Oh, how wrong was I?
In life, there are moments wherein someone tries to step into your autocratic regime of self-governance and offers their two cents, justifying their invasion by saying, ” ________ (mommy, uncle, school master, tribal leader) knows best.” In all honesty,they usually are right. But I was angry, bitter, confused, and sad. I was lost. I should have listened to my Nana, but I was blinded by my own ignorance and guilt, as well as the part of me that was desperately yearning to be considered as an adult, an equal of sorts. Tired of being treated as a kid, I wanted to sit at, to be welcomed at the revered “adult table” for once in my life.
“She’s not how you remember her. Death has changed her,” Nana pleaded with me to no avail.
But I was determined. I would see my mother. My mother.
I furiously shoved open the mahogany doors at the funeral home and marched down the aisle. As I approached the casket, I lost some of my initial resolve, and my cadence faltered as the cogs in my mind started reeling with latent processing. I had not seen her for several months. I took a deep gulp of precious air and peered into the cruel coffin that held my deceased mother in its wooden, mericless embrace.
The woman in there was and was not my mother. Her pale, alabaster cheeks were uncharacteristically puffy, the laugh lines that had once danced at the corners of her mouth were exaggeratedly chiseled, more defined. But underneath this deathly mask, I saw her. I saw my mother.
And all at once I had so many things that I wanted to say to this familiar stranger. I wanted to say that I loved her. That I missed her. That I was angry at her for leaving us. That I was sorry. Salty tears started to stream down my face forming an aqueous, gaping tapestry as I recalled the last time I had spoken to her…
My mother had recently been released from the hospital. I remember waking up to get ready before my grandfather was to arrive to take us to school. When I padded down the stairs to grab a quick breakfast, I found my mother walking around the house naked, muttering incoherently to herself. When I asked her where he clothes were and what she was doing, she just stared at me with glassy eyes. Her alcoholism had, at this point, ravaged her liver, making it difficult for her body to process proteins. She was hardly lucid. And I (fully aware of the nightcap that she had consumed several hours ago) was frustrated.
“You should get dressed. Pap will be here any minute.”
That was the last thing I would ever say to her. And I cannot tell you how much I regret it.
Maybe that’s why I habitually make a point of reminding those near and dear to my heart that I love them (sometimes, perhaps annoyingly, more than once) before I drive off in my car or hang up the phone. “I love you” are three words in this life that should not be left unsaid, and I will never make that mistake again. I hope that, before she passed, she knew that she meant the world to me. That I loved her.