It’s OkayPublished 10:00pm Thursday, April 24, 2014
The mechanical sorting through my mother’s things, with empty cardboard boxes and piles of newspapers scattered about her empty apartment gave me pause- the moment that strikes all of us after the death of a parent:
Is this it? Is this all there is to show for over 92 years of life?
Intellectually, I knew better- there are lovely pieces to be bequeathed- but in the end, after all is packed and dispersed, there remains this strange, empty little room where only three weeks ago we’d shared a visit and a cup of tea.
I’m not bereft…I’ve been mourning and missing my mother for the past two years as more and more pieces of her became missing and doorways to memories quietly closed. And when she passed the morning before Easter Sunday, the symbolism was a sacred one and attending services, I suddenly felt as though, once again, I had all of her with me, not only within the walls of the church, but in each creamy dogwood flower, each shock of fuschia azalea.
One thing I found quite staggering was the overwhelming response from friends, neighbors and gentle readers: heartfelt emails, bouquets of flowers swathed in pink ribbon, hearty dinners delivered at my doorstep, an endearing basket of breakfast goods: granola, pears, bagels…and the cards! The mailbox was bulging with ivory and pale blue envelopes.
“God,” I thought, not profanely, but in the hesitation of the moment one begins to open expressions of sympathy. All my life I had wondered what this day would feel like, opening these cards.
“They soften life with sweetness and love,” read the sentiments of the first, its words trailing across an illustration of blue sky and wispy clouds. Perplexed, I opened to read the rest of the inscription:
“Anyone who has loved a pet can understand your loss…”
Fozzy! This was a card in sympathy for my horse. I hadn’t counted on this.
The next card showed red barn doors with a flowered wreath hanging from them and the shadow of a horse as the card was opened: “Apart but never forgotten.”
There were 12 envelopes to open and I was beginning to get nervous.
“How nice,” Paul murmured, spying the stack in my hands, as he wandered in from his office, “Your Mom was really loved by a lot of folks.”
“But these aren’t for Mom, these are for Fozz!” I sighed, placing the third along the ledge of the mantle piece.
“Oh!” Paul said, surprised, then, without knowing what else to say to a hormonal woman who has just lost her mother and a beloved horse within a week, “Oh.”
Mom then scored several cards in a row as it became apparent that those who had initially only sent equine sympathies, soon received the news of the second blow and hastily sent their sincere condolences with a second envelope arriving merely a day later.
“It’s OK,” I smiled and having earlier stood my mother’s cards on one side of the mantle and Fozzy’s on the other, I now pushed them all together, so that the graceful illustrations of lilies and butterflies found themselves butted up against flower-entwined horse shoes and ghostly herds galloping across eternal green meadows.
“Mom would have had gotten such a laugh over this.”
Indeed she would. I daresay, she is still.