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Category: Loss

XXIII

Hi, Mom,

Meg shared this poem by adrienne maree brown, and it spoke directly to the most broken pieces of my heart. I’ve bolded what struck my gut most profoundly. What I have discovered as my truth, that which she put to words so succinctly.

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine’;

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are… and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time… enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.

Flow.

P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:
– that the broken heart can cover more territory.
– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
– that grief is gratitude.
– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.
– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
– that death might be the only freedom.
– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.
– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
– that the sacred comes from the limitations.
– that you are excellent at loving.

You taught me that last one.

143 Your Ashley

XX

Hi, Mom.

Recently I heard asked, “What lonelier question is there than “Who do I want to be?”

And for me, the loneliest question is related, although not exact. “Why do I matter? Why do any of us matter? Why do how I chose to spend my day and live my life and raise my children and spend my money and love my family and grieve your death and invest in my community and care about the world matter? Why does any of it matter?”

I am currently sitting alone in tiny cabin on the MASSMoCA campus willing myself to write. As though securing a “writer’s retreat” for an afternoon and secluding myself in a vertical pine box, something so akin to a coffin, will inspire the words and knowledge to capture my grief. As though language will suddenly come, language that will defy cliché. Profound, insightful, moving words will spill on to the page and finally capture my pain and sadness and gratitude and love and loneliness and anger and peace and anxiety in all their complicated, contradictory, mixed up forms. As though this exercise in intentional loneliness will somehow negate the inherent loneliness I feel.

I realize it will not. But still I try. Because what else is there but to persevere? What else is there but to believe that I matter. That you mattered. That all of this living and dying and loving and losing matters. The impact may be small, and yet, even the smallest stone can move an ocean. 

143 Your Ashley

XVII

Hi, Mom,

The other night I dreamed about you. This is a fairly common occurrence, although often they feel more like a nightmare than a dream. I’m haunted by visions of you dying, your medical emergency at our home in Pownal three years prior, what it felt like to hold your hand as you lay in an ER in Albany, how desperately I wished that that moment would transform your awareness and approach to your own well being. How Valentine’s Day 2016 proved otherwise.

But this dream was in fact that. A dream. We were seated around our dining room table and you were schooling me, Kimmy and Dad on the proper pronunciation of some French word or the correct etiquette for some antiquated behavior. I can’t recall the specifics, but I can recall the physical happiness I felt, the comfort, safety and familiarity of that scene and that experience. In my dream, I consciously paused to connect with that feeling. And I awoke happy. Contented. I relayed the feeling to James, and tears prickled in the corner of my eyes, that ever constant balance of yearning and gratitude that so defines grief.

I miss you, Mama, and those animated conversations around your dining room table.
143 Your Ashley

XVI

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They all share your darling half strawberry nose.

XV

Hi, Mom.

I dropped my phone in the toilet this weekend, minutes before I had to give a work presentation to a room full of eager alumni. It didn’t stand a chance. James had run over it the day we left the hospital with Sander, along with his computer, our camera, and a myriad of other less expensive belongings (Long story. Sleep deprivation, grief, post-partum life created the perfect storm for careless behavior), and it is a miracle that it had survived that incident. But this spill in the toilet bowl sealed its fate. Arguably, I was due for a new one 18 months ago.

I emailed Kimmy and Dad to let them know that they should connect with us via James as I awaited a replacement. Kimmy reminded us of the vacation when Cousin Laura hurled Dad’s cell phone into a toilet. Dad was always an early tech adopter, so I envision the phone as one of those ginormous black boxes from the mid-90s. I remember him being none too pleased either.

I believe I backed up my phone. I’m almost positive I made the intentional effort to archive all of its contents, most notably the final text messages and voicemails I have saved from before your death. There’s a voicemail you left just ten days before you died. I’m always struck by how vibrant and enthusiastic and ALIVE your voice is, rambling on about impractical cashmere baby clothes you had purchased for your soon-to-be grandchild and stating over and over “Love you” at various intervals during your three minute message. It’s a cherished message, but a punch in the gut every time. How dramatically and unexpectedly things can change. That is all I want retrieved back from my phone. Your cheery voice and over-the-top affection.

This morning, James and the kids all biked to school/work/daycare, as has become possible and habit thanks to a year of life on Main Street, USA. As they pulled out of our driveway littered with colorful foliage from our line of maples, I reached instinctively for my phone. I wanted to capture Sunny confidently peddling up hill with her classic blue LLBean backpack bobbing along with her efforts. Courtland more cautiously and rigidly beginning her ride with the air of a recent two-wheeler, her bedazzled helmet glinting in the early morning light. And James, taking up the rear, with Sanderling merrily singing in the bike trailer, pink leopard print helmet atop his head, waving and shrieking “buh byeeeeeeee” as they happily rode off to their destinations.

Instead of watching this scene behind the filter of a screen, I stood on our front porch, in one of your Calida nightgowns, waving  and smiling and tucking that happy sight into my memory stores to recall on a day when the sun may not shine as brightly or the children may not smile as widely. Life is indeed beautiful. Complicated and complex. And today I had no filter with which to mark the scene but my own time and memory. And for that, I am grateful.

143 Your Ashley

XIV

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I wish you could hear the coos of comfort as he nestles in to sleep.

I wish you could see the gentleness with which she holds the world.

I wish you could taste the sweetness of sticky cheeks and sugar-dusted fingers.

I wish you could touch the leaves as they dance ’round her limbs.

I wish you could smell the powder and peace on their pillows each night.

I wish you were here, sensing their world and all its simple, broken splendor.

XIII

Hi, Mom,

I don’t even know where to begin. I have felt at a loss for words since the election. This whole year is like one gigantic steaming pile of horse poo. You would be horrified by the state of the world. Of this country. Reading the news kicks my anxiety in to high gear. What ugly times I fear we are living in, made all the more hideous by your absence. The holidays have been wearing away at me. I miss you so fucking much and am so angry that you are not here.

Despite the fear and ugliness and hate I see swirling in my newsfeed, there is still beauty and hope and love and joy. And above all, I hate that you are missing that.

You missed a beautiful, tasty, festive Thanksgiving with the Fricke family. Our first Pie Breakfast in our new home. The girls yearly Nutcracker performance. The decorating of our home in Christmas cheer. You weren’t there when I needed to whine and complain about a stomach flu that took out all five Cart family members. As I’ve been making and assembling and ordering and planning gifts for all my loved ones, you aren’t on my list. As I addressed and mailed our holiday card, I had to delete your name from Dad’s address. And I have to do this, every year, for the rest of my life.

Everything hurts when I let myself absorb that reality.

But because you are the one who instilled in me the joy and tradition of holiday card sharing, I wanted to share this year’s greeting in this space, to add to our growing collection. As always, I turned to Minted, and found a fitting French greeting as a nod to you, the ultimate Francophile. James and I took the kids back up to the farm to snap photos among the fall foliage, and I spent hours reworking a message of both devastation and celebration, loss and love. I think you would have loved the result. And I framed all of our cards, which we started sending the year Courtland was born. They are now prominently displayed in our front hall. Another little touch of which I know you’d approve.

I miss you, Mom. Always, but during these darker days of December most poignantly.

143 Your Ashley

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XI

Hi, Mom.

People often tell me how much I remind them of you. At your Celebration so many people commented on it, not just how I look, but my voice, the way I speak, the way my hands are accompaniment to that expression. And of course there are “isms,” specific behaviors or tendencies which I emulate more and more as I tread deeper into adulthood/parenthood.

Like wearing my pajamas to the girls’ bus stop earlier this week. Hot dang, my transformation to Allison Motherhood is nearly complete thanks to that choice. But when the PJs are this cute… you taught me that trick. I’ve got an entire drawer full of Calida nightgowns to show for your commitment to luxurious, comfortable nightwear.

I haven’t ventured out in public in a nightgown (yet), but there’s time to get on your level.

143 Your Ashley

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X

Hi, Mom.

One of the more painful aspects of life in The After is existing among acquaintances, friends, even family members, who no longer ask about you, about how I’m doing in your absence, or dare to speak your name in my presence. So many people who claimed you among their dearest friends sent letters and condolences in the immediate aftermath, and yet it has been radio silence since.

It is so deeply painful to feel as though there are people in my life who expect me to be over it. Moved on. Why would I need to still talk about my dead mom? She’s been gone 8 months, surely my sadness and grief has had enough time to work itself out. Snap out of it, Ashley! Look on the bright side! Look at your beautiful children! Your mom wouldn’t want you to be sad.

And to that I say, Fuck. That. Noise. I witnessed how hard you grieved your own mother in the 15 years you lived without her, and there is absolutely no way you wouldn’t want me mourning and grieving your death. You would be so outraged that you were dead. I can’t stop thinking about how furious this whole situation would make you. Sure, anyone would be mad they were dead, but oh, your fury would be a special kind of rage and indignation.

The thing I wish people would realize is that I will never stop wanting to talk about you. I will always want to tell stories about you to my children. Or share memories of you with my friends. I will never want to pretend like you weren’t the most essential person in my life, and that I am forever altered and life is forever less by your death.

I miss you so so much, mom. Thank you for allowing authentic expression of feeling, in all its varied capacities. I recognize now more than ever how special it was to grow up in a home where I was permitted to share and emote honestly. I am a better support and cheerleader for those I love because of it.

143 Your Ashley

VII

Hi, Mom.

I really needed you today. It felt like no one was in my corner or had my back. I retreated to my bed room before the kids returned home from school and hid out under the covers. And I cried. Long and hard. For you. For myself. For your grandchildren.

I needed a cheerleader today. I needed someone checking in on me. I needed someone asking how I am doing with authenticity and time. I needed a long, rambling voicemail. I needed a voice on the other end of the line. I needed a mother.

During my hardest moments of grief, I need a mother’s love. And yet that is the very thing I am mourning.

143 Your Ashley