Tuesday, June 25, 2013

As Marcel Proust would say...

"...there is no more ridiculous custom than the one that makes you express sympathy once and for all on a given day to a person whose sorrow will endure as long as his life. Such grief, felt in such a way, is always "present," it is never too late to talk about it, never repetitious to mention it again."

          - Marcel Proust

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Sometimes I forget how exhausted I am. I keep going, moving, doing and it feels fine - like it did before she died.

But then I sit down. I pause. I take a minute to eat a meal. And the exhaustion overwhelms me. My eyes droop, my head is muddy, and all I want to do is sleep for weeks. 

Grief is exhausting. Sadness is exhausting. Depression is exhausting. Twenty months of non-stop working, driving, caring for my mom was exhausting. 

Rest. I need rest. But how do you rest when slowing down leads to grief which leads to exhaustion, and the depression and sadness don't go away? 

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Dad is Awesome (Happy Belated Father's Day)

Since yesterday was Father's Day, I owe my dad a "you're super awesome" Father's Day post. So here it is:

I love my dad. He's kind, funny, loving. He's not afraid to say that he loves me or to tell me I'm beautiful. He's always proud of me, no matter what. He has high hopes for me but he's never angry when I fail. Even though he was a busy pastor for most of my life I always felt like he was around, like he was present. Even though he got hurt when I was 14 and couldn't physically do as much has he used to, he was still Superman - still able to take care of me, and my sister, and my mom - even if it meant he hurt more.

His Superman-ness has been even more evident over the course of the past two years when my mom was sick. He cared for her constantly, putting her needs before his own. He took care of finances and household chores, and even sold my parents' old house in the meantime. And even though he was in pain, and even though he was tired, he took care of me. He'd make me dinner, never letting me help. He'd check in with me, talk to me, and give me some of the best hugs ever. At the same time he opened up to me, shared his pain with me, cried with me, and involved me in decisions about my mom's health, about his health, and about life in general.

And even now, in the midst of his own pain and grief over losing his wife, he takes care of me. He welcomes me home with a huge hug; he cooks me dinner; he checks in with me; he even lets me watch Psych which he really isn't fond of. He could have become selfish, closed off, or been overcome with his own pain. But he's not. He always, always cares for, no matter what.

In the midst of everything, and even though I'm 26 years old, he's still my daddy. And right now, with my mom gone, I need my daddy more than ever.

He also (sometimes) has trouble with technology. But it makes for a funny set of pictures!


Sometimes it seems like people have forgotten. It seems like people have forgotten that the biggest thing, the most life-changing thing has just happened to me, to my family, to my mom.

The analytical side of me says that they haven't forgotten, they just don't know what to say. Death makes people uncomfortable, sadness makes people squirm, so talking to a sad girl about her dead mom certainly isn't pleasant. And I mean, what do you ask? "How are you doing?" can't be answered honestly, unless you have a good chunk of time to talk. "How's your dad doing" doesn't really do it either, especially when the person asking doesn't know my dad. 

So what does that leave? Mostly it leaves silence, or unrelated-to-dead-mom conversation topics. 

Except she's all I'm thinking about. She's all I want to talk about. She's a greater presence in my life now than she was before she died. The only time I'm not thinking about her is when I'm distracted by work and TV - and sometimes even then she's there. 

I don't know a solution to this dilemma. I don't know how to tell people it's okay to ask me about my mom. I don't know how to make people less uncomfortable around death and sadness. And I don't know the good questions to ask that don't sound trite or awkward.

All I do know is that if you really want to know how I'm doing, if you really want to check in with me, then just ask. Ask me questions about how I'm doing, ask me questions about what I'm thinking about her. (If I don't want to answer them right then I'll let you know. I'm very good at speaking my mind.) It may make me sad; it may even make me cry. But I know I can handle it, and I think you can too. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The card

Today when I got to my dad's condo I noticed a card on the mantle. I thought someone had sent him a card for Father's Day (though I couldn't think of who would - my sister and I are spending the day with him on Sunday), or maybe to remember his and my mom's wedding anniversary (they would have been married 32 years today).

I went over to read the card, and I saw that it wasn't signed. Odd, but not unheard of. 

And then I read the card. It starts with "For the man I love" and ends with "Happy Fathers Day." 

I thought my dad had bought it for himself - my parents gave cards to each other on lots of occasions; it was kinda their thing, one of their ways of saying I love you. It would make sense for him to buy himself a card that my mom would have bought him for his first wedding anniversary, his first Father's Day without her. 

So I asked him where the card came from. And he said "it came from Mom."

He told me that a few weeks ago he was cleaning out my mom's desk drawer, and he found this card. She must have bought it before her stroke, almost two years ago. (Though that would put the buying in August, which is a little off season for a Father's Day card, so it may have been even earlier than that.) She liked it so much she kept it to give to him for the next Father's Day. But she (understandably) forgot about it, and he didn't find it until a few weeks ago, after she had died. 

So sitting on the mantle is my mom's last Father's Day and anniversary card to my dad. Sitting on the mantle is a card that expresses her love for him, even after she's gone. Even after she's passed away my mom is still finding ways to tell her husband of 32 years and the father of her children that she loves him.

The kind of love my parents had, that kind of commitment, doesn't disappear with death. And if you don't believe me just look at this card. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


I still catch myself, sometimes, using the wrong tense. Saying things like "my mom's eyes are green" instead of "my mom's eyes were green." I'm pretty good about it most of the time, but sometimes it just slips out. I've been speaking about my mom in the present tense for so long it's not natural to speak in the past. 

Even more often I catch myself talking about my parents in the plural. Things like  "my parents' condo" or "my parents' storage unit." It take a lot of thought to say "my dad's condo" or "my dad's storage unit." Even though they're officially not my parents' anymore - they are officially, on all the paperwork and everything, my dad's. 

I wonder when my grammar is going to catch up with reality. And I wonder if I'll ever really believe that my parents' condo is just my dad's. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013


Today I bought some really awesome earrings.

Every time I see them I think (1) I'm so glad I bought these cuz they're awesome and (2) I really want to call Mom and tell her about them. 

The second is a little weird. Because when she was sick I didn't really call her, because she couldn't pick up the phone, and because I could just show her new things every time I went to San Jose. 

But now, now that she's gone, time is starting to... shift. Even though before she was sick we didn't have the close relationship we had when she died, and even though when she died she couldn't answer the phone, the mom I'm thinking about has a little bit of everything. She's my best friend and she can walk and she's in a wheelchair and she can and can't answer the phone. Confused? Me too. 

I guess all I know for sure is that I want to call my mom. I want to tell her about my new earrings and I want to show her how cute the are, and I want to tell her and show her everything I'm doing and seeing. Basically I just want her to be here. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Best friend

I realized yesterday that for the 20 months after the stroke my mom wasn't just my mom - she was also my best friend.

Before the stroke was different. Even though I never lived more than two hours away I would only visit every few months or so. We'd talk on the phone occasionally, at least once every two weeks, but often it would just be quick conversations and logistical questions. Nothing too deep and meaningful. 

After I graduated college we started to get closer. She took this class about justice and started reading books I'd read - The Powers That Be by Walter Wink and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ronald Sider. We'd have conversations about social justice, and she shared about wanting to do more justice work in her life. We were starting to have the same interests and the worldview, and I felt like I could finally talk to her about stuff I cared about. 

She supported me when I started therapy. She helped me decide to go in the first place, and she was the person I called when everything felt hard and confusing. For the first time I was really confiding in my mom - we were becoming friends and confidants. 

And then the stroke happened. And I spent as many days as I could by her side in the hospital. I would drive out every afternoon to spend time with her. On weekends I would stay overnight with my dad, in the RV he was using, so I didn't have to drive back and forth so much. 

She was my first priority - other relationships didn't matter, other plans were put on the back burner or canceled all together. I wouldn't always answer the phone for my friends, but I would always answer for her (well, really my dad, since she couldn't dial the phone herself). 

And then when she was back in San Jose I visited at least once a week, sometimes more. I spent more time with her than I did with anyone else (except my dad, and that was only because he stayed up later than my mom's nine o'clock bedtime). 

I would do things with her that I would normally do with friends - I would tell her about work, and adventures I had. I would bring her presents whenever I found something that reminded me of her. I would show her all my thrifting finds. I would ask her advice on outfits and shoe choices. I would make her meals and desserts, and celebrate my holidays with her. And I would tell her how I was doing, which often involved crying with her and laughing with her. We had inside jokes, I translated for her, and when people came over we would commiserate together as introverts who needed some quiet. 

And then there were the things that made our relationship even closer, closer than friendships ever are. I would take her to the bathroom and help her pull her pants on and off. I changed her diaper and wiped her when she couldn't stand anymore. I gave her injections in the mornings and spoon-fed her applesauce with medicine when she stopped being able to move her own hand. I picked out outfits for her and helped her put everything on, down to her underclothes. I picked her up so she could move from chair to wheelchair, and I almost dropped her at least once. I painted her nails, I brushed her teeth, and I gave her her meals on a tray. 

We were really close. Closer than I'd ever been with her. Closer than I've ever been with anyone. And now I have this giant hole where all the time I spent with mom, was thinking about mom, was praying for mom went. And I have this giant hole where my best friend used to be. 

I lost a mom and a best friend at the same time. It's no wonder it hurts so much.