Over the past several months, I always kept my phone on, thinking my father might be trying to call me. But the night before the morning my mother passed away, somebody was pranking me, repeatedly calling and just hanging up. So at 6a.m., I turned my phone off. Awaking at 8:30, I immediately turned on my phone, and just as immediately a call came through from my father. Through his crying I understood that my mother had died. I jumped in a cab, listening to my father’s four earlier messages asking for help and saying that my mother was dying. I am haunted with a sick feeling over having turned my phone off.
My grandmother was already at my parents’ house when I arrived. The dog, seeming to know something terrible was going on, was pacing like a wolf. I headed straight for the bedroom. I wish I could erase the disturbing memory of my mother lying in the bed, her head thrown back, her mouth open, her face pale white and her lips blue.
Hugging her, I heard a noise issuing from her throat. I dialed 911; they said an ambulance would arrive in one minute, and instructed me to do CPR. I tried, but got no reaction from my mother.
In quick succession, the fire department, the police and paramedics arrived. They had me leave the room. Two minutes later, they told us that my mother had been dead for the past hour. The noise I heard coming from my mother’s throat is, horrifyingly enough, normal; from what I gathered, it has to do with the internal organs dying within the body.
I had to endure questioning and paperwork before the emergency people left. Walking back into the room, I took my mother’s hands, still warm, and cried inconsolably, as I have never cried before. Suddenly, her face relaxed; an expression of intense pain was replaced by a look of radiant peace.
Two men from the funeral home came to take her to the morgue. After asking them to wait, I told my father to go say goodbye to his wife of 40 years, and then I took my grandmother to say goodbye to her daughter. The two men coldly told us to wait in another room. They put my mother into a zippered bag and then wheeled her away. I was in disbelief over their brusque, disrespectful manners in moving the body through the narrow corridors and then into the elevator.
The three of us sat with our extreme grief in the apartment, surrounded by my mother’s belongings, her herbs, her slippers, water still in her cup. In the following days, I was busy talking to her friends and arranging for the funeral, but most importantly I was there to support my father and grandmother. They were lost. Again, I had to steel my composure to stay strong for them. I feel so responsible for being a support to them that even at the service, I did not allow myself to cry. Believe me, I wanted to. My boyfriend cried while hugging my grandmother, just as he had cried when my grandfather passed away.
Not one for organized religion, I would not especially have wanted a rabbi at the funeral. But I wound up understanding why my father invited one; he sang a profoundly affecting prayer; everybody was very moved.
The next day, I took my father to the airport. He was taking my mother to be buried in Moscow. I stayed here with my grandmother, as at 87 she can not fly that far. I took their dog home with me for a week. My boyfriend left on a business trip. At first, I put my mother’s picture on the bed table, but her soft gaze in the photo made me suffer yet more in insomniac hours, so I hid it. Alone with my mother’s dog, I endured such negative emotions that for the first time, I decided to see a psychologist. He told me it would be OK to cry, it would be OK not to work for a while. Thanks to his steadying influence, I could put my mother’s picture back in view where it belongs, and cry.
I am now trying to work, to spend time with my boyfriend, and to e-mail all the wonderful people who sent cards, flowers, and messages expressing sympathy and a desire to help. I look forward to many happy times with my friends; I do not want to burden anybody with my sorrow. She died. I will go on livingâ€¦ who knows what is betterâ€¦