Friday, November 5, 2010

The Loss of My Mother

Thirteen years ago, October 5th, 1997, my fifty year old mother took her own life.  She was found on the 6th, lying in a make-shift bed in her walk-in closet.  I was 24 years old at the time, and I was sitting at work when I got the call from my father.  I don't even remember the 30 minute drive to the house.

When I arrived at the house, the coroner was already there.  My father held me tight and we cried on each other's shoulder.  Sometimes those emotions don't release until you see someone close, and then it's like the floodgates open.

The coroner then asked if we could identify her.  As we walked up the stairs, there were police or some other officials standing in the doorway to the master bedroom.  We stepped slowly in and towards the closet.  Looking in and seeing my mother lying there motionless was too much for Dad to handle.  But I looked, and I remember it like it was yesterday.  That's the thing about having a photographic memory, these images stay with you.

My mother laid peacefully there on a bed of blankets with a pillow under her head.  Around her were those candles you put in the window at Christmas and a picture of my sister on her wedding day (one of the proudest days of my mother's life). Dried blood was under her nose and she had stained the blankets underneath.  I stared.  A million thoughts raced through my head.  What did she do?  Was she that desperate and I didn't know? What were her last moments like?  Did she feel pain?  Did she feel regret as the breath left her body? 

Once the coroners took her body, I had the task of cleaning the closet, washing the blankets and pillows.  It was pointless, but I did it anyway.  There is a distinct smell when someone dies, and that doesn't wash out.  I will say one thing, there is no glamor in death.

The next few days consisted of many tears and making funeral arrangements.  My brother and sister came to stay in the house with me while we went through our mother's belongings.  My sister and I cried, fought and laughed the entire time over memories, belongings and things we regretted not doing.

I found out from my father that she had attempted to take her life a year prior.  He found her unconscious with a note, and he rushed her to the hospital.  She begged him not to tell us kids.  Oh, the things I could have done to help her had I only known.  That is an impossible amount of guilt for me to deal with, even now.

The funeral had a nice turnout of familiar faces.  My mother would have been proud at the crowd she drew.  And as I stood up in front of everyone to give her eulogy, I felt strong and proud to be her daughter.  It's funny that even then, when I was 24, I had that strength.

Beautiful words were spoken about my mother.  And the wonderful things about her are still cherished to this day by the people who knew her.  Her death may not have been glamorous, but my mother had class.  From head to toe, she was a lady.

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