It's been two months since my mother died, and there is a question that sometimes hits me like a bowling ball to the knees.
I try to dodge it if at all possible.
It seems that everywhere I turn, people - well meaning, loving friends and acquaintances -
are asking me, asking me, asking me a question I cannot seem to answer to anyone's satisfaction, including my own.
And that unanswerable question is:
How are you doing?
How. am. I. doing.
What if I don’t know?
What if I am just getting through each day the best that I can,
tentatively putting one foot ahead of the other,
step, step, step.
What if I barely know what I'm doing, let alone how I'm doing.
What if I'm just "doing"?
How am I doing?
Doing what? Grieving?
I'm doing it very poorly today, thank you.
I feel like a trainwreck and I’m not sure I should even be seen in public,
but I had to run out to get a few things at the store because our household is completely out of toilet paper, so here I am.
I am not doing well at all but I don’t want to talk about it, not with you, not here, not now. (Maybe not ever.)
That's how I'm (not) doing.
How am I doing?
Doing what? Getting along without a mother? (Have you ever lost your mother??)
Well, in my case, she didn't leave abruptly.
God in his infinite wisdom and sense of humor knew that neither my mom nor I have ever been fond of change,
so we had plenty of time to prepare for the inevitable.
So, some days I don’t really think about her a whole lot
and then when I do I feel guilty about that.
Right after which I feel relieved that it's over.
Followed by more guilt.
Some (most?) days I don't have tears.
And then I feel weird about that.
Still, I no longer have a mother, and sometimes that thought hits me hard, out of the blue.
One day I was trying to remember if I'd told her about Extra Eldest's new car, and realized of course I didn't tell her because I saw it for the first time in all of its sleek newness the day of the funeral. Her funeral. So, not only didn't I tell her, I never could. And that seems like the saddest thought in the world because she would have been so proud of him. And there are suddenly plenty of tears.
Just this week, during our family vacation/spring field trip, the guys were thrilled to find a Golden Corral, a restaurant Youngest frequented with my parents "back in the day." Once Mom asked him what he was looking forward to eating, and his ready response was "cottage cheese and dill pickles." I knew if I could call her just for a moment from the parking lot, she would retell that story and we would laugh together. But I couldn't call her. And for a few moments, I wasn't doing well at all. Life is different without a mother.
How am I doing?
Don't worry, I know that if you've asked me how I'm doing you meant well, and that's exactly how I took it.
And I know, know, know
I've often posed that impossible question to others.
But I want to be more thoughtful, more careful about glibly spinning out those words.
I want to find different words, new questions, gentler ways to reach toward people walking difficult paths:
I've been thinking of you.
How can I help?
Could we clean out/wash your car for you?
Are you sleeping at night?
Are you eating?
When can I bring a meal?
You have been in my prayers. How can I pray for you? We've been praying for you.
The gift of prayers has carried me through some rough terrain.
Hearing these words has made me feel cared for and loved and not forgotten.
I know my mother prayed regularly for me, for my sons and their families,
and some days I wonder what that gap in prayer means for all of us.
So, if you've been one of those who have been praying,
whether you've told me or not,
I want to say thank you for your kind investment in my life.
And if I may, I'd like to add a request…please don’t stop just yet.