It’s evident that the Whoa! Susannah page has taken an ominous turn. Maybe it seems I’m playing this orphan card for all it’s worth. Maybe I should just take a break entirely from the world of writing until I find my funny. Maybe I should keep the sadness and grief I’m experiencing solely in my personal journal instead of sharing it with others. Maybe I should be doing a lot of things differently right now. Maybe I don’t even know what I’m doing right now.
But my purpose in writing- whether it is a humorous rant on Sam Walton’s greasy grocers or my witty observations on parenting and marriage- has always been to make others feel something. It’s always been my mission- from the first blog post and article I published- to help people relate and know they aren’t alone. And that’s the reason why I’ve chosen to publicly document my latest struggle with losing my mother, although it’s depressing as Hello Dolly. (My mother always said that phrase, ex: “What in the Hello Dolly is that lady wearing?”)
So I’m going to share some more of my feelings on this incredibly shocking loss that I’m enduring- as the two week mark approaches- in hopes for others- for you, if you’ve lost a parent or loved one- to know that you aren’t alone. And in some selfish way, to receive encouragement that helps me know I’m not alone, either.
I’ve struggled quite a bit with the last conversation my mother and I had on the day before she died. We had an argument, albeit a petty and ridiculous one in which I knew-we both knew– that we would make up within a day or so. See, my mama and I were so incredibly close, and so incredibly similar, that we couldn’t help but argue from time to time. We never had falling outs in which we disowned one another or hit below the belt with our words or went more than a day or two without speaking, but we bickered. We loved one another so passionately, and we argued so passionately, the same way Italians are often stereotyped as doing, although we are of English and Jewish and Sioux-tribe decent.
The last words I said to my mother over the phone were, “I’m done, Mama. I am done.” And this was in response to a petty disagreement that we’ve had many times in the past, and I was simply telling her I was so over arguing about it. She was tired of arguing about it, as well, but it still seemed to surface from time to time.
And I’m sure you’re dying to know what our infamous argument was about, but I can promise you it was so silly and ignorant and unimportant that it isn’t worth your time or mine in explaining it.
I told her I was done, and then I hung up the phone. I proceeded to pray most of the day about what I’d said, maybe feeling guilt for talking to my mother that way, and also asking the Lord to change my mother’s opinion about the situation so we would quit bringing it up. I prayed heavily for that, and I had every intention to call her the next day once I’d cooled down and make things right- that is, if she didn’t call me first. Because one of us never let our disagreements go too long- we always called each other and apologized or acted like it never happened within a day or two. We loved one another too much to let things fester.
Mama was supposed to go to Destin to visit my sister, and I figured I would call her on her drive down and see if she was okay. I would tell her I was sorry for losing my temper, and I assumed she would say the same. We would talk about how excited she was to visit the beach, and I would tell her to send me lots of pictures and have a great time. We would exchange “I love yous” and all would be right in our world again until we disagreed over something incredibly asinine next month.
But that never happened because she went to bed the next night and never woke up. And soon as I learned that she was gone, I went into my closet, alone, and talked to her as if she was right there. “I’m so sorry, Mama. I’m so sorry my last words to you were, “I’m done.” I’m so sorry for any time I upset you. Please forgive me, Mama. You are my heart. You are my everything. Please, God, let her forgive me.”
I cannot explain what happened in that closet, but I felt as if my beautiful and forgiving mother was right there with me. It was a presence that I’ll never be able to explain. In the days after, I doubted that I had felt her presence or her forgiveness. I told myself that I made it all up in that moment to ease my guilt, but it was too powerful of a feeling for me to have conjured it in my mind. I have to believe that what I experienced in my closet was God-ordained. I have to believe she heard me apologize, and I have to believe she accepted it. I have to believe that or I simply won’t be able to function.
Does anyone remember the tune, “The Living Years” by Mike and the Mechanics? I’ve thought of that song often in the last 14 days. And I’m telling you- if you are still blessed with your mother and father- tell them what they mean to you. Never end a phone call with your parent the way I ended my last conversation with my mama. My mother and father both knew I adored them, and my mother and I had an overall beautiful, incredibly close, tight-knit, unbreakable and powerful relationship– but petty arguments like the last one I had with my mother have left me paralyzed in some way.
Listen to Mike and his mechanics. Say it loud. Say it clear. It’s too late when we die. To admit we don’t see eye to eye.
I thought I had so much more time with her. I thought we would share that apologetic conversation as she drove her Volvo down to the Florida Panhandle. I thought I’d hear some more of her sage advice or beautiful stories about spending summers in Nashville with her favorite aunt. I thought we would spend Thanksgiving and Christmas cooking and laughing together. I thought I’d hear her play the piano again. I thought we’d go shopping together again. I thought I’d spend the night with her again and watch Doris Day or Hitchcock movies together in her plush bed. I thought we had so much more time.
I placed a letter in my mother’s casket before she was buried. It was a letter of personal things that only she and I shared- 34 years of beautiful and blessed memories that she gave me- but it broke my heart that the last lines of that letter consisted of, “I’m sorry.” All because of a stupid phone conversation where I lost my temper but thought I could make right in a day or two.
Think about how you talk to people. Think right now of one person in which you have some sort of issue. Is your pride prohibiting you from saying things that need to be said? Do they mean anything at all to you, and if they do, make it right.
I never got the chance to make our last conversation right with my mother.
And that’s something that will haunt me until I meet her again.