The Post I've Feared Writing
(originally posted May 12, 2013)
In the few years under my belt as a hack writer, I’ve read a lot of posts from a lot of other bloggers, hoping to pick up on the things that make a piece great or gripping. This nonprofessional research has turned up one thing: honesty. Honesty, as in Are-you-sure-you-wanna-say-that-out-loud honesty. Yeah. That.
The great pieces have always been from writers who speak from their hearts and say things that are ironically funny, sometimes painful, but always glaringly, transparently, and sometimes embarrassingly, true.
Bare. Truth. Transparency. That takes courage akin to walking on a frozen pond during the spring thaw. Think about it: we’ve all got stories that could make us great writers – even the hacks like me, but it’s all a question of courage: what are we willing to share?
Are we willing to bare some uncomfortable things?
In my case, it’s missing my mom. Oh, the coward in me will casually refer to losing her at a young age and wax philosophic about, or bring out the funny about her sayings, or admire her for being a great and wise woman.
But broach the pain of missing her, and of losing her? Well, that’s a lot. Too much.
I fear the three people who read my words will become depressed. After all, who wants to read a sad post when all they have to do for sad news is turn on the news, read AP’s Twitterfeed or open the first two pages of the local paper?
I fear the three people reading my posts will flood me with referrals for bereavement counselors to help me deal with this loss.
I fear the three people reading my posts will feel sorry for me.
And that’s not what I want. None of it. Seriously, I’ve weathered the five stages of grief at least eight times and talked to professionals about it, and cried on more friends’ shoulders (and probably a few strangers) about it throughout the years than I’m willing to admit. So, I’m not stuck in the grief, but sometimes…just sometimes, it pops up and taps me on the shoulder to remind me that it’s here.
I guess I just miss my mom. Yep. At forty-plus years old, with a grown-up job and a mortgage and a husband, child and dog, something deep within this perimenopausal woman still. Wants. Her. Mama.
And I guess the way in which death took her is still a tender spot – even twenty-five years later.
Cancer. She talked to me about it even before she was diagnosed. She just had a feeling. After a few weeks of just not feeling “right” she called me to her bedside. With a heavy sigh, she said “I think mom’s got cancer.” Just like that. Like, “Hey…I might be coming down with strep.”
Naturally, wordlessly, silently – my tears started flowing. Realizing the weight of her words, she first tried her hand at bolstering my confidence while assuaging my fear: “Oh, Babygirl – no -- no tears. You’re my strong one. And besides..” now quoting the Bible “… all sickness isn’t unto death.”
A week later she was admitted to the hospital, and the biopsy found what she had sensed all along: it was liver cancer. Beyond chemotherapy. The doctor sentenced her to seven months to a one year; and four weeks later, she was gone.
That hurt’s never scabbed over completely. But I’ve learned to look for the bright spots and cling on to them, because they are there. Couldn’t survive without them.
Like her honesty in talking about the unpleasant. She could’ve lied to spare my nineteen year old feelings, but would that have changed the size of and growth of the tumor and the inevitable truth?
So now I’m a painfully truthful person. Probably to a fault. Ask me if that dress makes you look fat, and I will tell you “Yes, that dress makes you look fat” if it does. Not to be mean, but because even if I lie and say “No, that dress doesn’t make you look fat,” the truth is that you still look fat in that dress. And you probably know it too, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked in the first place.
Throughout the four weeks as she grew sicker and more distant, I learned that sickness is personal in the truest sense of the word: My dad, my brothers and sister and I could hold her hand, talk to her, play tapes of music and church services, but in the end, it was just her and her sickness and impending death.
So when my friends grieve, I don’t “comfort” them by saying their loved ones are in a better place, even though I know that’s the case. Because honestly – they aren’t crying for their loved ones. They’re crying for themselves. And I get it.
Sometimes, there just aren’t any words: at that moment, they are alone in their grief walk. The best I can do is to be there, hold a hand and say “I’m sorry. I know it sucks, but I’m here.”
When mom was in and out of coma, I learned about the mother and child bond. The only thing that could wake mom from her limbo into the briefest moment of clarity during her final days was me saying “Mama?” in my little girl voice. (And yes: once I realized that worked, I might have used it a time or two or three or four...or five or six or seven.)
That little girl voice? Mom snapping back from death’s door and responding with a “Yes, Babygirl?”
It was the Forever Bond between mother and child.
One that cancer or the threat of death couldn’t even break.
It's why that same bond crops up every now and then, and works its way into these posts sometimes.
Even when I fear it.