“My tears watered my mother’s corpse.”

My tears watered my mother’s corpse. She was in her nursing home gown, the blanket pulled up to her waist. Her head was tilted to one side, her mouth open, her tongue visibly swollen as it had been in her last days. I wailed long, natural wails. Such a reaction I had not expected to rise out of me.

After a minute or two the crying and wailing subsided to sniffles. I turned around, looked about the room. I caught sight of a small placard on the shelf among her meager final belongings. It read, “Love conquers all. Virgil.” It had hung in her apartment a few years. I picked it up, placed it on my mother’s breastbone, and looked at her again.

A nurse had placed a teddy bear beside her previously. I don’t know whether my mother would have approved of such a sentimental measure. She was 70 at the time of her death. Would she have deemed it humiliating, condescending, clueless on the part of the nurse? In life my mother was a Sherman tank, at times. I chuckled at what she might like to say about her current predicament. A bringer of war has no need of a teddy bear, you moron, you imbecile. You are below me. Maybe she liked the teddy bear. But what did she care now. This tawdry arrangement of limbs, linens, child’s toy, and placard was for the mewing psychological requirements of we the living. At least she had the word “conquer” now on her chest. That would be acceptable under any circumstances.

The curtain was pulled around her nursing home bed for privacy. The effect was of a makeshift mausoleum. A pop-up tent for dead people to be humiliated beneath the gaze of their ungrateful, semi-estranged offspring. You mourn me now, vile children. Your display of grief is a lie. Where were you when I needed you? We were off avoiding you, Mom. None of us could stand you. Don’t forget who turned away whom. I’m not lying. Damn you, you wretch, you train wreck, you twisted mass of nature, I grieve you.

You blind archangel. Flaming sword of Quixotic justice. Stoker of fires for hot air balloons, crucible of my armor. I grieve you.

The wailing started up again, then subsided after another minute. I hung my head. Suddenly I felt to make sure she was actually dead. I needed to be sure. Sure enough, the skin on her hands and face was lifeless. I’d never felt a dead person before, but I could tell. I listened for breath. Nothing. I sat perfectly still and watched her chest: the placard didn’t move. I was sure now. I stood up. Watched her a minute or two longer. Snapped a morbid photo. I do not apologize for this last measure; I have only one or two of her from when she was alive. Dead Mom, living Mom — I’ll take any photo I can get.

The whole affair lasted not ten minutes. I backed away slowly. Turned.

Walked out.

One thought on ““My tears watered my mother’s corpse.””

  1. Firstly, thank you for sharing this. I understand that in sharing it, there needs to be a certain level of courage in being so transparent. Whether here in this blog, or in your book, I’m grateful for your willingness to share.

    Your voice is always so strong in your writing– there’s nothing generic about your writing. It’s always raw, and in so, always refreshing. You can’t get lost in a crowd because you very much shine through, which I believe is the biggest “selling” piece.

    As for your heart, I guess I always seem to relate to the struggle. There’s usually this back and forth that goes on… This love/hate, this no nonesense/gracious, this calling it out/not shaming. Maybe I’m not explaining it correctly, but I think you understand me.

    Now for this retelling in particular- it’s lovely in that it’s as if I’m in the room with you. I’m feeling your emotions as if putting them on like a blanket. Although, I’ve always said- a persons feelings are their own and no one can understand them… Not fully at least. You do a very good job of connecting the reader with your heart/emotions.

    Interesting side note, the picture portion isn’t weird (in my opinion at all). What, 100 years ago or so, it was a common occurrence to take pictures of the dead. Especially children when they died. I googled it a year or two ago, (theres story why) and found it very intriguing.

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