This is a photo of Mama Sue from when she was younger and lived in Japan. We buried her this afternoon. We released balloons, sang a Japanese children’s song that she taught us when we were younger, and had dancing at the reception in her honor. She was 77 years old when she died. Her aorta ruptured. She collapsed while cooking for friends who were supposed to come over and play mah jong. Her partner, Nick, performed CPR until the paramedics came; they were able to revive her long enough for family to see her one last time. Mama Sue went into cardiac arrest before the doctors could begin the surgery, and she didn’t make it. I try not to focus on the question of why it took so long to transfer her from the hospital in San Pablo to the hospital in Concord; it’s too heavy right now.
The past week and a half has been exhausting, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. We lost her so quickly, without warning, and then we were swallowed up in planning for her services. Our family worked through fatigue and grief for the preparations, which included programs, collages, a memory board, a slideshow, a montage of video dedications, a Catholic service, Buddhist readings and offerings, singing, putting together playlists, coordinated attire, eulogies, a balloon release, and food for all the guests. I’m proud of the way our family honored and shared Mama Sue’s life. I think her vigil and funeral were beautiful.
And now it is done. Except that the grief is not over. I find myself thinking, “What now?” The planning and preparations were a way for me to focus my grief, to mourn in a purposeful way. And now I find myself in the part of grieving that feels most lonely, when the shock starts to wear off and the reality of loss settles in; when the condolences have started to taper off, and the world continues moving forward even when I’m not ready. Now the questions and regrets and guilt are starting to resurface, and I dread having to navigate them in a way that is “social appropriate.”
I know that I will find ways to mourn and process this grief. I will learn which people are “safe” and which people aren’t safe to speak with about it. With time, I will adjust and integrate it in such a way that it won’t be so raw and sharp, but it will sting, and some moments will be worse than others. I know these things from experience, from loss after loss after loss.
I love you, Mama Sue.