Today is my 39th birthday. One month ago, I expected to be planning a day with my kids and a night with friends. By now I would have received one (or three) birthday card(s) from my mother because she sent everything early to make sure they reached the recipient on time. Bless her soul, she was the only person I ever knew who was diligent in sending cards in the mail on time.
I have spent the last three weeks sifting through the contents of a house that held 65 years of a life. My mom’s life. The overwhelming amount of “things to do” makes it hard to just grieve. That will come when life settles back into itself. In the meantime I must move forward and tick off item after item on the to do list that should be labeled: “What to do when your mother dies and you are the only child.” It’s daunting.
I look back and can’t believe I’ve made my way through this household of stuff. Things. Almost everyone I talk to about this has now decided to do a massive spring cleaning. I say, do it. I can’t wait to get back to Trinidad and throw away or give away all the stuff. So my kids don’t have to.
While sifting and sorting, every third thought is – I can’t believe this. Because at every turn, I find something she meant to do, something put off for tomorrow, something planned. The suddenness of it all is still unthinkable. I don’t understand my feelings. Parents are supposed to go first. We know, maybe we prepare, but we can never grasp the loss until it happens. And then, there is this space. It’s empty and cannot be filled. I am no longer whole. How can that be?
I wrote a little something to say at my mom’s memorial service…
A little girl born in Miglianico, Italy, Maria Concetta Lo Russo brought joy to her parents Antenisca & Tomasso and her big sister Bianca. At age five, she moved to America with her family and spent the rest of her childhood growing up in The Bronx.
As little girls, Maria & Bianca would fight as siblings often do but remained close throughout the years.
When she became pregnant she moved to Long Island to be near her sister, brother-in-law, nephew and parents. And at 26 years old, she became a mother.
She was a lover of all things related to the Mets (specifically Gary Carter & Mike Piazza). She adored Humphrey Bogart’s movies, Bob Dylan’s records, and Barack Obama’s everything. She introduced me to Scrabble, Cary Grant, and Abbott & Costello. She loved music and often put on a record while getting ready for work in the morning. And her collection of elephants is unparalleled.
She was independent and content to be on her own. But she loved her family and although she always said she wasn’t good with kids, she was a star with ours. She offered patience, love & hugs for Aidan, Emily & Juliette and would have done the same for Logan.
She taught and allowed me to make my own decisions in life, supporting me at every turn. When I moved out of NY, she traveled to see me and when I moved out of the country, she got her passport and visited as much as she was able.
She loved pearls and her favorite color was pink, soft and beautiful just like she was.
My first best friend, my biggest fan.
Maria, Mary, März, Cet Cet, Zia Maria, Grandma, Mom,
I choose to believe you are in heaven watching over us, smiling & laughing as our children make new memories. We wish you were here with us, that you had more years to spend more time. But this is out of our hands. We will treasure the times we’ve shared with you, the infectious laughter we can still hear, and you will be remembered. Always. Through us, you will remain Forever Young. I love you mom.
And now it’s tomorrow.