::Thanksgiving without Mimi was like swimming for 24 hours against a strong tide.
The emotion came up like water hitting my face as I tried to keep moving forward through the moments, trying to keep from losing it completely through the making (well, helping) and eating family meal and all the various pleasantries that come with holiday treating. exhausting inner resources fighting the tide.
By the end of that day, when the sun went down and we hugged our hugs and said our “what a wonderful day it was” (as it was), and when we carried our seven and nine year old in our arms from the car and flopped them into bed due to sheer and total blissful exhaustion, when H. went to bed and I intended to too… I started doing the dishes. And then cleaning the living room, then scrubbing away papers and clutter and moving space everywhere I found crowding. I sat and stared at the clock after I couldn’t move clutter. I tried a book but eyes glazed oozing the words of the page together creating nonsense.
Two o’clock a.m. and all I could see was Mimi’s face still, the face I missed feeling and seeing that day. All those 33 Thanksgivings that were spent
Two o’clock a.m. and tears came. Tears that felt like finding the shore of the stream I’d been swimming against all day, and I sat there and wept. Simply missed… I missed her silver hair, her present-ness, her twinkly alive focused eyes that listened better than any paid therapist can. She who for the last decade had fought breast cancer and won, and primarily on her own with her valiant daughters helping her through in Pawhuska, their home.
As is true of human-ish nature when we don’t see the important things in life until late or too late, I didn’t see and comprehend fully her fighter instinct, her quiet resolve to LIVE WELL no matter her level of pain or challenge. It was simply Mimi being herself.
In retrospect I see oh so much:
To live well meant watching the rambunctious great-grandchildren (and yes Justin, Chris, and I first go round too) with sheer delight instead of annoyance, loud voices clamoring to be heard above the others, playing their music and near-forcing their entertaining dance moves on us sometimes non-consenting adults thinking our own NPR-like conversations should take precedence. It’s like Mimi didn’t compartmentalize these moments, she wore a smile easily watching and giggling at the great-grandchildren and their theatrical biddings as well as swiveling around in her chair and looking one of us other grown-ups in the face ready to have a rather serious catch up conversation.
…And then Tears still streaming, I felt my body relax into the grief on that newfound shore remembering the last Thanksgiving with her. The above description the same, and yet after one brother’s family had gone home to sleep and my family following suit, near eleven o’clock at night and Mimi walked slowly, painfully to the back room and laid down, health issues she had been wrestling with due to damage done some years before from radiation (but she beat that cancer yes she did).
It was the first time I’d seen her lay down because of hitting that wall of limitation. I’m sure she had many times before – on her own. But she kept the smile as long as family was lollygagging around, eager to visit or entertain. She would always wait. Last year she said simply “I’m so sorry but I’m going to have to lay down” and her pained face revealed the turmoil affecting her insides from that dang radiation.
Remembering this, remembering her frail body last year—that was smaller in her clothes and walked a little slower—well, as grief does, remembering flooded into knowing, reality is she is healthy again, she is whole, she is with the love of her life who she hadn’t seen since her 50’s and achingly missed even through every smile at every get-together that followed her husband’s death. She is not present here at the table or laying resting in the back room. She is present though in essence, she is present in the way her eyes still look at me with a proud grin when I appreciate nature (especially birds and their kind) as she did, or when I find a garment on the floor of a store and I pick it up so it doesn’t stay for someone else to pick up later, the way she taught me from little girl on up. Her essence. As Noah and Luke simply said on Thanksgiving: “I miss Mimi because there is no one like her, I miss her smile.” Her smile said it all. She smiled at life whether happy or whether she knew it was the best way to respond to it’s blasted fight at times.
Her essence is her history, her story, infused in each of her family members—all of us who were the blessed of the blessed to encounter her quietly fascinating way of moving SO WELL through life, without complaint, so grateful for the simple things, so content, so well, her essence- her core, her spirit is still infectious. she listened well, she believed strongly but lived stronger what she believed, she loved in action more than words because words can be so cumbersome and un-comforting sometimes, she took care daily of the ‘little things’ and didn’t spend a bunch of time of wanderlust-ing after other things. When she felt older and weaker she noticed even more so the older and weaker folks than her and decided resolutely to take them meals as long as she could. She didn’t balk when her granddaughter who should’ve known better than to ‘drink and
drive live’ ended up in a less than desirable home away from home for a while and she chose to write her letters packed with identifiable Mimi grace/ fierce encouragement to “lick this thing now and forever” so I could enjoy life, the boys, the moments. Those letters are treasures I tell you. Treasures.
As I lay on the shore after the wave of grief settled on the sand beside me, my memories-mind quieted, my memories-heart subsided into a deep (albeit short) sleep.
Loss is a part of life. Resenting the fact only makes resting more unattainable. Resting on the shore allowing the recall, the re-memberings to flood over the heart and wash through ever neuron of the mind, resting for a bit to strangely learn to take a breath instead of busy busy our bodies in an attempt to forget the pain of remembering the lost one…
Sometimes this is the only way to rest. To feel the loss, but then sense the scent- the essence of a life well-lived infused into—well, all the rest. And then rest. Knowing life is precious and dear and a smile can come with a tear, and the shore of grief is just a rest-stop, so opposite what we learn often to push away the pain. And resting gives way to a more productive next day and next day, the essence of such a loved one alive and awake--