Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Two Years

Hi, Mom.

I'll admit, I'm currently going through one of those phases where I'm pretty uncertain about where I stand on God/heaven/an afterlife/angels, so I don't know if these words will find you. And if they do, that first sentence is probably breaking your heart because your firm and unshakable belief has been confirmed and I'm down here doubting and debating you as usual. No matter. Because two years ago today I sat at your bedside in hospice and held your hand and said goodbye to you for the last time without knowing it would be for the last time, and I find myself missing the spirit that made you you, wherever that spirit and energy may now be. And I need to talk to you even if you can't listen.

I wrote the above paragraph yesterday after school in an attempt to express the heaviness and sorrow I felt knowing that today is my least favorite anniversary. I typed it while Ainsley did homework, then stared at it, had no more words, and went about the rest of my day.

I went down to our basement laundry room and began to take my daughter's clothes out of the dryer. As I stood there, I mulled words and phrases around in my head trying to figure out what I could possibly say to you, my readers, and to myself, that would give me comfort and strength and express what it's like to lose your mother too soon.

And then I saw something out of place on top of the lint filter. Something that I did not expect to find at all, especially not in my clothes dryer. I found a necklace. I found the necklace. And I've been trying to wrap my head around it ever since.

To tell you that story, I have to tell you this one.

In the months following Mom's death, Ainsley and I both clung to tangible items that had once belonged to her that made our healing hearts feel a little less empty. For me, it was one of her watches. It was too small for my wrist and more white and more large than I prefer my watches to be, but I wore it every day that first summer. For Ainsley, it was two things: the little stuffed lamb that had sat at Mom's bedside in the hospital and which she told me she wanted Ainsley to have when she knew she wasn't going to make it, and the silver palm tree necklace that Mom had brought back for Ains from vacation not long before she got sick.

Ainsley wore the necklace every day the first weeks of her summer vacation, only taking it off for swim practice. One day she got invited last-minute to go to the neighborhood swimming pool with our neighbors, and in our rush to get her out the door, we didn't secure the necklace first. When she came back from the pool it was no longer around her neck. Neither a frantic search of her swim bag nor violent shaking of her towel, swimsuit, and cover-up yielded the necklace. For a week I retraced her steps through the yard, called the pool, checked the lost-and-found, looked for something shiny on the pool bottom. With a heavy heart, I accepted the necklace's loss and mourned for it. It was the last gift she ever gave her granddaughter, and it was gone.

That was July of 2012. Since then, life has moved on. I had forgotten all about the lost necklace. Until it suddenly appeared in my dryer the day before the second anniversary of Mom's death.

I immediately ran upstairs to Ainsley, still doing homework in her room, and saw that she was as surprised as I was. She had not seen it since that day at the pool, either. But together we came up with the most logical explanation for its return.

Sunday night I washed her swim bag, which she had taken with her that day. Even though we turned that thing upside down and inside out looking for the necklace initially, and even though it's been emptied and washed several times since July of 2012, it must have been hidden deep inside a pocket. It finally emerged Sunday, and hid itself in the three other loads of clothes I did until, like the magic bullet or the one ring, it perched itself cleanly out in plain view.

That's the logical explanation.

But the timing of its discovery leads me to believe (bear with me, skeptics) that there is an unseen hand in this, and that it was a message of comfort to get me through a difficult day.

Do I believe in angels, or ghosts, or that the energy of the dead can somehow communicate with us from whatever is Beyond? I still don't know. It depends on the day, the slant of the moon, and how recently I've watched a horror movie. I've seen things that could lead me to believe that a bit of our souls, a bit of the energy and electric charges that make us us, sticks around a bit after we've breathed our last. Yet the older I get, and the more bitter and cynical I get, the less I believe in things I can't quantify. I doubt. Daily. And will probably spend the rest of my days in a cycle of belief/disbelief that colors my views on God, the afterlife, and the supernatural in various changing shades of gray.

Today, I lean toward belief. Mostly because it gives me comfort. Today, what was lost has been found. I feel my mother's presence in this whether it's there or not. Because of this, it's not a sad day. It's a happy day. My grieving heart has been made light.

So Mom, if you are indeed listening...thank you. Even if the necklace was not your doing...thank you. For everything. I love you, and I still miss you, but now I know: there's always a little piece of you in my heart. Like the necklace, there are times I've thought it was lost. But it's still there, just waiting for me to find it again.

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