"Hey Mom, do you want to eat in the dining room?"
"No, there are a bunch of old people in there."
Words from my 74-year-old mom, who is now in a rehab facility for about a week or so for rest and physical therapy. She'll be released when she is less of a fall risk.
Who can blame her for not wanting to identify as an "old person." Up until my father died in March, she was going to the gym, writing articles and books, attending a weekly writing group, making dinner every night, tending to my father's varied and many needs, and being active in a variety of ways in the community.
After he died she had two successive falls, and suddenly she has lost her husband, her home, her health, her independence.
I'm whirling from it all. I know my sisters are. My mom? I can barely imagine.
Grief? Loss? What are the right words?
My friend Gabriele Rico sent me the perfect Ellen Bass poem, with the perfect words. I'd read it several times before in Mules of Love, and re-reading it re-reminds me that what my mom and my family are enduring right now is ... well ... the human condition.
Here's the poem:
The Thing Is
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs.
When grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, how can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you,
I will love you, again.