Here to Stay
I spent some time these past few days reading through my sister Mo’s dozens of letters to me, all written between 1975 and her death in late 1981. I do this every year, and for many years it was a physically painful process. How, I always wondered, could someone with her huge personality and love of living be just…gone? I saved her navy bathrobe until it fell apart. For decades, I saved a bottle of Estee cologne that had been hers, even though it had turned rancid long before. I listened to her favorite music and cried over her photos. It was a time I gave myself annually to grieve, to tear off the band aid once again. Then I’d dry my tears and resume my life.
I always went through something similar recalling my mom on the anniversary of HER death (she died September 30, and Mo died on October 1--25 years and two days apart). Letters were read, photos wept over, Joanie memories shared. This ritual never had the raw grief of Maureen’s, however. Mom lived to be 80, a full span by most standards. She lived to see her grandchildren mostly grow up, and was a huge part of their lives. But still, it’s been a big adjustment to a world without my mother.
And now we are here, at two milestone anniversaries: 15 for mom, 40 for Mo. And I feel—different. Maybe it’s dealing with the pandemic and the other assorted horrors of current life, but I don’t wish these two wonderful women were back here, because I love them too much for that. So this week I am mostly feeling relieved that they never had to live through all of this. And I am filled with worry for the futures of my beloved grandsons.
Mom had a beautiful, somewhat unorthodox funeral, light on liturgy and heavy on things and people she loved. I just came across the notes 12 year old Julie took up with her to read that evening to the assembled crowd. Such sweet words. And in my mind’s ear I hear my Maureen Rose, singing “Our Love is Here to Stay.” I felt my sister’s presence that night for sure, as our mom made her way home to Heaven, and her family gathered to remember her.
Perhaps I should listen to the lyrics of that Gershwin song again, and take them to heart.
“It’s very clear, our love is here to stay
Not for a year, but ever and a day…
In time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay
But our love is here to stay.”
The world is a mess, has always been, will always be. But love, redeeming, amazing love, is here to stay. In Heaven and on earth.
So thanks, Mom and Mo, for walking with me for part of the journey home. I’ll carry on in the company of C, Steve, my kids and grandkids. Love you always and forever.