I played an old cd in the car yesterday and heard Bonnie Raitt sing “I Don’t Want Anything to Change”. My friend Stephanie Chapman wrote that song and I love it. And good grief if it doesn’t take me back to when mom’s death was still new.
I have written about her before. Lots of times. She was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2003. She went through chemo and radiation. One of her sisters was the bone marrow donor for her transplant at Johns Hopkins, which was a success. She recovered at her other sister’s house in Baltimore, close to the hospital. In June 2004 she got an infection. Her body was so depleted from everything already. We called an ambulance, which took her to the Leesburg emergency room. Then they transported her to the Lansdowne ICU. She died a day later.
The odds, as I remember the numbers, were pretty consistently poor. In spite of this I always thought she would be in the percentage that survived. Is anyone ever prepared for a death? I don’t know- but I was not.
Two months after she died I moved to Charlottesville for grad school. This was the first place I lived that she never saw. (I mean- she knew Charlottesville. She and my dad met here! But she never saw my house, my space, my people here.) Even when I lived in Australia, she and my dad came to visit. (And we all went skydiving from 10,000 feet!)
A few weeks after I got here I signed up for a mentoring program our church used to run. They connected women from different stage of life who wanted to meet together so they could…I don’t know, exactly. Exchange ideas, hear life lessons, maybe pray. I signed up because I had this gaping wound of loss that I carried around with me all the time. I remember writing something about my mom’s death on the form I filled out. I remember thinking “Well- whoever it is- now she’ll know what she’s getting into.” (Because not everyone is game for that. Right?)
Shortly after I filled out the form, I got a…phone call, I think? Bev had been asked by a friend, who was in charge of the mentoring program. She was forthcoming about her self-doubts. Maybe she thought she had to be type A or a real Bible scholar or something, which she was not. But- did I want to meet for coffee? I did.
I don’t remember how many times Bev and I had hung out, but there was one Friday night that first fall when I was just so sad. I was driving my mom’s VW Passat, making my way around Charlottesville, and crying. I called her when I was on Rugby Road to ask if I could come over. I was sort of doing the shuddery breathing on the phone and just said “I miss my mom.” I remember thinking that I didn’t even know Bev that well yet. And here I was- crying to her on the phone.
“Of course. Come right over. I’ll make some tea.” By the time I got to her house the major flooding had stopped. I was probably red around the eyes and nose, and a little puffy. I don’t remember what we even talked about, or if I stayed long. There would have been tea, and Bev always has some sort of cookies on hand.
When I think about Bev, I don’t think about her deep, probing question. Or that she really brings the heat and speaks conviction of all of my sin- like the mentor I always wanted in college. Nah. I don’t care about those things. (Though Bev asks very thoughtful questions and sin surely comes up from time to time).
I think about that Friday night, and many many coffee dates. Her presence. Her availability. Her willingness to meet with a 25 year old motherless daughter, coming in with an open wound. (Damn if that isn’t brave, in my opinion).
She came to my wedding. She remembers my birthday, my kids’ birthdays, my anniversary, and the anniversary of my mom’s death. She came in the middle of the night when I went into labor with my second child, to take care of the toddler who would wake up a little confused. We’ve met for coffee for 11 years now, with no signs of stopping. I could not be more thankful.