Two weeks ago, I sat on an airplane, drinking some wine to ease the pain. My seat mate turned and asked what was taking me to San Diego.
“I’m going home to watch my mom die,” I said.
And so it was. The woman I came home to was a world away from the woman I had left only three weeks prior. This was a woman who looked like cancer. This was a woman who knew she was dying.
The next few days are a blur. Conversations about hospice. Learning that morphine would prevent her from feeling like she was drowning. The tears. The goodbyes. The hugs.
She asked me, “What will I do without you?” She told me, “Goodnight sweetie,” and then died only hours later.
The one memory clearer than all others is running to grab Shanna as she got out of the car so that I could hold her tight as I told her mom was gone.
There’s no way to fully prepare for someone you love to die. All the more so, there’s no way to be ready for the inevitable when they are so unfairly young, when they have suffered so much, and when you’ve thought – when you’ve assured them – all the while that they’re getting better.
It’s been a week and a half since I buried my mom. My beard is uncomfortably long. A week of shiva and home and grieving has left my belt uncomfortably tight.
Yet it’s never been harder to leave San Diego.
The world feels broken – upside down at least. It does not yet make sense.
Maybe it never will.
But my mom’s memory lives on. It lives on in the hundreds of friends and family who helped us to mourn these past few weeks. It lives on in the thousands of lives she touched during her short time on this earth.
It lives on in me, a son who wishes he’d spent a few fewer hours being angry about things that didn’t matter and resenting attributes that were unchangeable, a few years less being annoyed and distant.
When I started rabbinical school, my mom would joke about how “we” would learn so much now that “we” were studying to be a rabbi. She was more proud of my journey than almost anything.
I am heartbroken that she never got to see me in action. She was the one who knew that Dallas was where I would go from the beginning. There are so many accomplishments, so many successes, so many excitements that I want to get on my phone and call her to tell her about.
But her line is disconnected. There’s no one there to answer.
And I want more than anything to cry on her lap. To hold her tight and have her tell me everything is going to be all right.
But I can’t.
My writing follows a fairly normal course of emotion, starting high, moving low, and coming up high again at the end. Almost pollyannish.
But this one can’t.
Or maybe it can.
My mom was an absurdly complex woman who lived a relatively simple life. She cared about family, about her home, about her Howie. She wanted people to like her.
And I loved her more than anything in the world.
I don’t know how I’ll live without her. But I know that I have no other options. It made her uncomfortable knowing that we were even sad about her.
So we’ll live on.
And we’ll name our kids after her. And we’ll color things pink because of her. And we’ll miss her. Oh we’ll miss her.
Because we love her.
And we always will.