|My Mom and me, graduation day. NYC, 1993.|
It seemed like the easiest of all the post-funeral tasks, but it's proven to be the most emotionally draining. I'm talking about the "Thank You" cards.
There are names and addresses everywhere. I'm woefully unorganized and slow to finish my ONE and ONLY task. My apologies to my two sisters, who have taken on the brunt of the work, like filing death certificates, closing bank accounts, and contacting Social Security. I admit "punking" out, taking what was perceived as the least stressful job. But it turns out that I would rather talk to the bank officials.
How do you say "thanks for coming to my Mother's funeral" in more than a dozen ways? And not drive yourself crazy?
Some are easier than others, like the people who I cannot picture in my head or did not spend more than a minute or two at the wake and/or funeral. I don't mean to sound callous, but there are no stories that can be linked together with the scribbled names in my notebook. I am not compelled to reciprocate with words of comfort or affection, which is a huge relief when every day is filled with impromptu fits of despair. It's just a simple "With Gratitude" and our names at the bottom of a card.
But there were people who came armed with tender stories, and each person sought us out, gunned us down like we were rabbits on a fence. When we retreated to my Dad's place at the end of the day, we would sink into whatever would hold us up: a chair, the couch, or a clearing on the cluttered rug. Their stories tore holes in us.
It's human nature and I truly harbor no ill feelings. These people are my Mom's family and friends, and they needed to tell us how much she meant to them. I had the same reaction when we were in the hospital and my Mom was lying motionless in her room: I had to tell her what she meant to me, spill my guts like never before while she was still there in front of me, still warm to the touch. I got to say goodbye. Most of her family and friends didn't have that kind of closure because her death was unexpected. So we--my sisters, my Dad, her sister and brother--patiently gave each person an audience at the wake and funeral. We gave them closure.
But replaying their stories in my head as I write these cards makes it heavy inside. I'm trying too hard to be my Mom, say something comforting in return for their display of love. She would rise up to the occasion, and here I am sinking under the weight of this supposedly easy task.
I am not my Mom. But for the first time in my life, I wish that I were.