Sweet Dreams, Momma Bear
by Lise DeTonnancourt
(Lafayette, CA, USA)
Christine Emidy DeTonnancourt, my Momma Bear is in "Sweet Dreams," as she told me she would be next time I came back from California to Florida to visit her.
With the smell of fresh air on my face that late afternoon, I came into her dimly lit room, where she had been resting in bed for many weeks now. I pressed my cheek into her sunken warm and clammy cheek and she immediately said, "I love you, Lise." I said, "I love you too, Mom."
My eyes were welling up with tears, knowing that this was going to be one of the hardest things I had ever had to do. I had to say "Good Bye." It was not the usual "See you in a few months, Mom." It was the unbearable "Good Bye Forever, Mom" (unless there really is a Heaven).
She knew it all... She had most everyone fooled by virtue of her growing Dementia and her lack of discussion on her part about the growing cancer that was ravaging her now 80 lb. body.
Over and over in my mind I hear her that afternoon, saying to me (not asking me), "I don't know what I am going to do without you, Lise." She said it four times to me and my only response was "I don't know what I WOULD DO without you too, Mom.
I flew home the next morning to California, sadder than I thought I could ever feel in my life. My eyes were swollen from crying myself to sleep, after I had taken a walk along the beach in front of my dad and his wife's house...looking for shells, like I used to do with my mother when I was a little girl.
The call came in, one week later. Mom had taken her last breaths...while asleep in her bed, at my sister and brother-in-law's house. I cannot describe the immediate dagger of pain the words of her death did to my heart.
Life feels differently to me. There is an echo of screaming silence within me- angry, sad, bewildered, making me aware of how profoundly alone I am in this mortal journey, I am left behind to face on my own.
The 10:00 pm phone calls every night, the torn black leather couch never to be sat in again while we watched the "Weather Channel," no more offers of Creamsicles, Frappucinos, Cokes or Capri cigarettes. No one to question me if my newest date was Catholic or not (and by the way, what is his last name?), no more squiggly written birthday cards with a check inside and no more repeat stories about her Pediatrician father who she'd work with in his office, no more silly Sally stories, or November 29th 1955 birth stories, when her water broke with me....and now Harvey Street, once "Menopause Row," then "Death Row," and how Jule Long, Mrs. Matrone and Ray all live alone (just like her)...can go on to maybe be some other old woman's story, who found comfort in believing it all was the way she told it.
All Mom wanted- ALL she WANTED- was "to die in the state of Grace and Dear God, she did. I hope there is a Heaven, Mom because I cannot bear the thought of my last "vision" of "you" being a tiny little body enclosed by some stranger into that cold coffin, into that cold vault, into the cold ground...never to be heard from again.
I beg for the passing down to me, from my mother, the ability to love others (so) unconditionally as she did during her time here on Mother Earth. I pray for a hint about the After Life, if there is one~through you, Mom. I know you are not just "dust in the wind," Mom, so I guess I do have Faith, though maybe still the size of a mustard seed. Seeds grow. I am growing and Mom, I love you. Watch me grow. I am still going to talk to you, as if you are in fact right here with me. Me and your medal/necklace- giving me great hope and strength I will be needing, and needing even more, now that you are gone from here.
Sweet Dreams, Mom. I'm tucking you in now, like you used to tuck me in, while saying that also to me.