It’s getting close to Samhain, or Halloween, the traditional time to honor the dead. My mother died this year, early in May just as the flowers began to bloom. I think about her a lot. It took her a long time to die – she had Alzheimer's – and I cannot find it in my heart to begrudge her the liberation of death, although I miss her. I miss her even though our relationship was not perfect; in fact it was fraught with difficulty.
Some years before she got sick, my mother insisted I take her to the cemetery so she could make her final arrangements. She wanted to be buried in the proper way. She picked out a pink casket and a marble gravestone for herself, simultaneously appalling and ridiculous. She tried to buy me a burial plot too, right next to the one she bought for herself. I told her I wasn’t quite ready yet.
My mother didn’t believe in cremation, and as for a green burial, she’d never heard of it. She chose to place her pink casket (with white satin lining and carved angels on the corners) in a concrete vault (to keep the worms out) in the Camellia Garden of Floral Hills Cemetery. Before she lost her mind she liked to visit the space reserved for her and admire the tiny square of grass where her body would lie, thinking about me close by.
My mother made me so angry sometimes, even after she got sick, but then I would see her small shiny scalp all pink under her thinning hair, and her trembling hands laid upon my own, and I watched her searching desperately for words of love, trying to snatch them out of the Alzheimer fog, and all my anger drained away and turned to shame.
I hope that Alzheimer’s allowed her to forget all the mean words I ever said or thought about her, and that she did not realize that my dead body will never lie in a concrete vault in Floral Hills Cemetery. Now that she is dead, I hope that death too will allow her to forget all the petty annoyances we caused each other, and although our bodies will never again touch, I visit her memory often, if not her grave.
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