My mother bought me this ladybug magnet for my refrigerator when I moved into my first solo apartment eighteen years ago.
“For good luck,” she said.
That magnet has fallen off the refrigerator at least twenty times over the years and has never broken. It’s ceramic. It should’ve shattered into a million pieces. It’s lived in six different apartments, always transported in a paper towel in my purse.
That’s my mother there in that photograph from 1939. If you were to put a photo of Miriam at age two next to it, photoshop in the striped ball and Buster Brown shoes and make it sepia toned, they would be identical.
My friend Nancy posted on Facebook the other day. She was wishing her father was still alive to be able to see how great his grandchildren were doing , the new house she and her husband just bought, and even his reaction to the election. I commented that “I believe he CAN see, just not in a way we can understand yet. Just live your life as if he were watching and continue making him proud.”
Not hard to do…Nancy is pretty freaking awesome.
In 1994, my close friend Marybeth lost her father. We were twenty six years old. It was one of the first deaths, aside from both my grandmothers when I was sixteen, that I’d experienced. Such an adult thing to experience. The loss of a parent. I didn’t know how to comfort her. What to say or how to say it. I wrote her a poem and I put it in a glass bottle with a cork. I remember picking it out at a craft store but I can’t remember where. Marybeth still has that bottle with the cork top. She recently sent me a picture of it. The poem is rolled into a scroll.
I love scrolls. They always contain one of three things:
I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing this…
Cannot be contained inside this jar.
Her love seeps through cork and cuts through glass.
As she shuffles through these autumn leaves-
Trudges and slips on winter’s ice-
Strides through brilliant spring sunlight-
And glares into summer haze-
She’ll remember the man who raised her into her beauty
for all to love and appreciate and treasure.
And feel him with her always
Smiling, proud, and living in a peace that we can’t yet understand
But somehow know.
How we comfort ourselves after someone we love dies is completely up to us. I remember wearing a necklace of my mother’s nonstop, even when I slept, for a few weeks after she died. Like it was a way of keeping her alive. Or maybe a conduit of her energy from heaven or wherever she was.
The changing of the seasons, especially autumn into winter seems to trigger depression and extra feelings of missing them, whoever they may be. I don’t know if I read this or I came up with it on my own in my really dark days… but I have a theory.
The season change is time passing. And time passing sucks without our loved one here to see and feel it too. And it’s a constant punch in the gut to repeatedly realize that they’re not coming back.
I actually remember the moment that I really realized Noah was not coming back. We were moving out of the apartment we lived in with him. We were worried he wouldn’t be able to find us if he came back. I realized, as we carried boxes out of our shell of a home, that he couldn’t possibly come back like in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. We were worried about his spirit not being able to find us. Hal and I actually said out loud as we closed the door at 800 Forest Avenue Apt 4G “Follow us, Noah!”
So I think they are following us. Maybe they’re following us simply inside our heads and our hearts. Maybe they are standing behind us sometimes, like the psychic at the renaissance faire said about my mother. We won’t know until we’re in their place.
But go ahead and talk to them. Go ahead and feel them in the room with you. I’ll wear my mother’s necklace and drive around with Noah’s mismatched socks in my glove compartment and I can cover Miriam at night with the quilt we splurged on at the Kutztown Fair for Noah. It has a pattern of sock monkeys and bananas. She loves it and it’s a soft and gentle link to him.
I can fool and comfort myself that this quilt is the closest I’ll come to Noah and Miriam ever sharing a nap together. A part of him is with her. My mother’s necklace around my neck. Replaying a supportive conversation my mother and I had in my head brings her back to this world for me. Seeing her handwriting on an index card stuffed in her cookbooks or the list she made of the guests for our wedding. Seeing her handwriting feels like I’m holding her hand. And maybe she’s holding mine too.