It's not quite a month since my mother passed away and I still don't have much distance from the grief. I'm now a member of a club nobody wants to join - children who've lost both parents. My dad Frederick Paul Ballard died in 1987 and now my mom Kumiko M. Ballard on November 8th.
I feel untethered. For better or worse - my mom was a powerful presence in my life. Always giving me advice, cutting out articles for me to read. For years I resisted as children do but in the end I dutifully listened and nodded even if I didn't agree and was often surprised when I did. I'd read the dog eared articles.
Now that's over. It wasn't always an easy relationship. My mother was my toughest judge and the never ending flow of advice, counsel and criticism sometime drove me mad. Now I recognize it as her most powerful expression of love. She simply had a hard time saying the word.
This last year each time I would leave after a visit I would wrap my arms around her thin shoulders and tell her "I love you" and toward the end she would say it back, " I love you too" and give me a sweet, lingering look of affection as I walked out the door, backwards down the hallway - waving all the while.
I've been to too many funerals these past two years and as much as I empathized and grieved with my friends and colleagues - nothing prepared me for the death of my mother. It's changed me - in a way that has given me a deeper access to understanding of what those deaths mean to the people left behind. There's a Carly Simon lyric that says it perfectly. "...there's more room in a broken heart." Well folks - there's a lot of room in there.
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