Missing Thereness

Lois Florence Goodrich BettsAs I drifted to sleep last night, a voice brought me back to this plane.

“I miss my mom!” Ellen cried out her pent-up loss.

“I know, Sweetie. I know.” I patted her and handed her a couple tissues, dutifully remaining quiet to let her express grief her way. I counted the month since Mom died, then drifted off again.

“She didn’t even ask me! She didn’t ask if it was OK for her to go now. She didn’t ask anybody. I wasn’t ready.”

I patted her arm again and gently stroked her back. I didn’t know it yet, but I was about to hear one of the most profound – and most memorable – statements of my life. It will grab you, too, and wrap itself around your heart with fierce tendrils of passion.

Ellen sat up and said she thought she would need a whole box of tissue. I handed it to her, and she cuddled back into her pillow alternately sobbing and bawling.

“I wasn’t through loving her yet.”

I hadn’t thought about ever finishing loving someone. I was still loving Ellen’s mom…maybe more as the irritability her back pain stirred in her faded from memory. I thought of my beloved lifelong friendĀ  Ruth, whom I haven’t spent as much time with as I want to. And of course Ellen. As she said earlier in the day, the more of these life changes you go through together, the more unfathomable it is to ever not be family to one another.

“She loved you hard,” I said. That was a phrase I’d used to describe my own love for people, especially Ellen. It means fast, and deeply and passionately and often without sentimentality. A fireplug’s gush. So much it’s difficult to take in.

Ellen’s mom was like that, too, I realized for the first time. Not affectionate nor sentimental, but fierce in her desire for her family and their happiness. She never wanted gifts for special occasions, nor parties with all her many friends. She said each time we queried her, “Just all my family to be around me. That’s what I want.”

Ellen’s words moved me deeply, “I wasn’t through loving her yet.” Ellen told her mother she loved her, and told her over and over as Mom lay dying. I knew Ellen missed her mom. Now I knew she also missed loving her. The ongoingness of loving someone.

“I miss her, too. I miss the thereness of her.” We both did. We had talked about the importance to us of knowing she was there!

Mom lived 500 miles away, in another state. We got over to see her and Dad once a year and they came here in between times. But we always knew she was where we pictured her, sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper, drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette. Eager for a hug and a kiss when we saw one another, her sparkling eyes and nearly constant smile…

Ellen and I talked into the night about where mom might be now and what she might be doing. Wherever she is, wherever there is, we miss the thereness of her. We aren’t through loving her yet.

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