31 May 2012

Love is infinitely more durable than hate.

My mother died 346 days ago. What has loss done to you, what do you see when you fall asleep at night? What does the world look like from behind your eyelids?

We laughed at my wedding, we smiled, we loved. This photo was taken at the moment, the only moment, we cried. I held her diminishing body, that had tricked most (not me) with its beauty that day, in my arms, and I knew she would die soon. And so she did, 74 days later.

These days have been hot, the weather grows closer to what it was when she lay dying in our house, one year ago. The earth was warm, bees were fat. A butterfly hovered at her grave, and I am told it was there again at the unveiling, and that the clouds parted and the sun shone strong when I spoke to her, staring at the foot stone for the first time. I wrote a letter to my mother to read at the unveiling - I didn't account for what it would feel like to speak to her out loud, for the first time in 323 days: Dear Mom...you are our super moon, the most dazzling moon that ever was. You hold us in your incandescent orbit, always. We love you. I love you. I choked on my words, I cried, I did not speak loudly, but I knew as I was speaking that being able to talk to my mother in front of those who loved her most was a gift, and though I did not see the butterfly or the clouds parting, I knew she was with me, listening to every word I wish I had said while she was alive, and even more so, when she was well.

A few months ago, L. gave me The Courage to Grieve. I tucked it in the basket next to my bed, and I thought, "This is not for me. I have courage. I am grieving." I found the book this weekend and I knew I was wrong, or I was right then, but make not this mistake: grieving is not linear. It leads you by the hand down an unknown path, a path that lies alongside the life you've always known. The world does not look the same from behind my eyelids.

My brother Michael went to an introductory course in Transcendental Meditation tonight. He receives his mantra on Saturday, and by Tuesday he will be a practitioner. I am so proud and inspired by Michael's desire to be able to sit quietly with himself. Adam was the forerunner in our family; he took up meditation years ago. The bottle was uncorked on Sunday - out of love for me and my brothers and a fierce, uncompromising devotion to honesty, things were said that we do not say. And so, I sit here quietly with myself, dodging bullets of pain, plagued by silence, at times preserving it with the devotion of an acolyte. Without my mother, I do not know where to turn.

To mourn is to suffer the abject loneliness of those whose voice you will never hear again. There are moments that are frantic - searches through emails, closets, photos, anywhere that will yield something new in a silence that is so profound. Please know, I need not find fancy words, when words we know serve so well: proud, inspired, silence, profound. Words and cliches mean something different now, they buzz, alive with electricity, and in their animated state, I realize that life is the secret underbelly, a rebirth, a truthful welcome into the world served on a silver platter of terrible, terrible pain. My task is to seek out courage, my courage, the way into myself and all that I fear. My task is to pull the words harder, tug on the silken strings more firmly. My task is to allow love and beauty to sit alongside pain and silence and loneliness, to let the path that I knew for 32 years, and the path that I have known for nearly one year, become one path, lit by the moonlight of loss, for loss could not hurt so very terribly if the love one has lost was not the greatest you could dream yourself to sleep on.

Love is infinitely more durable than hate.

14 May 2012

Yesterday, we drove the Rendezvous home for the last time. The road, green and dappled, winds from Brooklyn to our house, a 32.5 mile stretch of life, a changing life, changing lives. I cried as I drove, and thought about our last car ride together, not quite a year ago, when I held my mother's hand as she lay in the back of an ambulance. I took her home to die. We looked backwards out of the windows with our green eyes and we couldn't tell, on roads so familiar, where we were. The Rendezvous is no more, we are selling our house, and I wonder how I will find my way back to the pizza, the bialys and iced coffee, the fresh-squeezed orange juice, the black and white cookies, the smell of low tide, the beach, the duck pond, the madelines of childhood, teenage years, my twenties, my very early thirties.

I spent Mother's Day, our first Mother's Day without our mother, with my brothers and with my husband. We had brunch by the beach, we walked to the boardwalk. We brought flowers to Uncle B like my mother did on Mother's Day (he promised their mother, on her deathbed, that he would care for my mother, and he did, Uncle B, you did). We laid on the couch, we snuggled Bianca. Michael got mad at me and we ate dinner at our kitchen table. But, more than anything, we laughed. My brothers are my bringers of joy, and the sharers of sadness.

When we pulled up to the house yesterday, my brothers were waiting on the front steps. I need not a car to find my way home. My home is where they are.

06 May 2012


Dear Mom,

The last time we stood here was a little less than a year ago. The sun was shining; a huge yellow butterfly hovered round your family and friends, suspended by an invisible thread from wherever you are.

I am writing this on Friday and Saturday, the forecast calls for no rain. Your favorite joke, aside from the mildly inappropriate Father Nelson one was "Want to know how to make G-d laugh? Tell him your plans." I am gambling by writing this, but I know you too well, my girl (I do not have your golden casino touch): you will keep the skies clear today, the sun will shine.  And if rain does fall, it will mirror our tears.

Mom, we stood here, the day of your funeral, 322 days ago. 322 days is not a year. It is 43 days short of a year. You showed us all what a day is worth. We follow the path you set for us, you gave us the gift of your love, your moral guidance through the world, the love of books and animals and family and friends. You taught us that the dash between was more important than the dates on either side, and so, the dash between your date of birth, and the date of your too soon death (57 years was not enough), is long and fat, fed on love and rightness and Swedish Fish.

Mom, you died in the shadow of the Strawberry Moon. The super moon reigned this weekend, the largest and most spectacular of the year. At 8:35 pm on Saturday night, it reached its perigee and slipped close to the Earth. Mom, you are our super moon, the most dazzling moon that ever was. You hold us in your incandescent orbit, always.

We love you.
I love you.
I am your daughter, Leigh Michelle Batnick Plessner, and I thank you for giving me life, and teaching me how to live it.

02 May 2012

Dear Mom,

On Sunday, we lay the stone on your grave. The cemetery has been there since 1917, there are small hills and oak trees, ocean air is near. Your grave has been there since June 19, 2011, and this Sunday, according to tradition, we, your family, will visit your grave for this first time since you died, in the shadow of the Strawberry Moon.

Mom, I will tell you the truth: I started writing your eulogy, in my head, a year before you died. I could never get very far, and I abandoned the effort.I abandoned the effort because I thought you cannot eulogize the living, and live you did, every day. I am your daughter, we are procrastinators, I knew the words would come when I needed them, and they did. But I was wrong, Mom. Eulogy has come to refer to a praise or speech for a person, usually dead, but the provenance is Greek, eulogia ‘praise’, and by that reckoning, we ought to eulogize those we love every morning we wake, together.

Mom, I am very scared of Sunday. Life is changing so fast, but the girlfriend is sleeping under my arm as I type, so that is the same, and I wear my eyeliner differently, so that is different, and I miss you through waking hours and dreams, so that is the same. I have stopped waiting to understand that you are dead. Sometimes, it even makes me laugh with the great unbelievability of it all. (I know dead people, and you are not dead.) But, all of us being together, your family, your friends, without you there, standing by a grave with your name on it, that is real. One of the hardest things to do, Mom, is to see your friends, because they are the ones you chose (we were given to you, and you to us, but I would have picked you if I could). Lisa surprised me at work, and I cried. It was like you walked in the door.

Mom, there is no deus ex machina, no disco ball above the stage. You will never walk in the door, you will never surprise me at work. I cannot call you to tell you the small thing that I want to tell you the most: Kevin doesn't give Teepee a bath in the right way! I tell everyone this story, but all I want is to tell you. I want to hear you laugh. Mom, there is no deus ex machina, and I am not ready for the small, closest thing to a god out of the machine. My life changes, you are not here, I cannot call you, but Mom, I live the life you gave me, the life you taught me, by example, how to live backlit in your beautiful, unfading light.

Yours, always,
Leigh Michelle