My Puzzle is Missing a Piece
Making her laugh was a joy to me. I wasn't her child with the best grades nor one to give her grandchildren but I made her proud in other ways. She made the best grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast and eggplant Parmesan. She made me amaretto cheesecake for my birthday every year, no matter where I was, and no matter what age. She called me for advise because I called her for it too. She always showed up. I will always be her baby girl, the stories we share about her make us laugh. Her accent was a little bit West Virginia and a lot bit Southeast Texas. Her stubbornness was a force in both the best and most frustrating ways. She was mom.
A year ago today my dad sent us a text letting us know it would likely be within hours.
I spent the next hour packing, emailing work, turning on my out of office and composing myself before I got in the car to drive the 90 miles to be with her when she left this earth, to keep my promise.
But after that hour of preparation, my phone rang. I thought he was calling to ask when I was leaving, but instead I heard him say “your mom has passed”.
Your. Mom. Has. Passed.
I had imagined hearing those words before I heard them. I had imagined I would be there. I had imagined that I would know, but I would be told too.
But I wasn’t there. And the words, your mom has passed were deafening. He said them with the most gentle and loving and sad tone. He being my dad, her husband of 51 years. But I felt like they were being screamed at me and all the things I didn’t get to say, the promise I didn’t get to keep, the apologies I didn’t make, the confessions I hadn’t yet revealed, they were screaming at me. They were in a tunnel inside my head. All the things I didn’t say were competing with the four words I so desperately wanted to un-hear but were ringing inside.
I began to shake, every fiber of my being was shaking and convulsing. I’ll never forget that minute of my life. Maybe it was 30 seconds, maybe it was 15 minutes…I’ll never know because in my head it was one very long, shrilling minute in time that I can never replace with anything else nor forget both physically and emotionally.
A year, a year has gone by and every first has happened. Now comes what she didn’t get to experience.
After the firsts, it’s the “I wish she was here to see this or to tell this to or to do this with”.
Life kept going after that long minute. We kept moving. We cried. We planned. We laughed. We loved. We grew. We shrunk. We changed. We stayed the same except that every single one of those things had one missing piece.
I spent my entire life putting the pieces of my puzzle together. And to think, I made it this far and lost the corner piece. The one that I started everything with. My puzzle is incomplete without her here, but it does keep growing. More pieces are coming together and nicely falling into places that I thought may forever be lost.
The corner piece that started it all…I find it every now and then in a story, through an experience, behind an explanation and very often, under my tongue.
Four words knocked me to my knees, rattled the foundation of which I stood. Four words solidified it.
But what you may not know, is that one more text read “she went like Hollywood. She smiled, she sighed and she closed her eyes”.
And in that moment, I know that all the things that went through her mind were all the things she said, she loved, she did, her promises she kept, her stories she shared, how proud she was, and the life she lived. And she smiled, she sighed and she closed her eyes.
Rest well, mama.