My mother passed away in 2013. It’s getting easier to not have her with me, and yet there are some days it seems like yesterday. Grief is like an unannounced guest…it shows up when it wants to, stays as long as it wants, makes a mess and then leaves. Only to return again unexpectedly.
I experienced three major losses in three years — My dad died in 2011, my brother to suicide six weeks later, and my mother two years after that. So, in three years time I lost half my immediate family. It was especially rough after my mother died, because it meant that both my parents were gone. In these three years, there are two things that I still haven’t done since she died, things that I just can’t do. Not yet.
One, I haven’t been to the cemetery to see her headstone. It just seems so final to me. I can’t bear to see her name carved into the marble – her birthday which is two weeks before mine, and the day she left for heaven, May 23. It was surreal to see her obituary on newsprint and the internet. But, to see her name alongside my daddy’s name…Not yet.
The other thing that I know I should do…is reach out to her best friend Ruth. Here’s honesty for you, I haven’t talked to Ruth since my mother died. As I write this, the thought of hearing Ruth’s voice over the phone makes me weep. Ruth and Mother had known each other since they were 12-13 years old (Sister will fact check this for me). They went through everything together and remained friends until the day Earnie died. When Ruth would call, she and Mother would laugh the entire time they were on the phone. It was like Mother was a teenager again. Sister called Ruth to tell her Mother died and, as you can imagine, Ruth was devastated. Ruth has called me a few times and I just can’t answer her calls or call her back. I’ve tried a few times to get the courage up to call. But, to hear her voice, it closes a chapter that I am just not ready to put aside. Ruth is that last connection to a history of childhood memories I cherish. I feel terribly guilty neglecting her in this way. I share this story with you because I want you to know that in grieving there are just some things we cannot or won’t do and that is okay. Like no two people have the same fingerprints, we each grieve in our own unique way.
God winked recently (and if you aren’t familiar with this term check out this book) and aligned me with a lady who lives in the same, very small town in which Ruth lives and she knows her. This woman is one of those people you immediately feel a connection with and I felt safe sharing the story of my struggle in reaching out to Ruth. I even told her I have a photo tacked to my bulletin board above my desk of Ruth and my mother when they were young girls. This kind stranger said, “write Ruth a letter. Pour your heart out to her on paper and include a copy of that photo. It will mean so much to her. She will understand.” So, that’s my homework assignment.
Lastly, about 4 months after Mother died, the one thing I did do was adopt a dog. Mind you, I already had one dog, Ruthie the Wienerful, and four cats. The last thing our house needed was one more pet. The full story of how I went into PetSmart for fish food and came out with a dog is here. In the course of coming to my senses that I had a momentary lapse of reasoning to add puppy training to my everyday routine, I also understood that adopting Hazel filled the void I had for taking care of someone. Someone needed me. Mother needed me and she was gone. I got Hazel to replace the emptiness in my heart. If I hadn’t blurted this realization in a stream of tears one day to Mr. Bee, I wouldn’t have believed this was true.
Hazel is precious, sweet, playful and so grateful to have a family. This little bunch of love was just what our house needed. I’m not sure Ruthie would say the same.