Here's to Strong Women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
Grief is a funny thing.
My mom died. She died two weeks ago. And yet she doesn't feel gone. Or rather, she feels gone, but not Gone.
I keep waiting for the sense of finality that I know will usher in the grief, and it continues to evade me. I got the call that she'd died the day after she'd arrived home in Durango. I spoke to the first responder who was still in the house, who explained that they'd done everything they could. I talked to the coroner and gave her medical details that they lacked, hoping to help them understand why she'd been able to drive 17 hours alone, and then gone to bed never to get back up again. I made phone calls and arrangements and plane trips home to pack up a house I hadn't stepped foot in in years. I've spoken with lawyers and banks and collected death certificates and accepted flowers and attended to all the business that comes with death.
And yet, I returned home and it still feels like I'm waiting for her to come home from a trip. When my dad died I was crushed with the shock of it and with my mom, it feels like the grief is waiting somewhere just out of reach.
About three years ago, almost to the day, my mom called to tell me that she'd been diagnosed with stage four cancer. The doctors in our small town had delayed and missed signs and by the time they'd reached the diagnosis, the best they could offer her was hospice care. She asked me to look into cancer centers, to see if there might be other options, and in July she flew out to California to meet with a surgeon at UC Davis. It turned out she wasn't a candidate for surgery, but she was eligible for a clinical trial. And what was meant to be a two week visit turned into three years of living together and being a part of our lives.
I had no idea at the time what a gift that would be. We went from seeing her once a year to being a part of each other's daily lives. I am so, so grateful for that and at the same time it really fucking sucks. And I think part of what's making it hard to accept is that she was on a trip when she died, so I keep waiting for her to come home.
She didn't want a funeral or a burial. She always said, "I just want to be gone." When I was putting together my dad's service she said, "Please don't do any of this for me." So there's no "event." I can't bring myself to write the obituary, though I did finally do the Facebook post. I'm going to have to clean out her room soon and Sydney will move back in there eventually. I think that's when it will feel real, more than cleaning out her house did.
In the meantime, I want to honor her for the strong woman that she was and for the strong women that she raised. It is because of her that I will always approach adversity with an attitude of defiance.