Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Letting go

"Now don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky."

We laid my mom to rest on Sunday morning.

Yes, I know, I said I wasn't going back to Florida for the interment. But I did.

The reasons aren't clear (even to me), but I changed my mind and decided to go on Friday, and booked my ticket for Saturday, returning Sunday. Two round trips to Fort Lauderdale in the space of seven days, some kind of record.

Being "TSA Approved" made it an easier decision. I found out I was TSA approved on my first return trip from Florida. I sat right outside the security checkpoint and logged in to United and changed my seat assignment. My new mobile boarding pass had the TSA green check mark logo.

I had no idea what it meant, so I went through the short line and took my shoes off. I started taking my belt off when a TSA agent said I didn't have to do that. The people ahead of me and behind me were similarly clueless on the concept.

It turns out, I'm a "select frequent traveler of participating airlines" with screening benefits that include these heavenly perks - no more removal of shoes, belts and light jackets, no more 3 oz. liquids in plastic bags and no more having to take laptops out of your bag. All right then!

I hadn't realized how much stress all that shit added to my more generalized travel anxiety until I didn't have to deal with it on this last trip.

I wouldn't say Mom looked peaceful lying in her casket. She looked grim, a little sad, oddly masculine and much more made up than she'd ever been in real life. But I'm sure she could have cared less. I'm sure if she looked like she felt - or would have felt if you could simultaneously be dead and feel - she would have been beaming and joyful.

I touched her cheek because her hands were covered up and her face was the only part of her actual body showing. It was refrigerator cold.

Only my brother and I viewed the body. We closed the casket before our eight guests arrived. Two sets of cousin plus cousin-in-law, one cousin-in-law's brother, the hospice chaplain Paul, my mom's wonderful private duty aide Irene, and Irene's cousin Cecily, a full time aide at my mom's assisted living residence.

We followed the hearse to the vault site. My brother said a few words which amounted to he and I being too emotionally drained to do a proper eulogy at this time, and that Mom was ready, willing and finally able to go. He played a song, Dust in the Wind by Kansas, iPhone to Boze speaker, made meaningful to him because it was on the radio as he drove away from our dad's funeral almost three years ago. It was also the perfect song.

Then we went to brunch with our cousins at Bonefish. I had a Mimosa. I drink about once a year.

After that Phil and I went to the beach. It was a perfect day, temperate and comfortable. We sat on the sand, just above the surf line, and talked, a little about Mom, a lot about other things.

Then we went to Panera because we couldn't find a Starbucks. And then, it was on to the airport and our flights home. The cats were glad to see me.

Yesterday I got in the mail a butterfly bead from Beads of Courage. Butterfly beads are given to parents who have lost a child to an illness. (Purple heart beads are given to kids who complete treatment.) The bead came with a sweet note from Beads of Courage founder Jean Baruch.

I finished my 80 pairs of team beads (plus a couple of extras) before I left for my last trip. Here is what 160-some team beads look like.

On Saturday morning before I left for the airport, I spent the morning as a Sugar Land Animal Services volunteer at an event called Hunting for Homes. This is an annual "mega-adoption" event to which all the Fort Bend County shelters bring adoptable dogs and cats to the County Fairgrounds, and the public lines up to give a pet a new home.

I worked in the cat area, with cats I've gotten to know over the past weeks and months. Many found homes that morning, although I won't know the total until I go in on Wednesday and find out how many more got adopted during the afternoon after I left.

All these cats deserve to be in good homes, but with so many people coming through and making relatively quick choices, I can only hope that all my cats went home with people who will treat them well.

I was happy when June and Lollipop were adopted together. I was appalled when a man told me that he already had eleven cats, and when I frankly said, that's too many, he said, oh, they aren't all indoors. I told him that was not a good thing. I really hope he didn't adopt any more cats.

And then, there was Arnold. Arnold is a little orange marmalade kitten who, when I met him, purred like a lunatic when held, but was hostile to all the other cats, hissing at them between playing with cat toys. He'd come a long way, learning to get along with his cage mates and to play nice. Arnold went home with a mom and three young kids. I cried.

I'm sure it was a sublimated reaction to my mom's death. I wasn't going to adopt Arnold and I know he shouldn't be growing up in a shelter. I normally don't get attached to the shelter cats, even though I love them so much while they are there.

Yet certain ones tug at my heartstrings more than others and I was so proud of Arnold (who will no doubt be renamed something like Garfield or Pumpkin or Tigger) for the progress he'd made. He's a curious, fearless kitten and I'm willing myself to imagine him being loved and played with and nurtured by his new family.

But right now that is doing nothing to stop the tears that are splashing on this keyboard.

This is Arnold at the adoption event, before his new family picked him out and took him home.

"I close my eyes
Only for a moment and the moment's gone
All my dreams
Pass before my eyes with curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do
Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind."

Kerry Livgren

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