Seems the blog is good for marking the passage of time: June 2, 2019, means 21 years have gone by since my mother passed away before sunrise. My brother called at 6:30 am to say, “Ma died this morning.” I can still feel the air rushing out of my lungs . . . leaving me speechless, holding the receiver, but I can’t remember what I said or how I managed to get a flight to Rhode Island that day . . . Mom’s body was already at Ianotti’s funeral home in a small wood-paneled room near the side door. My dad and my sister Debi were with me as we went in to find her covered in a baby-blue blanket. My forehead touching her forehead, I sobbed in the way a person does when someone who loved you more than anyone else in the world, someone who called you religiously every weekend, someone who could never be replaced, is suddenly, inexplicably, gone.
At some point, the three of us went back to the house. I don’t really remember that drive up Washington Street.
The next morning, the funeral director, Tommy, would drive her down to Swan Pointe to be first in the queue for cremation. A long-stemmed red rose lay on top of her cardboard coffin. Judy Garland’s version of “I Wish You Love” was one of my mother’s favorite songs along with her own rendition of “Don’t Mess With Bill,” played for us on her grandmother’s Steinway baby grand piano in the music room.
About Being Dead
My mother set the tone for our family concerning the end of life. I remember her saying, “When you’re dead, you’re dead. That’s it.” As a philosophy of earthly existence, I suppose this is as definitive as you can get, and it makes good sense, especially from a matter-of-fact New Englander. No embalming. No public viewing. No open casket. “Why would I want people looking at me when I’m dead?” I remember mom asking me this question. Did I have an answer? No.
One of the things she did tell her daughters: “Always be mysterious.” I wrote a poem with that title. At some point, I’ll post it here as I gather together photos, notes, and stories about Janice Helene. As her oldest, I did try to exude an air of mystery, but not in the ways she intended. Disappearing in the forest is more my way, or maybe “enchantingly incomprehensible” is the descriptive phrase I’m looking for . . .