backyard dogwood, south carolina . spring, 2009
for the first year, all i wanted was one more day, hour, breath, second. i just wanted to pick up the phone and hear her voice say, "hello" in that funny, "i'm so glad it's you" sort of way. as my brain tried to train itself to realize that i would never see her, hear her again, my cracked-open heart tried to remember to keep working.
this is a piece of what my first experience of the path of grief felt like.
the wishing. the missing.
this march was the first time after her death and the last time that i would visit the home away from home that was my grandparents' home. trying to soak up everything while standing on another branch of the path of grief was difficult. i took a lot of photos, but i wish i would have taken more. i wish i would have written while sitting on the backporch. but when a family gathers for a funeral, there isn't much time to take it all in. and then, in the weeks that followed, the "settling of the estate" began. and as a grandchild, i did not have a role. which i understood intellectually...yet, this was my home away from home...a home filled with unconditional love that i had experienced...even if this might not have been the experience of everyone.
my mother would call and we would talk about "the list" of "stuff" and what we might want.
and as i would look at this list of "stuff," the feeling began again. i want one more minute. i just want to tell her all that i have learned. i want her to know this me, this me that grief has birthed. i want to ask her so many questions. i don't care about any of the stuff, i just want her. i just want her.
during this time, my mind kept turning around this phrase: all that they were became a list in a word document with a total at the end. all that they were. all that they were.
the missing became the drum of my heart yet again.
weeks later, the boxes arrived at my mother's house. a lot of boxes. the journey she has been on to go through them...the journey that is not always about missing in the same way my journey is. a child's grief, so very different from a grandchild's or a friend's.
a few weeks ago, she sent two boxes full of some of the things from that house. being sick for several weeks, and some other things that have made life a bit fuller, made for the realization that i didn't quite have the energy to open the boxes. i didn't want to sift through the feelings again, and i didn't want to uncover new ones. i just walked around the boxes and stacked things on top of them.
alone in the quiet saturday night, i found myself noticing those two white boxes and wondering. as i lifted out sewing supplies, linens, odds and ends, i began wishing i could ask her about the seven days-of-the-week embroidered towels and the odd beginnings to a pillow and the red "happy time" harmonica.
the wishing. the missing.
in the second box, under a few other things, there was layer upon layer of bubble wrap around a box. as i began to unwrap it, the quiet mingled with the scent of her.
the jewelry box that had sat on her dresser for decades. the jewelry box that had sat there as she put on her makeup, sprayed her perfume, decided which pair of clip-on earrings to wear.
the jewelry box soaked up that perfume and makeup and pieces of a life; it soaked up the scents of that life, her life, and they settled in. as i opened that box, the scent swirled around me and i closed my eyes to remember.
the little girl visiting her favorite people and sleeping in that room. supposed to be napping, she peeks inside that box, lifts the lid of a compact, opens the bottle of perfume and breathes in deeply. the little girl sits on the stool in front of the dresser and looks in the mirror wondering what it might be like to be old enough to wear this perfume and use the pencils and brushes. the little girl who feels so at home in this room, who feels so loved in this room. the little girl who is the woman who remembers this love. this woman who takes a breath and deeply misses.
the jewelry box that was on a list that became part of a decision. the jewelry box that was wrapped up and put into a box and then another box now sits inside this home on another coast, part of another life. the jewelry box that became another step on the path as it became the gift of one more minute, one more second, one more breath.
the gift of one more breath.