The room swelled with people, some talking and hugging, others laughing and shoving deli meat sandwiches in their mouths. It was a party, except the guest of honor was dead.
We were at our friends’ Aiden and Alyssa’s house to pay a Shiva call for Aiden’s mother who had just passed. A year and half ago, she had been diagnosed with a blood melanoma. Until recently, she had not shown any real symptoms or signs of being sick. The doctors said that it was treatable and until the other day, it had been. She was there in the morning when they drove to the hospital, but 12 hours later driving back, she was gone. Just like that.
At the house, we chatted amiably with many people, about many things, but only very briefly touched upon the reason we were there. Aiden held it together admirably and everyone was relieved to follow suit and pretend. There’s nothing about death and final goodbyes that doesn’t create instant discomfort and clueless awkwardness for those bearing witness. So we ate little cookies and ignored the elephant in the room, or in this case, the small, sweet blonde mother and grandmother who wasn’t.
Now that I’m over 40, I keep running into this problem in life; it’s called death, and no matter how I try, there’s no getting away from it. It seems, and I never actually realized this until my late 30’s, but people die. Yes! I know. I was shocked as well. Of course, I know people die. I’m not an idiot. Lucille Ball is obviously no longer with us, or Dick Clark or Patrick Swayze or Farrah Fawcett, but somehow, when people I knew actually died, it totally threw me for a loop. Not just grandparents, but friends. Young people who were supposed to have their whole lives ahead of them, apparently, did not. They died of unnatural causes at unnatural ages. And now I seem to be at the age where parents start dying. I am not happy with this!
When I got home that evening, I gave my mom who was babysitting, an extra hug and ran up to do the same to my boys. They were almost ready for bed, and by almost I mean, jumping around in their underwear giggling like hyenas. I corralled them all into bed and Michael, my middle child, pushed a book in my hand. “Read this, Mommy.”
“Of course.” I said automatically, but when I looked down I wished I hadn’t.
“Love You Forever” by Robery Munsch. My book nemesis. Someone had given me this book when my oldest was born and I cried like a baby from beginning to end. Back then, I blamed my hormones and new-mom status, but returning to the book two years later, the same thing happened. A few years after that, I tried again, and still could not make it through without breaking down. I have successfully avoided reading the book for over three years, and tonight, fresh from a Shiva call, it was in my hands again. “Baby, let’s read something different.” I tried.
“This is the book that makes you cry, right?” Michael taunted, his elfin face smiling mischievously.
How did the little rat know that? “Maybe.” I said defensively. “But I just think you should pick something else. It’s a baby book.”
“I want to see if you cry.”
Oh, a challenge. Bring it on. “Fine.” I agreed, secretly steeling myself. I knew exactly what this book was and I was prepared. I could make it through I told myself and started reading.
I barely began, and I knew it was over. Tears rolled down my face and my voice quivered as I read the poem that threaded through the story of a mother’s never-ending love, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be.” My extremely sensitive children cracked up laughing as I struggled to finish. By the end, I was a complete mess. My boys loved it. “Again!” they all squealed as I tried to control my heaving.
Exhausted from my emotional evening, I tucked the boys in; snuggling a little longer and hugging a little tighter. The book’s poem played over and over in my mind; its theme penetrating every sappy bone in my body. Even thinking about it now with the book safely tucked away in between a hundred others, hopefully never to be pulled out again, I can feel the tears in me rise. From the moment they are born, our babies are everything. Even when they grow and go, a mother’s heart goes with them, but there’s only so far it can go. Poor Aiden. Poor Aiden’s mommy. Poor everyone.
Damn. I hate that book.
So that’s why you hate it. Welling up just thinking about it.
So true and so sad… Our folks are next in line…
If you need some more self-torture, check this one out and watch the video while listening!
Have them Kleenex ready!!!
omg – now i’m a mess! thx for making me cry. 🙂
I hate that effing book. I think I “lost” it.
smarter than me! wish i did.
There’s a book, “Mars Needs Moms,” (not the crappy movie) and the main character is Milo. And he has a fight with his mother and tells her he doesn’t need her. Then she’s kidnapped by Martians. she sacrifices herself so that he can live and there’s a line, “Help her! She’s my mom!” and I lose it every time. And every time I read it to my Milo, I look over and he’s crying, too. That’s the book he brings me when we’ve had a hard day. I love it and I hate it all at once.
sounds like it should be in the same section as this one – in this book, mom rocks her child while he’s sleeping even as he grows into a man, until she’s too weak and sick and the he has to rock her.
Trying to make us all cry?
i was tryingggggg. 😉
Once again we’re twins. I have a love/hate relationship with that book. I hate the stalker-lady grandma in it, but the overall message gets me sobbing every time. And my girls also love that part the best! As always, you express tons of heart and a strong, clear voice in this story. Well done, mama!
thanks. i definitely hate the book more than love – but it so tears into every insecurity and desperate love and need that penetrates my being, that i can’t give it away – like i want to. i mean, really??? it’s creepy – and yet – i think i’ll want to rock that grown man until i die. damn! i hate that book.
I know! That book!! Every. Time.
I love how your boys just wanted to see you if you’d cry…funny little things. 🙂
We just had 3 deaths in the family over a few days and I could really relate to this post. I kept thinking that this is what life will be like now as I get older….attending funerals/memorials. Instead of weddings it’s this. *sigh*
Great, well written post!!
I’m so sorry!! Life is sad, man – that’s why we have to appreciate every bit of crazy we’ve got. it goes soo fast. 😦
I don’t even have kids and that book makes me tear up. OOOF.
it’s terrible! if you see it, walk on by.
Yep. Same here. There are a few others that I’ve blocked from memory. I don’t think my kids have caught on that I pause and take a deeeeep breath before I read the lines that kill me.
Yep, yep, yep. Every word. That book makes me wail and I hate that people I know and love die. It is devastating. Great post, Ice Cream Mama. I am so glad you can give voice to this.
Well, thanks for the tears 😉 I don’t think I’ve ever read the book and I’m pretty sure I never will. So touching how your boys are sensitive to your feelings 🙂
ha!! yeah, they’re sooo sensitive. 🙂
Now you’ve made us all cry. Beautiful essay.
This is beautiful. Shiva really is an odd, sometimes awkward, but ultimately beautiful and meaningful week. And when I have kids old enough to be read to, Love You Forever will certainly not be on the menu.
I read the lines from the book and I’m crying at my desk. No fair actually quoting it!! I can’t get through that one either. I find denial to be my best friend when it comes to death. I don’t think about it until I have to, then only for as long as necessary, then I pack it up and put it away. Too much to think about when there’s so much else to be doing. I’m sorry for the loss. Wonderful post.
do you always have to be so smart about everything. your to young to feel so many emotions,your supposed to leave that to us the old warriors.
This book gets me every time. Great post!
That book makes me cry too. Even this post about that book made me cry. I hear you on the death thing. It’s the one thing that really sucks about getting older – losing more people we care about.
I read the “Celebrations” section of our newspaper’s announcements; my husband reads the obituaries. He’s only 37! What really scares me is remembering reading stories in my teens about some 40 year old man dropping dead of a heart attack. At the time that seemed so old and far away. Yikes.
I was not pleased to receive The Book at a baby shower for my daughter. I’ve never read it to her and now that I have a boy, maybe it’s time to accidentally give it to Goodwill. I feel kind of weepy just looking the cover, let alone actually reading it.
Unless you feel like crying yourself a river… sometimes i guess we’re in the mood. i remember the girl who gave it to me. she said it was her favorite baby book! i read it and was like…Whattt?? Sicko!!! We’re still friends though. 🙂
I don’t remember that book. I don’t think we had it, and I’m glad. I mean, I cry at “Are You my Mother?” Biggest. Sap. Ever.
Sweet story, and the ending is so very, very true.
Somehow my Little Dude obtained “Are You my Mother?” shortly after my own mother passed away. I read it to him once, and then never again.
But it’s amazing how some books really hit that trigger, when they should be just pure fiction/happiness. We’ve all been there…
This one is a doozy!! Don’t go near it!!! I’m sorry about your mom…:(
Icecreammama,you’re so fantastic! I can’t but agree with every thing you say,you even interpret what we have never been able to express! A big hug from an old warrior….
thank you so much! your kind words have made my day… and it was starting off kind of rainy and bloated and bleh. now i smile. hug right back. 🙂
This story was so beautiful. It warmed my heart. It had everything in it — sadness, joy, humor, honesty. I really, really enjoyed this so much — really. Yeah, I can’t say that enough. “All the Ways I Love You” gets me every time I read it to my daughter. “And when it seems impossible to love you more, I do.” Children are such blessings, even when they “challenge” us!
oh my. I’m the same way with his book. can’t read it w/o crying. it’s def a shelfer iin our home.
i can’t get thru and i don’t even want to. it’s miserable and depressing and creepy. what is with that book??!!
Thankfully I don’t have that book. I have one that is about how the baby was made from love and the mommy and daddy polar bears love the baby. Well I got it when I had my frist son when I was a single mom. Got me every time I looked at the cover. It has been hidden for almost three years now.
But I’m sure Love you forever will find its way to me eventually and make me cry!
stay away.. it’s been 10 years and i still can’t make it through the book!