she had been on the verge of leaving for ages, lifting her coat off the hanger, wrapping a scarf around her neck, pushing her feet into boots, planting a hat atop her head.
our young selves—the child i was, that my children were—would hear her calling "go outside. enjoy the fresh air...but it's cold out there—don't forget your mittens and heavy socks," as she attempted to get me, and later her grandchildren, out the door.
winter turns to spring, summer arrives, fall, then winter is once again upon us and she, dressed in her coat, ready to go, lingers.
this image of my mother bundled up in her coat, impatient to move on but stuck and going nowhere, is what i have. it does not exist except that i make it exist. in my possession are real pictures of her—some recent, some from decades ago, some nice black and whites and early color ones that are fading to yellow—but today i don't notice those, i only notice the one of her in her coat and hat.
an abrupt little breath and she is ready, she is prepared for this final departure. "get going," she'd say to us. "you'll overheat and catch a chill if you stand around in the house too long dressed in all those clothes."
but now it's her turn to leave. "go, mom," i tell her. "please go. it's time."
her hand grasps the doorknob and finally—finally!—she turns it and opens the door. she hesitates a moment but does not look back over her shoulder. when i think of her leaving us i am standing in my kitchen viewing the impossible—a procession of snowflakes that defy gravity: the snowflakes don't head obediently toward the ground but fly free like small bleached bugs, higher and higher in the sky of an upside-down world, the world reflected on the granite countertop.
so many weeks buttoned up in preparation, so many hours spent waiting. when my mother steps out on the air to greet snow and sun and moon and stars, i bow my head, my face hot and wet. at last, for her, relief. she had been in that damn coat way too long.
In memory of my mother who recently died peacefully at her home after a long illness.
Dear heart, best friend, I will never stop missing you....