It’s been over a week since we buried mummy and I’ve been facing a new reality – surreal-ality. Yes, this a word I made up as an attempt to describe this realm I’m in. It seems surreal that she’s gone, and yet, it’s the reality I must face. Nothing in life prepares you for the death of a parent, although intellectually and spiritually (for some), we know all humans will die. A high school classmate very thoughtfully wrote on my facebook page, in sum, that she is still with me, but in different form. His words were touching.
From the outside, it looks like I’ve gone on with my life, and in many ways, I have. I went back to work on Tuesday, have been cooking, exercising, tending to my plants, shopping, doing housework, reading articles, and so on. What has been difficult is not hearing her voice, but I can still hear her voice in my head. You see, for the past 5 years, I’ve called mummy almost daily, particularly during the work week. I decided to do that a few years ago because I was aware that I didn’t know how much longer she would live. Part of that has to do with mummy prepping us for her death for about 15 years now. She became ill a few months after retiring. She’s been telling us since then we need to prepare.
My purpose in calling her was two-fold – distract me from my work day and bring a little joy to mummy’s life. In the process, I’ve gotten to know her as a person and I haven’t held back in letting her get to know me as an adult child. It was difficult at times to switch roles and be the encourager many times, but I did it. My brother told me twice after the funeral that he knew I was her favorite. He said he heard her talk about things with me he never heard her talk about previously. I don’t know how to take what he said, but I am certainly thankful I made this effort. I miss her voice. Even when she was irritable due to the medications or pain, or when she was complaining, or when we were arguing, I miss her voice.
The Saturday before I returned to Austin, I was at my oldest sister’s house, in the backyard, reviewing the paperwork from the funeral home and signing the 100+ “thank you” cards. There were 4 small boxes in a bag. Curiously, we opened our boxes together and gasped with tears when we realized what the gift was – an embedded photo of mummy in a light up key chain. It was such a special moment that we shared together. My sister asked me not to tell my other siblings because she wanted to be there in person to see their faces.
When we returned to Austin, I was reviewing the many photos I took in Chicago. I came across a photo where I was trying to capture the breath-taking key chain in the light, and in the background, I noticed my kids playing with each other. They rarely play with each other, let alone outside, but my sister had a toss game that she set outside for them. It was a gorgeous day. They might have played for all of 10 minutes, but it was so touching to see in the picture because I hadn’t noticed it when we were there.
Caleb and Elise, Chicago, July 15, 2017
As my brother said, mummy is in all of us. This picture gives me comfort because I know that she is with me, with all of us, and that she left a beautiful legacy. We’re going to be okay.