The Gravity of My Grief

My mother-in-law of 22 years died last Saturday at 96, as we, her girls, sat vigil.

Her breathing sounds had changed, “wet breathing” they called it. I thought if we could move her onto her side it might release some of the fluid. It is important to use gravity in those circumstances, so as to maintain comfort. Today, four days after her last breath, I yearn for the stability of gravity. My own mother failed me miserably. The choice of alcohol to numb her lifelong depression left few sober moments for me, her only child.

Fierce as I was, I found remarkable women to sustain me.

A line of bright and broken, simple and brilliant, wise and foolish ladies. Women I gravitated to in search and need of motherly love and protection. Women who helped to keep me grounded when her damaged life whirled riptides around my small soul.

Somehow I found them, each different from the other. Some for only a few years, others for all their years remaining. They took me in, they sent me out. They battled for my needs and forced my truths. They taught me by example, both what I should and should not be or do. But always, they steadied the ground beneath my feet and held my heart with care and tenderness.

The stories are long, each passing is painful. But this, this is Elisabeth. A force of life that has been quietly at my side and strong beneath my sometimes trembling feet. In this moment I am free falling, fearful and filled with the gravity of my grief.

And yet, I know the morning will come, when I gather all the lessons of the extraordinary women who have raised me and I will stand up, open the curtains, take a breath and walk surely with each held firmly in my heart.

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