Fuck me it’s July.
I cried when I realized what came next on the kitchen calendar. I don’t mean I shed a quiet tear in memoriam, what I mean is I crumpled on the kitchen floor sobbing so hard I lost breath, all because I didn’t want what came next.
July is the start of the death season, the time one year ago when I lost both my parents in quick succession.
On July 23rd, 2020 I received a phone call. It was my aunt, who rarely ever calls me.I knew it wouldn’t be good news or a casual chat. I knew someone was hurt, bad.
“Mum’s gone, Jacquelyn.”
“What do you mean she’s gone?”
“Momma’s dead, she killed herself”
Cue me trying to logic my way out of this, me rationalizing that she might not be dead. That her friend, who found her lifeless body lying in her bed, could be mistaken. That we had to wait for the paramedics, for the professionals. That this wouldn’t have been the first false alarm….
Except it wasn’t false.
She was dead. She had overdosed on prescriptions and slit her wrists. I remember going to pack up her apartment and sitting on her bedroom floor, staring at her bed. When my cousin tried to tear me away I wouldn’t leave, her brother understood something I couldn’t have explained. He walked her out of the room and stood stoically behind me as I stared at her blood soaked pillow cases.
“You want a minute?” He asked . I don’t recall if I just nodded, or if I managed words, but I do remember sitting alone on her floor. I think I was trying to make myself feel something, anything. Trying to soak up the reality of this impossible situation.
My mom killed herself and I needed to see that proof.
I needed evidence, and in the months that followed I was obsessed with getting the truth. I would call the detective who left me his card, asking again and again for whatever evidence she’d left behind. Her friend mentioned a note, did they have it? Could i see it? What about her cell phone, was there anything relevant on there?
Eventually I got the cell phone, the first and only smartphone she’d ever owned. On it were worried voicemails from a woman I don’t know, asking if she’s ok. The last one was from October…after that they stopped. Her mailbox was full.
I never saw the note.
Along with the search for answers, for concrete evidence, there was anger. I couldn’t (and still struggle) to understand how she could give up her life while my father was fighting so hard to stay…
How could she leave me? Why did she give up? We hadn’t spoken in almost a year, but I’d sent her a letter. I wanted to try to have a functional relationship, maybe we could be penpals at first? I found the letter in her mailbox. She decided for me, for us, that we could never make it right.
Boy howdy did that piss me right off.
By taking the most drastic of measures she ended any hope of reconciling, of developing a stronger and healthier relationship with me. She made a choice for both of us, and I hated her for it.
I’m sure I will again, but not right now.
For the past two weeks or so this experience, the whole ‘grieving’ thing, has shifted for me. The dread of the first anniversary of her death has all but extinguised my anger, instead bringing all the guilt and sorrow to the surface.
This wasn’t her first tango with death, she’d had many attempts over the years stretching as far back as I can remember.
The only difference this time is I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t there to see the signs. To encourage her to get help. To force her in the car and drive her to the hospital myself, to childlock the doors when she tried to jump out on the freeway.
Logically I know that if a person is determined enough there is no stopping them, but I still feel guilty. I feel abandoned, and alone in a way I can’t possibly describe. While I believe that grief is isolating for everyone, since we all share a unique bond with the deceased, I feel especially fucked. Her family, besides one brother, has all but disappeared over the past year. Besides I don’t really know any of her friends, and I’ve only myself to blame for that.
I’ve arranged to have a picnic next week in her name, I reserved a bunch of tables and invited people on Facebook. I called the one friend of hers I do know, she said she’d take off the day and come by. That she’d let others know.
I’m doing this in the hopes that other people can share their good memories of my Mom, because mine are all tainted. I’d like to have something positive to hold onto, and I need help finding it.