Tuesday, January 26, 2016

When Grief Lingers

Hard to believe it’s been a year. A year since Mom breathed her last breath just down the road from where she breathed her first breath 87 years before.

One of her last photos.
One of her first photos.

Snow covers her grave today. I remember how much she hated the snow, hated winter, hated driving on slick roads. 

Our front yard.

Summer suited her well. I remember the summer days she spent reclining on a blanket in the back yard, soaking up the rays. If I close my eyes, I can remember the fragrance of her suntan oil, mixed with the baking grass beneath her blanket. I loved sneaking up on her and spraying her with the water hose she kept handy to mist herself when the sun baked a bit too strongly. We both giggled and I ended up as wet as she.

In winter, when the sun barely shone, she huddled into her chair, wrapped in a blanket, in front of the heating stove and read books about castles and romance.

I got my love of reading from her.

So many things I now wish I had said to her. Also, quite a few I wish I hadn’t said.

She wore her opinions on her face like her favorite shade of lipstick. If she liked you, you knew it. If she didn’t, well, you knew that, too.

Halloween. She's the clown.

I didn’t know most of her friends by their names. I knew them by her nicknames for them. It was obvious how she really felt about someone by their nickname -- like Blabbermouth or Stinky. When I chastised her for being so judgmental, she informed me she wasn’t judging, she was observing.

Dancing was one of her favorite pastimes. When music started, she was on the floor dancing. She especially loved dancing with young men with dark hair and “hairy faces.”

A couple of weeks before she got sick.

A friend she met while working at Belks. He delivered the boxes to her.

We had a few adventures together. Like the trip she made to NYC to visit me. I took her to see Dracula on Broadway. She loved it so much that she insisted upon waiting outside the stage door to get Frank Langella’s autograph. When he emerged into the alley, she ran up to him for the autograph and when he leaned down to her five-foot frame to hear her talking in her Kentucky twang, she grabbed him and laid a big kiss on him. A few weeks later, Mom passed out in the streets of Harlan and Dad took her to the hospital. They discovered she had been hemorrhaging and needed a blood transfusion. I laughed and told her, “That’s what you get for kissing a vampire.”

Life is short. Grief is not. I still have days when I wish I could call her one more time. Hug her one more time. Shop with her until I drop one more time. Hear her stories one more time. 

Sometimes the pain takes my breath. Tears well up in my eyes and drip down my cheek with a remembrance that squeezes my heart, out of the blue, without warning. 

I see something in a shop that I know she would love and pick it up and start to walk to the cashier. Then it hits me. I can't give her anymore of those little gifts. The tears return.

Grief is a struggle. It's a journey. It's melancholy, sadly sweet, and depressing.


The joy comes in knowing where she is. I prayed for her salvation since I was twelve years old. I didn’t know until the last few days of her life that she was confident in where she would go when she passed.

I miss you Mumsie. Keep dancing.

Jessie Gertrude Everett Nolan

Getting sugar from a singer who performed in Harlan.

Mom's last birthday.

Our last Christmas together before Dad got sick.

Hair in pin-curls, rocking in front of the TV. 

Mom loved watermelon.

Mom and Dad

Mom and her sisters.

The last photo.

A rose from her funeral.