Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Then you'll be forever young and beautiful to me..."

I am so numb that I can barely feel the keys underneath my fingers, but I am going to give this a go.

You might remember that last week, Mom-Mom was taken to the hospital with chest pains, chest pains that turned out to be the product if a pretty large heart attack. The decision was made to discharge her from the hospital and let her go home, treating her symptoms with drugs.

That was Thursday morning. Over the week, she was not feeling well. "Lousy" was what she said when I spoke to her on Thursday afternoon. I told her we'd call the doctor the enst day if she still felt crappy, and in the meantime, to rest up, and that I loved her. I was thankful, for the first time, about my layoff- with a free weekend, I could go see her on Sunday.

Early Sunday morning, my phone rang, and when I saw my mom's number on the Caller ID, I knew. I was hoping that Mom-Mom had been rushed to the hospital for something, but really, I knew before my mom told me. After a frantic call to Pete, who had already left for work, I spoke to my sister. A few hours later, we were all in our living room- Marla, Steve, Pete and I- gathering up the strength to go to Mom-Mom's house.

When we got there, the house was quiet. My parents were there and Margaret, Mom-Mom's caretaker, was upstairs with her. Jimmy, my cousin, was kind of floating about. Mar and I went upstairs, and Mom-Mom was laying in her bed.

She didn't look like herself- it was like Mom-Mom was already long gone, and there was just a shell. I think that's what got to me more then anything. I know that for alot of people, part of the mourning process is saying goodbye to the body of their loved ones. But all I needed was a glance to know that my last goodbye was when I spoke to her on the phone a few days before, because there was nothing of Mom-Mom in the tiny shell laying in her bed.

Believe it or not, this next part is kind of funny.

My mom called the police to report the death, and the next thing Marla and I hear is a siren. We jumped up from Mom-Mom's side to look out the window- an ambulance and a fire engine had pulled up out front, rescue workers spilling out of each. I honestly though "Well, great, the neighbor's house is on fire. Just what we need." But when the next thing we heard was all of those people thundering up the stairs, we knew there had been a...well, a miscommunication.

Marla and I walked out of the room so they EMT's and paramedics could do...whatever the hell they were doing. I feel so bad for making fun of him, because he really was very sweet, but one of the men came out of the room and approached Marla and I.

"I'm very sorry, but there's nothing we can do."

"Oh. Well. Yes. We're not...surprised or anything..."

Was this guy serious? And all I could think was that Mom-Mom would say "They sent a fire truck? But I'm not on fire..." We must have thought we were weird. And I guess he would be right. The whole day was filled with weirdness.

We did get one blessing, and that was Cantor Ellie being willing to perform the service. She had already met our family, and Pete and I had felt such a connection to her when she married us, so we were so thankful that she was willing to make some time in her busy schedule to help us say goodbye to Mom-Mom.

The funeral itself was awful. Further proof that Mom-Mom is really gone was how OLD she looked. I could only marvel- when most people pass, people say "Oh, she looks so peaceful" or "He looks so young". But Mom-Mom- although her skin, as always, looked fabulous- looked old. Old lady hairstyle, old lady expression on her frozen face,even an old lady positioning of the purple broach Marla and I chose for her. I wanted to badly to see some semblance of Mom-Mom to hold to my heart, but there was nothing of her there.

That would be about the time I fell apart.

I barely heard Cantor Ellie's lovely voice as she led as all in prayer. I faded away when my mom gave her eulogy. And when it was time for Marla and I to read our eulogy- the one we had so carefully written the night before- I could make no sounds. The next thing I knew, the pallbearers were rising to take Mom-Mom's casket to the hearse. And inside me, the last thread holding me together snapped. I lost it in front of everyone, and even as it was happening, as my grief overwhelmed me, I was so angry at myself. Mom-Mom took the whole walk of life with so many- her husband, her son, her best friend- and I didn't even have the strength to stand.

The rest is a blur. Riding in the limo to the cemetery. The short graveside service. The chilly wind that I could barely feel. Seeing Mom-Mom lowered into the ground, next to her son, knowing at that moment I was the closest I was ever going to be to her again. Each mourner sprinkling a shovel of dirt over her casket. Wondering what on earth we would all do without her.

Back her house to sit shiva, I was able to put myself together for a bit. Most people kind of avoided me- I think they were a little unused to seeing me fall apart, but know enough about me to know I like my space. Family and friends streamed in all day, anxious to let us know how much Mom-Mom meant, and to ask if there was anything they could do.

But what can you do for someone when they lost their Mom-Mom?

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