Thoughts on my mother’s death
categories: unquiet things
[editor’s note: originally posted on my personal blog; also re-posted on Nourishing Death. My mother’s death in late December, 2013 was the catalyst, I believe, for my interest in hosting a local Death Cafe, and I think this is an appropriate place for these thoughts]
My coffee is the same as it is every morning. A packet of stevia, a dollop of almond milk. A dark roast from a noted coffee company, the beans ground just minutes ago, steeped in the french press that we keep breaking, because we are too rough when we try to clean it.
I’m not drinking it, and it is growing cool. I can’t help but to think how my mother got out of bed to make a pot of coffee on Monday morning, probably Folgers in a bulk-size cannister, and never got to drink her first cup of the day. She would have taken it with a scoop of Coffee Mate.
I had just spoken with her on Sunday night. She informed me that she was officially in remission and that she wanted to come to Christmas dinner at my grandparents. My mother has not been to a holiday dinner in years – mostly because as a nurse who worked 14 hour shifts, she was frequently exhausted – and so I was surprised, but promised to prepare the prime rib that she requested and to let the grandparents know to expect her.
The next day, when my sister called to tell me that our mother was dead, the first thing I said was “you’re kidding”. Who would joke about that? Why would I say such a thing? But that is what I said.
Two days later I still think someone is kidding with me.
I am trying to drink my coffee now but it is cold and awful. That is how everything tastes to me: cold.
The police were still in her home when I arrived, and several neighbors were milling around. A toothless Greek man took my hand and sat me down on my mother’s chintz sofa. I have no idea who he was. An officer asked me several questions and I answered without thinking or truly registering who was asking and why. I could see my mother’s bedroom door cracked open, the corner of her bed visible. Her foot was pale.
I walked through the door and sat next to her. Her face was upturned, her expression rapt, as if she had seen something that drew all of her attention in those last few moments. Whether it was something miraculous, or a dangling spider, or even the faces that appear when you stare too hard into the whorls and swirls of humid Florida plaster ceilings – I guess I will never know. Her hands were slightly curled inward, as if she had been gripping something tightly and then suddenly let go. With both of my hands I held one of hers, and it was so very very cold.
My brother in law was the one who pointed out to me that in my mother’s tiny kitchen, a full pot of coffee had been brewed and sat untouched. Grown cold.
I dump my coffee into the sink.