For now and forever..

I see you for a split second as my car passes the country cemetery. Dark, foreboding clouds hang low in the sky, somewhere in the distance are the echoes of a faint, rumbling thunder. The sky is turning from an angry blue to a sooty black even as the last rays of sunlight flee in face of the emerging storm. You stand in rumination at the foot of a grave, bright gerberas in hand; your back to the road, the rest of the world passing you by in an oblivion. The road opposite the cemetery meanders back to the town square where families and mothers and daughters have gathered around polished, wooden tables with checkered table-clothes, for mother’s day luncheons. Strings of ribbons and gauzy wrapping paper dot the family landscapes, there is much laughter and mirth hanging heavy in the air. And yet, around the corner, up the path, with a bouquet of red gerberas for company, you stand by yourself because the other half of your share of the mother-daughter equation is missing. 

What kind of a mother was she? I want to ask. Did you ever laugh long into the night, did she teach you to name the stars as she pointed out the night sky to you? Did she make you the bestest birthday cake ever, with frosted sugar icing and pink roses? Did she sing along in the car as she drove you to places, hold your hand perhaps as you both waited to cross the street? Did you spend lazy afternoons making daisy chains with the sun tickling your necks? Did she make you drink water on a hot day when you had no time to stop even for a minute, as summer coloured your holidays with all her glory? Were you allowed to get up only after you had finished everything on your plate, did she cut your food into bite sized pieces as she raced the clock for you to win? 

By virtue of her role, she became your best friend, your confidante, your cheerleader and your worst critic; a quirk that she perhaps had is now yours to keep through a series of genes and family history. Perhaps you have an old sepia photo of her somewhere, tucked away in a drawer, safely hidden away from the ravages of time so that age and death can no longer get through to you and to what she left behind. Perhaps you have her eyes, her smile maybe, a gift from one generation to another, another example of her giving you a part of herself, a presence that talks to you every time you see yourself in the mirror.  The red gerberas tell me that there is no weather beaten hand to guide you any more, there is no quickening of the steps down the hallway as you ring the doorbell. There is no one else that quite understands the unsaid words in the crevices of your heart. There is quite likely no one else with whom you can begin a phone conversation with the words “Its me”.  

I don’t know what she was like, this lady that you are now grieving, but in a strange way I hope you are celebrating the birthdays and the songs and the laughs, the time-outs and the arguments even. I hope you have enough memories to last you for the journey, and to protect you for what lies ahead. I know that somewhere above your head hovers a cloud of memories so real that is  almost tangible –good old homespun memories mind you, not necessarily important milestones.  Just fragments of time, where you remember her laying the table for dinner or humming above the static of the radio on humid afternoons. I know that if you strain your ears you can hear her voice mixed with the smell of washing liquid, billowing through freshly laundered sheets on stooping clotheslines, and you can conjure up her magical and far away tones that permeated the blankets on lazy Sunday mornings as you fought bravely to hang on to the last remnants of sleep.  

I am going to drive away with a burning feeling in my throat, though really I would like to come in and stand with you awhile but this is your moment and hers. You must know that death is too feeble to get into the way of something as powerful as a mother’s love. You are here today, flowers in hand, celebrating a woman who is no longer around and yet all that she has done for you is stronger than the moments she will never get to share with you.  Eternity is a two way street : when you realize that the moment doesn’t last forever, but that a memory of that moment does, you have created your own eternity. And mothers are powerful that way, for whenever things like death and loss and separation get in the way, they merely take you back to a childhood road that time forgot to visit.  Dark, foreboding clouds hang low in the sky, somewhere in the distance is the gentle patter of autumn rain. The sky is turning from a sooty black to an inky blue even as the last rays of sunlight step out from behind the clouds.