On the last day of my mom’s life, I tended to her various needs, helping her move around in bed, rubbing her back, keeping her smiling, and rubbing her back some more.
At one point, I sat on her side and showed her three ties.
“Which one should I wear to your funeral?” I asked.
In retrospect, it seems trite, seems almost disrespectful or cavalier to have asked. It feels cruel to write these words. But, at the time, it was the best I could do to bring order, reason and control to a world spinning off without end. Let’s decide what we can. Let’s make it how she wants.
I wasn’t the only one.
Mom spent some of her final hours planning her funeral, and our mourning.
No flowers. Pine coffin. Pink napkins. No DZ Akin’s catering during shiva.
She didn’t want her funeral to be maudlin. She wanted a celebration of her life.
And so that’s what we did.
There were moments when we each broke, moments when we wallowed in the tragedy. But, for the most part, we cried through our laughs, reflecting on how much we loved her, not how much we missed her. We sat seven days of shiva in awe over the woman – the mother, daughter, sister and wife – we came to know so much better in her death. We poked fun, and smiled, and celebrated all she accomplished in her far too few years through our sadness.
Mom’s body still lay warm in the other room when my uncle prodded my grandparents to realize that it would only be right to take us all on a “Lori Bolotin memorial cruise.”
Why cry, when you can laugh?
Three weeks later, shiva is all a blur. It seems like eons ago. I’m sure that I haven’t seen my mom in years.
And as time fades the memories of mom’s suffering, the experience of our angst and worry, the visions of her sickness, I’m left realizing that I just miss her.
More than anything in the world.
I no longer feel relieved that she’s no longer in pain. I’m no longer comforted that this madness is over. I’m just a son, who misses his mom.
But in my more sanguine moments, I can sit comfortably for a moment or two and accept that this should be hard, that healing will take a long time. That there is no sense in what happened and that is OK.
Life is messy. We control much less than we pretend to.
People die. They die too young. They die without reason. And they suffer too much along the way.
My mom was one such person.
But she was also a person who, through her death, came to understand just how messy life is, that it’s not black and white, but black and white and gray, and a little more black and a little white, all mishmashed together in a messy contorted reality.
All her life she had thought, she had lived as if the opposite were true.
But it’s not.
And we can fight that fact all we want. But that’s just a waste of the time we do have.
On that day, that day before she left this world, when I sat there, showing her ties, my mom did not like the pink tie I showed her.
“Too much,” she said.
She did not like the black one either.
She chose for me, to wear on the day of her funeral, the day we celebrated what she gave to this world an argyle tie of black and white and grey stripes, all criss-crossing each other in one big mess of a statement.