standing in the surf

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 β€” I stagger, shift my feet,
stay standing as the wave goes back out.

Sometimes there’s a huge wave β€” I barely hear it coming; or I hear nothing β€” 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.

One thought on “standing in the surf

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