My mom died September 1st, 2022.
She was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer not even two months before.
On September 1st, I’d just moved to a new city. Just started a one-year graduate fellowship at a new school. I spent my first days of class quietly pausing by each new-to-me professor: “My mom has transitioned to active dying. I don’t know what that means for me, but I don’t want you to be surprised.”
I was surprised. And not-surprised. I was sad, and cried… and was sad without tears… and was busy reading my assignments. I’ve mostly toggled between the latter two; the study of theology involves a lot of reading.
I cry whenever the tears arrive.
People who know my case, who care about and for me, ask me how I’m doing. I say, it’s about like I expected.
I say, the best way I can articulate my grief is this analogy:
I’m standing in the ocean, about calf- or knee-deep. I’m facing inland, looking at the dunes.
The waves mostly shove my legs; I’m stable on my feet, rocking a little in the tide.
Sometimes a bigger wave slaps my back — I stagger, shift my feet,
stay standing as the wave goes back out.
Sometimes there’s a huge wave — I barely hear it coming; or I hear nothing — and
it knocks me, face-first, into the water,
mouth and nose full of fluid salt and no place to breathe.
But I put my hands and feet under me, stand back up,
wipe my streaming face,
keep rocking in the surf.
Since I face inland, I never know which wave is coming.
I hear that someday the analogy changes.
Or that the tides shift, leaving only little ruffles of foam
like when low tide’s gone out to sea.