My mother died one year ago today. As the clock stroke 1:02 pm I sat next to my brother Michael and cried as we drove to the cemetery to visit my mother's grave. The air was cooler than it was this time last year, but today my hair was clean and I was not wearing my mother's silk pajamas. Today I have lived 365 days, a full cycle in how we mark time, without my mother.
We drove past the grassy knoll and pulled over across from the large mausoleum and parked the car by the path that leads to the plot marked with my mother's maiden name, LAND. Michael sat on a bench and I sat on the walk and smelled the grass that grows around my mother's grave, fresh land, marked with small fledgling box hedges planted in the dirt that was shoveled over my mother's casket 363 days ago. Ants tumbled through the grass, impossibly tall monuments to their small eyes; they live their lives in the shadow of death. So do we all.
I laid my face to the earth, and the grass and dirt and small stones pressed into my legs. My bare legs were marked, as they were hours after she died, by my deep need for communion with our terrestrial home. Crisp air sat on my back and my brother cried behind me, as my own tears wet my mother's grave. "These are the days of miracle and wonder/ This is the long distance cry." This place for the dead is alive and here for the living. This world hums, this world is electric. Cats prowl and mice dart behind footstones. When we leave, the earth is made all the richer.
I opened my eyes slowly yesterday morning, for it was the last morning of my life I could say to myself, "My mother was alive this day, last year." The small frustrations, the quoitiden dramas, the knots I tie myself into all mask one truth: I miss my mother. But, inside and alongside expansive missing of the beautiful, beautiful woman who gave me life, I have moments of despair, and moments where I have joyously begun to wonder, again, what I want out of the life I have been given. There are moments when I loose my breath, with a hunger for my mother unlike anything I've known, and moments when I smile, for I know how happy she'd be with our dogs and our laughter. I say moments, for it really is that: life is a trail of notes, put together to form a cycle of songs.
Thank you for listening to me this year, as I string a necklace, from the pearls I have been given, and the pearls I have made from what I have been given. My mother, and my mother's death, is the sand in my oyster. This is a song cycle. I do not know how it ends, but I know I want it to sound like love and open arms and mystery and birth, surrounding pools of sadness and loss, the pools we all must swim, but not drown, in.
"These are the days of miracle and wonder/ This is the long distance cry."