On December 28th, 2005 my mother passed away from Metastatic Melanoma. In the weeks following I wrote a very short essay to try and put my hands around the grief that comes from losing a loved one. Eventually that morphed into this flash story about moving on. Which I am publishing here just in time for Christmas.
In Memory of BRB
May 14, 1951 - December 28, 2005
Since she's been gone, life has moved on. You suppose that is to be expected. But it's still strange how normal things can seem without her. You thought you would struggle more, that the change would be catastrophic, but the reality is not what you imagined.
It isn't that you don't miss her. That would be impossible. Too many things bring her to mind. Bombshells you call them. Seeing her chair without her in it. Picking up the phone to call then remembering she isn't there to answer it. Finding one of her notes tucked away in a drawer.
Sweetheart, I love you with all my heart.
It is a slow pull, this grief. It tugs tears from you at unexpected moments. But you fear moving beyond those tears, afraid it may mean moving beyond memory.
Friends call you several times a week. Always the same exchange.
“How are you doing?”
“I'm fine. And you?”
You smile and laugh and go to work because life does move on and you must move with it.
In the quiet moments you realize you aren't doing well and you don't know how to fix it.
You dream of her. The first you think you've had of her since she left. The details are already fading when you wake. Your face is wet, eyes hot and salty. Whatever happened in that dream it broke your heart.
You think you were in those last days, when words fled her besieged mind and all that was left was that sidelong glance and mischievous smile.
What did she see when she looked at you? Something that made her smile when all you felt like was crying. What joke did she hear, what story did she remember that made her grin so wide and innocent?
In your dream, she laughed and danced. You tried to take her hand, but she was already a step beyond you.
You stuffed your hands in your pockets, sullen because you could not keep up. She circled back, moving like water around you.
“Some day you will look back and laugh.”
“At this?” You were cross, just as you had been during the final days.
“At all of it.” She smiled. “And then, I think, I will see you again.”
As if you were the one going away.
You nodded, reluctant. “Okay. Some day we'll laugh about this.”
She danced away, wearing that dress you bought her for when she was clean again. For when she could say survivor and not just fighter. Wearing the dress that you still have hanging in the closet.
The night after she passed on, you opened a bottle of wine and drank a toast and ate the chocolate you had bought her for Christmas. You looked at pictures you had from younger days. In all of them she smiled and you smiled back because the grief had not yet taken hold.
Now the silence has set in, louder than any noise.
You dull the pain with whatever you can - vodka, music, sleep – and you wait.
Some day there will be laughing.