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Friday, February 10, 2012

Things to Say to a Dead Mom

           My mom is on my kitchen table, cremation no. 91739 (I accidentally spelled it “creamation”, but there’s nothing creamy about it) performed on February 2, 2012 by Long island Cremation Co., Inc. (another business I couldn’t imagine owning. I feel like it’s one of those operations passed down through generations, fathers grooming their sons to burn and box bodies. Lucky boys.)

            I put her next to my Aunt Olga for the night. I figured I’d give them a chance to catch up on things. Last time they saw each other it was Thanksgiving, about three years ago. Our dinner was like a scene in a black comedy. My mother was going on and on to my aunt, who was too polite to tell her that she had no idea who she was.

            Today we’re bringing Mom to the cemetery where her parents are. The cemetary people are going to insert her in the ground next to them. I think she’d like that. She adored her parents, particularly her dad.

            I’ve got her next to the computer right now. I just had a conversation with her (albeit one-sided.)

            Now, her soul isn’t in that box, I know, but still I felt compelled to say something to her remains while I had them.

            Writers are always looking for climatic moments.

            I put my left hand on her box, and my right hand on my aunt’s box for support, and I asked my mom if she loved me.

            There was no answer.

            But I know my mom did love me. It just wasn’t a traditional love. It was a love often smothered in her issues. You know how you can use a pillow for rest¸ or to kill someone? That was my mother.

            She had no idea of what she was doing. I told I knew that.

            I told my mom that I forgave her.

            I told her I love her, and I appreciate the things she did for me.

            I kissed my index finger and planted in on her box.

            There’s something about physical remains that are so, well...physical.

            You can talk to someone’s spirit anytime –I believe ­­–but there’s something extra poignant about having that box there to hone in on. A focal point, if nothing else.

            Another thing I look for as a writer is a focal point in a scene. It’s like an anchor.

            Life begets writing, and writing begets life.

            My aunt once told me, “Each man is the sum total of everything that has happened to him.”

            True. I might add: “Each man is also the sum total of all the relationships he’s had.”

            My relationship with my mom is (was?) complicated and sometimes dark, but in the end it comes down to this simple fact: we loved each other.

            It takes death to bring things down to the bone.


  1. This is an incredibly powerful post. Touching, poignant, amazing, so full of your voice. I felt like I was sitting next to you the entire time I read it. Thank you for sharing this, Selene. I know your relationship with your mom was complicated. Makes me wonder how I'll feel when my mom dies, if we never reconcile. Makes me wish she'd come around. Thanks for making me think and feel.
    Beth Fehlbaum
    The Patience Trilogy

    1. Thanks, Beth. I appreciate this, and send you and your mom lots of healing love. You can only do what you can do, if you know what I mean.

  2. Selene, thank you for the beautiful post. I have more to say, having lost my own mother recently... having had c omplicated relationship too. But for now, just wanted you to know I am reading your blog. And one little point:

    >(I accidentally spelled it “creamation”, but there’s nothing creamy about it)

    Maybe you were thinking of "creative," or "create," which is what I thought of immediately. Create something (healing, tribute, reconciliation) that you can live with!

    Nancy Sondel

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I'm working on a creation. So glad I'm heading to a writing retreat on Friday.

      I'm so sorry for your loss.

      Here's to healing.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks, Lisa. (Thanks for your phone call, too.)

  4. This is an extraordinary post, Selene.

    When all else fails, we write.