Last night the phone rang and I didn't pick up, thinking it was for the hubs, as these later in the evening calls usually are. Of course when he said it was my sister I picked up. Was she upset, scared, sad? Did she need to talk? Tell me about some vivid shred of a memory about Mom? Was she crying? Of course. All those feelings are right there, right there, and ready to move into position given the smallest permission.
But better than all my anticipation about why she was calling was the real reason she called. She had read something in a book that had so moved, touched and inspired her that she felt compelled to share it with me. Right now. And I loved that she gets me like that. As a writer. As her sister. She knew I would I feel the same way. Cry over these beautiful words. Words in which you yourself could have written them the feelings are so spot on.
Last week a friend gave her a copy of the book The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. She told me I should get a copy from the library and that maybe, just maybe this would be the book to take us out of our book slump. Since Mom died I can barely concentrate on a magazine article.
I picked up the book last week from the library and on Sunday night I attempted to read the first few pages. Sure I was exhausted from four straight days of partying like I was 25. Sure I just needed to go to sleep. The first page just brought up a whole slew of memories I wasn't willing to contend with at that moment. So I'll give it another try. My sister is half way through and claims it has been healing.
I've been thinking about the Newton tragedy. I've been thinking of all the heartbreak, tears, pain, sorrow. The damn sorrow in this world. It just never ends. My own sorrow. The sorrow of the Momma's who lost their precious everything in such senseless craziness. It just leaves me in a place of feeling like I have no words. I have nothing to say. It's all too much. I can't take it.
But when my sister read these words to me last night I thought of us, our children and I thought of the entire community in Newton.
(Will Schwalbe's words from The End of Your Life Book Club, pages 128 &129:)
I realized then that for all of us, part of the process of Mom's dying was mourning not just her death but all the death of our dreams of things to come. You don't really lose a person who has been; you have all those memories.
But we were going to have to say goodbye to Mom taking her youngest grandchildren to a Broadway show or to the Tate Modern or to Harrods to marvel at the Food Hall and visit the pet store puppies. We were going to have to say goodbye to the little ones remembering their grandmother beyond a fleeting image or an imagined memory prompted by a photograph. We would need to say goodbye to Mom at their graduations and to her buying them clothes and to them bringing home boyfriends and girlfriends to meet her.
We would also have to say goodbye to the joy of watching this next generation soak up the massive quantities of love their grandmother would have given them, and seeing them learn that there was someone in this world who loved them as much as their parents did: a grandmother who was delighted by all their quirks and who thought they were the most amazing creatures on earth. It was an idealized view of the future-but it was the one I carried in my head, and I don't think it was far off from the one my brother and sister and father and mother had.
I was learning that when you're with someone who is dying, you may need to celebrate the past, live the present and mourn the future all at the same time.
And God bless us, everyone.