The tunnel catapults me into my emotional quagmire. Where I must sort this thought and that emotion. This weekly trek is not optional. So I take a deep breath and remember your smell, your touch, your voice. I salvage and preserve beautiful memories. I clean away the rotting leaves and choking vines in your garden; and buried beneath these feelings of grief are many green sprouts and blooms, pushing upward toward the sun. And though I am tired, I am glad I came.
It is eight months tomorrow that Mom departed this earth, and it has been hard to recover from losing her. Recently, I found some old books of hers tucked away in the corner of a closet, and it struck me that these books were special to her – perhaps not recently but at another time in her life. The books showed a lot of wear, and the covers were bland with little writing. I packed the books with my things and stuck them in my closet at home until I had a chance to look at them.
Two days later at lunch, a coworker and I shared our experiences with each other of losing our mothers. There were many similarities. She was a retired, English teacher and, in the process of talking, she mentioned several times that she loved the book she was currently reading. Eventually, she said, “Most people say that life is too short for Michener, but this book isn’t as long as the others. It’s one of my favorites.” She mentioned the title, and I paused for a moment. “I think I just brought that book home from my mother’s house,” I said. I went home that day to discover that all three books were by James Michener, and the favorite mentioned by my coworker, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, was one of the three. I wondered about this serendipitous event. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I knew that Mom was trying to tell me something.
Mom had faced her bridges, and now I must face mine too. She wanted me to face her death squarely just as she had done for those five weeks in the hospital. Although it was a terrible loss for me, she wanted me to heal, and she wanted me to understand how to go about the business of doing so, and to assure her that I would do what was necessary to heal. She reminded me through this book that she raised me to have the character to move forward and live fully. And that I must do my job here on this earth, just as she had done hers. This was the kind of person she and Dad had raised me to be.
So I step forward through the loneliness of Thanksgiving and Christmas without her, and yet, with her. For it is times like these that I know Mom is with me in spirit.