Hollowed Out

I feel hollow.

The foundation of my life is gone.

Unstable ground is what I

Tremble on.

Unsure of who I am.

Unsure of where to go.

Unsure of everything.

I try to move forward,

But my gait is unsteady

And I fear falling

With no one here to catch me

Before I hit the ground.

At some point forward movement

Will become necessary.

I know it is what she

Would want for me.

But for now, I sit trying to

Fill this aching emptiness

With memories of happier times

With my mother.

Empty Spaces

The cat having given up on

His former napping spot

Cuddles up to me

As I write.

Grief has given me

Tunnel vision.

I find myself obsessed

Over the now empty spaces

Where my mom sat.

Her kitchen chair.

Her place on the sofa

Her napping chair

All now filled

With pink elephants

I try not to look at them

But there’s a gravitational pull

To what is no longer there.

Swimming Down

“…the moments when you’re in so deep it feels easier to just swim down.”

-It’s Quiet Uptown from “Hamilton: An American Musical”

It’s been two weeks since my mom passed away and for the first time today I felt like giving into the grief and depression that’s been burbling under the surface of my consciousness. It was so strange, in the quiet moments, I almost felt like something kept brushing against my feet threatening to grab my ankles and pull me under. It must sound insane and that’s how it felt. I have been treading water since my mom left us just waiting to drown in the grief I thought I’d feel. But it hasn’t happened yet and I’m puzzled by that. And yet, I can’t stop fighting the urge to sink. My arms won’t stop paddling to keep my head up. Why am I so afraid to really let myself feel my mom’s loss? That’s what I find myself asking myself. And yet I know the answer. I’m afraid if I let myself feel it I’ll get lost in it. I’ll lose myself in the power of it all. Then I have to remind myself that it has only been two weeks and I have the rest of my life to grieve. I don’t have to feel it all at once. I will grieve in my own time and my own space.

Self Implosion

It’s gathering,

Just below the surface

Of my knowing.

Bits of magnetized grief

Attracted to other fragments

Of what was blown apart

When she left us.

It is growing exponentially

Expanding in size and weight

Sitting densely on my heart.

Threatening to pull me inwards

On myself.

A fetal position curling my back

To the world.

I will implode at some point.

This grief will overwhelm and drown me

And the flotsam that is left

Within my soul

Will be the building blocks

Of who I am to become without her.

Cold Realization

This morning the world held

Less color.

The wind in the trees

Sounding like mournful sighs

Not whispers of hope.

Five days it took

For the realization to

Sink in.

You are not coming home

There is no more you.

And I am alone.

I have felt frozen all day

Wrapped in blankets

And still, I shiver.

Emotions flood

And drown me.

The person I have been

Dies.

The person I am to become

Waits to be born.

My New Reality

My older sister left to go back home today. She has been staying with me since my mom was moved to critical care which was several weeks ago. It was a strange feeling watching her car pull out of my driveway. I felt completely untethered for the first time since my mom passed away on Tuesday and it was unnerving to say the least. I mean I was alone during the first part of my mom’s hospitalization but then I knew she was still there, you know? This knowing that she’s not coming back, that my life as a caregiver is over, is just daunting. I took care of her full time for 12 years and part-time for 8 years before that. I’ve lived this life for 20 years and now it’s just over. I have no idea what kind of person I am without that. Looking around the house for the first time I just felt numb thinking of everything I have to do. Going through my mom’s things and getting organized to find a job and everything else that I haven’t thought of yet. That is what is going to get me through this. Keeping busy and moving forward to a life I know my mom would have wanted me to have. It’s up to me to see this through and my mom gave me every tool I need to see it come to fruition. Will I have rough days? You bet I will. I realize the magnitude of what has happened hasn’t even begun to hit me yet and, to be honest, I’m kind of scared of what will happen when it does. I just have to focus on handling things as they come. One day at a time and not worry about what might happen in the future. Because being untethered doesn’t mean I’m just drifting aimlessly about, it means I have control over what direction my life takes and, with my mom’s spirit guiding me, I know I’m going to find the path I was meant to take.

Saying Goodbye

Today I stayed home. Yesterday the nurse was talking about how my mom’s breathing would become more of a rattle when the end is near. When she said that I felt my heart twist and, at that moment, I knew I just don’t want to be there when mom passes. I think it will just destroy me. My mom and I have discussed it before and I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there and she said that that was ok. So I feel at peace with my decision. Yesterday, I had a few minutes alone with her so I sat down and spoke to her from my heart. I told her what a good mom she had been and how much I will miss her. I also told her that I am going to be ok and for her not to worry. She was unconscious when I said all this but the doctor keeps telling us that she can hear us. I feel like she heard me, I swear she squeezed my hand three times when I was finished. That has been the family “thing” three squeezes means “I Love You.”

A couple of hours later when it came time for me to leave, the levee broke. I started crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Just short hiccupping gasps every 20 seconds or so when I started feeling oxygen deprived. I leaned over her and kissed her forehead several times and choked out how much I love her. Walking out of that building and away from her knowing I’d never see her again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After I got home though, something surprising happened. I felt lighter then I have in weeks. It’s like a weight on my soul had been lifted.

Flash forward to today and I heard from my sister and nephew that she’s sitting up and talking and eating and drinking again. My nephew said that she was talking to him about robbing a bank (she’s mostly delusional these days) so my nephew told her the bank was closed. Ms. Sassy’s response? “That will only make it more fun.” That is how she has been since early last week. This sense of humor we never knew she had is coming out more and more. Friday night she had us all laughing over her antics. That’s what I want to remember. That’s the final image of her that I want in my head. Sitting up in her hospital bed, holding court over her family and making us all laugh.

Dreams of the Dying

Today I was alone in my mom’s hospital room holding her hand and watching her sleep. I noticed movement behind her eyelids and realized that she was dreaming and I started contemplating what she might be dreaming about. And this poem came into my head and there I was holding my mom’s hand in one of my hands while writing this poem on my phone with the other one.

What do the dying dream of?

Is it the lives they’ve lived and

Are leaving behind?

Or are they going to an orientation

In the life after this one?

Is that why they start speaking again of

Loved ones long gone?

Do they begin drawing near

In the land of dreams

And then break through to

The land of life

As the departure draws closer?

What is it like for them to step back

Through the veil

Only for a brief time?

To see the changes in loved ones

Still journeying among the living.

Or have they watched through

The curtain dividing the two worlds

And have seen everything?

Maybe that’s what the dying dream of

Do they cross over and peer back

At us

Whispering to others about

What is to come?