We rented “Grace is Gone” and watched it last night. It is the story of a father, played by John Cusack in a powerfully heavy way, and his two young daughters aged 12 and 8 years – and how he copes with the news of his wife’s death while she was serving in Iraq.
The plot surrounds his inability to tell the children, and how he delays the delivery of this terrible news to the girls by taking them on a spontaneous road trip to a theme park. It is a good movie; quiet and thought provoking. It felt like “a day in the life” of an everyday guy who has to deal with something many of us (parent or not) might find is on our list of things we fear the most.
The point of the movie that we end up dreading is the moment he is finally able to tell the girls the news that their mother has died. I sat there bawling and thinking about my own kids, and what life might be like for them if they had to live through the incredible loss of their dad or me.
It brought me back to the day that my mother died.
I was 27 when my mother died and although I was an adult by most standards by then, in a lot of ways the death of my mother made me feel like those girls in the movie. Just a little girl who stood there resisting reality and truly uncomprehending as the news was shared. My mommy was gone. It was surreal, scary, and just beyond comprehension that this woman who brought me into the world was dead at 51.
I had the feeling of being a castaway when my mom died. I was like a ship without an anchor just flailing with no bearings or navigation plan. It took a long time for me to get out of the habit of wanting to call my mom every day as we both did while she lived – just to chat and make a date for our next scrabble match (we played almost daily).
I am a lot like my mom, not in my looks as much as personality. I sound like her. I hear her voice when I talk to my kids, and sometimes I see her face in pictures captured of me at certain angles. She was hysterically funny and had an incredibly sharp sense of humor. As I write, I am remembering a fit of the giggles that we had over a particularly long day of playing scrabble.
I shared a lot of similar interests with my mom: Reading, writing, words in general, scrabble, the NY Times crossword puzzle, Mah Jongg, and card games like Cribbage and Canasta. I took up crocheting in her memory, and now I like to knit.
I don’t take a lot of time to honor my mother as publicly as I do my daughter. Probably because it is easier to digest the death of my mother as a normal and expected part of life, as opposed to the death of my daughter which seems to be taking a lot longer to process.
I have less of a need to validate the loss of my mother, because so many people mourn her along with me. It is effortless because everyone understands.
I have been thinking of my mom all day and just missing her. I miss my friend and miss laughing with her. We did a lot together, and when she died I lost my friend as well as my mom.
October 12, 1947 – December 4, 1998
Thanks for reading along.