Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sept. 21, International Day of Peace

The UN declared Sept. 21 "International Day of Peace". In my search for holidays that don't have Christian bases, this has been a favorite. I still haven't figured out any ways to celebrate it, but I enjoy going through my day, thinking about peace, hoping for peace and trying to think of ways that I can help bring about peace--if only in my own home/community for right now.

Karen Katz did a wonderful book for small children about the day. I'll read it to my boys later. I'm also going over to a friend's house to watch Iron Jawed Angels and talk about social issues. I don't know that that really brings my participation down from the theoretical to the practical yet, but hopefully someday I'll be in a position to do more.

Anyway, a quick quote from the book:

All around the world, children want to go to school, to walk in their towns and cities, to play outside, and to share food with their families. They want to do all these things and feel safe. No matter how we say it, we all want peace.

There are a lot of places, even here, where this isn't possible for people. Let's keep that in mind as we go about our day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Mother's Corpse

Luckily, I didn't have to dress it. I anticipated that the entire time I was journeying to Oklahoma. Mormon's dress their dead in ceremonial clothing and I was petrified that as the only purportedly endowed child, I would have to help. Luckily, I got away with something less extensive, but still somewhat traumatic in its own way. I got to pull the veil down over her face and remove the white cloth covering her ceremonial apron.

But still, it was somewhat traumatic. In general, I consider myself a pretty laid back person. Shit happens and while it bothers me, I try not to be dramatic about it. But this whole death thing is hard for me to accept with the same resignation. Every part of me rebels at the thought that eventually, my body will simply stop. I will not be able to just keep breathing and force death away. I will only be able to fight for so long before my body takes over and gives up consciousness.

Then, I will cease to be human. I will be nothing but a stiff, mottled corpse.

My mother's hands were heavy when I tried to pull the cloth out from under them. They were without any inertia. They dragged grotesquely with the cloth as I pulled at it. My grandmother and the funeral director told me to just keep pulling, and I did, but not without some consternation at the way her yellowing hands held onto the cloth without actually doing so.

I had never felt rigor mortis before. When I brushed my finger on her cheek, it was like brushing a resin or rubber figurine. I told it, "I love you," even though she was no longer "she". It's amazing the things we do to keep up appearances and appease other people. But I was so afraid that if I didn't touch her in some way, I would offend my grandmother and father, who seemed to have no qualms about kissing her goodbye. I was relieved when the apron was uncovered, the veil drawn and the casket closed.

Unfortunately, a couple of nights later, I dreamed she came to life in the funeral home. I remember being simultaneously glad to see her and terrified at the thought that my mother was alive in spite of the fact that her internal organs were in a plastic sack inside her abdominal cavity. I wish now that I hadn't touched her at all, that I had let her friend help my grandmother with her veil and apron. I confess that for now, I am repelled by lifelessness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Morbid Relief

I think one of the things I've been struggling with the most since my mom died is the sense of relief I feel at not having to hide my unbelief from her. I am too well aware that I will never be seeing my mother again. So what is wrong with me that such an idea brings me relief? Am I also feeling pain? Yes. But right now, there has been a sense of rest for me at not having to feel like she's always around the corner waiting to catch me with some words of spiritual inquiry. When I'm on the phone with my dad, I can talk freely--cuss words, blasphemes and all. I can gripe and complain about how much Mormonism screwed me over and not worry about my mother's feelings being hurt or her judgment being incurred.

And yet, for all my issues with my mother, she is still the first person I think to call when one of my boys does something adorable. When I'm upset with something that happened at work, I still think about calling my mom for a good gripe session when I get home. She was my major connection to my family in Oklahoma. She always made sure to tell me who was doing what and when. She kept me posted on my aged and ailing grandparents, my crazy uncles and cousins and the members of the Mormon branch that I still love. My dad would rather have a root canal than talk to me about makeup or clothes shopping. He couldn't care less about breakouts or shaving nicks. My mom had a definite niche in my life, and it hurts to have that empty.

I'm so torn between the relief I feel right now and the pain that comes when it hits me that she is not there. She is not on vacation. She is not at a doctor's appointment. She is not visiting her parents. If I call and she is not home, it is because she is dead. And I feel bad to feel relieved over such a permanent situation. I wanted resolution with my mother, but not in this form.