Even though I've written and talked about this particular journey thousands of times, it never ceases to cause the tears to flow. Of all the thousands of miles I've logged in cars or on planes, this particular journey touches me the most because it was the day everything changed.
It's 1:46am March 15th, 2011, as I am posting this story... almost the exact time my mother passed away one decade ago tonight. At 1:50am she took her last breath and the first step in her Long Journey Home.
In the ten years since her death, I've come to realize that the one constant in my life, up until the very early hours of that morning, was my mom. She never wavered in her love for me, she was always there when I needed her, and was always willing to let me know when she needed me. But now, she's gone. In the course of a month, she slowly slipped into a place I will not know or understand until, hopefully, much later in life. I feel her presence less and less with each passing year, yet sometimes she still visits me in my dreams or talks to me when I'm feeling particularly sad or alone. But death has a way of making a final cut in the cord between hearts and arms.
I remember driving back from the hospital about five in the morning, after turning off the highway as Shawn Colvin's "Orion in the Sky" was playing on the stereo. I was barely able to breath, or see for all the tears in my eyes. I remember my daughter waking up every half hour or so with a puzzled look on her ten-year-old face, saying, tears welling up and spilling over, "I miss grandma." "I know, honey. So do I and I know she misses you."
I'll never forget looking over at her small form asleep on the cot by my mom's hospital bed, thinking how unfair it was that she wouldn't get to grow up with her grandma in her life. And, as a few dear friends and family talked and sang to her, rubbed her feet and caressed her tired face, I remember watching my son, in all his 15-year-old wisdom, telling her it was okay to go as he watched his best friend slip away.
We'd had a whole month to prepare for that day, that drive, that long journey home. In fact, we'd had much more than that; we'd had years. There was never any guarantee that her liver would come. But all the preparation in the world could never equip us for the overwhelming loss we felt that morning.
Mom, if you are still "out there," if there is still any thread of you left (hopefully romping with your favorite companions, Bear, Farley, Sam and now Grizzly) ,I want you to know I will always love you and I'll always be so grateful for everything you taught me during your all-too-brief stay here. Nothing is the same except for the love that remains intact and pure. We miss you. We always will.