Where do the things we lose go? I had a moment reminiscing over a book I had from when I was six. The story was about a witch who had a beautiful daughter and dressed her up to look horrid and “ugly” so she would win the annual witch contest. The moral of the story ends up telling how beauty and kindness can prevail over wickedness and crooked noses. Or so I remember it being, but the book parted ways with me at some point when I went into foster care at fourteen. My mother’s trailer was towed and all the belongings I forgot to collect and bring with me were impounded with it. Where did it go though? Were the belongings brought to Goodwill and sold throughout Santa Cruz? Did some small 8 year old get a copy of my childhood book and think “some messy kid scribbled all over this great story!”
Did everything get dumped into black plastic trash bags and sent to the dump? Maybe a worm is sliding along my 8th grade art portfolio, trying to find soil in the heap of people’s lost belongings.
My mother died eighteen days ago. Seventeen if you go by the death certificate even though my sister knew the moment she saw her chest still that it had come. So people are sending me flowers and cards. A person I barely know at work gave me a two-minute hug while whispering, “I’m so sorry” in my ear. I am so sorry for your loss. Yet again another lost thing in my life, and still the questions are unanswered.
Where did she go? She was not impounded, though if you are a good Christian you are taught to believe that everyone is God’s child and they have a special place after they die. Somehow I doubt a religious person would be okay with me saying my mother was impounded to heaven, or hell for that matter. She was nasty in the last few years of her life. Not to say that she wasn’t justified. Dying from cancer sounds painful. The screams she would moan when she first had symptoms still ring in my ear when I think of it. She was not forgotten somewhere like the wallet I had a few years back that I still sometimes wish I had been more careful with. Imagine my sick mother on a park bench waiting until someone realized they dropped her from their pocket.
Death doesn’t happen that way. I know. My mom is the third person I have “lost” in the past five years.
You can’t pick them up where you left them like a drink forgotten in the car. How long after you lose someone until you are normal again? When do people stop looking at you and wondering what to say and how to ask something? How great of an impact this loss is considering that nobody mourned over the loss of my last car Jackie when she was totaled on the highway. Five years she had been good to me and when I was without a vehicle I was still given eye contact from the insurance people and the rental car agents.
I am the sort of person that considers my house to be “organized” chaos. Heaps of things sit on my desk looking disarrayed but if ever someone moves them I know exactly what was misplaced and missing. This is closer akin to losing a person. Organized loss. Someone is there in this part of you and then you lose them and you know exactly what part of your heart hurts. I don’t think of my mother dying as losing her. I think of how I no longer have a parent to call or reference for things. If I get married my side of the audience will be crickets and my little sister unless she starts spitting out children like there is no tomorrow. I think of my mother dying as though my whole family tree just got struck by lightning and now there’s only a sad little branch with a few leaves on it. My mother isn’t a loss. It’s an event. There is nothing that can put itself in the place of a parent and fill the part of the heart that knows she is no longer a being on this planet anymore.
So let’s stop treating death like it’s a misplaced belonging that might find its way back to you, or an item that you can’t remember where it went and what happened to it. Death is a disjointed party that picks and chooses how you change as a human and whom you rely on in your life. Death is a day. Death is confusing, difficult and an emotional storm, and it surely doesn’t feel the same as any of the other things I have lost in my life.