I survived October 12th. The one-year-anniversary of my beloved mother's death, came and went. It was day of tears, of relentlessly texting my sister (were we afraid, both of us, to actually speak to one another? were we afraid the tears might overwhelm us? were we simply, afraid?).
It was a day of trying to distract myself with mindless tasks--searching for new hairstyles on the internet, sorting through monologues to use in auditions (I'd already accomplished that task, but found myself, repeating myself), watching horror-tv (thank you, "The Walking Dead", for the engagement).
I was disappointed when the Chaplain for the Hospice who helped Mom in last weeks of her life, called--literally at the last minute--to say she could not make it to Golden Living in Dunwoody to commemorate my Mom's passing.
I had called and asked her to meet me, as I planned to visit, and to bring goodies to--in honor of my Mom-- the old folks who have no one to visit or comfort them, and she had suggested that we could "...plant a butterfly bush in honor of your Mom." Which I readily agreed to.
So, in her voice-message, she re-scheduled this celebration of Mom's life, for this coming Wednesday...October the 14th.
Which is also a date imbued with tragedy: Five years ago, on October 14th, my beautiful sister-in-law died painfully, just two weeks after giving birth to our sweet niece, Morgan Catherine. Although Morgan Catherine was not due until November 4th (which happens to be my birthday), she arrived on September 21st, because Toni Harris Kwon was in great pain, and doctors induced labor, and delivered our healthy, albeit tiny, niece, to her adoring parents. But what was discovered in this new mother--only three days later (on my own sister's birthday--September 24th)-- was "Stage 4 gastrointestinal cancer, of unknown origin". Although doctors tried mightily to do physical therapy to keep new-mom Toni strong, Toni was quickly moved from the hospital in Charlotte where she had successfully birthed her daughter--who was now being kept in intensive care for premature newborns.
Toni was moved to Duke University Hospital, where it was hoped some kind of remedy to prolong her life, could be found. But Toni Harris Kwon passed away--and from what my husband told me--it was a hard, violent death. She was trying to breathe, helped by a respirator who forced air through her lungs, in an attempt to keep her alive, and cognizant. She and her husband talked about the baby--the baby she could no longer see, or hold. The baby who was faraway, in a hospital where nurses cried after learning the red-haired mother of this dark-haired, almond-eyed child, was dying, and there was no hope for that mother. My husband told me, in a phone call at 3:00 am, as I returned from a late-night film shoot in Monticello, Georgia, that Toni was gone.
Shortly after Toni died, I remember being at their home in Charlotte, and while my brother-in-law was downstairs, displaying the purple-cloaked urn with the cremains of Toni, I spoke with Toni's mom, a kind, quiet, petite package of dignity named Cathy, and I asked how she dealt with this, with her daughter, being gone. She said "I run." Cathy looks like a professional athlete, her tiny frame deceiving one into believing she might be fragile....until you notice the sinewy arms and her gymnast-like legs, which course with strength.
I wandered into the nursery--the room we would eventually bring Morgan Catherine to--and I found a package of "Love" brand knitting yarn. Their slogan is "All you need is Love, and time."
Time. The one thing that beautiful Toni, would be denied. The plans to knit baby booties, left at just that--plans.
Four years later, in the midst of a second round of treatments at Cancer Treatment Centers, I remember asking my own Mom, how she dealt with losing her Mom, and she told me, "That was when I started walking, and then, running, on the beach." I asked her if she thought that would help me, when I eventually lost her. "I don't know, but it might."
I responded that I'd write about it, but that I would begin to run, too.
I've begun to run my way, through grief. Through these words.
On Wednesday, I will commemorate Mom. And Toni, we'll be thinking of you too, sweetheart.