In the days of my mother dying, in the summer, of the summer, of the summer… I looked for her in the trees. I was nine months pregnant, living in the mountains, while she was 300 miles south at the sea.
Lying on my bed, hot and sticky, belly burgeoning, wrapped in a sheet, I’d gaze for hours out the tiny balcony which overlooked the brook beside our farmhouse. With Impressionist eyes, I’d find her face in the foliage–in peace or in anguish–and I’d know what kind of day she was having.
In that way I practiced suspending time, until we could see each other again, but the world turned, and soon the baby joined in, and I knew that his release would bring hers–just as the trees began to let go of their leaves.
I’m one of those people who needs a support group to handle the end of summer. I cringe each time someone mentions the colors changing or the air growing crisp. I look the other way when leaves begin to fall and try to pretend that the whole thing isn’t happening.
On days like this, I’m riveted by the summer-like weather; delighting in the exquisite exposure of skin–of tank tops and shorts and feet bared to the Earth once again. I feverishly pack my bag for the pond with the plan to make camp until the day grows dark.
On days like this, it’s outrageously warm–even after the sun dips behind the mountain. Though we’ve packed them, the sweatshirts and socks aren’t needed. Our Friday night potluck crew is downright giddy with this good fortune.
“You must be loving this, Kelly” friends say from across the picnic table, knowing how gloomy I was the week before when fleeces weren’t enough to keep us warm. All I can think is: How do they do it? How do they give up the splendor of a Vermont summer without a fight?
I smile and nod my head about the return of the summer-like weather, but I don’t tell the truth. I don’t tell them that days like this are actually bittersweet for me–like spending an afternoon with a dying friend who’s having a “good” day.
When a loved one is barely breathing, it’s easier to let go, but when face to face with the delight of her exquisite presence, the goodbye is excruciating.
While friends gather around the fire, I head out in my kayak to chase the day’s end. I turn my boat toward the last rays of light, and set down my paddle, letting my head fall back and my fingers trail through the water.
No wonder my mother died in September. What a perfect time to let go.