My mother died this Monday. She was gravely ill, but the speed of her passing took us by surprise. My brother was on a plane here at the moment of her death. I, however, was by her side. She went gently. Her death spared her a considerable amount of suffering. You will not find my family weeping and gnashing teeth by the funeral bier. There will be no ripping of cloth. It is our custom not to mourn death but rather to celebrate life. And she had led a full and passionate one.
I could deal with it all, as that river flows on carrying our griefs and joys, our suffering and our elation, if it were not for that tear. Just before she began leaving in earnest, a big, fat droplet escaped the corner of her eye and began running down her cheek. It is that tear that haunts me. Earlier that morning when it looked like she was going, I had whispered to her unresponsive form that my brother was on the way. I had asked that she hold on just a little while longer...if she could. Her breathing became more regular, and it looked like she would make it. But by afternoon, she could wait no more. I embraced her still warm body fiercely, as if a daughter's love could reach her where she had gone.
Was she saddened that he would not be at her side? Or was that tear because she would be leaving me alone to face the world? She had always been my ally and my comfort, as well as my friend. Saddest of all is the thought that it was a final pang of sadness at leaving "the confines of the day." I'd like to think that it was a tear of joy, that those shrouded eyes were gazing on my father and her parents as she took her first steps toward paradise. But there were no indications of the supernatural. Just mortality.
I've found comfort in the thought that it was probably a purely physiological response. I suspect she was long gone by then. I've researched it on the net where I found that it is called Lacrima Mortis and occurs in about 14 percent of dying patients. So as I wonder whether I did enough, realize in hindsight that I should have taken the whole week off last week and not just part, even as I know I was by her side through it all, I will consign that last effluent to the emotional neutrality of science. In the meantime, I will discover what it is to live without my mother by my side.
I picture her now the way she was when she and my father danced at the Club in Vertientes, with luxuriant raven hair, ruby lips and movie star eyes. Clad in spangled evening dress, she looks over the shoulder of my father, her rock, in his white linen suit with his hair already thinning and smiles as they dance to the strains of Beny's orchestra. Who am I to begrudge her that?