Today, the 14th of November, marks the first anniversary of the death of my best friend’s mother.
A year ago I wrote this, and I’m offering it up again today.
This afternoon (or yesterday afternoon, technically — life and schedules only allow so much leeway) I held her close and she said, “Thank you for thinking of me.” I squeezed a little harder, whispering, “I’ve still got you.” To which she replied, “I know.”
Categories: family, friendship, loss, love, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano
Tags: caring, family, feelings, friends, friendship, loss, love, memories
My BFF and I came to each other rather late in our childhood — we were 45 — but I think we have made up for the years apart and then some. We met because her second child and my one and only were in the same Kindergarten class. We have evolved far beyond school-parent friends and have melded into family. It all happened very quickly. And I am thankful for her every day.
In September, on my BFF’s birthday, her grandmother died. Annie was 99 years young and was the very definition of a Babba. She loved her children, her grandchildren, her grandchildren’s children, and her great-great-grandchildren with an unbelievably open heart. Hell, she loved BoyGenius as if he was her very own great-grandchild right from the day she met him. She had lived through some things, she had come out, and she kept on living. And loving. I loved her, and I miss her.
At the beginning of this week, on Sunday night, while in hospital fighting pneumonia, my BFF’s mother had a massive stroke. She died Monday morning at the age of 79. This second unbelievably strong woman from this family passed away so unexpectedly that we are all still reeling. Shirley was a seemingly tireless worker who took care of everyone and everything. She was the glue that held her family community together. This loss, so close on the heels of Babba’s passing and coming so without warning is like being hit by a tetherball in full swing — the force and ensuing vibration have rocked us to our cores. I loved her, and I will miss her (it hasn’t really sunk in yet).
I know that my friend will find it exponentially more difficult to come through this than I will. I know that her head and heart are filled with regret and “if only”s. I know that her heart is broken and her spirit is only hanging on by the thinnest of threads. I know that words are cold comfort and even actions may go unnoticed right now. I’m doing what I can, including driving across country this evening so I can be there with her, for whatever she needs.
As I enveloped her in my arms on Monday afternoon I promised her one thing: “I will hold you up as long as you need.” The palpable release of even a little bit of tension was all the thanks I needed. I love her and I don’t want to have to miss her.
The first line of this crept into my head as I was peanut-buttering my toast this morning. No idea why, but I thought I had better sit down and find some paper pretty quickly (kind of like that split second when you know you’re about to throw up), so I did just that. And ended up with this:
I have held the hand of Death
as it invades and seeks to usurp
the breath of Life in a loved one’s body.
While Death is not pretty and Death is not proud,
wanting and waiting to snuff out the Life within,
it does seem to care for the shell and the skin without.
Rarely have I felt a hand so soft or smooth
as one struggling to hold on to another day or two.
Skin stretched taut over cheekbone and brow
may seem a grotesque mask to some,
but if so then surely one made from the finest silk
with nary a furrow or crease.
It is almost as if Death, knowing its own reputation
doth proceed, has searched for some small way
to repay the great sacrifices made,
and understanding that family and friends may be holding fast,
offers the only softness it knows,
one of gentle touch.
As I said, I don’t know where this came from, I only know it had to come out.