“Mourning is love with no place to go” – Anonymous
In American culture, after someone dies, there is an incredible dissension of chaos that is bestowed upon those who grieve. It is all well-intended and probably necessary, but it creates a din, as friends and relatives, medical supply delivery persons and coroners, funeral home personnel and pizza deliveries invade the house. The phone rings constantly, everyone vies for attention, trying to lend comfort to the most aggrieved, trying to come to grips with their own grief and incredulity. The result is entrance to a dreamlike state, a bad dream, too, where you retreat further and further from the reality swirling around you, falling back deeper into your psyche, trying desperately to find a place in your mind that still makes sense. Above all, you just want to be left alone to grieve.
Out of this necessary chaos I found my boys, and we huddled together alone in my darkened bedroom, the blinds shut, the door locked, just holding on to each other; and we cried. When we were done crying, we ordered food, and we ate our sugary donut comfort food on the floor, just the three of us. A sense of calm emerged, like being in the eye of a hurricane.
Of course we couldn’t stay locked in the room forever, despite wanting to. The din had died down and the crowd had thinned, but I still kept my boys close, not really knowing what to do or say, but just feeling the need to be near them. Jake asked for some alone time and went into his room: T and I could hear him softly crying, but he emerged a bit later the better for it, and we shared his feelings and tears.
Trevor, forever looking up to his big brother, asked if he could spend some time alone, too, and he closed my bedroom door behind him. I tried not to go in, but the sound of his crying was almost unbearable. I burst in only to have my heart truly broken – my sweet little T, only nine year’s old for god’s sake, was on his knees, crying, clutching his mom’s purse and her pink hat…
Mom lost her hair four times through her various chemo treatments, and struggled to find a wig or ball cap with a ponytail that she was comfortable wearing in public. Eventually she found her blonde bob wig that became her trademark, and made her appear even more sunny. But around the house she mostly wore a pretty pink hat with a coyote on it that we picked up on a family vacation in Joshua Tree National Park, the first place she actually lost her hair. We used her hair as tinder for our campfires on that wonderful vacation, and mom in her pink hat was as comfortable to all of us as a pair of old slippers. It was a part of mom.
Trevor clutched her hat in his tiny fingers and I wrapped him in my arms and held him close. Our wails brought Jake, who joined our embrace, and together we let loose the belly ache cries that we needed. When we were done mom’s hat was still there, wet with tears, and we all took turns holding it. It still held mom’s smell, which was calming, comforting, to all of us.
Little T had led us to a gift; the next day I gripped mom’s hat at the podium while I delivered her eulogy, and Deb’s strength helped me through it. That night, Trevor slept next to me, one arm hugging care bear, the other mom’s hat, and we made it through the night okay. Since then, we all take turns keeping mom’s hat with us, to help get us through the night, or for strength when we have a difficult task ahead, or when one of us is just feeling lonely. It’s a piece, just a little piece, of mom that we can still hold on to…