Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I miss my mother

There isn’t a day goes by I don’t wish to pick up the phone and dial my mother at the same number we had when we first moved to Long Island in the mid-50’s. What a long line of Bell cable connected that number back to the phone that witnessed endless hours of conversation with and about boys through my high school years! But that’s a different story… losing touch with personal history. In the moment, I miss my mother, who died suddenly at eighty, a year and a half ago.

Heaven knows, my relationship with my mother wasn’t always smooth. And when I say I miss her, I’m not sure if it’s the woman she was at the end of her life, the young woman who cried and fretted and called the police when I arrived home late from kindergarten, or some version selected from millions of other moments before, between, and after. Truth is, there were many times during my life when I longed for a mother who lived only in my heart, and missed her even while facing her.

But again, that’s a different story.

What I’m struck with right now is the unfairness of death. Not death itself, of course. Death is truly the fairest thing about life. Everyone dies, no matter the circumstances of their lives, no matter how much or how little they contribute, no matter how happy or miserable they feel from day to day. Everyone dies. That’s fair.

Earlier this summer, a man was walking through the small suburban town where I live. At the same time, an elderly woman drove down the hill toward the town’s main intersection. She had a seizure right at that moment, lost control of her car, and proceeded to run into and kill the man walking on the sidewalk.

What is unfair about death is the timing and the trappings: Young people robbed of a future; accidents that randomly pick off unsuspecting, unprepared victims; people of any age ravaged by debilitating diseases; acts of cruelty and violence meted out by cowardly bullies. To be truly fair, death should allow everyone the chance to expire of natural causes at the point where they can no longer care for themselves or feel connected to life.

What is further unfair is how death affects those left behind. Regardless of the circumstances that take the one who dies, the rest of us are never ready to lose a loved one. It’s difficult, if possible at all, to integrate the fact that we’ll never see someone again, never get their opinion or advice, never do lunch, have an opportunity to tie up loose ends together, or simply sit in their presence and feel their warmth. We counted on consistency, but now we reach out to touch and get no response. How very unfair.

Needless to say, I’ve thought about this a lot this summer….

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