At times I feel so angry with my mother for dying. I had plans for us. I suspected my dad would leave us early; the men in my family have hearts that cannot keep up with the stress they insist on carrying. So I planned to show my mother the world when it was just me and her. I planned to serve her favorite cookies with her traditional evening tea every night. And to train her to do legal research so she could help me publish and in the process eradicate any thoughts of worthlessness that so many retirees silently struggle with.
But then she left. And I know there are rules and realities but I’m scared that if you really asked my mom to be honest, if you pressed her for an answer, she would say that she wanted to go and that she would leave again given the chance.
See she passed away about a year after my dad died. She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer four months after he passed and the devil on my shoulder has whispered more than once that she made herself sick because she didn’t want to live without him.
Of course this is not true, she was sick long before my dad died, but the devil is not renowned for his works in honesty and graciousness, forgive me.
On days like this when I miss her like I’m being suffocated with a pillow, I resent God a little bit, I’ll be perfectly honest. Things weren’t always easy growing up for a whole list of reasons that most people recognize all too well. But I kept things together. And I always behaved like a dignified human being. And I didn’t complain. And I hid secrets. And I protected the perpetrators. And I worked hard. And I did whatever would make my mom happy.
Because if I work hard enough, and I conduct myself with enough dignity, I will have a happy life and I would show my mom the world. We would grow old together.
My mother was the last loved one to leave me here. As it turns out my adulthood is saturated with funerals and grief and recovery and loneliness. Despite all the hard work and keeping shit together, my life is not one ball of bliss and sometimes I get a bit angry at God too for the broken promise.
Then one day someone asked me: who promised you an easy life? I was offended and I guess the look on my face compelled this person to explain.
“No seriously. Who promised you that life would be easy? It’s a gift. How ever shitty, it’s a pretty big gift. And if you believe in the afterlife – even just a little – then I have to wonder how arrogant you must be to want a great life too.”
I’ve thought a lot about that since. Having worked in a morgue for a few years I’ve always considered myself comfortable with death, but it occurred to me that I’m not comfortable with life. I consistently anticipate worst case scenarios. Worries paralyze me to the point of uselessness and everything that’s nice I put away for use on special occasions that never occur.
In addition to missing my mom, medical staff on the front lines also make me think of these things. Now there’s a group of people comfortable with life. They seem to do their work as if it is the crowns of their lives. They keep going back to their work as if they are certain of an eternal afterlife. They don’t expect easy days. In fact, they say: this could be the shittiest day of all…but I’ll be back tomorrow.
If only I could live life like that…