Monday, December 03, 2007

From mother to mother

I lay awake last night, thinking about you. I was wrapped around my infant son, who was suffering from his first fever. As endless heat emanated between us, you entered my mind, chilling me briefly.

It has been a long time since I thought of you in this way, and I have to admit, it has been a relief. Last month marked 14 years since your son's death, and the first anniversary of the accident where I did not think about him. Last May, at my 10-year college reunion, I sat at a small memorial service for him, surrounded by the friends who had also surrounded me at his funeral. They cried softly, but I remained remarkably still. In a terrible way, it felt good that I could not exactly remember, even though we were walking the grounds where he lived.

The last time I heard from you was five years ago, a month past my wedding. It was right after September 11th, and you had sent a letter to my office. You had enclosed sunshine-shaped sequins, your trademark. They bulked the package in a way that made it appear suspicious at a time of high alert. It was torn apart, and then restored. Much like you, I hoped.

Your letter wished me well for my marriage, the news of which you had read in the paper. "I'm sorry I did not respond to your last note," you wrote. "It's just hard to find the words sometimes." We had traded words in letters for years on and off since your son, my friend, was killed in an accident just three months into his college career. I was by no means the closest to him, but I had been the newest, a romance just beginning to bloom. "He told us how you had watched a movie together," you had written in your first letter. I remember thinking how amazing it was that he had shared that with you, the hours we spent entwined in darkness, hearts and hormones racing. I would write back in an adolescent attempt to soothe a mother's wounds that were unreachably deep. You called me once, left a message, wanting to talk. I am ashamed that I never returned the call. I was too scared to hear your voice, to embrace the full measure of a pain that I could never understand.

Last night my mind returned to you, to a nuance that I had forgotten from that time. I needed a black dress for the funeral, and I had claimed that I had nothing to wear. Days before I had worn a black dress for Halloween, when friends and I dressed as slutty witches. This is what you do in college, when you are young and silly and carefree. That was the very last time we could be classified in those terms, as we were immediately aged and hardened by death. I would borrow a friends dress, and it would prove too tight, as I remember standing at the funeral, unable to breathe.

So I thought about that dress, and then it all flooded back, the music of that time, the searing emotions, your letters, the pain. These images entered me in the dense darkness of night, in that vulnerable place when you are neither asleep nor awake. I did not understand why now, of all times, I was back there again.

In the light of day, as my son's fever has come down and the sun has come up, it is clear to me now why I thought of you then. Now, I am a mother too. With a girl first, then a boy, just like you. I have never handled my children's illnesses well, yet there is something even more terrifying about my son when he is sick. He embodies a vulnerability that my daughter has never really shown, a neediness from the very core of him. I am his protector, in every sense of the word. And as he gripped my finger in his fat fist, burning up beyond belief, I dared to imagine losing him. And with that thought, came one of you and of your son who I barely knew. I wish I knew then what I know now. When the sunshine of your life was gone, the fact that you went on breathing, much less writing, and remembering, is miraculous. And just like my teenage words on looseleaf paper, I know my admiration does not dilute the pain. But from mother to mother, you are my hero.


At 6:28 AM PST, Blogger Janya said...


At 5:25 PM PST, Anonymous gila said...

wow. aim. wow. xoxo

At 5:25 PM PST, Anonymous gila said...

wow. aim. wow. xoxo

At 6:12 PM PST, Anonymous ed's sister said...

really beautifully written amy.

my job, while I love it, brings me face to face with mothers who have lost their children. i thought i was compassionate before. atleast I hope I was. Now, with my own son, I think, I hope, I am more compassionate, more understanding of what their loss might mean to them. And I am grateful that most of my interactions with these mothers are over the phone and they can't see my eyes filling with tears as I push away the thoughts in my mind of "what if this happened to me?"

thanks for writing such a touching entry.

At 5:55 PM PDT, Anonymous G's mom said...

As I read through your entries, this one stopped me in my tracks. I read it slowly, carefully, not wanting to skim over a single word.
It brought back that time for me, knowing the pain that all of you were experiencing for the first time. My eyes are filled with tears, brought on by the artistry of your words and your amazing ability to capture feelings. You are gifted - I'm so glad that you write, and so proud that I know you.


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