I'm undressing for an evening soak in almost a hundred gallons of warm water. Sweater gets lifted up over swollen belly and muffled grunts ensue in the attempt to rip skinny jeans off of bloated legs. Undressing has now become the impetus of an inelegant ballet around the detritus of an almost two year old's abandoned amusement of broom and dustpan mixed with trinkets found in my vanity's drawers.
It has been a long day, one that has defied the expectation of a quiet preface to a jam-packed weekend of travel and tournaments. The morning began with my husband and I together driving to another ultrasound - this one because the baby is measuring small. I was unusually silent and he turns to me, lowers the radio, and questions the tears he sees pooling in sorrowful eyes. At his word, they flow without consent down cheeks turned to observe the life passing us by at sixty kilometers an hour.
I am missing my mom.
The one within whose womb my life began isn't here to celebrate the life that will be the last to grow in mine.
Two months have passed since she moved onward and upward to her eternal home and yet life has hardly paused long enough for me to take stock of all that has transpired, namely the loss and void that now fills my days.
Strange how a hole can feel so heavy and suffocating.
Sixty two years and I only got to share thirty six and heaven couldn't wait three months to allow the meeting of souls, grandma and granddaughter, here on temporal soil.
Strange how this blooming belly teeming with life often only reminds me of her death.
I want her here, I need her here. Five kids already birthed and it isn't her experience I'll need at time of delivery, it's her presence that I'll be severely wanting. She did always try her best to be here for the day of her grandchildren's crowning, leaving plenty of time prior to their due dates to ensure a buffer in case of any early birds. She missed her firstborn granddaughter by two days and begged a ride with road-tripping friends almost two weeks before the second one but got the call while still en route that she'd missed this one by long hours. The next was three weeks early and then our fourth was three and a half months too soon and who can plan for a surprise like that?
By the fifth, I was confident on my own to navigate the postpartum days without her so she stayed for a short visit rather than the customary four to six weeks. To be honest, we were usually back on our feet weeks before she was scheduled to leave but who wouldn't borrow their mother from her home country when you could justify her presence in the country you're so desperately trying to make home or excuse the late nights of card playing and movie watching and layette folding together as necessary time fillers when baby was up and feeding?
Now who will keep me company, who will ensure that I'm still doing it right when it suddenly feels new and foreign again, and who will marvel at the way I dote on this newborn as though she were my first and only?
We are told to rejoice with those who rejoice and I did that for weeks. Imagining mom in glory and whole and perfect and free was the kindest and most effective anaethesia to numb the deepest sorrow of my life.
Weep with those who weep. A command in keeping with the sharing of life in community but I grieve within a solitude only I can reflect in. Who my mother was to me was unique and individual and our relationship was ours alone and the effects felt only by us. Her replaceability is as impossible as the reliving of every precious conversation and memory we made although I hesitate little to conjure up every one we shared and every note in my possession that came from her. The moments that will trigger my tears are specific to me and her and the friendship we enjoyed through the long and private sharing of our hearts. This intimate grieving seems a sort of continued communication between the two of us yet with one voice growing suddenly silent even as the other becomes increasingly punctuated with indiscernible wails.
And so today, I weep. There are no words - not mine nor of others - that can soften the absence I feel keenly now in the anticipation of new life. My skin becomes soft and then wrinkled as I allow the warmth of water that surrounds me to soothe my temporary pains even while the hard wrinkle of interrupted life folded deeply on my heart promises to stay for awhile. I inhale the scent of soap commissioned to do it's work. Wash, rinse, repeat - even this simple routine calms me. I think of how the steady heartbeat of our assumed too small daughter pounded fast and loud during our ultrasound and I cling to renewed hope for another's life. Despite having to go this one without her, I know that I am well prepared - not just for this one's birth but for this lifelong role as mother - because of one of the very best has enabled me by her example and by her encouragement.
My body is dry post-soak in preparation for pajamas and bed though my face will stay moist until the pillow absorbs some of my sorrow. As I wait for sleep to work its own healing power, I'll exercise the same technique I use every time heartache seeks to consume me. I envision mom beholding the face of her Creator and a portal opened wide and clear that is allowing her invaluable insight into the time on earth she was given, of the one with whom she became one, and of the lives she herself once birthed into their own another lifetime ago. Though I don't presume with certainty that she can see me, I know that the One in whom she has only believed is now seen by her. And soon my mourning turns to gladness, my tears to a hidden smile I alone can testify to in this dark night.
For though she has tasted death, she lives on in glorious life. Though we grapple with our loss, we find hope in the promise of newborn life.
We rejoice and we weep.
One more day separates us from her departure and brings us one more day closer to our reunion and through each we find a way to hold fast our faith in the One who gives and takes away. For the present, I await this new gift currently in the form of unborn limbs digging into her mama's flesh even as I remember the faithful planting of love by the mother that was taken home.
Rejoice. Weep. Repeat.