Like one of the commenters on one of my recent posts, Iâ€™m admittedly attempting to lean in hard to grief. If I lean in, it will go away faster, right? Maybe, maybe not. But much like I pored over reading ovarian cancer research studies, reading about each chemo we tried, each surgery she had, and then, in the end, the signs of death, now I canâ€™t stop reading about grief.
Someone made the suggestion to look into Claire Bidwell Smithâ€™s work. For those of you not familiar with her, she is a grief therapist who lost both of her parents by age 25 and writes extensively on the grief process. Iâ€™ve started reading her book After This, which is about her attempts to figure out the existential question of just what isÂ after this life.Â
One of the most important points Iâ€™ve read so far (Iâ€™m about 1/3 in) is that we donâ€™t remember people by their clothes or what car they drove â€” although her Titanic-inspired dress circa 1998 is beyond memorable, her clunky ole Lincoln wasnâ€™t â€” but rather by the stories they left behind, the influence they had on people.
Iâ€™ll get back to writing about fitness at some point â€” I am training for the NYC Marathon again, after all â€” but this has also largely been a blog about my life, and this loss is the biggest thing in my life right now.
[This photo just because itâ€™s also in DC, though ~5 years after this story takes place.]
And so I wanted to tell a story that epitomizes the selflessness of my mom. [An editorâ€™s note: Iâ€™m having a really hard time with verb tenses around this. Neither past nor present seem right right nowâ€¦]
In the days leading up to her death, and in the days surrounding that whirlwind of emotions of her death, wake and funeral, so many beautiful, emotional stories were told about her. One of the words that was used over and over again was â€œselflessâ€ and the following story was often repeated:
â€œRemember the time Carol got on the train late at night to go to Washington because Theodora was sick?”
It was either late 2007 or early 2008, I canâ€™t remember, but I had come down with a rough case of bronchitis, was overwhelmed at work and Bailey was just a little pup. I was just having a shitty day, and I called my mom in tears, frustrated. â€œDo you want me to come down to Washington?” I resisted at first, but finally, through tears, choked out a yes.
It must have been at least 7 or 8 pm when we talked, but that didnâ€™t matter to my mom, who asked my dad to drive her down to Metro Park in NJ to get on the 9pm train to DC.
â€œTheodora, why is everyone in the car giving me a dirty look when Iâ€™m on the phone?”
â€œMom, are you in the quiet car?”
â€œOh, maybe. But Iâ€™m being quiet?”
By the time she arrived at my apartment, after midnight, she walked in and told me how there was a man with a gun on the train; they had to stop the train in Wilmington, DE to get the police on board to check out the situation.
Her cab driver, she said, was drunk. I lived just four or five blocks from Union Station but this sheltered NJ lady wasnâ€™t walking late at night with her suitcase. â€œTheodora, we could basically see your apartment and he still got so confused getting there and getting my suitcase out of the back. Does this ever happen to you here????”
Um, no, Mom.
But not a gunman nor a drunk cab driver nor a late night could stand between her and coming to take care of her little girl, and I have to believe that this pesky little death thing wonâ€™t stand in the way of her watching over me and taking care of me, either.Â