“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.
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
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
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