I guess I'm just more of a spiritual person that I see other's as spiritual beings not bound by the earthen body they inhabit. I always loved my Mom's spirit. I didn't really want to come up for Thanksgiving and see her bound by the cancer-ridden, age-worn body she has had for weeks. She looked as bad as I had feared. Every time I walked by her sitting in the high back chair in her living room, I felt like I needed to go over and take her pulse. But nothing was worse than seeing her as a corpse yesterday morning.
I got up around 4:30 and showered. Got my girls moving and had them wake up Dad before our departure. We said our goodbyes and around 5 a.m., I went in to kiss Mom on the forehead. It didn't feel right under my lips. No warmth. Concerned, I told Dad to check on her and hugged his neck one more time. The girls and I left. I figured if something was wrong, he'd call me back into the house immediately. Nothing. Fifteen minutes later, I'm pulling into a Speedway station in Noblesville to fillup before hitting I-69. I look down and see the text from Dad.
I raced back to Dad's, upset with myself that I didn't stay while he checked on Mom. She was dead. Her spirit had left her body sometime between 2 and 5 a.m., probably closer to 5 as Dad felt warmth on the back of her leg.
The image of her lying in her bed, eyes partially opened, mouth gaping open, exposing her bottom teeth is now burned into my memory. I'll never not see that...my mother's corpse laying there as if in a morgue. I hated it. I had to go in there with various family members, but I tried not to look at her. That wasn't Mom. She was no longer there.
I understand that people have to grieve and say goodbye in their own way, so there is no judgment at all. Just that, for me, I had already said goodbye. I didn't need to lay next to her corpse and touch her or talk to her as if that were still my Mom. It wasn't. She may have been in the room with us, hovering over us or wherever spirits go in the immediate departure of their body, but she was no longer in that earthen vessel. And thank God for that!
Her soul-less body laid there for hours until we had it removed by the mortuary service we are using. That body will be ash in less than 48 hours, now. That's what Mom wanted.
I want to remember Mom for the vivacious person that she was on the inside--passionate, emotional, feisty, loving, funny, artistic, creative, genuine...
My Mom had a great sense of humor. She didn't always say funny things, but she appreciated comedy. We'd laugh at the stupidest things, finding humor in other people's shortcomings, in sheer goofiness and shocking comments. Mom was very sarcastic and appreciated my smart-aleck side even when it annoyed her. I could always get her to laugh, usually at the most inappropriate things or comments. I do inappropriate well...but that's because Mom let me know it was okay to sometimes step over the line and go for shock value. We'd laugh at Pee Wee Herman or at Michael Richards on the sketch comedy show Fridays or the insane, improv on SCTV. She taught me how to laugh, not only at comedians but at myself. I learned not to take myself too seriously from her. One of the things I will miss the most about her is her laugh. I'll miss how I could steal her breath through laughter and cause her to double over, covering her mouth, eyes closed with tears streaming down her cheeks. It didn't happen often, but when it did...I knew I had struck comedy gold!
My Mom loved good music and instilled in me a great sense of rhythm and soul. She preferred the Motown of her childhood and the harmonies of groups like Mamas and Papas, Beach Boys or the Carpenters. It's the thing that set her apart from Dad, who tended towards classical, rock-n-roll and (gawd help us all) bluegrass. Yes, it was Dad that first introduced me to banjo, but I digress. Both had a love of music, but Mom's music had more rhythm and soul. I remember listening to her Johnny Mathis records while she cleaned house and I created more messes for her to clean. I remember when she first introduced gospel music into our home. Mom's love for harmonies and a good beat you can dance to were a big influence on me growing up.
It was that spirit that loved to laugh, loved to create and share good music that made her who she was to me, not the body with all it's limitations. She was a fun Mom. She was a loving Mom. She was equal parts compassion and "what did I tell you?" no-nonsense. She was always my go-to. I regret the two years we rarely talked just after my separation and subsequent divorce, but I'm so thankful we were able to put that behind us last summer. I'm equally thankful that I got to come up and visit with her three times this year--July, September and November. And as hard as it was to see her failing body, I am glad I was here when she passed.
Now, we have a service to plan, people with whom to grieve and things to sort out. It's not a fun task, but a necessary one. The first steps of moving on are never easy, especially when those steps don't include your Mom. She is already sorely missed. But her spirit lives on. And we have tons and tons of great memories.