Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Masking the Grief

When Evelyn and I get together, as we did this past weekend to celebrate her birthday, we can hit fifty different subjects within an hour. I’m talking female domination (does that exist anywhere?), to world peace, Presidential hopefuls, taxes, college tuition and of course, our children and families. We know each other as well as sisters, having known each other since preschool age. Although our histories are separate, they have been shared for four decades. No one knows us better with the exception of our Mothers. Being with her soothes my grey cells. I can let my hair down and let loose with my opinions, and I can feel what I feel and let it show. I don’t have to wear a mask.

July is an up and down month for me, I celebrate the gift of my best friend within that month, but I also mark the anniversary of my Mama’s death. She died July 5, 1998 in my living room from complications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD for short. I had brought her to my home that morning from my sister’s home. The plan was to give my sister a break from care-giving and I welcomed the opportunity to do so, not just to help my sister, but because I love my Mama and she gave me so much. But just like Mama, she had other plans, and other places to go.

At nine o’clock that evening, just as “Touched by an Angel” (a popular TV show in the 90’s) was going off the air with its signature dove flying off into a sapphire blue sky, Mama flew away home. My husband called 911 while I administered CPR. The rest is a blur. Emergency Medical Techs surrounded me and took over while my not quite one-year-old daughter slept unaware upstairs. I had phone calls to make to my two sisters and my brother. My husband’s parents came over to lend their support, pitch in with our daughter if needed, and above all, to surround us with the grace that only love can give. So I don’t care much to be in my living room on any given July Fifth, and when I wake up on that morning it’s like some hateful mechanism goes off in my being, squeezing my heart and reminding me of what I’ve lost.

A few weeks after the funeral I was told I shouldn’t grieve, a year later I was asked why I dwelled on it so, and the years have rolled by with comments, meant to bring comfort, but judging. “You need to get on with your life.” Life has gone on. My daughter will be fourteen this year, my shadow and junior lady, and I have a beautiful blue-eyed son who wasn’t even a glimmer when my Mama died. I do what I need to do, I laugh, I work, I help with homework, drive endless miles for the children’s activities, I do not dwell on my Mother’s passing, but I cannot forget it or act as if the loss means nothing. Such a tremendous part of my strength comes from my Mama. My love of music, my gut instincts (which Mama had in spades) my fierce watchfulness over my children and my appreciation for friends are just a tip of what Mama gave to me by example. She was my truest friend, my most righteous defender, and my biggest critic. She breathed for me and for every one of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I do not dwell on her loss, but I miss her like a phantom limb, once a part of me, now apart.

While I was with “Girlfriend” (Evelyn’s term of endearment for both of us) we talked about Evelyn’s Momma, who lost her own mother three years ago. Evelyn’s Momma had her own Momma for seventy-seven, and she misses her every day. She still wants to call her to brag, or just talk, after seventy-seven years. I figure that if Evelyn’s Momma feels that way, I’m justified as well. Evelyn knows what I’m talking about; her essay "Miss NonCongeniality" in our July 4gaby issue pretty much hit home. I can’t pretend not to feel what I feel AND make “chitty chat.” If you see me a little red-eyed, or catch me listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” in the month of July, don’t worry. I’m getting on with my life, I’m too busy not to, but I won’t wear a mask to make others comfortable. My Mama always told me to be myself.

(And just because I'm being myself, don't forget to check out my other blog, Losing Mary at http://losingmarycarman.blogspot.com/ Thank you.)


  1. Love you, girlfriend and I love your Mama, too. Life goes on and we use the lessons learned to help us love better and deeper. And there isn't a true mother out there who wouldn't want those lessons imparted to their child.

  2. That was a beautiful ode to your mother. x

  3. And, this hits home for me. People's comments usually come from a good place, but it's usually best to let each grief in his or her own way as long as grieving occurs. It's not healthy or productive to dishonor your feelings. Kudos on being brave enough to be truthful with yourself and blessed to have a friend for life.

  4. Mary, you expressed it perfectly - she was always our biggest champion. She would fight till the end for any one of her family members. but if you ever messed up - oh boy! would she let you know it. They say that time heals all wounds, I don't know about that. The scars might fade, but they're still there - reminding us of what used to be. I miss her every day but maybe a little bit more in July.


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