We spend our lives amassing things. From the time we’re born, people bring us “stuff.” Rattles and onesies, teddy bears and tub toys, shoes we can’t even walk with yet and savings bonds for our future. As we grow older, our stuff expands to include books and knick knacks, framed photos and candles, pillows and magazines, cars and tech devices.
“I talked. And played music. And told her I held more love in my heart for her than I did for any other person who ever lived. I thanked her for being the best mother a child could ever ask for. I told her I would see her again one day and that I would call upon her often after she was gone. I found three of her favorite songs online: Bette Midler’s, The Wind Beneath My Wings; Lawrence Welk’s, The Anniversary Song (a song played at my parents’ wedding); and The Battle Hymn Of The Republic. It had always been one of her favorites. She used to sing it to me as a lullaby when I was a baby. It was only fitting that I played it for her lullaby as she drifted off to her final sleep.”
You know what’s weird about waiting for someone to die? You’re waiting for someone to die. Just like you’re waiting for a cake to bake, or clothes to dry or the cable guy to show up. You sit. You watch the clock. And wait. Everything needs to be put on hold because you don’t know if it will happen today or tomorrow or next week or the week after that. Some days you don’t feel like it’s going to happen at all. Life gets put on hold because someone else’s life is being extinguished. It’s a selfless act that tested me in more ways than I was comfortable with.
As my mom laid in her hospice bed in the middle of the living room, we all watched the clock. Every day. She watched it, too.
“Am I still here?” she’d ask.
“Yes, Mother, you’re still here.”
“Shit,” she’d respond.
And we’d all go back to watching TV. And watching the clock. And sometimes even saying “shit,” ourselves because we didn’t know when it would happen. And our lives remained on hold.
You feel guilty for thinking about the things you have to do other than being with the person dying. In my case it was Christmas. The parties I was missing, the decorations I would never put up, the popcorn that wouldn’t be strung this year. I kept counting the days saying, “If my mom died today, and we had a funeral, would I get home in time to put up Christmas lights?” So wrong, but it’s the stuff that goes through your head.
And then there were the Bob Seger tickets. I felt extreme guilt for not giving up a pair of tickets I purchased for a show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. I couldn’t bring myself to return them. Just in case. Just in case she’d go a couple days shy of the show. They were really good seats; great seats, in fact. The most money I’ve ever paid for concert tickets in my life. One of the perks of being married to a musician is that you get into just about every concert for free. With VIP passes. And backstage access. And after parties. But my tickets to Bob Seger were just as a mere civilian. A fan from Detroit who was looking forward, more than anything, to seeing this show 2,294 miles away from the living room I was sitting in now.
The concert was December 27th. One week from today. My mom’s blood pressure was still perfect, her heart was still beating, her spirits were still high. She didn’t look like she’d be going anywhere anytime soon. And, admittedly, I was antsy. I was hoping the process would speed up so that I could go on with my life and go to this show. I can’t believe I’m saying that out loud, but I am. I’d had enough of diapering and poop wiping and tooth brushing and hair combing and body flipping and care taking. I wanted to end the grieving. I wanted life to be normal again. I wanted to turn the page and let Bob Seger roll me away.
As I stood beside my mom’s casket, in front of the church altar on December 27th – the day of her funeral, the day of the show – I never thought of Bob Seger once. I could only think of my mom’s laugh and how I wished I could hear that sweet song just one more time.
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