Why be kind?
It’s been a shitty week. I’ll skip the specifics, so you’ll have to take my word, but some of the shittiness stems from venturing back to my childhood home where the realness of my mom no longer being here sits on my lap like an obese child. Yah, that shit is heavy.
It’s been over a year, yet my grief is only growing. Why is that? Why does it seem that the hardest part of her dying is still in front of me? Maybe Year One is all shock? Whatever the case, I’m all up in that misery part. At least I hope so. Can’t say I can handle things getting worse.
She’s all around me. When home, I sleep in the bed where she slept when sick. And I watched television into the wee hours of the night in the dark as she did. Sitcoms. Friends and Frasier. Those two shows always give me giggles.
I go to her church. I see her friends there – the ones still alive.
I look in her wallet knowing there’s not much in it but her AARP card and her Amtrak frequent traveler card. It’s still on her dresser, as if she just forgot it while she left to go to Winco.
I sad shop. At places she liked. At places she loved. Macys and Dillards and Barnes & Noble. It’s impossible to venture into these without thinking of her.
I visit her. The place where she’s buried, sharp grass surrounding her. A butterfly and a bee join me. A bitter grief hits as I walk back to the car, seeing a solemn procession of people mourning a newly lost soul just a few yards away from me. It’s the kids and the spouses that get to me most. A dad trying to find the words to tell about grandma’s new adventures.
Our home – their home…my dad’s home, now – hasn’t changed with the exception of her absence. Her car is gone. Her ice cream and mashed potatoes and green beans are gone. And she’s gone. But most all else stays constant.
Plenty else happened to sink me further south than I already was. But a few times, my movement to tears (or close to them – a sistah fought hard to keep that shit in) was spurred by gentle, nuanced acts of kindness.
For one, a friend of mine said some of the nicest things possible about my mom – this, just following time spent with her and a couple others for brunch just after I’d spent time at the cemetery (so I was already a hot mess, having dropped funds on clothes I probably didn’t need at the boutique next door to the restaurant as I awaited our reservation time). Without shoveling down too deep, she told me that my mom perhaps had a positive influence on her mom, which then solidly impacted her. Timing is a muthafawka, her words spoken at nearly the exact moment I needed them.
And more today at mass. I only go to mass when I’m home in Stockton. I attend the 10:15 a.m. service at St. Luke’s Catholic Church whenever I’m in town. This was mom’s church, where she sang in the choir and gathered up a collection of devout and devoted friends – mostly women with roots in Southeast Asia and the Philippines. My first time going back after her death was difficult – this was the place where we’d held her going away service. That first time, at the part of the service where we turn to our neighbors to shake hands in fellowship and peace, no one shook hands with me. Instead, their heads nodded and they forced semi-smiles, their hands strongly gripped together behind them. Three different groups near me did this. Small as it may have been, the scene both humiliated and hurt me. Part of me wanted to write a note to the priest in complaint. I didn’t go to mass the next time I was in town. Nor the time after that.
But I did this morning. And I’d steadied myself for rejection, shielded with the education that I was there for me and me only – it didn’t matter what those around me chose to do or not do.
When that time came before Communion, the gathered crowd gathered asked to offer the sign of peace (via a handshake), I walked down my row (only one other lady sat in my pew, flanking the opposite aisle) to offer my hand. She seemed hesitant, but didn’t deny me my shake. I was good with just that. But as I headed back to my spot, the family in the row just behind me stopped me, practically begging me to connect with them. They smiled, they held my grasp longer than needed. Their words “peace be with you” seemed real and intentional. And it didn’t stop. Each of the families around me shared the same spirit, the same sentiment in their greeting. Once it all ended, I once again had to suck up the water. To stop the tears, I needed that little vacuum the hygienist uses to drink up my saliva and such when I get my teeth cleaned. Or a hearty square of tissue. I had neither.
Which was fine. I realize now that I’ve firmly landed in a new square of the grieving process. And this phase might require more than sad shopping and booze to get through it. With these small (huge) acts of kindness accompanying me along the way, however, I know that all will be okay.