{SOLS} A Promise for When She’s Gone

See More Slices at Two Writing Teachers

See More Slices at Two Writing Teachers

As I usually do when my mom is leaving my house, I walked her to the door one day last week, and we continued chatting as she put on her shoes and collected her belongings.  Maddie and Kate played at our feet as my mom and I raised our voices to be heard over their chatter.

“Tomorrow is All Soul’s Day,” my mom told me.  “So I’m hoping to go to 5:30 mass.”

“Oh, ok, that’s good,” I replied.  “Well, thanks again for watching the girls, Mom.”

“I always go to light a candle for Grandma and Grandpa and Wally and Ginny and Carol and Patti,” she explained, listing the names of those we’ve loved and lost.  My eyes meet hers for a second, and I see the sadness on her face when she says her sisters’ names aloud.  I can’t imagine how that feels.  I can’t imagine a world without my own sisters.

“It’s really beautiful at church with all the candles lit,” she continues.  I smile and nod, unsure what to say in response to her grief.  “When I’m gone, nobody will be there on All Soul’s Day to light the candles.  Nobody will be there to remember them.”  She pauses and looks down to tie her shoes.  Looking up, she asks, “Who will light a candle for me when I’m gone?”

Her question makes me catch my breath.  It’s all too much – the unnerving admission of her own mortality, the thought of a world without my mom, the constant grief she’s carried since her youngest sister’s death to cancer, her desire to be remembered (as if she would ever be far from my mind, ever).  It’s too much.

“I will, Mom,” I tell her.  “I will.  I’ll go to church on All Soul’s Day when you’re gone and light a candle for you.  I’ll remember, Mom.”

She smiles, doubtful, I think, that I’ll really do it.

The sadness and painful honesty of that conversation is still with me, days later.  A promise made to my mom.


21 thoughts on “{SOLS} A Promise for When She’s Gone

  1. Dana…I know you will always hold that conversation close to your heart. I know you will go. You paint an awesome visual picture of this scene…three simple words made a huge impact on me…”It’s too much.” xo

  2. Things change in our feelings as we grow older, and I’m sure too that you will light that candle for your mother, even if it’s just lighting it in your heart, Dana. I don’t have the chance to visit the graves of so many relatives very often anymore because I live so far away, so I visit them in my memory. You are dear to share this touching moment. Thank you!

  3. I can hardly see the computer screen through the thick layer of tears sitting right on my eyes. My mom has said things like this that make me catch my breath. A world without our moms is a terrible place. I’ll go with you to light the candles. Tell your mom candles will be lit if she promises to never make us sad like this again.

  4. In my family it’s not lighting candles but planting flowers on graves. My mom carries on this tradition that my grandmother once did. I know my time will come, probably long before I’m ready, and it will be me planting the flowers each May…just as I know you will be lighting candles one day long before you are ready.

  5. I read this while I was eating earlier and got choked up. It’s hard to think about our parents not ever being here for us, isn’t it? I know I still rely on mine for so much.

    In Judaism we light Yartzeit candles on the anniversary of someone’s passing. We go to synagogue and say Kaddish, which is the mourner’s prayer. We also visit the cemetery before Rosh Hashanah. My parents do these things to keep the memory of their grandparents and parents alive. I know one day this will be my responsibility. Like you, I don’t even want to think about that day right now.

  6. I read your post on my phone initially and could never have responded anyway with all the tears rolling down my cheeks. My mom, who has become demanding and hard to manage of late, is still a wonderful dear soul who I love dearly. When I get frustrated, I try to remember that I am indeed lucky to have those good moments with her….I rarely lose my cool with her anymore because I know that someday, all too soon, all that will be left will be memories.

  7. It is too much. When moments like this overtake me, the BIG moments when the BIG fears come out in the open, I remind myself that it is not today’s worry. When that dreaded time comes I know ( from experience) that God’s grace will make a way to cope. Blessings and give your Mom an extra hug!

  8. I have been thinking about this a lot as well. 20 years ago next July, the summer between my 7th and 8th grade years my dad almost died. One of those sudden, unexpected, out of the blue events. One day everything felt normal, the next day he was in hours of hours of brain surgery for an aneurysm. Thankfully, he healed. Now that both of my parents are in their late 70s, I think about this more and more though. It is still hard to imagine and more than anything, I think I worry about how one of them will be without the other. I recently moved back so that now we are 15 minutes away, rather than 2 hours. I really want to nurture moments together.

  9. Dana,
    Your writing touches my heart. My mother lives in Saskatchewan,, I live in Pennsylvania and I haven”t seen her in three years. My father died 15 years ago from cancer. Your story will stay with me.

  10. Dana. I feel like I don’t have words, but… damn it. I am going to muster some up. This has struck a chord with me. So often I think of the same… So often I think of the little things I do- phone convos, coffee, email, shopping- with one of the most precious persons in the world to me… my mom. I know there will come a day when we will not physically be together, but much like your candle and the intentions behind lighting it, the little (and the big) things we carry with us…the inspiration, the values, traditions, the love… even despite their physical presence…are so profound. I love you for writing this. Thank you.

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