Before I began writing today, I decided to clear away some old files from my computer in an effort to squelch the sluggishness of carrying around too much stuff. I came across a file titled Mama, and found in it, among other things, an assignment for a writing class I took the summer after she died. The charge was to write for 15 minutes about a strong emotion, and in re-reading this today, I find I’m feeling those strong emotions again. And, because I know so many who have lost loved ones can relate, I am sharing it here, unedited and untouched. This is how I felt, this is what I was going through. For me personally, it is raw, and tangible, and real. And to honor that reality of what I was dealing with, just a copy & paste is the extent to which I’ve touched it…
Title: Stage Two (Strong Emotion – 15 minutes)
I hung my head and cried.
After three years of the same routine, twice a month for an hour, she knew me fairly well. And although she didn’t yet know why I was crying, she knew the signs of its onset. Once the ‘hellos’ and ‘so nice to see yous’ were out of the way and my talking slowed, she had instinctively reached for the Kleenex. I took it from her and clutched it now in my hand, turning it over and over until fine white lint began to shed onto my black pants.
“My mother died almost two weeks ago,” I managed, wiping at the sugary lint on my thighs.
“Oh, Kati, I had no idea,” she offered, “How are you feeling?” The concern in her voice was real although I couldn’t help but wonder if she wasn’t doing jumping jacks inside since this bump in my progress most certainly meant job security for her. Her framed degrees and diplomas hung contemptuously behind her, laughing, mocking, judging with my every visit. I hated coming here. I hated her.
“I just don’t understand it,” I said, for the umpteenth time in the last twelve days, “I can name six people that I personally know who have beat cancer in the last few years. SIX,” I repeated, my angry eyes staring her in the face, “why did she die? I don’t get it.” I threw my arms up in the air in company with the shrugging of my shoulders and dropped them back to my thighs with a slap. White dust shot into the air, hung there a moment, then calmly floated to my lap.
“Kati, sometimes we need to surrender things that we can’t understand to something larger than us”, she fumbled for words of comfort. I knew that she was walking an ethical tightrope by suggesting that there is some sort of higher being at the helm, somehow alleviating the human race from our reckless habits, negligent choices and hindered responsibilities. I didn’t buy it.
“I just don’t get it, I don’t understand,” I repeated, half to the arrogant “Creator” who I had recently decided did not exist. In spite of my judgment, traditions and customs held fast and I found myself talking, praying, pleading to someone, anyone, just in case. I didn’t know what I believed anymore. “I’m just pissed off, you know?” I asked, knowing full well that I was inviting psycho-babble with this silly question.
“The death of a loved one can often prompt positive change, Kati. It sounds to me like you’re searching for answers and that’s a good thing. You could look at this as a gift your mother has given you,” she said, her nose and cheeks pulled upward towards her squinted eyes as if to say “ya think?”
I knew she was trying, I knew she was doing the very best she knew how. I wanted to be grateful to her but I couldn’t relax my indignation that had found its way to the forefront of my emotions in the past day or two. With arms opened wide, I had accepted stage two into my life.
“Oh, screw that!” I yelled, surprising myself at my outburst, “She’s DEAD, I may never see her again! The only change is that my mom is gone! What kind of a gift is that?”
As I stood I tore up the remains of the gnarled up Kleenex I had been fumbling with and threw them at her. Stomping out of her office, away from her stunned breathing, I could see from the corner of my eye, a beautiful mist of dew-like white dust suspended in the air. And as I walked away, it slowly fell to the ground.