Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
Ode To Momma And The Stages Of Grief
by Laura Blatt
Momma dies just hours before Yom Kippur, the holiest time in the Jewish calendar. Rabbi George is practicing his sermon, but hurries over.
"I have to ship Momma to Florida so she can be buried beside her husband Nat," I mutter. I worry aloud about air costs and arrangements.
Rabbi George doesn't understand. No doubt he thinks me crude to speak of material things while standing beside Momma's still body. But I know I must fulfill her request to be a practical matriarch.
The funeral takes place in Miami a few days later on a garishly sunny afternoon. I say the Kaddish at Momma's grave: "Yisgadal v'yiskadash sh'mei rabbaw. B'allmaw dee v'raw chir'usei..." ("May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in a world He created as He willed...")
After the service, a gravedigger stops by. He tells me how much he liked Momma, who took walks in the cemetery. "Make sure the boss engraves the headstone," he adds. "Your mother paid for that, she wanted that, and I know he won't do it unless you check." He smiles and gives me the names of some good Cuban restaurants to visit while I am in town.
When I return to California, I "sit shiva," a ritual of mourning in the home. Friends and relatives arrive with food, condolences and stories.
"If Helen had landed on Mars and met the Martians, she would know their names and the names of their kids and grand-kids within fifteen minutes," Arnie says about Momma. "They would invite her to parties." He laughs, then starts to cry.
We believed Momma would live forever by dint of her boundless optimism and love for people. Yet here we sit in my living room, forced to face mortality. And despite the good company, I am a 55-year old orphan.
I go back to work within a week. I feel fine, thank you, but I forget to return phone calls, can't remember my computer password and then almost erase the company web site. When I am alone in my car, I weep.
I clean out Momma's apartment, sorting her dresses, pants and shoes. Goodwill gets most of the clothes, although I keep some sexy lingerie and a bright paisley shirt. Momma always said I dressed too conservatively.
Months later, I take a short vacation in Death Valley National Park. Every day I hike under the desert sun and shake my fists at God. The wildflowers are sparse this season. Why are they so fleeting? Finally, I find my favorite, the Desert Five-Spot with its crimson markings.
Years pass before I can truly love wildflowers once again or laugh heartily. Even today, I sometimes walk past Momma's old apartment and imagine dropping by for tea or for bagels and Nova lox. Sometimes, I dream about her. As usual, she gives me advice. We argue amicably. Then I do as I please, but I'm very grateful for her opinions. Momma, I'm sorry I never told you that.
For over two decades, Laura Blatt worked as an editor at a publishing company and as a web site writer. Now retired, she lives in Penngrove, California, with her border collies, Buddy and Jade. She has many fond memories of Momma.
Back to Flashes