I tell myself this is the natural order of things. This is the way it should be. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. Your brain understands this. Your heart protests.
You’re born into this world with unshakable tenets. Such as, the sky is blue. Such as, falling on the pavement hurts. Such as, cold ice cream on a hot day is magical. Such as, you’re born to parents who help you navigate through the hallways of your home. Parents who teach you how to navigate down the paths of your life. Parents who watch you slowly drift away to create your own life. Separate, yet tethered.
And one day, one of the strings breaks, and you find yourself flapping in the wind a bit lopsided. This is the way it’s supposed to be–you’re supposed to bury your parents, not the other way around. It’s tragic when parents bury a child. This is how life unfolds, they tell you, this circle of life.
Is this how it’s supposed to be? A life stopped suddenly and everyday objects left askew like Pompeii artifacts? Her handbag draped easily over the chair. Her last load of laundry folded neatly at the foot of her bed. Her lipstick perched on the bathroom countertop. Everywhere I turn, she is there. Yet everywhere I turn, she is not there. And she won’t be ever again.
It’s strange to reconcile this juxtaposition in each moment of the day, in every moment of the day. Because she lived here. But she doesn’t live anywhere anymore in these moments today, tomorrow, next week. Next Thanksgiving, next Christmas, next birthday. She is here, but she’s not here, and she won’t be here. It’s a strange assault of being overwhelmed with this contradiction, yet feeling a void of nothing, an absence of feeling, a numbness.
It’s strange to live moments and make memories without one of your life pillars. It’s strange to watch your mother lowered into a deep hole in the ground. It’s strange to comfort your father and your sister some moments, and wonder where the wailing noise is emanating from the next moment. (The answer is you, the wailing is coming from deep inside you, from a place you did not know existed.)
It’s strange to hear stories about her childhood, her past, her other roles in life. It’s strange to integrate all this new knowledge of someone you thought you knew intimately, and end the day with a new understanding of her. It’s strange to step back and see the bigger picture of her personhood and life and impact, because nothing more will be written about her; she has no more stories to live out. It’s strange to summarize your mother’s 79 years into a five minute eulogy.
I understand this is the natural order of things. My heart protests.