cancer · family · grief · loss · love · mother

The World Spins Madly On


We’re a little over a month out from mom’s death. I had planned on writing something on the exact anniversary of her passing- March 7th- but I was too bogged down in sadness to squeeze any blood (words) from that turnip (my brain). In fact, lately a lot of my planning has not worked out the way I’ve- well, planned. I thought I would somehow feel at least a measurable amount of relief amid the sadness, like a video game hero being rewarded with restored energy and gold coins after conquering the climax of a really difficult level. I thought I would join a gym. Get back to mediating every day. Wake up early and write for half an hour in the mornings. But turns out this isn’t a video game and I am not a hero. I am as exhausted and stuck as I ever was, with the crushing weight of permanence added to the sorrow I’ve come to know as a life partner for the last few years.

I remember being exposed to a new definition for the word ‘exhaustion’ when I first started care-taking for mom. That is how I feel about the word ‘grief’ now. Those five little letters are deeper and wider and darker than I ever knew possible. My sister and I joke that we have become members of a secret club we never asked to join; we mark the difference between the condolences of people who have yet to experience similar losses (“The hardest part is over!””It gets easier from here on out!”), and the soft, restrained support of those who have (“Sorry.””How you holding up?”). My friend Desirae lost her mother a matter of weeks before I lost mine. She says, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t sleep between 2am-4am any more.” My own shift starts closer to 3:30 am.

It is not a sadness that “comes in waves”, though I do find myself repeating that cliche, ad nauseum, to folks who still bother asking how I’m doing. Sometimes it can swell to an emergency room level of heartache, like when I get a whiff of her perfume or torture myself by listening to one of the million voicemails I’ve saved where she is asking for some sort of assistance I was usually too tired or too busy to provide. The main surprise is that it is ever-present. It follows me wherever I go and asks to ride in my car, jump in my shower, watch Netflix with me. It’s my alarm clock in the morning. It joins me at every meal. It lies down next to me in bed at night.

Sometimes I am mildly comforted by the agony. Because other than the constant reminder, knocking softly at the back of my consciousness at all times (and even at my subconsciousness sometimes during the vivid dreams I have when I do manage to sleep), the rest of the world has moved on since February 7th, 2017. And mom’s phone is disconnected. Her house is empty. My rent is due. My car needs an oil change. The dishes need washing. The floors need swept.

Life goes on.

I stay busy with work. My Facebook has gone back to being a scavenger hunt for trivial items needed to prop 15-60 second advertisements about products and businesses I could care less and less about. My phone has gone back to being a vessel for answering frantic emails at all hours of the day. I am partly thankful for the distraction; a sleight of hand that silence the voices in my head who otherwise badger, “You should have had more patience”, “You should have had more empathy”, “You should have done more”. Mom is there, too, hanging out in a recliner in the back of my brain, tsk-tsk- tsking me with that morphine-laden voice of hers, saying, “Life is too short for this, Haley Marie. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Don’t focus on the wrong things.” 

But there are bills to be paid- mine, and 1/2 of hers now. So, as I did before she passed, I drown out the noise and hope for a day in the future when relief might come knocking, tag out grief and exhaustion, and stay for an extended visit all of its own.

And all that being said…

I am completely aware that my loss is not a particularly singular or notable one. It is not especially devastating or cruel, certainly not in comparison to what so many other people have suffered, now and throughout history, all over the earth. I think about how shitty I feel, how so many people have it so much worse than me, and am just mightily impressed how so many of us walk around every day, world-wide, continuing to get dressed in the morning and go to work and attend business meetings and appointments and go to barbecues and football games and concerts and school plays and recitals and weddings and baby showers and just keep keepin’ on, like we don’t have these huge gaping losses  burrowed in our bones. Considering the state of affairs in the world and this country, it’s a wonder things are even as good as they are. “Everyone is fighting a hard battle,” they say. Right now I see it everywhere. 

Anyway, I guess I don’t have anything else to say right now. But to any of you out there also hurting this evening, know that you are in my heart. 


2 thoughts on “The World Spins Madly On

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