Time, they say, heals all wounds. That is a lie, not all hurts can be salve-slathered. It has been nearly three years since the death of my mother, Patricia Ann (Stokesbary) Hall, who, on October 11, 2010, finally succumbed to a long and terribly heinous illness. An illness brought about because of years of being addicted to cigarettes.
When she passed, I was informed by my sister, Lisa, who phoned me that morning. I remember it well. It was Monday, and I was just pulling into the parking lot of where I work in Iowa City. I had visited my mother in the care-facility just that previous Saturday where she looked more or less OK, at least to my eyes. A child doesn't want to see the frailty in a parent even when it is obvious to everyone else.
When the call came, I pulled over to take it. That phone call is probably the worst thing I remember. Lisa was, naturally, upset, but she felt it her duty to inform me as I lived away from home, and wouldn't have found out any other way. In my heart, I thank Lisa for telling me, but I have never told her to her face. I can’t. It hurts still. That call, that horrid call, I cannot face, I will not face. I won’t mention it to her. Ever.
At work, each morning, we have a meeting. It’s a basic recap of what happened over the previous day, or in this case, weekend. My boss asks us if anything happened that the others need to know about, and by that, he means related to work. But at the end of the meeting he always calls for “team info,” which is a catch-all for everything else that wasn't covered earlier.
I told them, in no uncertain words, that not that long ago my mother died, and I will be taking time off as soon as I know the details of the funeral arrangements. Yeah, it was a fun meeting.
I took the rest of the day to, if I could bury myself in getting things done. So I didn't have to remember. I didn’t want to think about it. You can fancy it up all you want, call it “passing on,” or whatever you choose, but the grim reality is that it all adds up to the same thing: mom died.
I’ve never really come to terms with it. I doubt I will. I choose, willfully, to avoid it when possible. There are times, however, when it boils to the surface. When my thoughts return to my mother, now lost. And then comes pain.
“Pain,” isn't a really good word to use. I would choose something stronger if I could. “Suffering” might work, but even that sort of sucks. I tried to get the idea across in one particular scene while I was writing “Memories of the Dead,” and I bet when you read it, if you read it, that you will be able to point it out. It’s pretty clear. A piece of my soul died that day along with my mother. That’s probably the best way to sum it all up.
Why am I talking about this now? I don’t know, but all I know is that I have to get it out somehow. So, here it is. Open for all to see, a simple gaping scar where part of my heart used to be.
So, I’m a mama’s boy, I guess. OK, I’m fine with that. Why? Because it means there was love there. Lots of it. You can never have too much love. But the love breeds the pain. So to fight it back, I constructed inside myself a place where I could avoid the memories that hurt. No memories, no pain. Seemed like a pretty good idea. It wasn't.
The worst thing is I am beginning to forget what she sounded like. The face, I remember; but her voice slowly fades. Eventually, it will be silent. I have to struggle to hear it now. I’m sorry for that most of all. I should remember it better, but I don’t. Don’t lose the sound of your parents, people. Trust me, you won’t like it. Remember now, record them if you have to, but don’t lose them. You’ll thank me later.
In two weeks, American’s have a major holiday coming up. Do yourself a favor and spend it with family. Fireworks, parades, and feasting are all nice—but forget all that crap. Just go home. Nothing else matters. Do that, and hold in your heart special thoughts that never fade, if you can. And whatever you do, don’t go to that place inside where memories cannot follow. I regret it, you will too.
Cry, laugh, love, live. They’re all worth it. No matter the price, pay it. The alternative is a far harder road, and one you do not want to take.