Last night I went to out to the Tell Your Story dinner at the Snowvillage Inn where a friend of mine hosts an evening of storytelling. Anyone in attendance can put their name into a fishbowl for a chance to get up on stage to tell their story.
Two of my friends dropped their names into the bowl and both got up and told wonderfully funny stories.
On the way out I was asked by several people "When are you going to get up there? When are you going to tell a story?"
I said "I don't want to tell a story because all the stories I want to tell are sad."
The last time I went to visit my mom was two days before she passed. She was laid out flat in her hospital bed, the youngest resident of the nursing home. Her sad, sick lungs were breathing rapid, shallow breaths. Her eyes fixed on the ceiling. I leaned over her face to try to get her attention, to snap her out of this state. She stared through me as though blind. My voice cracked and I could only get one word out before the wave of grief choked me: "Mom?" Who I thought of as my mother, her sarcasm and wit, her unconditional love ... she was gone. I crumpled into the chair set against the wall, afraid to be close to the body she was leaving behind.
I sat in that room listening to her labored breathing, terrified that her lungs would stop, terrified that they would keep going. I willed her back to life and away from it in the same moment. The shaking scared daughter in me wanted desperately for her to stay. The girl hardened by months of this experience willed her away, willed the struggle to be over.
I knew this was the end. Not like before when I imagined walking into her bedroom at home to find her suddenly dead. Or when she would be in surgery and I imagined the doctor coming to tell us her weakened body didn't make it. This moment wasn't my imagination running wild with fear. This was real. This was right in front of me.
I stood up and walked closer to my mom, my hand hovering over hers on the bed. I sobbed the words "I love you. Goodbye Mom."
And I left.
I left and I didn't go back.