Finding Herself

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
Slowly she opened up her eyes. Flashbacks of yesterday rushed into her mind like broken levies. The musty air of the funeral home was nauseating. The dingy gray pews were beyond uncomfortable. The ceremony seemed to drag on endlessly. So many people offered dry words of comfort, routine embraces, and forced smiles and head nods. Now in this new morning, she lay here unprepared to enter a new day. Depression crept in her body like a burglar into an empty home, possessing and ultimately crippling her. Her head ached.

What happens now? How will her life change? How will she survive all these changes? Pretend to be sane?

She raised the blanket over her head as tears filled her eyes and escaped at the corners of her lids. Shame entered her thoughts as her lips quivered and flips of anxiety moved in her tummy like a clumsy gymnast. The silence of her room was deafening. The stillness pierced her eardrums. Her mind filled with the images of judgment she knew she’d see in the faces of her family and friends. One by one, she imagined the questions she would encounter, the stares and glares, and the subtle remarks of sarcasm she would endure.

The scream of her alarm clock reminded her that she must rise. With a thousand tears falling and an unimaginable ache in her heart, she realized there was no Calgon coming to take her away. She balanced her body, gathered her composure and headed to her Master en suite hoping to wash away her feelings and emotions that were overflowing her entire being with disastrous potential. She walked pass the mirror and caught a glimpse of herself, she whispered “this too shall pass and my joy will resume”. She pulled open the shower door, climbed in slowly, and began to allow the steam of the hot water exfoliate her inside and out.

Sitting at her vanity, her naked body shivering, she stared into the mirror. She wept deeply and repeated, “There is no way...I can’t, I just can’t find the strength. Why? I can’t... There is no way I can even begin to function.” Getting dressed seem to take hours. It had only been about forty-five minutes. Her body was numb. Her mind was inundated with thoughts, memories, and sorrow. Pain wreaked through her heart like streak, ripping it to shreds it seemed. “I’ll never survive this. I’ll never find the strength to go on,” she mumbled as she confirmed within herself that her life ended yesterday as the her mother’s casket was lowered into the ground.

Days, then weeks, went by. She sat motionless, staring out of her window daily. Her life was on pause. Sometimes it seemed as if her heart was barely beating. Her body no longer craved food. Her mind dismissed all invitations of sleep. Her body was beyond weak. Weight began to disappear from her rapidly. Her thoughts were consumed with guilt and riddled with regret. She questioned every moment of the final time with her. Did she say I love you enough? Did her mother understand how she truly felt for and about her? After all dementia had interrupted their communication. All she had was her care for her and the prayer that would convey her true feelings. Had it been enough?

Despite the constant flow of calls, emails, and text messages of cliches and scripture references, she felt abandoned and alone. Repetitive chants of “I’m just checking on you.” and “Let me know if you need anything” only caused her countenance to decline further. No one could reach her. For she was in her sunken place. She had accepted it. She had prepared to stay here for a long while, maybe even die here if she was lucky.

Three months had gone by. Remnants of her appetite would visit from time to time. Smiles would attempt to creep across her face as she watched children playing outside. She had grown quite fond of the family of squirrels that had taken residence her backyard tree. Daily she watched them run, jump, and play. She had quit her job and was now living off her savings. She knew one day it would come to an end. She often wondered what her next move would be. Corporate America was never really her cup of tea. She had just grown accustomed to the many financial perks it offered. Her job left her angry and unsatisfied anyway. Aside from the money, she hated it. Looking out the window and thinking of her future, anger rose up inside of her. “If you were here, you’d tell me what to do!” she yelled. “I could always count on you to give me the best advice, to help, to lead me, “she sobbed loudly. “I hate that you’re gone! It’s not fair. I really need you now!’, she yelled with tears falling profusely. “Tell me what now Ma! What now! What’s my next move?! Help me Ma!,” she cried loudly and fell to her knees. She missed her deeply. She missed the way her mother always seemed to know what to say to align things and bring order. She missed sitting with her and watching her slowly sip a cold Pepsi as she smoked a Newport cigarette and revealed the answers of the universe. “What now Ma?” she whispered. “What do I do now? I’m going to lose it all – my mind, my sanity, my few accomplishments, - everything. I’m scared. I’ve never been here Ma. I’m scared – scared to move on...scared to stay here. Just scared... of it everything. I need you Ma. I need you here to guide me.” she continued to cry and sighed heavily. A lowliness feel over her like never before. She crawled to her bed, climbed in with what little strength she had left, and wept until sleep came to relieve her and offer her a moment of rest.

Ten hours of pure, uninterrupted peace fell upon her. She slept for what felt like days on end. For the first time since she said goodbye she accepted the invitation of rest. Restoration had come to visit her. She awakened oddly refreshed. A strange calmness soothed her. She lay still as vivid memories of her mother’s advice flooded her thoughts. Moments they shared where her mother had unveiled her inner thoughts and secrets. One after the other they popped in her mind like popcorn. She began to travel through the timeline of her mother’s life. There was one common thread. Her mother had lived such an adventurous and non-inhibited life. Even with a husband and five children, mother had accomplished everything her heart desired. There were absolutely no regrets. Some things were a success. Some things were not. But nonetheless, life was lived and lived on purpose. Her life was an example that one must take chances, throw all caution to the wind, and try everything. As the timeline of memories and stories of her mother’s life played in mind like a movie, she laughed uncontrollably. Her mother was the one person who could tell like it was, leave it where it was, and move on accordingly. Her mother was the epitome of strength and tenacity. Mother was courage personified, making sure fear never found her and doubt didn’t have her address. Mother lived everyday courageously until the Angel of Death came to walk her home. Even then, there was no fear in her eyes. Mother left boldly, ready for the journey on the other side.

She collected her thoughts and walked slowly to her mirror. Under the eyes sat luggage from months of avoiding sleep’s invitation. But in her eyes was the reflection of her mother. A reflection of strength and character that caused her to regain that warrior spirit that her mother had bestowed upon her. She saw courage to try, to rise, to go and be – to live, just as her mother had done. To live on purpose, without fear and hesitation. A smile crept across her face and energy filled her bones. “You’re right Ma. Life is meant to be lived... and lived to the fullest”, she declared. “You always know what to say,” she chuckled. “Thank you Ma. Thank you... I love you,” as she kissed the reflection in the mirror. “Get ready world... Here I come!” she declared. She clothed herself in the courage of her mother and new life began.