17 August 2011

Dear Mom,

It has been 2 months since we lost you. Liz got married on Saturday night, and we were there (you rsvp'd yes, and ordered the sirloin), me and Kevin and Petey and Davey. Petey wore his hat, which you wouldn't have been happy with, but it was his fancy hat, which makes it better. When we got home from the wedding, to our house, to our house that you lived in and died in, I had this email waiting for me:

Are you THE Leigh Batnick...
…who was a sweet & lovely 5th grader at Lakeside Elementary in Merrick in 1989-90? I suspect it must be you, as your writing is as deep & graceful & magical now as it was then. I came upon your blog just now, and am so very sorry for your loss.

Of all things, I remember your mom’s signature on your report cards & absence notes. She had happy handwriting!
My deepest condolences to you & your family; my heart goes out to you.

With love,
Christine aka "Ms. Wicks"

Mom, you remember Ms. Wicks! She was my favorite teacher, her, and Dr. Isaacs (he understood me before I did). The thing is, I haven't exchanged a word with her in 21 years and she emailed me precisely at the moment that I was toasting Liz and Liz and I met in her classroom. In my toast, I quoted from the letter Liz wrote you on June 5th, and in that letter she spoke about Ms. Wicks.

Mom, I know you already know this. I haven't written back to Ms. Wicks yet, because I'm waiting to understand; I spend my days waiting to understand. Liz, who knows deep loss from the its eddy, wrote to me:

...Although I know you do not feel connected to your sadness, rest assure, you are at a kind of magical stage of subconscious connection. She is speaking through your heart, mind and pen (or rather, your laptop). Sadness will roll in with the tides of mundane memories, with holidays, with realizations about the lack of phone calls. Unfortunately, it will eventually come. But for now, know that the unexpected thing about loss is a strange super-powered infusion of love that you gain from the person that you lost. It is almost like a shield that they give us for our hearts. And that shield is made up of the energy created by the POWER of your connection to them. Some may call it denial or shock, but really, I think it is the protection given from our beloved, the one who knows that our fragile hearts can only take so much at a time... Lest they break in two. And that is the last thing that they would ever want to happen...

I spoke to Ray-Ray tonight, and she told me that Jane asked you before you died, as best friends can, "How will I know you are with us?" and you answered "You will know. There will be no doubt about it." When Jane opened the library the first morning she went back after you died (you loved little ladies and librarians who loved pink wine), 3 computers were on but the main computer, the host, was off. No one was there, the computers are turned off every night, religiously, and she knew. It was you. The mother-ship was dark, but still, she lit her 3 children.

Mom, you light your 3 children. I think about what I did not ask you; I did not know you were afraid of heights. Petey told me when you went on the ski gondolas out West, you hovered over desert and prairie, canyons and brush, and your hands tightly gripped the sides. I am afraid of heights, too, or of precipices, more specifically, and I couldn't breathe as we ascended the Eiffel Tower, so down quickly we went. I never knew you were afraid of anything, except what could hurt your children. You are fearless to me. You feared not death, you feared not life.

Mom, your heart has stopped, I heard your last breath, but your heart made mine, and now Liz tells me, that you cradle my broken heart. Please, come to me. Be with me in dreams. Michael dreamed of you, dead, but re-animated, and I am so jealous. In his dream, you told the three of us that Petey took good care of you, and when he told me about his dream I said, "You're right, he did" and Michael gasped, for I had said exactly the same thing in his dream. My girl, be with me in a dream. Tell me what I know (but the knowing is hard, and it's not the same as your voice telling me, kissing me, nuzzling your head into my neck - you are short!) you would say if you were here. Tell me that you love me, tell me that I am the daughter, the person, you hoped I would be.

Mom, I fear not the night or a great height. You are with me, you are in me, you are all around me. I love you, my girl, and I love my brothers and we talk to our uncles and I will be better about calling your friends (my friends) and seeing Poppy. You have taught me how to live, and I want to be my mother's daughter. There was no one better than you, my mother.

Tuck me in, and slowly tell each part of my body to rest, to exhale from my tiniest toe, to the tip of my head, like you did when I was small.

I love you, I love you, I love you and this is not good night, for maybe I will see you tonight.
Lulu Belle

12 August 2011

I cannot explain to you this unbelievable desire for something I will never have again, this deepest need for my mother to return to life. She was smaller than me, but felt so much bigger, feels so much bigger, and every time I held her hand, which was often, I was struck by her smallness, by how very small her hand felt in mine. I felt like a man must feel, holding the hand of a woman.

I was told about a woman who, after her mother died, became a Hospice aide. Before June 17th, I would not have understood this, the return to the scene of a horrible crime, but now I do, but I won't, for I'm not as good as that woman. If I cannot have my mother, alive, well, crying "Girlfriend!!!" loudly and off-key into the video chat, as Teepee's ears stood straight on end, huge and ridiculous, I would have the end again, the feeling of purpose, holding her failing body tight, giving her the last hug I would give her, as Nancy, her hospice aide turned her on her side to check for bed sores. The first time we did this, my mother held me as I held her, and our tears mingled in pools on our cheeks, falling from the same green eyes. The last time, my silent mother's body was a weight in my arms, her breathing was jagged in my ear, and the tears were only mine.

Where does redemption come from? Where is joy, pure and unfettered, without her? My girl, I cannot feel free without you here. I know what you want for me. You told your children when we promised to one day go to the Galapagos, to see the tortoises and the blue-footed boobies, that we could only go if we promised you one thing: we would have fun. Mom, I promised you, and I promise you, but it has not yet been two months, and in my sadness, I honor you. Don't be mad at me, my girl, for not being a goer and a doer quite yet. I want to be still, to be quiet, to be with you, with my thoughts of you.

08 August 2011

Dear Mom,

I am writing this on your computer, and I am thinking of how cute you were by the light of the video chat, falling asleep, the laptop bigger than you, tilting in towards your forehead as you fell asleep. And I would say, gently, "Mom, go to sleep," and your eyes would open and you'd say, "How did you know I was sleeping?" and I'd say, "Your eyes were closed!" and sometimes you'd be snoring lightly too.

Mom, I started reading our emails to each other today. Your email account is open (were you the last person left using AOL? Without you they are doomed!). You have 1890 unread emails. I will look through, to make sure there are none that need to be answered. I started answering your emails in June, and I had to tell friends why you yourself could not answer.

Our emails to each other are funny and silly and full of love. I am so proud that I wrote to you: i appreciate your pearls of wisdom. you have the longest, wisest pearl necklace in the world. My last email from you is on May 15th, but on April 7th you wrote:

To the most beautiful bride,

Wow! What beautiful pictures. You and Kevin look amazing! This was the best wedding I have ever been to. I am soooooo proud of all your efforts and your vision and how you remain true to yourself and who you are.

Hope you are having fun and thinking about you all the time.

Love & xxxxxx's.

Thank you, my girl, for allowing me to be the person you made, even when you did not understand that person. Thank you, my girl, for being honest, always, even when I wished you were not. You knew all of my secrets, because I trusted you to treat them with care, and because we need to be told when we are doing the wrong thing. Without you, who loves me enough to tell me I am wrong?

On the anniversary of Nana Hannah's death, I posted about her here, and you wrote, "Yes you have it right. I certainly do miss her. 17 years is a long time. She was so beautiful." Mom, now I am a daughter whose mother has gone, and I think of the years that stretch before me, without you here. You told me, before you left, "I'll be with you always, except for the private moments." Mom, stay with me always. 32 years with you was not enough.

I love you, and I miss you are words not enough.
Your first born, your daughter,
Leigh Michelle

02 August 2011

The is and the were.

Because the world is unknown to me, I wonder, if we go to Joshua Tree, to a place that I do not know, to a landscape that I can only dream up, will I find her there, waiting for me? I live in a world where my mother was and I am. We, none of us know our fates (her favorite joke? Want to make G-d laugh? Tell him your plans.) but it is conceivable that I will live longer without my mother than with her. The tense of her being has changed, she has passed, they say, she was, they say. She is I say! But that will slip away, and every night I fall deep asleep, for every day I say, over and over and over again, she is dead, my mother is dead.

Z. told me tonight "I am so sorry about your mother." And he meant it, I know, with a full heart, but how do I explain that I stand, thirsty, at the bottom of a cavernous cavern, and his words are a drop of water falling from heights that I cannot see. No one should know this feeling, until the knowing is unavoidable, but oh! oh! what I wish I did differently while I still had the chance.