As I was wheeled into surgery last month, I had one regret. I have a will and an advance directive, but no letter to my survivors with my last words to comfort and instruct them. I’ve been working on it ever since. I’ll probably write a more personal one for each of them, but this is my first draft.
My Dear Children,
If you’re reading this, well, you know what happened. I hope you are okay, but even as I write that, I know you are not. I’ve been there. So my first instruction is this: Take it easy on yourselves. This is hard. It’s supposed to be.
I’ve seen those pieces in the local paper, with their talk of heaven and angels and how my soul will live on to comfort you. But I know your religious beliefs, and you know mine. As far as I’m concerned, when you’re dead, you’re dead. I’m not going to be reincarnated, or ushered to my own fluffy cloud in heaven. Alan Watts, a 60’s Buddhist, put it well when he wrote, “It won’t be like going into darkness forever, for there will be neither darkness, nor time, nor sense of futility, nor anyone to feel anything about it.”
Does that sound harsh? To me, it’s a comfort to know that eventually I can just. Stop. Stop having migraines, stop wondering when the cat will die, stop worrying about, well, everything, including you. Maybe you want to think I’m still out there somewhere, worrying about you, but I think I did more than enough of that while I was alive.
So I’m gone. Forever. Rather than dwell on how I can’t help you anymore, can’t enjoy your company (as I did, tremendously), I think the focus should be on you, and how you will remember me. I know you will, and at times it will hit you more strongly than others. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on this grief thing, you’ll see a dozen turkey vultures circling in the sky, and think, “Oh! Mom loves those!”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought, “I have to write to Mom about that.” I missed our letters so much after she died. Which is why I’m doing this. There are a number of things I want you to know, and I’ll write them in present tense because I really doubt I’ll be able to communicate once I’ve gone into the darkness forever.
I love you. What’s more, I like you. You guys can make me laugh like nobody’s business. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a perfect upbringing, but I did the best I could as a single mom. I think it made us closer, like the Three Musketeers: All for one and one for all. I love talking with you about our memories of Colorado, where you were born, and of the house on University, where we ended up.
I hold no grudges, absolutely none. If I died and you were out of town or hadn’t seen me in a while or said “I love you” recently, don’t worry about it. I know you loved me, with a fierceness maybe only kids of a broken home and a difficult father can understand. What can I say? We were special. I am so glad I had you, and that I got a boy and a girl to raise.
In closing, I feel like saying that I miss you, but if all goes as I expect, I won’t be able to do that. You will miss me, though, and I am sorry for your loss. It hurts, I know. When my mom told me my dad had died, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. I hope you will find ways to get through this, although having said that, I can tell you that it’s not something you will ever be completely done with. Just last night, I heard voices from the TV wafting into the kitchen, and I could have sworn I heard my mother’s voice. Instead of feeling sad, I felt good. It was wonderful to hear that voice again.
That’s the best I can promise. No hauntings, no angel on your shoulder – although if you perceive me there, go with it. My voice will fill your head, I know, especially in the first few weeks and months. That’s okay. That’s normal. You may curse the way this whole living and dying thing works, but if nobody died, well, this planet would be even more crowded than it is. I have sometimes thought of death as the Great Motivator. Procrastination is easy, but knowing our time here is limited can be the best prod of all to get things done. Small things, like folding the towels the way I taught you. Large things, like following your heart into a family or a career you truly care about, as I tried to do.
Okay. I could go on and on with advice and reminiscences, but something is better than nothing. And I want you to have something. A lot of things. Most of all, I want you to know it was a joy knowing you. You have both turned out to be such thoughtful, caring, sensitive, hard-working people. It’s been a privilege to be your mother. All you have to do now is go on being wonderful people. Or, really, just being yourselves.
Oh, and if you need something to do, something you know would have warmed my heart? Clean your apartments! Sheesh! As my own mother once said, surveying the mess I’d allowed you to make one Saturday, “Your weren’t brung up that way!”
With all the love in the world, and then some,