: this still isn’t goodbye :

It was a school night, that much I remember. Winter, too, or at least cold. I was sound asleep, dreaming the dreams of a third grader, when I heard my mom, ‘Lisa? I don’t want to alarm you, but the fire department is coming.’ Alarm me? Why would that alarm me? I bounced out of bed, wide awake, and asked a panicked why: a reasonable question under the circumstances. Her answer was drowned out by the roaring sirens of a fleet of approaching fire trucks.

More than a dozen of them arrived, gridlocking the formerly quiet cul-de-sac where we lived. Neighboring houses were alternately bathed in red and darkness and red again as the spinning light bars pierced the night. Firemen filled our house, it was wall-to-wall helmets and hoses and big boots. I felt impossibly short as they milled around, going about their business.

Watching the chaos with wide eyes, I wondered if maybe we shouldn’t step outside, my mother and I, evacuate this nascent fireball. Well, as it turned out, no. “A small fire in your clothes dryer, ma’am — more smoke than fire.“ With that the firemen gathered their gear and adiosed, my mother closing the door behind them. She leaned against it, looked at me and said, ‘sorry.’

Today is her birthday and I wish I could tell her the same thing, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. But to be honest, I don’t know that I could have even if I’d had the chance. Those terrible days were the saddest of my life, my heart was broken beyond anything I’ve ever known. How do you do that, how do you say goodbye to the person who was your first and closest friend? The one who rushed you to the emergency room, taught you to walk in heels, who sang along to the radio in falsetto? Who was your Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy?

How?

I miss my mother. Still. I miss making her laugh, it was such an easy thing to do. I miss calling her on the phone, too, hearing her voice. I miss knowing she’s here. I want her to come back now and celebrate her birthday. We’ll watch A Fish Called Wanda and order pizza and laugh until dawn.

Copyright © Publikworks 2011

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20 Responses to “: this still isn’t goodbye :”

  1. Min

    Lisa, a part of your mom is still with you and will always be. I’m sure, she is checking on you every single day and I’ll bet she is so very proud on her girl. It is always hard to lose someone that close, someone we love so much that our love could fill the entire universe, but I beliefe, one day we will see all our beloved ones again.

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  2. ceciliag

    I lost my Mum when I was young too, and I know exactly how you feel. And because I know exactly how you feel I have nothing to say that will help really. We miss them. We live with it. After a long while, most of the time it gets to be Ok then it isn’t. Wonderful that you wrote this delightful little story. Write more!.. c

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    • publikworks

      I’m okay with it, but like you said, there are days when I’m not. I guess today was one of them. Thanks for understanding, ceceilia.

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  3. angelvalleywed

    Oh Lisa, how this hits home. My mother was my best friend, too, but I wasn’t there when she died. I had years prior moved across the country, and when the phone call came from the hospital, all I could manage to say was how badly I wanted to be there to hold her hand.

    A quick passing is what we all want for ourselves, right? Thing is, that’s the most difficult way to lose someone you love, so immediately and abruptly. The ones left behind have it the worst. Take heart that your mom knew how much you loved her. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t get to say goodbye. She knew you were there.

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    • publikworks

      I do and she did. I’m sure not being there only matters to me. And you’re absolutely right about quick passings, they’re hard on the survivors, but a gift to the person. Thanks for the reminder, angelvalleywed, I appreciate it.

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  4. Kimberly Pugliano

    Wow. My heart hurts for you. I can’t imagine life without my mom. She drives me nuts, she pisses me off, she’s my biggest fan and the best gramma in the entire world. I love love love her and I dread the day I lose her. My grampa is slipping further and further into dementia and it breaks my heart for Mom. She’s watching him go slowly every day. I think I’d rather lose my mom quickly that go what she’s going through.

    I’m so sorry for your pain.

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  5. Lenore Diane

    Lisa, your post is beautiful, though the story sucks. (I say sweetly.) I empathize with your sadness, having lost my Dad. I try to tell myself I’ll be better prepared when I lose my Mom, but I know I’m kidding myself. Death sucks. Plain and simple.

    I hope you see and hear your Mom in your dreams. The dreams where my Dad makes an appearance are always a wonderful surprise. To ‘hear’ his voice again.

    In other news, the firetrucks came to our house when my brother was a baby. (I was not yet born.) They put the small fire out quickly, and when they left, my Mom woke my brother up from his nap. He had slept through the whole thing. Rest assured, it was a tiny fire – perhaps similar to the one your Mom had.

    Hugs, Lisa.

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    • publikworks

      That’s sweet of you, Lenore, thanks.

      No, my mom doesn’t show up in my dreams very often, I wish she did. Some people have dreams of deep, meaningful, illuminating conversations with loved ones. Or simple ‘hi, how’re you doing’ visits. Not me. I dream of being chased by lions. I’d love to get a visit from my mother in my dreams, I don’t know why I don’t.

      My older sister slept through the firemen and the sirens, too. Isn’t that funny?

      Hugs back.

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  6. Eileen Riley

    That was absolutely beautiful. My mother was my best friend and the hole she left in my life is enormous. When she died, people told me how lucky I was to have had such a relationship with her and it was all I could do not to scream. I didn’t feel lucky. I felt devastated. But, as time passed I realised they were right because she has never really left me. I know what she would think and do. I know what she would tell me. And, I have a daughter. One day, a few years after my mother died, she walked into the kitchen and I was crying. She asked what was wrong and I told her I missed my mother and that I had no one to talk to. She looked at me and said ‘You have me’. And I do, thanks to Mom. She is my role model.

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    • publikworks

      Thanks, Eileen. Except for the daughter part, our experiences are remarkably similar. In my heart I know she’s never really left me, I carry her with me wherever I go. The funny thing is, she has more influence now than she ever did before. I didn’t expect that.

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  7. Pr

    My mother is with me everyday in my heart. I miss her so very much.
    She was a strain and a pain at times, but then so was I. I hope it is true we will see our loved ones once again. First my mother, then my dear husband…gone just a year now but seems like only yesterday his strong arms embraced and protected me. So many loved ones gone now. I totally sympatize and send you a big hug.
    Your former neighbor and friend,
    Pr

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    • publikworks

      Hello there, Prudy, it’s nice to hear from you. I know this is a tough time for you and I’m sending happy thoughts and hugs your way. So is Bart. Hang in there.

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  8. O. Leonard

    This is one of those times in life when you can say, “I know how you feel,” really mean it, and wish you didn’t. I miss my mother a lot, especially during this time of year. She was so into Christmas, with very little money to work with. I guess that’s why those Christmas memories are so special. She died young from a kidney transplant as you might know from my pool stories. I didn’t get to say goodbye either, and like you, I probably wouldn’t have been able to anyway. Very well written piece.

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    • publikworks

      I remember your post, it broke my heart. My mother, too, loved Christmas and the decorating and the traditions. She died on December 16th and one of the last things she did in her life was buy a wreath for my front door.

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  9. Angie Z.

    Oh, Lisa. What a horrible thing it must be to lose a mother. Or a father for that matter. I’ve heard it doesn’t matter what age you are, losing a parent is a loss like no other. It’s the person that knew you longer than anyone. My mom just lost her 94 year old father and can attest it doesn’t feel easier because he was 94. I also read a columnist recently who lost her mother to cancer and she wrote that her mother loved her fiercely. I still remember that line. It was the theme of the column, how mothers love their children fiercely. Like mama bear (only not in a Sarah Palin type of way). That kind of love is something all its own. I’m so sorry for your pain, especially around this time of year.

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    • publikworks

      You know, Angie, I don’t think anyone (old or young) can prepare for the loss of a parent, it’s kind of disorienting, like losing a force field that’s always been around you. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Thanks for stopping in, Angie, it was nice to hear from you.

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  10. Xylia-is-Foxis

    This made me cry- and i don’t cry a lot. I wish my mother was here today- she loved Christmas. She used to decorate the house as soon as Thanksgiving was over, then took it down sadly on New Years Day.
    I really don’t know why Sarah Palin had to be involved, but I understand everything else. Losing a parent or close friend is very hard. . . Life goes on, although it will never be the same.

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