Not long after my mother’s death a well-meaning acquaintance offered this condolence: “Don’t worry, you’ll get over it.” He was wrong. When you lose someone you love, you don’t get over it. Over time you adjust to it. The new reality settles in, but you don’t get over it. How could one even think that?
I no longer mourn my mother in the intense way I did in the months following her death. Still, every so often, something catches me – takes me by surprise- and I feel my heart wrench.
It happened last month when my daughter wrote her weekly reading letter to her teacher about the book she was currently reading, Charlotte’s Web. In the letter, my daughter said she understood how sad Wilbur felt when Charlotte died because she had lost someone special too (my mom). She also remarked that Wilbur would be okay, eventually, because he would always have Charlotte in his heart.
This wisdom from my sweet 10-year-old wrenched my heart, but then led to a great mommy/daughter chat about the joy of loving someone deeply and the hurt of losing them. We then gave thanks for Mattie’s life and reminisced about the wonderful hours she and Mattie spent drawing together.
My heart wrenched again this past Friday when I was, of all things, organizing my pantry. In the process of sorting and straightening, I discovered three expired cans (pictured above). See the dates written on the sides of each can? My mother wrote those. These were cans from her pantry that made their way into mine after she got too sick to cook. And, you got it, they caught me by surprise and, suddenly, and unexpectedly, filled me anew with sadness at the permanence of her loss. Instead of stuffing those feelings back inside, I said to myself, “Okay, I’m feeling sad, so what am I going to do about it?”
And what did I too? I picked up the phone and called my sister. She wasn’t there, so I left a message. I felt better though, proud even, that I’d acknowledged that wrench in my heart. And as I finished organizing the pantry, my mind flooded with all sorts of memories of the fun things my mom and I had done together involving, of all things, cans! I remembered taco dinners with canned beans, hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids and canned tuna fish sandwiches, and cold winter afternoon lunches with canned tomato soup – spiked with a little sherry, my mother’s favorite! And the next day, when my sister returned my call, we shared all over some of our best “mom” memories.
I believe that as writers we are called to write from the heart and thus we must be honest with ourselves about “heart” moments like these. They are the beat that keeps the heart soft and open, ready to receive and ready to give. Happy writing all!