“Seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.” — David Sedaris
In a little less than a month, my mother will be dead for 15 years. Lately, I find myself looking for signs of her everywhere.
- The ladybug that landed on me while we were apple picking the other day.
- The butterfly that kept circling around me and darting at my chest.
- The bluejay on my window sill this afternoon.
- The Andrea Bocelli song playing from the car next to me at the stoplight.
These encounters feel like a gentle, sentimental breeze- like walking through a cloud of my mom’s perfume. I can breathe it in, but I can’t find a way to grab hold.
Catch and release.
A younger Lisa, one I don’t remember or maybe never even knew, has peppered my dreams for the last month.
- We were in a boat with one of my new friends.
- She was at my kitchen table, patiently waiting for me to serve dinner.
- Over a glass of wine, we chatted with a group of faceless women.
I tend to wake myself up from these dreams, excited about the possibility that she might be here. And then I feel a crushing wave of heartache that thankfully has become momentary rather than semi-permanent.
Remember and let go.
There are so many things happening in my life that I want to share with her.
- The kids. Always the kids.
- The gorgeous boots that I just got on crazy discount.
- A recipe I tried that I know she would have liked.
- How different my life looks from what she’d probably pictured, but that I’m happy.
I am even longing for her quick judgement and strict rules that felt like poison as a teenager, but in hindsight are a welcome, mother-knows-best embrace.
My glasses are rose-colored.
About a year ago we moved my grandmother, Mary, to an assisted living facility in Maryland right outside Washington D.C. On my way back home from visiting for her 99th birthday last month, I drove to the house in Phoenix, MD where my parents lived at the end of my mom’s life.
Back in the fall of 2005, there were two albino deer living in a field nearby. Their white hides were a lighthouse in a sea of brown and green. As I drove, I felt desperate to see them, or their ghostly offspring. They came into my life when my mom was so very ill, and I wanted to think that somehow her spirit was transferred into the gorgeous, otherworldly creatures that seemed too delicate to be surviving.
- The field was empty.
- The autumn grasses scorched and brown, readying for a dormant season.
- It would have been a beautiful spot for her spirit to playfully rest.
As I drove North towards home, I realized that I never want to go back to Phoenix. Whatever I’m looking for, some indication of her spirit or truth about life after death is not there.
I will continue quietly looking everywhere while shepherding in a new phase of my grief and a deep appreciation for each happy moment that feels like a visit from beyond.