I marvel sometimes at the way grief changes; how it changes over time, how it changes those grieving. How it differs between the bereaved. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect this weekend with P out of town. My schedule hasn’t really changed that much with him gone for a long weekend–study, dishes, laundry, run, walk the dog, Netflix, a few social outings with friends–but when I’ve been at home, I’ve been alone. With no one else to hear my thoughts, they’ve expanded, or perhaps maybe collapsed in on one another. I don’t know which best describes it. Ballooning, or a rabbit hole fall?

With a big change just around the corner for us, I’ve naturally begun to take stock of the chapter of my life that very naturally feels like it is ending, with a new one awaiting me. I have been nothing but excited about this change. I’ve wanted it to come quicker even, wishing away months of my life, which I know is never wise. And this weekend, my unanticipated gift to myself was to wish some of that time back, to slow down, to appreciate where I am as the cumulative harvest of where I have been. To analyze what it has all meant. To remember.
I see my life very starkly now, BC and AD, or “Before Carol” and After Death. When someone tries to orient me to a time in history my first reflexive thought is to place it before or after my mother died. As I age and, my god, could this be possible?, I reach a point where I’ve lived longer AD than BC, I wonder if I will still do this. I wonder if it will still matter the way it matters now. It will always matter. But maybe it won’t always be the moment by which everything is oriented.
As a moderately tattooed woman, I thought rather soon after my mom’s death about what tattoo I would get to honor her. I have one for both of my parents, but I considered one in her specific memory, and to mark my surface the way my experience of losing her marking my being. I contemplated getting her signature tattooed somewhere. One of my fondest thoughts is of her meticulous, beautiful, nun-taught handwriting. But I could never make the commitment. I wondered why. For someone with as much ink as I, why was a small signature, what could be less than an inch wide, giving me pause?
I discovered recently an online company that takes drawings or signatures and stamps them into a necklace pendant. Immediately, I pulled out my credit card. It was as I was taking the photo of her signature with my phone to upload, staring at her steady handiwork for the billionth time in my life, that it came to me. Somedays, it’s just going to be too painful to look at it. Somedays, it’s just going to remind me that I will never receive another card in the mail signed in her hand. And on those days I can leave the necklace in a drawer.
If I can move beyond BC and AD, maybe then I’ll be able to stare at her in such an intimate way each and every day. When I recognize with a heart drop and a stomach flip that I have already forgotten the sound of her laugh, I see why some hang on to their grief. It’s what remains.


Remains was originally published @ My! People Come and Go So Quickly Here! and has been syndicated with permission.

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