The update on my mother is that after spending all day and most of the night yesterday contacting all the records divisions of various counties in California to see if they had a death certificate for anyone matching my mother's name, age, and/or description, my cousin found out she died in Las Vegas and had never made it to California. She was cremated and is in one of those pleasantly named crypt memorial "parks" in Las Vegas.
First of all, other than an immense sense of relief that it is over, I have to say that my faith in the essential goodness of human beings has been heartily reaffirmed. I talked and corresponded with some of the nicest, most caring people on the planet. These clerks didn't have to go out of their way to help me. They had nothing invested in helping find a missing 87 year old woman who was dead and buried who knew where.
But they did with a kindness and compassion that brought me to tears many times over. California, you have some astonishing public servants. Value them for the good people they are. So many went out of their way to help me, even to the point of tracking down where my mother had died and having the Las Vegas coroner call me this morning.
The only exception that stood out in the sea of kindness was Marin County. If you have to die somewhere, make sure you can at least crawl to the next county...or have money to buy someone's interest. Enough said about them. Karma's a bitch and it will find them too one day. I will forever see that place as California's sore thumb and avoid it like the plague it is. And I will also forever know that all the kindness that surrounds them will more than make up for their cruel indifference. Such as the balance of earth, time, and human nature.
I gained some and I lost some in all this. I gained a new appreciation for my cousins on both sides of the family. Not only are they exceptional people, but they chose as their mates other exceptional people. They really took to heart the words "you must be kind" that both Jerry Garcia and Kurt Vonnegut conveyed so beautifully.
I learned to appreciate the strength of my sister, the youngest in our family who held it together as a strong and powerful woman. After what she's been through in her life, to see her this way is an unforgettable affirmation of the awesomeness of inner strength. I don't know how she dealt with it all privately and I hope it was merciful and she was easy on herself. She deserves to praise herself as much as we all need to thank her for taking on the brunt of this.
I only did what I do best, write letters, talk to people, and find a way to push aside the sadness over what might have been instead of what was. The saddest thing is the knowledge my mother died alone with no family. But it was her choice as was much of her life. She really had no family other than the husband she lost several years ago. If she loved anyone it was him, for all his faults, his cruelty, his horrible treatment of us children. In her mind he always was the man who saved her even if she had to pay for that salvation every day of her life. Still, I see now in retrospect that the decay in her personality began the day he died. She no longer had anyone to be against the world with and was left to fight alone. It was more than she could handle alone and yet she chose by her actions to be alone.
One day my brother will understand just how much he is her son and maybe that will be the day we can finally sit down and talk with each other as reasonable adults. Until then he is as much a casualty of war as we all are. It just took longer for his wounds to manifest.
I am convinced she went the way she wanted to go, quickly, privately and with all the details taken care of before any of us knew she was gone. She controlled her passing as she controlled her life and that was her choice. I must respect and honor that.
I feel both a sadness and a sense of freedom and understand so well what Anais Nin wrote about our parents giving birth to us twice, the second time when they die. I am new today. I am free. The fear is gone and there is only one direction, up.
And yet, I know how clearly I am not and will never be my mother. I have always had a close circle of friends, people I love, people who would notice if I was missing for a few hours and would send out the hounds if it was longer than a day. I will not die alone. I will have a crowd around me propping me up so I can get one last dance in before I go, and I will be loved and cherished and missed. In that knowing is the realization that the wounds of the past can heal. We just have to want ourselves badly enough.
Just yesterday I wrote to a former professsor friend whose art blog I accidently stumbled across. I had spent several minutes admiring his incredible work, noticed the familiar name and wrote to him. One of the things I said was in the time since I graduated from college and now, I have always been my own bear. Yes, it hasn't led me to the kind of life many people would have chosen for me, but it did lead me to a life I chose for myself. In the end, that is all we really have, isn't it?