Chasing Ghosts

My neighbor recently lost her mother. A life well-lived, a sweet and spiritual lady passed without pain, surrounded by love. Eighty six years old, doted on by her family especially her daughters. I don’t have any daughters, but I was once part of a dynamic trio. My maternal grandmother, my mother and myself–we shared our hearts and skipped around the globe together. We even got so close to Bernadette Peters once–we could see her eyelashes from our theater seats. But that story is for another day.

I told my neighbor our middle son is back down in the valley on his grief journey. He misses my mom. Her old dog recently died. And that was it–he began to wallow. When your child is heaving with emotion, barely able to catch his breath from all the tears and snot bubbles–it takes your breath away. This creature you once carried now carries so much sadness in his tender, beautiful heart. I cannot make his hurt disappear. And no one can feel another’s despair, no one can understand anyone else’s grief. It is tricky, complex and lunges at you–can startle you like a shadow on hallow’s eve or a pesky spider your puppy starts chasing.

Truth is I’ve been running around literally and metaphorically all summer straight into this crisp autumn air. And some days I cannot catch my breath. I forget birthdays, send belated cards and don’t remember why I went to the basement. I lost a credit card, I barely remembered to sign up my oldest for baseball tryouts in time. None of this is me. I am the boss at birthdays and deadlines, ask my friends–they used to get cards before their birth date arrived. My shadow doesn’t match my shape–I am marred by memories, spiraling in the garden because she cannot see the hydrangeas today. She wasn’t lucky enough to watch him be this awesome catcher and friend to all. It breaks me apart. So I run. Not away but toward my mother. And I give myself a lot of grace. One day I’ll get back to it, I will send you a thank you note again.

Now my neighbor knows I am not talking to myself in the flower beds and I do not believe that cardinal is going to sing back or laugh at my pun. She understands and can relate now–I am telling the heavenly bodies I miss what’s going on down here. Simple? Silly? It helps me every day. Keeps my loved ones close by–sort of in my pocket or on a magic string of twinkle lights. So I tell my boy this too. I tell him I talk to grandma every day and it makes me feel just a little bit better and that is something.

His heaving sobs subside, his breathing steadies and he melts into my sweatshirt. I tell him when I run and see the birds and flowers I know that is his grandmother and my grandmother reminding me to live. They sure knew how.

Our boys aren’t ready to see the videos of my mom’s many a fine stage performances. They won’t watch our wedding video because grandma walks down the aisle too and she sings a gorgeous song (she and I selected together). I am ready but I can wait. I will wait–because what I have learned the most through grieving is just as God stitched us all together intricately and individually–none of us process loss in the same way or at the same time. And that is just alright. My oldest and youngest don’t mention my mom very much. I know they miss her and perhaps are keeping their grief close, inward. And that too is just fine.

My heavy-hearted boy is going to walk with me today. I told him after school we should take the puppy and tell his grandma about the show stopping season beginning in our neighborhood. The treetops are turning, I already decorated for harvest. My mom used to do that–she had such a knack for making a house feel like a home.

I already bought pumpkins. A friend brought me extra ghords and of course I have the mums out. I promise to light a candle, maybe even simmer a cinnamon stick stovetop like you used to do. And yes the mantles are adorned with decor, most of which I bought with you. Remember how silly Tim thought we were? Spending all that money on something you only put up through Thanksgiving. Phooey. Now he looks forward to all my frivolous “thankful” garland and “hello pumpkin” signs–he says it makes our house feel inviting and well more like home. Just like you used to do mom. I’m trying.