able to tell she had drunk out of that cup, she would always put her cup inside of my empty one to spare her fellow worshippers from her germs! Even though Mom had not been to church for months when she died, now that she's really gone, her absence is palpable.
In spite of those all-out tearfests, I can tell my grief is morphing, that healing is happening. I can feel my strength returning, even though I'm most definitely still off-kilter. (I know, I know: Who could tell?) Now that it's been more than a month since our last encounter with dementia, I no longer flinch when the phone rings; a voicemail notification on my phone no longer instills panic. That's progress, too.
But even as I heal, three of my friends are facing crises of their own with THEIR mothers. One lost her mom today. Another moved her mom to hospice care this afternoon. A third is watching her mother fight for her life. Of course, I ache for them. They're my friends, and it's awful to see them in pain.
But THIS pain, this specific loss. Oh, man.
Because I've traveled this road so recently, I feel like I should be overflowing with words of wisdom, a verbal salve to soothe their pain. Instead, I don't know what to say at all, mostly because I know too well just how extensive that pain can be. I know that they have just boarded a roller coaster that will take them from joy for the one who has fought the good fight all the way to despair for the massive void that person has left here on earth.
Of course, it's not all grief all the time around here. School, work, football and band have kept us busy, thank goodness. I look forward to getting back to our regular blog programming soon, including the big vacation recap. (Next up: Magic Kingdom!) But for now, this space offers cheap therapy, and I'm certain to be venting here in the months to come, especially as the holidays approach.
To our loved ones: THANK YOU. Thanks for your prayers, your kindess, your grace. Please keep us in your prayers as we struggle to emerge from the depths. And please, please pray for my friends who find themselves facing their own "Wednesdays."