I’m sitting here tonight in my house. The Sunday dinner is in the oven. The house is clean. The laundry is folded.
I don’t know what to do with myself.
Mom, this is the night before your wake.
How do we come to grips with that fact?
Everything is in order, just as we think you’d want it to be. There are flowers, and beautiful music, and photos of you and Dad and all of us. All through our years together as a family. It’s all set. All organized. Your kids will do you proud, I promise.
How do I do this without you?
For all of my life, you’ve been there when I needed to dress up and present myself well. Today I looked through my closet, trying to choose what I should wear tomorrow as I stand beside the casket that holds your precious body.
Will I look OK? Will you be proud?
How do I know if I’ve chosen the right clothes, without your unerring sense of style to guide me?
Mom, I don’t know how to conduct myself without your guiding hand.
I’ll do my best. I’ll channel my inner “Zena” and put on makeup. I’ll wear earrings that match my blouse.
I’m not sure that I can really go through this without you there. When Dad died, we had you there to help us. I stood beside you. I handed you tissues during the wake. I sat beside you on the couch as we chose the music for his service.
Now what do we do?
Momma, I’ll do my best. I’ll stand there and smile. I’ll shake hands and give some hugs, even wearing my mask. I’ll thank people for coming, and I’ll say all the right things. “She lived a long and happy life. She had a peaceful death. We’re happy that she’s with Dad now.”
I’ll say all of that.
But inside of me, inside of the little girl who hides within my aging self, I will cry and sob and ask the universe, “How can you possibly go on without my MOM?????” I’ll ask myself, over and over and over again, “Did I do it right? Did I look OK? Did I ask the right questions and give the right responses?”
It will all be done well, and everything will be fine.
But long after your wake and funeral are over, long after the last flowers have faded and the last cards have been filed away, I will ask myself, “Am I OK? Did I do it right? Does she know that I truly loved her?”
My best prayer for you is that one day, in that special place on the other side of the veil, you will look at yourself and see yourself as we do. I pray that one day, on the other side, you’ll look at yourself and say, right out loud, “Good Lord! I was fabulous, wasn’t I?”
Until then, dear Momma, please know that every time I find myself needing to get “dressed up”, I will think of you, and try to follow the stylish lead that you have given me.