A New Chapter
There’s no better way to put it. She was not a fan of euphemisms, of passed. I learned this when Dad died ten years ago. Yes, Dad died too.
I now have no parents. The simple, terrible truth. But before you cry for me, listen. I’m not quite okay, but I will be. I’m inching my way toward the Land of Okay. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a vast almond milk latte, typing words here for the first time in almost six months. Not bad.
Almost three years ago, a phone call. Mom’s voice was tear-soaked. Life sliced into Before and After. A diagnoses. Ovarian cancer. Stage 4. Not good. Everything but good. But we collaborated with a powerful efficiency, we Donnelley girls, all six of us, and found doctors. The best of the best. There were surgeries and treatments, more downs than ups, a blessed stint of remission. Most importantly: there was time. Time to say things. Like: I love you to pieces. Like: I will be okay, Mom. Like: Goodbye.
The past three years have been rough. The past year was no fun. The past three months were impossible. A lost summer, Mom remarked in her final weeks. Indeed. We lost an entire season as we huddled in hushed hospital rooms and then, mercifully, at home. The home where we were raised. The home where Dad died, and where, on October 4th, Mom did too.
October 4, 2018.
Not just a day, but my 40th birthday. I know, I know. But before you cry for me, listen. Once I allowed myself a mini-tantrum about this cruel plot twist, it began, almost immediately, to feel like a mysterious, metaphysical gift. Mom and I will forever be linked. The day I took my first breath; the day she took her last. Pain, yes, but also poetry.
We traveled to Illinois for the funeral at Dad’s childhood home. We gathered and cried under a white tent erected on the same plot of earth where we said goodbye to Dad. A decade between, the same characters and some beloved new ones in the polka-dot faux-furs their Moo Moo gave them, the same symphony of tears. Symmetry, poetry, family.
And now we are back home. More than anything, I’m tired. The exhaustion I feel is deep and dramatic. And I keep telling myself that it makes sense. For three months, I slept with my ringer on, in anticipation. For three months, I watched Mom die.
And now there is space and time. Space and time I’m eager to fill with all the good things that have been, at times, shoved aside because I was fiercely focused on loving Mom and letting her go. The eagerness itself is a bright sign. Evidence of desire, determination. I’m looking forward to getting back to the book I’m writing. To all of my beautiful friends who’ve been checking in and making me feel loved. To the quieter, holy rhythms of home, my home, where my man and I are raising three remarkable girls of our own.
I should mention their sadness. My girls’. This loss, though anticipated, devastated them. Devastates them. Watching them wilt has pained me, but it has also reminded me of how much they loved her, how much they and we all will continue to love her. She will never be gone from our lives.
I do wonder if she can see me now, tucked away in the corner of a cafe, her 40-year-old girl, sipping a coffee and trying to begin to make sense of what’s happened. I hope so; I hope she can see me. I think she would be comforted to glimpse this particular vignette - me, out in the world, finding my way back to myself.
Beginning this new chapter.
That’s what this is, and will be: a new chapter.
Day by day.
Page by page.
I don’t quite know how the story will unfold, but I do know that there will be laughter and tears, and moments and years, and big, blinding, lasting love.