Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Two Moms, Double Heartbreak


The 24 hours of this March 3, 2014, have included fitful sleep and foggy waking hours, a half-finished story about my mother and her best friend (soul mate) of 40 years (transformed by sickness into my two moms, one gone, and the other in increasing pain), the arrival of the book Mourning Diary in the mail from a mystery person, and tears merging with water in the pool as I counted out laps and loss.

I look for a photo of my mom, and find her here in California too, though long long ago, by the mist of the ocean, even as the mist of rain brushes San Francisco this Monday. This is a day for ghosts, who time and space apart seem to share the same perplexed expression, the same furled brow, the same sorrow. I inherited the fragments of her trauma, which felt like the lack of a mother for most of my life, a drizzly gray aloneness. Postmortem, I’ve rearranged the pieces of her suffering. They became compassion, a light on the caretaking that she’d intended — that she and her best friend, through the mist that was the death of their respective husbands, bestowed on each other. And in unison, on me.

Today I touch lightly against the world, on this five-month anniversary of the death of my mom, who I fell in love with in a way I otherwise never would have — love as reciprocity — by sharing intimately in her year of dying. It’s a day for heartbreak doubled, with the news, as if in synchronicity, that my mom’s best friend’s health is failing. Death always takes others with it, even as it grows new strains of love, even as it gifted me two moms to grieve in succession, and the third day of every month to pause and mark absence/presence.

*  *  *

If you’ve run across this blog post as a reposting somewhere, you can find other blog-musings and more polished essays at Outside the Circle, cbmilstein.wordpress.com. Share, enjoy, and repost — as long as it’s free as in “free beer” and “freedom.”

(Photo of my mom, years ago, on the California coast.)

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This entry was posted on March 3, 2014 by in Dispatches from Life.
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