My mother passed away June 21st of this year, 2017. I was in the ER room holding onto her as they tried to resuscitate her then ultimately called the time of death. It wasn’t until the next day that I cried.
Friends offered to provide food for the family during the viewing hours. The result was water, chips, sandwich bread, and two cold cut and cheese trays. The funeral the next day was catered by an area church. The food? Two more identical cold cut and cheese trays. I live with my father. We ate cold cut sandwiches for a week until the meat began to spoil.
Is there a connection between sliced deli meat and the death of a loved one? Is it in some way supposed to be comforting? Or is it just an easy after-thought of a meal? “We’ll grab something on the way.” Pick it up on the way to the funeral. “They just suffered a loss. They won’t care what they eat.” Or is it supposed to be easy for the grieving? “Sandwiches are simple. They probably don’t want to cook right now.” Better than macaroni salad, I guess.
Sliced ham. Sliced turkey. Sliced roast beef. All rolled up and laid out next to slices of cheddar, swiss, and pepper jack, set upon a bed of lettuce. Sandwich buns for days. My mother laid in her grave.
She wasn’t supposed to go. She was on the mend. Chemo was working, shrinking the tumor rapidly. We don’t know what got her. I wanted an autopsy but the rest of the family didn’t. Cardiac arrest or pulmonary embolism, doctors suggest.
It’s been five months and the headstone is finally finished. Haven’t seen it yet. They won’t set it in place until the spring. Didn’t know that. Never seen it in the movies, a grave waiting until the ground resettles before placing the headstone. There’s a temporary plaque. It’s small. Lots of flowers. Dad adds new flowers every few days. Visits the grave at least once a day. I drive by occasionally. She’s not there, not really, so I don’t feel the need.
I miss her in the small things. Toothpaste in the bathroom she’ll never finish. Healthy snacks in the cupboard she bought after she was diagnosed. Notes she left herself around the house that dad won’t, can’t take down. New recipes and cooking techniques I want to share with her. Celebrating with her my making it to the second round of the Austin Film Festival.
There’s no connection between cold cuts and a funeral. It’s not even so big a coincidence that we ended up with so many. Things just happen. Like my mother’s death. Not everything happens for a reason. There isn’t always sense to be made of things. It rains on the just and the unjust alike. What matters is that she lived, loved, and was loved. What matters is what we do in her absence. I’m incapable of loving like she did. How to fill so great a void?