The news that Aunt Boopie had died Saturday was not a surprise. Just 2 days earlier, my mother’s little sister had appeared in my dreams, for the first time in my life. I knew what it meant. She greeted me matter of factly in the dream, just checking in, showing a cheery, up beat side I don’t remember seeing before.
My cousins wanted to make sure that I knew Boopie had asked for her sister Barb on her way out. Beyond their natural concern that I know Boopie had let go of any issues between them before the end, I have my own reason to be glad to know Boopie was asking for Mom, even if it was just hoping Barb would come to help her to the bathroom.
What echoes for me, now that the brothers and sisters Downtain are gone, is whether there is anyone left to miss my Mom. Am I the only one?
My choice of the word echo is deliberate. Missing another human being is an experience where absence takes the form of presence, much like concussions from a fireworks mimic the sound, but don’t give you more sparkles. The physical power of missing someone surprised me the first time I named it as an adult. How could I feel at once profoundly empty and deeply connected? Could it be as simple as, “I miss you?”
Missing Mom sometimes feels like a burden; yet I have to carry it. There is no one else to whom it makes a personal difference if I understood who Barbara was. Like the buggy whip maker, the skills I honed for facing our relationship are obsolete, yet so much of my very being was devoted to cultivating them, I can’t shed the identity.
Thinking of my mom’s feelings of missing her little sister, of the barriers that time and personality put between them, made me cry. I felt responsible for Mom’s presence at her sister’s grave. The sun was high, and hot; green fake fur skirted the pulley rails supporting Boopie’s coppery rose coffin. Behind the priest, a short distance uphill, a plastic white lamb sprouted all weather silk flowers from its back, bringing joy to someone else’s deceased. I held my cousin Sandy’s hand, and watched the shadow of a dragonfly skim across the plywood platform as the groundskeeper lowered the coffin. Missing Mom was all I really had to contribute to this day. Standing there with Sandy, and Boopie’s girls, I had the feeling it was enough.