Before Mama died Dad warned us that her passing would be difficult. We countered that living with anticipatory grief, watching her die before us and losing her over and over again had prepared us. He warned, again, that it hadn't. I let it be, assuming that I had grieved the worst of it already. Now I know that I did not really understand what grieving a death of parent would be like, at least not for me.
The day Mama died I cried, and cried. I was a soggy mess of tears and overwhelming grief. She was gone. It was real. But the next morning when I awoke I told myself "I am strong, I will not cry". I wanted to be an example for my kids, a source of strength for my grieving family, and a matriarch my mother would have been proud of. I cleaned the house in preparation for house guests and a Shiva, showered and did my makeup (as Mom would have told me to) and went about picking up Uncle Van and Noel from the airport. I did not cry that day. I came close, but I did not. In fact, I did not cry the day of Mama's funeral either. I had a brief moment of panic when we arrived at the Feld (cemetery), but I did not cry. I kept hearing Mama's voice telling me "Nomi, remember that women are the strong ones, and we need to stay strong for the boys.". And I did not cry.
I found prayers during the Shiva very difficult. That made me cry. I could not be in a group of people, saying Kaddish (Sanctification - meant to help the soul of the deceased in its journey upward). I would suddenly feel this shaking from inside, and the tears would push their way to the surface. Not a pleasant experience. I prefer to say Kaddish alone. It is between me and G-d and Mama. That way there are no tears, just a direct connection with me and my mother. It is my way of honouring her memory.
And so, four weeks have passed since my mother died...tomorrow marks 30 days, and the end of the Shloshim (30 day full mourning period)...and I am utterly shocked by my involuntary reaction to the loss. Don't get me wrong...I love my mother and miss her terribly...but this is nothing new. I have dealt with the loss of my mother for 9 years...14 actually. I reconciled myself to the fact that my advisor, confidante, best friend, was gone...I had come to accept that years ago. What I wasn't prepared for was the finality of it all. How painful it would be to know that she was gone from this earth. That it would actually be more painful to visit a grave than to visit a virtually comatose shell that was once a vibrant, exuberant, beautiful, graceful, lovely and loving person.
And now I am overwhelmed with this...grief...grief that makes me so tired...so very tired. I thought grief presented as tears and expressive sadness, yet I am just so tired. And still, life goes on, the world doesn't stop, and I have to write exams...which means I have to study...which means I have to read, and absorb what I am reading. No small task when all you want to do is...bake?!?!
Yes...you read that right. All I want to do is bake, and cook, and bake again. All of Mama's recipes. I want to read her recipe notes written on the back of envelopes and notes left for Davie or me or the cleaning lady! I want to see her handwriting and feel connected to her.
I woke up this morning and came right down to the cookbook shelf, pulled out the Golden Recipes collection of recipes and sifted through all of them. I found every recipe that I have not yet tried (OK - except the herring, boiled fish and jellied veal), and put them aside. As soon as I finish my final "final" I plan on baking away my blues, one recipe at a time, one day at a time. And I will share them with you...again, like the old days.
I guess we all heal in our own way, and the kitchen is my haven, my mechaya ("lit. = which makes live: relief; joy (said of a person, thing or situation"). Mom always used the word mechaya..."it's a mechaya Nomi"...meaning it's a relief. She would say it in the context of walking into an air conditioned room after being out in the punishing heat, for example. That's the context in which I always used the word. But for some reason, now, in writing this post, the word popped into my mind. My kitchen is a mechaya. Funny, how we can read into a meaning depending on our circumstance - the literal meaning of the word is "which makes live", and I guess the kitchen and my mother's recipes will make the part of me that feels like it's died live again...