Well, I'm back. At least for today. My drive to write has been significantly diminished lately, and I'm working on reviving it. It's tricky, it used to be so intuitive for me to just sit and write . . . I write a lot less when I feel the weight of challenges on my shoulders. I wish that I used such times to pour out my soul onto a page, but I seem to be wired the other way. It's wiring I can change, and am working on, but rewiring human impulse does take time and effort.
I thought back and forth about writing this post today. I felt like it would seem like I was trying to say "look at me, look at my story! Everybody should pay attention to me because of what I've been through!" It felt like I almost should ask my family's permission to write this post, too, in a way, because it's a situation that involved the whole family. My brain came up with so many reasons that I shouldn't write, but deep down, something quiet and steady inside of me persisted in telling me to write the story. It persisted in telling me that there is no competition, that in sharing my story I am not diminishing anyone else's experiences or trying to say that I am any better or worse than they are. Which, interestingly, is a concept that I normally feel that I have a very good grasp on.
I've had six months' perspective on this story now, but at the same time, it continues to unfold. It's the kind of story that, in a way, happens all at once with a single stroke, but in a different way, will color and impact the lives of those touched, well, probably for the remained of their lives.
Because six months ago today, my mother passed away.
It was hardly a shock to anyone who knew her at all. She had been physically ravaged by multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the central nervous system, and slowly but surely wears down a person's ability to use first their fine motor skills, then eventually any motor skills, their ability to use each of their senses, especially touch and taste, but also vision. Emotions are heavily regulated by the nervous system, so they are affected as well, and ability to reason and remember starts to go. And fine motor skills includes the use of the tongue, so speech is slurred. My mother was seventeen years into her diagnosis of MS by the time of her passing, and her speech was often unintelligible to me, and even to those family members who lived with her and spoke with her on a regular basis.
So when I got a phone call from my dad telling me that my mom had passed minutes before, I was not surprised. My brother Mark put it very well when he said that the news had been so expected for so long that it was unexpected when it actually came. She'd been clinging to the tattered remains of life for so long, continually slipping a little further down in her functionality, that it wasn't a surprise, but it was almost surreal. It was surreal to walk into my parents' house and see my mother sitting in the same green chair that she spent her days in any more. Her ability to move her limbs at all was so limited by the end that I kept expecting when I looked at her face to see her eyes open and watching me, proof that there was still some vitality in that frail, powerless body. But now her body was not still because of her disease. Now it was still because she was no longer inside of it.
It's a curious situation in so many ways. Because really, my mother got her death sentence when I was twelve. That's when the years of disease began, and so many of the changes came on so slowly that I feel like I adjusted to them as they came, and it rarely occurred to me to contemplate how different my life would be if I had an active mother instead of filling in her role for her in many situations. In fact, the amount of mourning and grieving that I went through in the years before my mother's death far outweighs what I've experienced after her passing. There have been times in the last six months that I've felt a sudden sadness out of nowhere or cried at the thought of my mom, or had a sleepless night, but it feels like nothing compared to the moments I had in high school realizing that she wouldn't be able to walk on her own, in college realizing that I'd supplanted so many of her roles in taking care of the younger siblings, the yard, and some cooking, and the slow, bitter realization that as her ability to be emotionally healthy diminished, I no longer felt comfortable of safe confiding in her or sharing my hopes, dreams, and fears. That was when I really mourned the loss of my mother. So losing her physical body was actually, in many ways, a sense of closure. It was a release, knowing that her pain was over, her intense suffering done. I looked forward to working on my relationship with her now that she was no longer bound by the warped, twisted reality that existed in her head.
And I realized something today. I felt her physically nearby several times shortly after her death, but I haven't been reaching out to her lately, and I haven't felt her. It's time to recommit and work on being close to my mom. Because the beautiful thing is that she's still my mom, we're just in different lands right now. And she'll be waiting for me.
The most beautiful sound I ever heard All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word Maria! I just met a girl named Maria And suddenly that name will never be the same to me Maria! Say it loud and there's music playing Say it soft, and it's almost like praying Maria! I'll never stop saying Maria -West Side Story, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim