Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” was the first song I heard after my mother took her last breath. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House was the first song my mother heard after her youngest brother committed suicide. It’s something within the multitude of things I think about every time I hear those songs.
I’m hyperaware of dates, songs, significances of such caliber that may render themselves “the small things.” After all, everything in my thirty-two years has proven it’s the little things that matter most.
I remember the soft, dewiness of my mother’s cheeks and the boniness of her shoulders when I’d put my arm around her. I remember her quiet giggle and her bellowing cackle. And I remember her tall, slender gait. To remember is to deeply miss.
Tonight, in a millisecond, I almost reached for my phone to call her, to talk to her about the grief. When I remembered that almost exactly six years ago, she died, the grief was magnified. Yes, it still happens. I still reach for my phone to dial the number I’ll never forget – the number that has been answered by an annoying operator for the past six years.
Loss of love, of our person, can feel like the loss of a limb. I continue living but I have to learn how to walk again. It begins with a crawl. Sometimes, grief is necessarily disguised by distractions because it’s so consuming that crawling isn’t even conceivable. That’s the dark.
Someone I love once told me I was a negative person with a lot of dark inside me. It shocked and hurt me beyond comprehension. While I know it’s not true, I felt it necessary to defend myself. I told this person that if he had been through half of the things I’d been through, he’d possess a lot of dark, too. And it’s commendable how positive and strong I am in spite of all of that dark. It took me a long time to reach the point of self recognition, so there was no way I was going to stand for such harmful criticism.
We deserve and expect those we love to be understanding, encouraging, and non judgmental. Sometimes the ones closest to us cut us the deepest, though. Sometimes, we have to let go of the ones closest to us no matter how much it may hurt.
“Love of mine, someday you will die / But I’ll be close behind and I’ll follow you into the dark / No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white / Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark…”
Death Cab for Cutie solemnly sang as I sat on the hardwood floor of my mother’s living room floor in the early predawn morning. The heaviness of death in the air was consuming. I was awaiting the funeral home to come get her body. Sometimes, we willingly follow those we love – even if it’s into the dark.
A month later, I dreamt that my mother was laying next to me in my bedroom in Brooklyn. It was so real as if I was awake. We were tightly holding hands as I repeatedly asked her if she was okay. She responded, “I’m okay,” squeezing my hand in reassurance.
“…Just our hands clasped so tight, waiting for the hint of a spark…”
“I’m okay, but I have to go,” and she disappeared.
I desperately tried to follow her into the nothingness as a man appeared, shoving me backward and shouting, “No!” I will always carry a piece of that darkness with me for it’s a piece of her. Sometimes, the dark is a beautiful balance of the light.