• Jan Avellana

My Mom Died this Year

My Mom died 3 months ago minus two days. It was a misty morning in Palolo Valley, and we all marveled at the huge rainbow across the street peeking through the old powerlines of yesterday, surely a promise of some sort--hope, or happiness or maybe both. For who? I'm not sure, because my Mom lay dying on the other side of the street from that rainbow and it was hard to feel happy, except that maybe Mom was looking forward to seeing Dad soon or that God was ready to welcome her home. The only thing I really remember is how I kept thinking I wasn't ready yet to be Mom-less, and that whether I was ready or not didn't matter, not at all.

Mom passed away later that day, with the same guppy breath that Dad took 6 years earlier. No one ever tells you that, at least not the way I heard it said in those saddle stitched hospice pamphlets with titles like, "When Death is Near" or "When Your Loved One Dies". It shocked me more with my Dad, because he was the first person I witnessed who actually took their last breath--the way that his gulps reminded me of a goldfish gobbling up the last bit of air--and then, stillness. And the realization that all the conversations you were ever going to have with that person aren't going to ever happen. Those trips and those coffees and those things you really meant to go and do when you got around to it, weren't going to happen either. Ready or not, it's just over and you make peace with the way things unfolded, or you don't. But I"ve learned is that you have all the years of your own lifetime to come to that peace, and that peace is mostly with yourself.

Being at Mom's bedside was so much more than all of that of course. More than just shock, or grief, more than the physical changes that take place when a person dies. It's a million-trillion things all at once--tidbits of last conversations that come back to you, blurry images of slurping duck noodle soup from Waimalu Chop Suey, that fight you got into and just had to have the last word. It's warm hands turning cold and white, a flash of that aluminum Christmas tree that you once threw a fit over when you were 6 becuase it wasn't real, and it's whispering good-bye over and over again to rehearse for the real, final good-bye that you never say the way you think you will because it comes too fast and too hard and good-bye doesn't feel like the right thing to say when the one you love dies because there are no words that exist. A guttural cry that went silent half-way or a deep rising sob that starts but has no end, is a more accurate description.

And here is the gift. When someone you love very deeply dies, you realize that the good-bye you've been trying so hard to say isn't a good-bye at all. Once past grief's first gate--you realize you are actually saying an endless "Hello". It comes with every flash of remembrace, it rides on the whiff of coffee, two creams no sugar and drizzles down on misty days when you look up and see a rainbow. The gift is that your loved one is still here living within you, so close and woven into your very being that you might've missed it if it didn't show up in that bowl of duck noodle soup you were craving.