Archive for the ‘grief’ Category

Mostly ok

Monday, April 24th, 2006

i don’t know why it’s been so long since i’ve written. i do know that i’ve thought less about my mom, don’t talk about her so much, mostly think i’m ok. but every now and again driving in the car at night i’ll start crying like i just lost her again. usually when i’m alone. sometimes when i’m in the car with frank.

i realized recently how bad it’s been for me to not talk about her. and now that i’m back home in irvine, it’s easy to talk about her. easy to feel her near when i’m living in her house. i’m on leave from work for a month and am entering my 2nd week of leave. it’s already going by too fast.

i still miss her. and when it hurts it’s as raw as it ever was, but life’s moving forward. for everyone.


Mom in 1996 graduating with her Masters in Divinty.
She still looks so young!

It’s been so long…

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come back here. I haven’t blogged since I came back to Mountain View. The 49th day picnic was small with just my sister and I and my uncle and aunt. My dad was there, too, though we weren’t sure he’d make it. I think the 49th day is supposed to be end of the period of intense grieving. Now your altar to the dead one gets smaller. You buy fewer flowers, burn less candles, put her photo in a smaller frame. I don’t know yet if my sister is doing any of these things.

I know my grief has mellowed. I still think about her a lot. I still have my moments of quiet and reflection where I break down and sob, but just to myself. I don’t let anyone else see that; it’s a very private moment I’m having. I still have her photo. Still burn a flame.

Mom working in the office, 1980's
Mom working hard in my dad’s office, 1980s.

My dad and I came across this photo early on. He commented on how hard she always worked. She only ever thought of us.

Visiting the car

Saturday, March 4th, 2006

Seeing my mom’s car was probably the worst thing we’ve done since she died. The traffic investigator warned me several times not to go see it, but everyone warned us about everything and none of it turned out as bad as I thought it would so I didn’t give his warnings much credence. The Tow and Mo people are disorganized as hell though. First they sent me to the wrong facility, then they told me the car wasn’t released from evidence even though two days before they’d told me the car had been released for a long time, when was I going to pick it up? We meant to go see it Tuesday, but I had called and they needed the title and it took us a couple of days to find it.

The car was so smashed up and damaged. Much more than I’d imagined it to be. I thought I was pretty prepared for it after having see the news coverage video of the car after the wreck, but it’d been a long time since I’d seen it, and I had remembered a different image of the car than the one I saw at the tow place.

And there was so much stuff in the car. The officer said there wasn’t anything in it, but he was wrong. There were clothes, her other shoe (which I’d been wondering about when I’d taken her clothes out), makeup, toothbrush, coinpurse. Her glasses. Covered in dried blood. Those were the hardest to see. I thought we had the glasses she was wearing, but those were glasses that must’ve been on her person. These were the glasses she was wearing when she died and they managed not to get broken, but were completely covered in blood.

And there was blood splashed onto the seats and sides of the car, there was blood pooled in the passenger seat, there was blood in the front and back. I just imagined her in the car during the accident. The physical body is just a delicate, fragile thing when compared to a hunk of metal folded in on itself. How do you protect your flesh against crushed metal? Broken glass everywhere. How did her shoe get into the back seat? Did it fly off her foot as the car was rolling over, or did it fall out of the car and they threw it into the backseat as they cleaned up? The back seat, where they threw in the other chunks of car as they must’ve cleaned up the street.

I’d just been talking about how it felt like it was getting too easy. The car, the car ruined it for me. It was a dose of reality for both of us. Sometimes I think Jess is all I have left. My dad’s just as remote as always. And I love him, but he’s distant. Jess is all I have.


Mom in San Diego, CA. 1970

me & jess, ohio.

Other people lose their moms too

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

I was emailing a friend of mine the other day and he told me to appreciate the fact that I’d had my mom for as long as I did. And I thought to myself, it wasn’t nearly long enough. But his mother committed suicide when he was just a few years old and I felt like an insensitive whiner for going on and on about my mom. Another good friend of mine lost his mom at a very young age, too, and for some reason when I lost my mom, I forgot all about these other folks who’ve lost their moms, too.

I was lucky to have her for as long as I did. I wish I’d known her better; I always thought I eventually would, but I took it for granted. Just like I took for granted having my mom at all. The rawness of the loss has healed over a bit. And even going through and organizing her things isn’t so difficult and I manage to do a little every day, but every now and again I find something that feels so intimate and revealing and it takes my breath away. Yesterday it was a wooden box full of quarters she collected and I pictured her putting quarters into it and it breathed life into her in my imagination. It’s probably the hardest thing now — imagining her doing very specific things and feeling her living in my head for a moment. But it’s a nice thing, too.

I couldn’t get on as well as I have if it weren’t for my sister. I think about her all the time. I mean I’m living with her, too, but I worry and think about her all the time anyway. I think about how sweet and generous she can be and what a rotten sister I’ve been. She sent me this photo the other day:


Mom. Korea.

I don’t know who all those children are, but she looks so young and has the most beautiful smile in this photo. I worry about my sister living here all alone when I leave. But hopefully that won’t be for at least a little while, so I’ll worry about it then.

I still feel like hell. I’m so conjested that sometimes my head feels like it’s in a vise. Just turning or nodding my head hurts. I worked today for a little bit, but didn’t make it much past 2pm. Then I slept until dinner time. And I’m ready for sleep yet again.

First birthday

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

We celebrated Josh’s birthday today, a few days early. Our first celebration without my mom. We invited a close aunt and uncle and they stopped by, but couldn’t stay. My grief is nothing compared to my aunt’s. She can’t even come over to the house without difficulty because it was my mom’s house. She was visiting grandma yesterday and sighted a pair of my mom’s shoes and those sent her into tears. And seeing her sobbing started me going, too.

I’ve been thinking lately how it’s gotten so much easier. How I don’t cry at night anymore thinking about her. And when I do think about her, the sadness doesn’t stay with me as long, and I think I’m afraid I’m going to lose her, to forget her, and forget what she meant to me. I’m afraid of going back to Mountain View because at least here, I’m always surrounded by her. Distance always makes me forget and I don’t want that to happen.


Pic Jess sent me…me with mom in Korea.
Making kimchee in the winter. About 1976.

I’ve been so sick lately. I woke up Friday with the mother of all sore throats and I don’t feel too physically owful, but my throat is killing me and I’m sneezing and congested. It feels more like a bad allergy attack than a virus. And if I don’t keep drinking hot water to ease my throat, I feel like I’m dying of thirst.

We keep putting off going to visit the car and talking to the investigator. And calling the mortuary about the incorrect death certificates. It’s no longer that I can’t bear to do these things, but if I keep putting it off, maybe I just won’t have to. But that’s the runner away in me; that’s too easy. Tomorrow. I’ll probably call in sick so tomorrow. I’ll call.

Fairness, suicide, and God

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

Sometimes I think to myself it’s not fair. Then immediately refute it, because what’s fair? It is fair my sister has the physical problems of someone twice her age? Is it fair my crazy fucking ****** didn’t manage to kill himself when he wanted to but my mom died in an accident? Is it fair I have a car and a job and a roof over my head? The world and life don’t exactly balance out.

Sometimes I think about god and faith. It’s times like this that try the non-believer cause it would be so nice to believe my mom was in heaven hanging out with god. Or to believe in any sort of warm and fuzzy afterlife. A friend of mine told me he believed in god because he couldn’t believe we spent our lives connecting with other people and that there wasn’t anything else afterwards. But I think it’s the connections that keep us here on earth. Why would anyone want to continue living if there weren’t connections tying us down? Or propping us up?

I was telling someone today how all I blog about anymore is my mom, and how boring that must be for an outsider. How much of someone else’s grief can you possibly listen to? I keep telling myself I’m going to blog about something in a category other than grief, but I can’t seem to free up the brain cycles to do it yet. I’ve been reading the news, thinking about my future, but neither of these seem to warrant the attention my mother does.


Mom, me, dad, and my cousin in red with my Aunt holding him
at my dad’s graduation in 1974. Korea.

The clothes from the accident

Tuesday, February 21st, 2006

I’m busy in spurts of activity interspersed with intense tv watching during which I’m busy baking and/or cleaning (there’s no cable in my mom’s room yet). I can’t sit still, but I desperately want to do nothing.

Sharon Ahn, Los Angeles Park, CA. 1970
Mom in Los Angeles Park, California. 1970.

I’ve been putting off, for a month now, looking at the clothes my mom was wearing during the accident. So long, in fact, that the clothes have badly molded in the plastic bag they were tied up in. I got the standard bloodborne pathogens warning regarding the clothes so I took precautions. I thought what an odd sight I must’ve made out in the backyard with my pajamas on, a rag tied around my nose, clear woodworking goggles, and latex gloves on with bare arms and exposed feet, cutting up large plastic garbage bags and then unwadding and carefully laying out blood stained clothing covered in white mold. I wasn’t sure if I was being overly cautious or not enough. The mortician kept saying how many people are in and out of the coroner’s office and I was concerned about what that might mean (did that mean my mom’s clothes were hanging out with other dead people’s clothes? Did that mean the clothes might’ve caught something from passerbys? I don’t know nearly enough about this.) I felt awkward leaving her bra and panties out in the open like that, but I wasn’t going to let those clothes lay around inside — not with my delicate little sister in there inhaling god knows what emanating from the clothes. Even with the nose hanky, the clothes smelled none too fresh — a mixture of blood and mold and general staleness with a hint of something malodorously hospital-like sans disinfectant.

And as the sun was setting, all I did was roll everything back up and put it back in the plastic bag from which I’d rescued them in the morning. Right after her death, when I had to practically beg the mortician to give me her clothes, I needed them. I wanted to see them. But when I really wanted to, I didn’t have time to — there were always people around, and I wanted privacy when I took them out. And I didn’t want anyone walking around in the backyard when her clothes were lying about. When I got back from Mountain View 2-3 weeks ago, I had the privacy, but I worked all day — I didn’t want to leave the clothes outside without me around to keep an eye on them. Yesterday I thought about it, but couldn’t, and today in a manic rush of cleaning, I tore open the box and untied the first of two plastic bags, then I started to smell the faint odor coming off them and panicked. Then got my makeshift “safety” gear together and hauled everything outside.

Anyway, it’s done. Now I don’t know what to do with them. I wanted to call my dad and ask him what I was supposed to do with those clothes. I badly want to wash them. I sort of want to throw them away, but don’t feel like I can. It feels a little morbid to keep the clothing around. I’d feel less creeped out if they’d been washed. There wasn’t nearly as much blood as I thought there’d be, but seeing the clothes was hard nonetheless. Just thinking about her wearing them that day and the clothing she had on her — a couple of things that I recognized as things she frequently wore. They forgot to give us her other shoe. We only have one — the clean one. The other one was soiled. I think they must’ve forgot to put it in the bag. I was upset about that earlier today. Seeing the one shoe in the bag…

I don’t know how people deal with grief. Sometimes I feel like I’m going mad.

One month since the car accident

Monday, February 20th, 2006

Today was the one month anniversary of my mom’s death. We visited the grave — I haven’t been there since the 3rd day picnic. I’ve made some progress cleaning and going through stuff. But you’d never be able to tell from the mess around the bed. We keep discovering new little things about my mom. And finding reminders of our past. Nothing much has changed in the last month; I suspect it hasn’t been enough time for healing, forgetting, or neglect.




Mom, California, 1970

Dying

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

Our grandma came to visit this weekend. I haven’t seen her since my mom’s accident. Seeing her crying immediately set me off. She looked so tiny sitting in that plastic outdoor chair. Her feet didn’t even reach the ground. She’s still so vibrant. Sad, but she seems healthy. And her mental facilities are still sharp.

I’ve been thinking about my family dying and it’s a depressing thought. I’m not quite sure how to kick this funk. I feel like a wad of darkness. And I think I’m handling it well. I wonder what it’d be like if I wasn’t. But I’m alternately angry, irritable, or sad all the time.

Jess and I made some cards tonight and it reminded me of the last time I made cards here with my mom. She was putting stickers willy nilly all over the card. It was so cute. They were for Frank and Ed’s birthdays. I don’t think I remembered to give them to either of them. I guess I can put them in my scrapbook.

I’ve been looking at photos of my mom when she was younger and she was so glamourous. She always dressed carefully, posed like a movie star, had a gorgeous smile. And it made me think that no one’s going to ever look back at my photos and think I was glamourous. I don’t care about me, but I like thinking of my mom that way.

Mom on California beach, 1970
Mom on some California beach in 1970.

Just say no to addicts

Monday, February 13th, 2006

When an alcoholic and drug addict asks if you want to share vodka with him, say no. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I said yes. What a moron. Feeling sorry for someone and trying to help doesn’t actually mean you’re helping. Some things you just can’t help with. Frank says he wishes he could do more for me and I tell him he’s doing the best he can possibly do and that he can’t really do anything more for me. But I know he feels useless. I think he’s being supportive and wonderful and I couldn’t ask for more, but I know what’s it’s like to feel helpless while you’re watching someone suffer.

I couldn’t help my mom when she was so lonely and sad. I wish I’d called her more and had come down to see her more, but that wouldn’t really have helped her. She had to find her own way and I think she was starting to before she died. In the very beginning when I couldn’t stop crying and hurting, I needed an explanation and I thought maybe the god she believed in looked into her future and saw she’d just keep suffering and took her away. I realize now that isn’t true. She had wonderful things awaiting her. She was learning patience and acceptance. She was going to get another chance at the thing she’d hoped and prayed for so hard when she died. If there was a god, I’d say he was spiting her, but that’s not true either. She just had an accident, and she left us all behind.

I continue to have my on and off moments. The early part of the week was hard. Thursday was a hard day. I had my son with me this weekend and he was a distraction. I am emotionally drained. My energy levels are low and I can’t seem to get enough strength up to do virtually anything. I think I’ve killed two of my three baby ferns — the baby ferns I’ve been tending for months and months. I forget to water the plants. I forget to do most of the things I set out to do. I keep neglecting the things I need to do related to my mom’s death and accident — I just can’t get up the energy to do these things and keep putting them off, one more day.

dad, me, grandma, sis, mom, about 1979
Dad, me, grandma, Jess, and mom. About 1979.

The past

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

It started with that phone call on Sunday — thinking about my past and the things I’d done. I was driving around Irvine today — went to work, ran errands, and I was overwhelmed by my past life here. Not specific memories, but just the heavy feel of it. Driving by the Shell station, I remembered getting gas there with my mom. I’ve been wanting to call old friends to talk — I feel so desperate to talk to someone about the old days. And when I got home, I was so depressed, so burdened down. I was wondering how anyone stays to live in the place she grew up in. I thought living far away is just another way to not deal with it, to drive around always guilt free because nothing reminds you of anything you don’t really want to remember.

I was talking to someone tonight who’s so lost and so hurt, and I see myself in him. Talking to him reminded me that I’m glad of what I’ve become and glad that it’s all over. Not that I don’t hurt or feel lost sometimes, but I’ve got ways to deal with that intensity that are healthy. If you’ve got a heart that sensitive, you need a protective layer of some sort. For some people it’s God, for others it’s rational thought. Thinking through things, understanding the consequences and implications — that’s how I keep myself sane. Don’t get hung up on things I can’t change, don’t absorb all the world’s sorrow all at once, don’t think too much of myself. Know I’m a small piece, but an important one — just like everyone else.

Some days, I don’t know how I’m going to get through. But somehow I always do. I know I got some of my strength from mom. She forgave me everything. She labored all her life for us — for my dad, for me and Jess. And never complained. And in the end, the three most important people in her life all virtually abandoned her. But she still always had hope. For all of us.

me & mom
My mom and me in Korea

Callous

Monday, February 6th, 2006

It’s painful to see strangers be so callous about something that’s extremely personal to you. But once you get past the initial emotional reaction, you remember that people die every day — in accidents, by suicide, of old age, sometimes in tragic and horrific ways — and except for the handful of people whose lives have been personally touched by that death, the rest of the world doesn’t care. And you can’t take that personally.

Sometimes people are strangely suspicious and paranoid. Or perhaps I’m insufficiently so. Sometimes people are illogical and unintelligent. And a lot of times, people just don’t care about other people — whether they know them or not. I care too much. And there are lots of us, too.

I got a phone call today that brought back long ago memories 15 years old now. And as much as I’m grieving, it reminded me that other people’s lives are moving on — or trying to. I can’t help my mom, but maybe I can help one of them.

Mom & Jess in front of Niagra Falls, 1980
Mom & Jess in front of Niagra Falls, 1980.

Missing her

Saturday, February 4th, 2006

We’re on our yearly Tahoe trip. I was at the Google ski trip dinner last night and all of a sudden was thinking about my mom and tearing up at the table. I’ve kept it together pretty well and I kept myself in check last night, and normally I can get through the day like anyone else, but sometimes an unexpected spike of grief’ll hit me and make my throat tighten.

I have a portable memorial that I created for the trip. A little wooden box with a small photo of her in a frame that my uncle gave me (a small version of the one we used at the funeral), a small cross, some tiny, fake pink roses I found in my room, a pink cloth to set underneath the photo, and a small candle holder and candles. My sister brought up some more pictures of her when she got here and she laid them around the little photo and candles I’d set up. I’ll scan them in and post them when I get back to Irvine.

I miss her, I think about her all the time.

Sharon Ahn (Pyong Nim Cha), baby Kathy, and goat
My mom and me with a goat. Korea.

You’re so beautiful

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

I was driving home from Target last night after buying a new frame for my mom’s photo and some candles and every song I heard on the radio made me think of her and cry. “You’re so beautiful, it’s true…And I’ll never be with you…” I can’t remember the lyrics of the other song that really got to me, but they were similarly poignant.

We were in the truck driving to Tahoe today and we started into a curve in the road just a little too fast and Mike said, No, death. Just say no to death. And the way he said it made me laugh! But I was thinking, too, that my mom should’ve said no to death. No, death, no.

My sister took a photo of a photo with her cell phone and emailed it to me last night. I wanted to post it last night, but fell asleep before I could.

Sharon Ahn (Pyong Nim Cha) Wedding
Mom’s Wedding (I guess early 1970’s)

Comforting ourselves

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

It’s funny the little things we do to comfort ourselves, because really, what do the dead know about the fresh flowers you buy them? Or the candles you religously burn in front of their pictures? The little altars you build for them? As if not doing these things could possibly mean you missed them less, that somehow your loss isn’t as intense as it is.

I do it anyway. Another one of those ways to keep myself busy remembering my mom.

I went to work. My co-workers are wonderful. At first I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the day, but the mindless numbness of going through over a week of email didn’t seem so bad after a couple of hours. In fact, it was reassuring — working without having to really work, without having to concentrate so hard. It made the day go by. And another night has gone by. I can’t sleep until I’m absolutely exhausted. I’m almost there.

Sharon Ahn (Pyong Nim Cha), 1969
Mom, 1969

Forty more years

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

I haven’t seen my grandmother all week. She’s been sick and everyone’s been afraid coming to the services, to our house, to the grave, would be too much for her. My uncle says sometimes she seems far away, then she comes back to and is distraught. They go out to search for her and she’s way at the back of her property, feeling her grief. I feel so sad for her, but I have my own grief and I don’t know how to help her. This is the fourth child she’s lost. She’s 97. I thought I’d have my mom for another forty years to love her and make her proud of me. I thought I’d have her until I grew old. I thought it was plenty of time for us to grow closer, to get to know each other better. I thought she’d always be there for me. I don’t know how to deal with this. What am I supposed to be doing?

I’m home now and alone again for the first time in over a week. I feel lost when I’m alone. I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to be doing. I babied my plants when I first got home before Frank left. And after he left, alone for the first time in ages, I cried, then pulled myself off the couch and tried to figure out what I should be doing. I dug through old photo albums and cried over them. I don’t have enough photos of her. I’ve been such a selfish child. I dragged out the graduation purse she gave me after college. The gift I thought was so impractical. I haven’t seen it for ages; it seems to suit me more than I once thought it did. I can’t find the jammies she bought me for Christmas. I’ve been wanting to wear them and I don’t understand where I could have possibly put them. I can’t find them anywhere and it’s drivng me nuts.

Today, I went to my aunt and uncle’s church. My aunts and uncles have been so wonderful and so helpful. This aunt and uncle arranged the pastor for the church service and the reception meals after both services. I don’t think I could’ve handled arranging all that. My aunt’s going to help with the Thank You cards for the church members. We had lunch with them after the service. It was in Korean. I didn’t understand it, but they were warm and welcoming.

We had a picnic at my mom’s grave today. It’s tradition to gather at the grave three days after the funeral. The funeral was Friday. I guess they count the day of the funeral as one of the days. I miss her. I don’t know how I’m going to go to work tomorrow. It seems so meaningless.


Mom in Korea, 1969

The OC Register obituary notice for Sharon Ahn. I swear we looked on the 24th, but didn’t see it. Jess found it the other day.

Mom’s grave

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Thursday and Friday went by in whirl. I didn’t get anything done on Thursday that I wanted to. All that hunting for a photo and scanning images turned out to be for naught because after all that, I ended up not having time to print them out after running some errands and trying to get ready to go to the mortuary by 4:30. I didn’t end up making her a card or writing her the letter I wanted to, either. We got there 2 hours before the visitation service so we could see my mom beforehand and see how she looked. I rushed to the casket and immediately started bawling. It was harder to see her made up and dressed up than it was on either Monday or Tuesday. They did an amazing make up job, but she still didn’t quite look like herself.

Friday was no better. The funeral service was at noon and I wanted to get there by at least 11AM so I could spend more time with her, but we barely made it by 11:30 and I couldn’t leave her side. Thursday night, it was seeing her looking unbroken, and Friday, it was the thought of never, ever being able to see her physical form — like this or any other way — again. Not ever. I was so sick on Friday morning, I couldn’t stomach the coffee and banana I tried to have. And during the service, after bawling at her casket for half an hour, I felt so sick, I thought I’d pass out. I was trying desperately to get a candy out of its wrapper quietly so I could get a little sugar in me, but gave up after a minute of wrassling with it.

Today, Mike and Marg made us all a big breakfast, and then they took off back to northern California, and eight of us went to go see my mom’s grave. Uncle BK said they’d told him yesterday they were going to cover it with all the flowers that’d been at the service, and it was beautiful.


Mom’s grave at Pacific View Memorial Park, day after funeral services

The last couple of nights — Thursday & Friday nights, have been just friends at the house. My friends drove down from northern Cal, and Jess had Amy and Doug, and it was a nice break from the family — because it was a nice break from so much grieving. Our friends have been so sweet and supportive — it made those nights tolerable to get through. I have the best friends in the world.

I have my on and off moments. Sometimes the sadness overwhelms me, and sometimes I’m not sure what to do about it. I can keep myself busy or I can cry doing any number of things — staring at her photo, staring at her bed, staring at the photos near her bed, staring at her office, staring at her clothes, towels, books, her garden, virtually anything else in her house. But I always manage to pull through the sadness. Frank and I had a long talk tonight — it was nice to be able to chat together. It’s been so busy this week, he’s been really supportive, but I feel like I haven’t spent much time with him. And this week has been so sad and busy, I haven’t even mentioned that we got back together after New Year’s, sometime shortly before my mother passed away. She thought we were going to be married; she always wanted to see me get married.

I’m an ass

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I’m such an ass. I said something really, really nasty to my sister out of anger. We got into a fight and she was being so good and not saying anything too terrible, calling me “kettle” (as in the kettle calling the pot).

She’s been keeping it together so well that sometimes I forget this is just as hard on her as it is on me. And my patience is thin and I’m exhausted, and she is, too, and if she’s tense it’s because of that, and I’m such an ass cause she’s grieving just as much as I am and I was completely mean and not understanding when she was having a hard time. I’m sorry, honey. I feel so awful.

She consoles herself with the same thought I do — that my mother’s at peace, that the sad things that troubled her no longer do. Death isn’t hard on the dead, it’s only hard on the living who’re left behind. And I know this and I know I want her back for selfish reasons, but I still want her back.

I’ve been trying to find a picture of me and my mom I’ll want to put in her casket and I’ve been meaning to make a card (Jess’s idea), too, but I feel overwhelmed. I know the idea of putting things in someone’s coffin seems silly — what’s a dead body going to do with those things? But I can’t stop myself. It’s just another way to keep myself busy remembering her.

Every day

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

I am so tired. I go to bed late — busy all day long with cleaning and getting things ready for the funeral and if I’m not busy for any period of time, I’m anxious that I should be doing something. I can’t sleep during the day, I can’t go to bed early — I’m jittery and don’t want too much down time to think.

Yesterday we made a big back yard effort and Amy, Jess’s friend, did a whole heap of work out there and made a section of it look lovely. My aunt was out there scooping up piles of leaves with her hands and putting them in the trash bin. My uncle was madly trying to throw stuff away that I told him he couldn’t. We left one section of the cluttered backyard mostly intact for my sanity — I don’t want all of it to change all at once. My sister’s allergies wouldn’t let her join us outside, so she scrubbed the toilets clean (better her than me I guess).

We ran errands — Jess & Amy, and Frank & I separately, and had a seemingly normal day. I had begun to think that it got easier every day, and that at the rate my sobbing had ceased, my mother would be a distant memory in a couple of months and I’d grow used to her absence, forgetting about how much I missed her. But it doesn’t get easier; every day is just different. Sometimes there isn’t enough to do. There are times when I’m too tired and aimless to concentrate on any given task so I wander the rooms, drift off looking at pictures, sobbing my little heart out. I think the days are catching up to me, up to Jess, too. Sometimes my sister drives me crazy — her tone of voice, her extreme moodiness, but I don’t say anything.

Cleaning

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

When Jess and I were finally alone last night, we went into mad cleaning mode. And I went to bed late, but got up early and went back into mad cleaning mode. It’s gratifying to have something mindless to do that results in immediate visual impact. I washed a giant sliding glass door inside and out and it looks spectacular.

We went back to see my mom today. This time we got to see her whole entire face and head. The mortician worked on her for over five hours — we even delayed the visit by half an hour and it was almost another half hour before we got to her after arriving at the funeral home. He spent that time placing many sutures to pull the skin back together, carefully stuffing cotton in places to make her face look normal, washing her hair, embalming her. She doesn’t quite look like herself, but it was a relief to see all of her head. She has a big jagged cut down the right side of her forehead from the scalp down to her eye. The left side of her forehead and cheek were abraded — sort of like road rash. Her right eye doesn’t look quite right — the skin under the eye is puckered and red — probably from broken bones in her head and face — and had signs of minor trauma. Daddy said he didn’t feel any other broken bones anywhere else though and repeated that death was probably immediate. Her hair was beautiful and dark and still wet from the washing. They put this stuff in her scalp to retain moisture that looks like small, clear rocks and that was weird to see in her hair, but it was still pretty. Her skin was so soft and she wasn’t as cold and rigid as she was yesterday — though today, without the crinkly plastic, it was easier to touch her arms and feet and hold her in this way through the sheet and blanket.

She had three pieces of cotton on her face that the mortician said we could remove if we wanted to. And these had cream underneath them (as he said they would — he was very thorough in describing what we’d see and what he’d done to her). When my dad lifted the first piece, I cringed, feeling uncomfortable, but later on, I was lifting them, too, and examining the damage underneath them. It’s impressive how easy it is to get used to something. The first look is always the freshest, the most visceral, and usually the hardest. But it doesn’t take long standing in the room to just get comfortable with it. The cotton for example, or the blood my sister wiped off her face. The first time is the hardest, the most shocking, then subsequent times it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.

We got her clothes, too — the ones she was wearing when she died. J.C. brought out one single shoe that he wiped the blood off of — the only thing he thought fit to look at, but after we asked, he brought us a bag of her soiled (everything else) things with strict warnings about biologically hazardous waste, pathogens, etc.

I’m exhausted. A good friend of my sister’s arrived early today, then Frank arrived mid-afternoon. My aunt and uncle are sleeping downstairs. I have my mother’s bed all to myself. We picked out a bible verse to put on her memorial cards. I still miss her like crazy.