My mom died three months ago today. I am writing this because it is my truth, and because I am wrestling with it and I have sought the answers and comfort in more private ways and the ache has returned tonight and I don’t know what else to do but tell you my truth.
But the thing is, I don’t know much more than that. I know she died. I know that she was in poor health and was ailing and that her body had been broken for years. I also knew that her body was resilient, or perhaps stubborn. It would break, and then it would mend (or be mended by those whose job it is to mend bodies). Over the past year, her body broke often. But it also healed in some amazing ways. At one point, I thought I had my mom back. But that lasted only for a couple weeks.
I know that she died in her sleep, and I know that the coroner listed three possible causes on her death certificate.
I know that I will never know what her last hours were like. No one was there.
I know that within 48 hours of her death I was on a plane to SC. Seventy-two hours after that I was in a cemetery, sitting next to my dad, my brother and my sister. We each placed a yellow rose on her casket before we walked away to let the cemetery workers lower it and cover it with the same red dirt that stained my pants and shoes when I was a kid.
The town Mom is buried in is the same town I grew up in. I spent only four years there, but it’s where most of my childhood memories lie. I was eight when we moved to Newberry, thirteen when we moved away. Most of what I remember about growing up took place just a couple miles from my mom’s grave. Twenty-five years ago those couple miles seemed much, much further. Clarkson Avenue, my street, is across town from Rosemont Cemetery. Rosemont is way over by the college. I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike that far, though I remember that I did, at least a couple of times.
Back then I didn’t know much about death. I can’t remember knowing anyone who died, or even knowing that death was, for all of us, inevitable. I’m sure I knew—or at least a part of me did—but I didn’t have time to contemplate it. I was busy growing up.
I remember learning, when I was probably 13, that my sister’s boyfriend’s brother had accidentally shot his friend. It was a hunting accident, a common occurrence in that part of the country where hunting is one of the more common pastimes. I remember the shock everyone around me seemed to experience when they heard the news. I remember hearing that Timmy would never be the same. He had killed his friend. I spent some time contemplating that: what it must be like to walk through the world for the rest of your life with that weight, knowing you’d killed someone. I don’t remember contemplating what it must be like for Timmy’s friend, or for his family as they mourned his loss.
The event was outside my periphery, and I was fine with that. Looking back on it all, I am glad I didn’t spend much of those kid-days thinking about death.
I spent a lot of time in cemeteries during those years. I ran around with a couple guys my age in our neighborhood—Greg and Binky. We found things to be curious about, places to explore, and places that scared the hell out of us. The old cemetery on Boundary Street was one of those places. I’ve done some research and have learned that the cemetery is said to be the most haunted place in Newberry County. Some of the graves predate the Civil War, and there is a memorial to unknown Confederate Soldiers.
I am coming full-circle. I am returning to my June stories because I am living her life again. Three months ago I toured Newberry and took pictures and walked in placed I’d walked when I was 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. I am seeing things from three perspectives: June’s, my adult Self and my now (and again) motherless inner child.
I am closer to my characters. And in becoming closer to them, I am finding comfort and am becoming closer to my Self.