We buried my mom today.
I write as a cathartic release, a way to deal with the emotions that threaten to consume me. I am not sure what I am trying to say in this blog, it is very stream-of-conscience, but I need to talk about my mom. I can’t NOT do this, so here it is.
My mom died seven days ago and it still feels surreal to me. Nothing in life prepares you for laying your mother to rest. Nothing. I was there when she passed, holding her hand. My brother and sister, and our spouses were there as well.
I’ve been dealing with utter and all-consuming grief, punctuated by periods of “normalcy” where I forget to grieve. And then, of course, I feel guilty for not grieving. How can I forget, even for a second, that my mom is dead and I’ll never hear her laugh again?
I know this is normal. My mind compartmentalizes the grief when it can so I can just get through the day. My mind, though, still goes on really off-the-wall tangents. For example:
As we cried, held each other, and comforted each other immediately after my mom passed I decided that I hated mushrooms.
Let me back up and tell you where this odd thought came from. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, I was in shock and, being the writer I am, my mind slipped into word games as a defense against the shock. My doctor said I had “squamous cell carcinoma” but what I heard was “John Stamos cell carcinoma.” It became, later and after I had accepted the reality of my cancer, a running joke for me to tell people that John Stamos had given me cancer.
Similarly, as I was sobbing in the arms of my wife and my sister, thinking about the damned fungal infection that had killed my mom, I decided that I hated mushrooms because they, too, were fungi. I was in shock and my mind was looking for ways to avoid the reality in which I found myself. Still, I had visions of eating the hell out of every mushroom pizza I stumbled across. I would do my part in the war against fungi. I would kick every shroom growing in the grass. I would knock them off the shelf in the grocery store. I had an enemy and it was the mushroom.
Of course, even as I was hatching battle plans against the fungi, I knew how ludicrous it was. I recognized it for what it was. I needed to stop with the angry fantasies and face my grief.
And so I set aside, rather reluctantly, my dream of global mushroom conquest, and got through the week as best as I knew. I embraced the grief so I could get through it. I don’t want to grieve my mom’s death but celebrate her life, as my father’s oldest friend said.
It hasn’t been an easy week for anyone in our family. My son, grief-stricken, crawled into bed with Carey and me and cried himself to sleep as we stroked his head. He was angry at the unfairness of it all. My heart broke for this latest loss of innocence my son had to face.
My other son, every time he saw a picture of him and his grandma dancing at my wedding, broke down and cried.
My daughter held it all in, barely shedding a tear, until today at the funeral service. I looked over at her, sitting by herself in a pew, and saw the tears running freely down her cheeks. My wife and I sat next to her and she threw herself into my arms, sobbing for the first time since grandma died.
My brother and his five children as well as my sister and her two grown children, had similar weeks and similar trials. My father was a wreck; his wife of forty-seven years had passed. My grandparents had lost not a daughter-in-law, but a daughter.
Family and friends flew or drove in from all over the country to say goodbye to mom. My co-workers at Hooah showed up to give me support and love or sent care packages from our remote offices to me. My old family at Channel Intelligence sent a care package and emails expressing sympathy and condolences.
My mom’s friends and co-workers from before she retired showed up to the viewing and the funeral and spent, literally, hours telling us all how much they loved my mom and what a wonderful teacher she was.
I am so sad that it took my mom’s death to bring all of these amazing people together under one roof. How wonderful would it have been had we been able to convene like this before she died? My mom, more than anyone I have ever known, truly loved and cherished her family and loved ones. She would have been so, so happy and excited to see the group of people gathered to honor her.
The funeral service was very appropriate. The funeral chapel was filled with loved ones and friends. My sister gave an amazing eulogy; I was so proud of her. I was going to speak as well, but after my sister spoke I realized that nothing I could say would capture the essence of “mom” as well as Rhonda had.
My oldest son, Matthew, was a pallbearer. I was very proud of him. He has grown into a fine young man. My other children, Christopher and Ashlee, were perfect today as well. They weren’t ashamed of their grief, they comforted others as well and they truly understood the maxim that shared joy is increased and shared pain is lessened.
I have amazing children because of my mom. She taught me how to be a parent. She taught me how to temper discipline with love. She made me the man I am and, consequently, she is responsible for the men my sons are becoming and the woman my daughter is growing into.
After the service, we drove to the cemetery and actually buried my mom. I touched her coffin, lay flowers on it, and watched as the rest of the family and friends said their final goodbyes. My brother and I stayed after to watch the lid put on the grave. I grabbed a shovel and placed the first mound of dirt on her coffin. My brother followed suit.
I have broken down many times these past seven days. I have been comforted by family and friends and I have provided comfort to my children and my family. I am very proud of my family. I love my sister and brother so much this week. We disagree from time-to-time, but their unconditional love of me, our unconditional love of each other, really shined through this week. We were there for Dad, for each other, and for the entire family.
The holidays are going to be hard without mom this year, but we’ll get through it as a family. So many connections became evident this week, so many people my mom’s life had touched. I hope those connections stay alive and that our family never forgets the lessons she taught us. She taught us how to accept, how to persevere, how to sacrifice, and how to love.
My mom will always be my hero and I will always love her and honor her memory.
I’m still considering guerrilla attacks on the mushrooms at the grocery store, though.