After those Saturday experiences at Anderson's and Portillo's, I was emotionally wiped out, and knew I wanted to save one more act of kindness for Sunday, January 21, Mom's actual birthday. I woke up that morning feeling really sad. The heavy, I-can't-stop-crying-or-thinking-about-how-much-I-miss-Mom kind of desolation. My husband was at work, my sister was across the country, and my newly-licensed 16-year-old daughter was taking a friend for a smoothie.
"Want one, Mom?" Sarah asked, as I sat on the fireplace heart, trying to warm the chill inside.
"No thanks, sweetie. I'm good." (I'm fine. It's fine. Everything's fine. Our family motto since Mom died. We have a twisted sense of humor.)
"Are you sure it's okay for me to go?"
"Absolutely," I said, wiping the tears from my face and resolving to suck it up. I hated when she worried about me, and by now, I knew doing for others would help lessen the sadness, even for a little while.
|Mom, in her happy place|
But so much was left unsaid.
|Days spent holding hands|
"Good morning, welcome to Starbucks," a voice intoned through the menu's speaker, "What can we get started for you today?"
I placed my order. "A grande no water chai and a grande sugar-free vanilla soy latte, please." Then I told the story I had told two times the previous day. "I'm also wondering if you can do me a favor. It's a bit unorthodox. Starbucks was one of my mom's favorite things. Today is her birthday, but she passed away a few months ago, so I'd like to pay for the order for the car in front of me in honor of her birthday. Can you help me do that?"
"I'm so sorry for your loss," the voice replied, "I'd be happy to help. Do you want me to tell the person?'
"Yes, please," I mumbled, choking up a bit.
I waited behind the mom, who had pulled up to the window and was holding out cash to pay for her order. She listened, pulled her arm back in the window of her car, then stuck her head out. "Thank you!" she called out. "That was so kind, and I'm so sorry about your mom. I hope today is a good day for you!"
I waved back, unable to speak at that point, as I had been slammed with a wave of conflicting emotions. Contentment because I'd connected with another mom. Sorrow because I miss Mom. Loneliness because I miss being a daughter. Gratitude because I'd done something for someone else. I drove home with my drinks, feeling lighter than I had when I woke up that morning.
Even now, as I write this a few weeks later, I am overwhelmed by those same feelings. They're not as intense as they were that morning, but they remain. I think the same is true for this grieving process (or at least, it has been for me.) At first, the emotions are overwhelmingly intense and constant. A tsunami, unrelenting. I have been underwater, and am now just starting to break the surface. The feelings are starting to come more in waves. Still intense, still just as powerful. But now, four and a half months after Mom died, I can breathe for a bit in between. Then another set of waves comes and I'm pulled under for a while. I have faith that the waves will someday have more space between them for me to breathe. I hope that someday I will be able remember my life with Mom not with desolation and tears, but with joy and laughter.
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