On August 12, I lost my mother.
I am still very much in the “fake-it-til-you-make-it” phase of figuring out how to live without her, but it’s all a series of managed distractions that are holding me together.
Silences are killer. It’s in silence that I remember her absence and then all of the hastily erected supports holding me up crumble to dust.
Below is what I wrote to be read at her funeral (I couldn’t read it myself). A letter to the person who had more influence on my life than anyone ever has or will.
She was the strongest person I’ve ever known.
She loved to dance. It’s easy to forget because she couldn’t for so long, but almost every morning while getting ready for work and school, we danced. Just the right song would come on the radio (usually beach music) and she’d grab my hand and pull me away from whatever I’d be doing and start dancing, and we’d laugh and laugh, like she was a kid too.
She was my best friend and the rock that held me up and one of the few people who could always pull me out of my own head, where I am prone to getting trapped.
She loved people with all that she was, and it didn’t matter if she’d known you five minutes or fifty years, if she decided you belonged to her, her love was absolute and unwavering. But nor was it limited to those – by blood or friendship – that she considered family.
I didn’t know how lucky I was to have a mother so accepting of who I was until I met others who weren’t as fortunate as I have been. Because even when we disagreed, she never tried to change me, and she never stopped supporting me, and she extended that love and support to those that I love, even, sometimes, if she’s never met them.
It was she who instilled in me a strong sense of civic duty, of social justice, and the power of strong convictions. She taught me to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, and if my pen is the sword I use to do so, she’s the one that sharpened the blade and taught me to wield it. Nanny may have taught me to write, and Pa taught me to tell stories, but Momma taught me how to give my words heart and meaning beyond the page.
When I graduated from high school, Momma gave me a slim volume of poetry by Kahlil Gibran, a book that she had also been given and loved, and when I read his words last night I knew they were the right ones for her.
“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
Somewhere out there right now, for the first time in a long time, my Momma’s dancing.