Dear mom…

Dear mom,

I hope you are at peace.  I still struggle with you being gone.  I made sure dad had lunch today.  He meant to have shrimp, but he forgot to get them out of the freezer, so he had a can of soup.  He walked Maxwell 7 miles today, total.  He seems truly happy and at peace in his own way.  Please don’t be mad but, he is going to have a chili dog for dinner tonight and a cherry coke.  So please don’t knock it over or anything.  A joke.

As I type this, I’m sorry.  I have been putting it off to find complete silence and wellness in my life/day to write.   Life is so deafening most days.  I never get any respite.  I’m exhausted the moment I wake from thinking.  From constant dreams that you are still here.  Pleading your case.  Most nights you try to convince me you are still here.  Every night.  I’ll settle for silence tonight.  Tonight, I miss you.  Tonight, in my imagination, I am still in Howard’s old bedroom above you and dad.  Safe.  Nothing bad could ever touch me there.

It’s different at home now though.  I was there earlier to help dad again with his computer.  The image of his office, adjacent to your bedroom still breaks off a piece of my soul.  The ever-closed door since that day.  There’s a void in the house.  It’s quiet.  There’s no loud, “hello” when you come in through the back door.  There’s dad cleaning up his lunch and ya’lls puppy, now a dog, greeting me.  Jumping.  Barking. Tail wagging.  It took him a while to get back to himself after.  After…everything.  He is dad’s Smidgeon.

There has been beauty since you chose to leave.  There has been pure happiness between the family that has been incredible.  There has been harmony.  There has been forgiveness and acceptance.  I guess that might be what you would consider – that we are finally beginning to heal.  There seems to be a true bond forming, cementing us all.  Healing disguises himself in the oddest way.

I’m still scared.  I still miss you.  I still put utterly silly things on your gravesite that only you and me would laugh at.  That means everything.  Sitting there when no one knows for hours.  That also makes me furious at you.  That reminds me I love you.  Where is that line between love and fury.  It must be somewhere.  I’ll find it one day.  Or I won’t….  But I won’t give up looking.  It reminds me of the final words I said to Puddles this year before she left.  I cried into her ears and told her, in a fierceness I did not know I had, that I would find her.  I don’t know what told me to say that, but I believe it with all my heart.  For her.  For you.  One day I will find you both.  And you know how stubborn I am.

This year, I am reminded of one year when you got upset I did not come home from Seminary to be with you on Mother’s Day, after telling me to stay on campus to study.  You thought I would surprise you, and when I followed your directions I was punished.  It was a horrid argument.  One of our many.  One of many others openly judged.  Many that no one other than us understood.  After you left people have tried to console me and make sure I knew you loved me.  Some have reminded me what a terror I was with my non-traditional choices from pretty much everything.  Reminded me, that they knew you were sad, but were embarrassed by your sadness.  Openly admitting that your sadness did not fit into their lifestyle.  Such fear.  Such sadness.  Such a violent paring of empathy and rage.  Such compassion lost, yet grasped back at the last minute, only to be cherished as a remnant of that feeling you have in the moment of remembrance.

You raised me to be independent.  To be smart.  To never be afraid, but you kept a leash on me.  I could only do those correctly if I stayed close.  At the time I interpreted that as you controlling me.  If I had only known that you were scared.  Always scared.  A fear that had begun long, long before Howard, dad or I existed from when you were a child.  Scared to release the reigns.  Scared to be alone.  To be desperate to keep everyone around you from the moment, no matter what the cost.

So, you know, I love you more than ever now.  The deafening presence of your absence, in my most desperate hours this last few years can be felt in every fiber of my being.  I see you angry.  I see you purely happy in moments only ours.  When you allowed my insanity to let your guards down.  I miss seeing you truly happy with your demons as far away as possible.  I miss seeing you being as strong as anyone would be, yet barely holding the wall up against them at times.  I held your hand.  At times I held you crying.  I wish you would hold you now if you could.

If there was one thing I wish others knew about you on this day celebrating, it would be this. My mom.  My mother.  My adopted mom.  My mom that was chosen for me by a force greater than any of us to be my very own mother.  You spent your entire life devoted to others.  Devoted to helping others.  Devoted to those tiny eyes staring at you as you sang songs in the classroom about life, love, sea creatures and God.  You did all of that while keeping your demons at bay as best as you could.  You guarded that from your own children as much as you could.  And when you could no bear it anymore, I believe you found peace for the first time.

I have to believe that where you are is better than the demons that you kept at bay daily.  I wish I knew your ghosts.  We would have sheltered you in love, against the darkness.  We would have held you through the darkness.  Death would have had to pry you from our hands.  Amidst our cries.  Amidst our anguish.    I know sometimes even that is not enough.

Either way.  I love you.  I will always feel you by my side.

Forever,

Leah

mom

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