Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sunday, May 13, 2007

To "Mom's" Family -- With Love

The two days of the year that make me feel the saddest are both in May. The first one falls on Mother’s Day and the second is on May 26th, my birthday. This year in particular is the worst.

Mother’s Day is always hard on me because I never had children. I never adopted any either because I did not think I had the time. Work occupies the bulk of my time, day and night. Yes, I often find a few minutes here and there to enjoy my life in other ways, but work has always been my focus. So, on Mother’s day I always feel the loss of never having had a child.

It might not be so bad if I lived near my immediate family. My mother lives a thousand miles away. My husband’s mother lived only 250 miles away, but we never celebrated the day with her. I say lived because, well, this is what makes this Mother’s day the hardest one yet.

Her funeral was this past Thursday. My heart breaks for my husband and the rest of his family. I can only imagine what it feels like to know they will never share another moment with their mother. To have it fall only days before Mother’s Day makes today painful.

The funeral day was mixed with deep sadness and hilarity. My husband and I drove down to South Florida the night before. We did not leave Orlando until 7ish because we had to work the entire day. By the time we arrived, it was past 10:30. I was exhausted and went to bed around 11:30. My husband was not far behind. Around 3:00, he kept getting up from the bed every few minutes. I could not understand what was going on, but figured he was feeling some anxiety about the funeral. Then at 4:00, he called out to me from the bathroom, “Sara, I think I have an emergency.” I went into the bathroom, took one look at him and broke out into hysterics. In the five hours since I last looked at him, he had turned into a different person, a caricature of himself. He had developed a severe allergic reaction to something, which caused his face to swell up. The swelling was random; occurring only around his left eye, upper lip and right cheek. It was weird and I just could not help but laugh hysterically.

In the emergency room, the nurse walked in, took one look at his face and said, “Boy what did you eat? That is quite and allergic reaction!” His upper lip had swollen to four times its normal size, all puffed out and hanging way over the rest of his face. He turned to her and said, “Give me a kiss” and waved this monstrous upper lip at her. More laughter as she said, “Well you got the lips for it!”

I made the mistake of saying I thought he was having an allergic reaction to his mother’s funeral that was to occur in a few hours, at 10:00. This caused me to break down in hysterical tears. Just like that, I went from laughing my ass off, to crying my heart out. The rest of the time was somber, knowing how bad that day was going to be.

The funeral was at the Catholic Church she attended. It was my first time at a Catholic Mass. I felt a little odd because I am not Christian. I could not participate in any of the prayers, I did not know them; I could not thank Jesus Christ for dying for our sins because it was not part of my existence. However, the Priest did a good job of mingling his sermon with the Mass. Even though I could not connect with the moment in a spiritual way, I appreciated the sentiments he expressed.

All of this changed once we went to the gravesite. As I stepped out of my car and walked across the other gravesites, feeling the grass and earth beneath my feet, feeling the sun shine hot on my skin, breathing in the air, the very air she had breathed in days before, seeing the blueness in the sky, I finally made a spiritual connection. Only for me, it is to the cosmos. I could feel the random bits and pieces of the universe coming together to make planets and people. And there really should not be any sadness, as we were and always will be a part of everything.

As they placed her miniature casket into her grave, tears started to flow. We couldn't hide from the reality of the situation any longer. The priest sprinkled her remains with holy water and we all walked up in procession style, each placing a rose inside and saying our good-byes to Wanda. It was quite a while before we were all able to compose ourselves enough to leave.

After this, we went to lunch where we celebrated “Mom’s” life. I say “Mom” because during the toast my husband wanted us to all celebrate her as “Mom” and not Wanda. It was a hard day mixed with laughter and many tears; a day where we reflected on our experience of “Mom”.

I recalled the first time I met my husband’s mother. It was Christmas Day 1986. At the time, my husband and I had been dating a few months. Actually, we were already living together, but don’t tell anyone. Christmas day is always celebrated at his sister’s house. By the time we arrived, everyone was already there and I think feeling anxious to meet me. As soon as I walked in the door, my husband’s mom walked right up to me and gave me a big hug while saying to me, “I love you.” It was shocking to me to have a total stranger who had never met me before say those words. Shocking too in that it was the first time in my life anyone had said that to me; not from my parents or my future husband. I will never forget that moment; “Mom” you will always hold a special place in my heart -- may you rest in peace. And while you are not with us in life, you are with us in spirit.