phantom limb

May 14, 2011 § 2 Comments

In the blink of an eye 5 months have gone by since my last post.  I am grateful you’re still here reading this but I can’t apologize for my absence.  I will never be sorry I spent the last few months of my mom’s life snuggled up with her in her bed, watching all the seasons of Glee, my arms wrapped tight around her as if I was strong enough to keep her whole; holding her hand, rubbing her feet, mixing her rum and cokes.  It was the time she needed me most, it was the time I needed her most.

I could barely cook for sustenance, I couldn’t cook from my heart, it was beating for her.  As her condition deteriorated so did my desire to do anything but be by her side.  The stories, the whys, they were being written in breaths, in her smile, in her eyes that sparkled until she couldn’t wake.

On the morning of March 5th I watched the morning light come quickly from my mom’s bedside at the hospice.  I tried to describe its dawning to her hoping she could still hear me. 

“It’s soft and grey this morning mom, not raining but it must have earlier.  There’s puddles in the courtyard, they’re shimmering silvery white reflecting the bright pillowy clouds.  It looks still. I think it’s going to be a nice day.”

It was beautiful.

7:34

That’s what time it was when my mom died.  Not a Wednesday afternoon in September, but a Saturday morning in March.  We got 175 days. 

I held her hand and tried not to cry, I didn’t want that to be the last thing she heard.  They say that’s the last thing to go, hearing.  So I gently brushed her cheek with the side of my hand, kissed her where my hand had been and whispered I love you in her ear, I told her to “go now, I’ll see you whenever I get to where you’re going.  I’ll miss you like crazy.  I already do”.  And then she did.

I keep the door to her bedroom closed.  I want to keep her in there.  Her clothes still hanging in the closet, still folded in her dresser drawers.  It still smells like her, but barely. 

70 days without her, 10 weeks today.

I close my eyes and search for the memories so vivid they appear instantly in the darkness behind my lids.  I see her smile, I smell the coffee brewing.  I search for an opening I can crawl inside so I can stay for a while, wrapped up in her presence, breathing her in.  It hurts so bad that I can’t stay, that it wont ever change, these memories, there will be no new ones.   They are all I have now.  I search for a way to climb inside anyway.

I still feel her.  For a moment in the mornings when I wake up alone in the house I pretend she’s still there warm under her duvet.

“Are you awake ?” I call out.

 I hear her down the hall in her sunny voice, “Oh yeah, since 6”.

I tell her “I’ll go make the coffee”  but I never do. 

I lay and listen to the silence and try not to cry.  It fills me like water, the pain of exposed nerves left by the pieces of me that are gone but still feel as if they are here.  The tears like fingertips trace the lines of my face as I try to remember hers.  I know her duvet is folded in the corner on a pile of her folded bedding, the sheets I can’t wash.  Her room is full of her things but it is empty like I am.  Some of me died with her.

I’m not broken but I’m no longer whole.  What kept me tethered to the earth has been severed.  I’ve wandered through the days numb, without connection, without craving.  There is a hole in my heart, in my lungs.  I am empty but for this ache that starts in my stomach and grows, pushing upwards and outwards.  The hole in my lungs makes it impossible to feel as if I’ll ever get enough air no matter how deeply I breathe it in.  Sometimes it feels as if I  am choking on my grief.

I barely hear my voice in my words, I hardly recognize my hands where they used to be most at home.  My kitchen has been a ghost town.   But slowly, so slowly, sometimes I feel the thaw.  The places in me left frozen are stretching and shivering as the ice melts.  I didn’t think the spring time would find its way inside this hollow sadness but daffodils and cherry blossoms she would have noticed nudge the sleeping girl I still am. 

I’ve found myself lost in the thick scent of brown sugar and butter, lulled by the sound of my knife slicing through orange fleshed yam, smiling as I think of snow and homemade hot chocolate while I sift  flour, rediscovering my instincts in roasted tomatoes.

                         

                         

                        

I don’t know what this blog will look like as I try to find my place, try to find a way to exist in a world without her, try to live with the gift and curse of this phantom limb.  But into the unknown I’m thrust with strawberry rhubarb crumble bubbling and oozing its jeweled toned juices in the oven and a new appreciation for the luxury of time and the newly shattered illusion that it is our right.

There will be no recipe today just a request.  Appreciate those you love 365 days a year, say sorry for taking them for granted, because you do, and you won’t realize it until your faced with losing them.

If a picture can say a thousand words, let the ones I’ve posted say what I haven’t been able to.

Special thanks to Scarlett Ballantyne for giving my mom a day to feel like a queen and to Cathy Empy for your generosity and talented eye, you gave both of us something to take with us.

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