So long…

“Moses My servant is dead. ” Joshua 1:2

This wasn’t news to Joshua. He and the other Jews had been mourning Moses for a month. But the time had come to embrace the new reality and go on with life.

I understand Joshua’s struggle. It is hard to leave someone you love behind.

I sat at my Mom’s grave May 28, a little more than a month ago. My blog has been silent since. Words don’t come easily after you see your Mom lying in a metal casket, lowered into the ground and sealed beneath a cement vault.

I was sitting on the sidelines of a soccer field in Wilmington when I learned Mom had left the planet. It was  not unexpected. She’d been in declining health for nearly 5 years. Two weeks earlier she had announced —  in her characteristically decisive manner — that she wanted no more medicine.

“I’m tired,” she said. “I want to go home.”

I would not bring her back to the misery of her broken body, even if I could. Still, I miss her.  There will be no more hand-written notes in her beautiful script, no more long distance recipe sharing or “happy birthday” phone calls,  no more of her laughter or smiling eyes.  That’s a lot of finality to wrap my mind around.

But I don’t refer to Mom’s departure as a “loss.” When something is “lost,” Mom’s pastor said in the eulogy, you don’t know where it is. We know where Mom is. She went home to the God in whom she had believed.

My daughter, Nina Oteria, wrote the following poem in memory of her grandmother who had developed the habit of saying “So Long” but never goodbye.

So Long

dust files past dust, slowly

tears stream, slowly

close one in an unlit and beautiful box

to be buried

is it even possible?

that you are here one day,

gone the next?

having left life

so that you do not exist, here

so that you are not alive, here

do not bid me remember

subconscious takes our reality,

manifests our nostalgia,

throws up our love,

twists what we carry deeply

into shapes and colors and people that

haunt us

faces and voices and moments

are all too vivid, heart-breakingly unreachable

then the sun wakes us through windows

pulling us from what we think on asleep

from what we clutch at in dreams

we watch ourselves change

shapes and colors and people

from afar

as if we are not us

unable to pull the emergency brake

we fear faces and voices and moments

that are not us

some in the present

most in the past

still, we are the beautiful people

hardly able to speak

we recite what words we know

what we have carried deeply

fumble for syllables

speak our own comfort

the Lord our shepherd

we shall not want

these words wander in broken bits

on humid air

reaching the tender nerve

striking a place in memory

and now, we must leave dust to dust

now, we will leave the past to pass

and the earth clings to our clothes as we go

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