Some of you may have wondered why our European saga screeched to an abrupt halt in the middle of our first night in France. Let me sincerely apologize to those who’ve lingered on the edges of their collective seats for the next installment. (Judging by the proliferation of comments, there are about 1.75 of you.) I promise to pick up where I left off soon.
I couldn’t update while in France because the cyber-cafes were expensive, very smoky, and used French keyboards–a fact I discovered after signing on and trying to type a few words. When they appeared on the screen as goobledy-gook, I realized Toto and I weren’t in Kansas any more. I hunted and pecked my way through checking e-mail and signed off after five minutes.
But the real reason you haven’t heard from me sooner is much more significant. After we flew into Dallas on Sept. 19, George headed home and I stayed to attend a writer’s conference that began on the 21st. On the evening of the 22nd I checked voice mail and discovered a message from George’s brother Tony in Florida asking me to call.
I don’t think it’s possible to get used to death. And I don’t think we should. It’s the overwhelming evidence that something is terribly wrong–something that can’t be fixed by positive thoughts or intellect or any other force of will. It comes in many ways, sometimes slowly creeping, sometimes storming in unannounced, an unwelcome certainty we will all meet no matter how diligently we bar the door.
George’s mom had died that morning. Death had stormed in while she was home alone napping on the couch. By the time his dad and Tony’s wife arrived, she’d been gone for hours.
We’ve been in Florida for the last week. I’ve met many people I never had the occasion to meet before. Her tennis friends. Some of George’s high school pals. I’ve heard stories that made me wish I’d known her better. To me she was a kind, loving, generous mother-in-law, who always supported but never meddled. I loved and deeply appreciated her in that role. But she lived a rich life on many levels I never really tuned in. I knew she was an ace tennis player, but I had no idea she’d been a prankster in high school famous for her laughter. I’ve known her for almost thirty years, but always in the context of family gatherings. We never lived in the same town. We never hung out, just the two of us as friends. The more I’ve heard this week, the more I understand she and I were kindred on many levels, and I never knew it. My double loss.
There’s a mostly finished painting in the sunroom here. A pet project she worked on when the muse prompted. I took a photograph of it, partly because I think it’s beautiful, and partly because it speaks to me of the incompletion we’ll always live with here. Our fulfillment is beyond. This mortal must be clothed with immortality. This world–filled with many wonders though it may be–is not my ultimate home.
If you feel so inclined, please pray for George and his dad and siblings. Especially his dad. They were married for 54 years, and the evidence of her touch is everywhere in this home. It will be a long, lonely road for him.
I wish I’d known my mother-in-law better, and I believe I will. We can be co-pranksters in heaven, where laughter rings out purified, unmarred by sorrow. I believe with all my heart that her death wasn’t an end in our relationship.
It was only an intermission.